Wake Up Workshop: Cue Scripts

Hello everyone – Liz Bernardo, Mary Baldwin first-year student and ASC Marketing Intern, here to blog the first session this morning. This Wake Up Workshop is on cue scripts with ASC Education Artist, Mary Baldwin College MFA student, and member of Sweet Wag Shakespeare Patrick Harris at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Live blogging of this session runs from eight to eight forty-five this morning.

Harris introduces himself to the Wake Up Workshop attendees. He explains that high school students usually come to these workshops. He talks about Sweet Wag Shakespeare and Friday’s late night show, One Woman Town, where everyone can watch him perform.

Harris states that cue scripts allow actors much freedom on the stage. He explains that cue scripts were popular in early modern period, when printing scripts was expensive. He adds that his favorite part is that cue scripts only give the actor their roles, not even the title of the play. This creates some confusion because several plays have characters of the same name, such as Francisco, which is in The Tempest, Hamlet, and possibly other early modern plays. This can cause confusion with He further explains that cue scripts present a lot of performance conundrums – such as easily confused characters like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet. Harris adds that the Actors Renaissance Season uses cue scripts to stage the performances.

A scholar asks if the ASC publishes the Renaissance Season cue scripts, and Harris states that the ASC archives cue scripts and that actors often create their own cue scripts. He adds that usually stage managers will make cue scripts too.

Harris talks about false cues, when the cue for an actor is repeated several times in the scene prior to the actual cue. He explains that this creates urgency and interruptions. He also explains shared cues, when several actors say the same line at the same time. He elaborates that this creates an atmosphere of confusion and the strange energy that comes from speaking at the same time.

Sarah Enloe, ASC Director of Education, enters the room, and Harris asks her if the ASC archives Renaissance Season cue scripts. Enloe replies that the cue scripts are, however, actors mark the cue scripts. A scholar asks if any other organization uses cue scripts. Enloe replies that the ASC partners with the Folger Shakespeare Library to create a cue script from any digitized script. She also states that before the creation of this program from the Folger, actors created their own cue scripts. Following a question about cue scripts by other theatres, Enloe replies that typically other theatres do not use cue scripts for their productions. A scholar asks if actors often wait for their cues, and Enloe answers that the ASC actors often jump right to their feet. She adds that in the Actors Renaissance Season uses other staging conditions from Shakespeare’s day such as no director or designers. She says that cue scripts give clues such as which character leads a scene, which is not always the titular character.

A scholar asks about stage directions in cue scripts. Harris takes the floor to reply that a lot of embedded stage directions are within the cue scripts. Embedded stage directions are stage directions inherent in the dialogue. Harris previews that he will talk about false cues. Harris points out that the most descriptive stage directions in this scene belong to the Ghost of Hamlet. He elaborates that these are some of the most descriptive stage directions in a script, with the exception of dumb shows.

Harris applauds the scholar who walks the cues for the Ghost of Hamlet, who listens to the information that other actors share. He points out that the scholar also chooses to enter a specific way. He asks the readers to go through the scene again and requests the Ghost to respond to the embedded cues in the script while the other characters talk about the Ghost onstage.

Harris points out that some actors might accidentally skip a few lines, especially as Horatio, who has two very similar cues of, “Mark it, Horatio,” and, “Speak to it, Horatio.” He states that a good actor, such as the reader in this session, says all of their lines in order with their memorized lines. A scholar points out that if an actor playing Horatio jumps his cue or waits for the proper cue creates a different character for Horatio: a hot-headed character or a frightened Horatio.

A scholar points out that several actors might focus on their cue line and miss information stated on the stage. Harris agrees and explains that this is the reason why he stopped the scenes so many times. He explains that during the Renaissance Season, actors may stop each other several times in order to reorient themselves. He also adds that actors during the Renaissance Season crave the audience interaction, which helps shape the play. A scholar adds that actors in the early modern period might talk to each other about their roles and prepare themselves in such a way.

Unfortunately, we are out of time, and Harris ends the session.

Podcast Archive: 2015

2015 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2015 Spring Season

Podcast Archive: 2014

2014 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2014 Spring Season

2014 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2013

2013 Spring Season

2013 Summer and Fall Seasons

“Forced to write for Bread and not ashamed to owne it”: The Life of Aphra Behn

England’s first professional female playwright was a member of the royal court, a spy for England, a personal friend of some of the greatest actors and courtiers of the Restoration, and an inspiration to future generations of literary women. She was also a commoner, from humble origins, who wrote not as a hobby but for an income. Her historical record begins for certain in 1666, when she served King Charles II as a spy in Antwerp during the Second Anglo-Dutch Warm recruited as Agent 160, code-named Astrea. Behn incurred great debt while working abroad – a financial difficulty made more dire by the King’s neglect in paying her for her services. Charles was notoriously slow in such matters, and Behn may have served time in debtor’s prison while waiting for him to come through for her.Aphra_Behn

In 1670, with Charles’s still neglecting his accounts payable, Aphra turned to writing to keep herself fed and out of prison. Working with the Duke’s Company, managed by William Davenant, her plays were immediately popular and financial successes. Behn produced roughly one play a year until 1682, when the merging of the Duke’s Company with the King’s Company reduced the profit available to her from playwrighting. Thereafter, Behn took to writing poetry and narrative fiction, including one of the English language’s first epistolary novels.

Behn’s most famous and most enduring play was The Rover, or, The Banish’d Cavaliers. The “Mrs. Gwin” who played Angellica Bianca at the first performance is likely a special appearance by the famous Nell Gwyn, by then retired from the stage and living full-time as a royal mistress. Elizabeth Barry, who played Hellena, was the lover of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester — one of the king’s closest friends and the likely inspiration for the character of Willmore, the “rover” of the title. Set in Naples, the play features a group of gallants wooing and carousing their way through the subversive festivities of Carnival. Captain Willmore becomes entangled in a love triangle between the famous courtesan Angellica Bianca and Hellena, a young woman determined to find love before her brother ships her off to a convent. Willmore’s friend Belvile falls in love with Hellena’s sister, Florinda, who is promised in marriage to a friend of her brother’s, while the foolish Blunt becomes convinced that the thieving prostitute Lucetta is madly in love with him. As Carnival was a masking holiday in Italy (Behn seems to have conflated the more popularly known traditions of Venice into her setting of Naples), many confusions of identity and intentional deceptions drive the action of the play. Such misadventures of love and money were common in the Restoration, as they popular then as they had been in the earlier theatres of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.

While in many ways, the play is a light-hearted, frothy romp, it also hints at the darker side of the Restoration’s libertine atmosphere. Though the women in the play are witty and active characters, Behn presents them as still dominated by their economic circumstances. Their primary value is in their bodies, whether for prostitution or for marriage, and The Rover blurs the distinction between the two types of exchange. While the high-born Florinda and Hellena are eager to experience sexual freedom, typically denied to ladies of their class, the courtesan Angellica Biance aspires to exclusivity. When Willmore chastises Angellica Bianca for the high price she charges for her favors, she retorts that men are just as bad in assigning monetary value to sex and love:

Pray, tell me, Sir, are not you guilty of the same mercenary Crime? When a Lady is proposed to you for a Wife, you never ask, how fair, discreet, or virtuous she is; but what’s her Fortune — which if but small, you cry — She will not do my business — and basely leave her, tho she languish for you. — Say, is not this as poor? (The Rover, 2.2)

The Rover’s juxtaposition of different female archetypes may be a commentary on some of the Restoration-era courtesans and courtiers who attempted to break out of the virgin/wife/whore mold in some way or another, with mixed success. Common-born women like Moll Davis and Nell Gwynne, famous mistresses of aristocrats and King Charles, may have appeared to enjoy sexual freedom, but in fact spent a lot of energy converting that sexual power into something more tangible and protective – money, houses, or titles, for themselves or for their children. Sexual expression for its own sake was more likely to lead to a downfall. The nobly-born Barbara Villiers, created Countess of Castlemaine and later Duchess of Cleveland, was a mistress of Charles II who enjoyed great favor from the king, but who also had to marry a lesser man for the sake of appearances. Frances Stuart, on the other hand, famously refused to become the king’s mistress, and subsequently had to elope in order to be able to marry at all. Anita Pacheco remarks on The Rover‘s reflection of the women’s social circumstances and sexual worth during the Restoration:

Critics have often remarked that in Aphra Behn’s The Rover, ladies act like whores and whores like ladies. On this level, the play presents a dramatic world dominated by the two principal patriarchal definitions of women, but in which the boundary separating one category from the other has become blurred. In the case of both Florinda, the play’s quintessential “maid of quality,” and the prostitute Angellica Bianca, the role reversals arise out of contrasting bids to move from subjection into subjectivity. … Before the obligatory happy ending, Florinda faces three attempted rapes that are not called rape, but seduction, retaliation, or ‘ruffling a harlot’: in presuming to make her own sexual choices, she enters a world where the word ‘rape’ has no meaning. Angellica Bianca’s subject position is shown to involve a complex complicity in the same cultural legitimation of male sexual aggression.

As Behn herself knew well, being a woman in Restoration England was often a no-win situation, for all the supposed liberty brought by the King’s return, and The Rover may well have been intended to call attention to that dichotomy.

Though there had certainly been other female writers in England, Aphra Behn was the first to earn a living by the public production and publishing of her works. As she stated in the preface to her 1678 play Sir Patient Fancy, she was “forced to write for Bread and not ashamed to owne it.” Though mocked by contemporaries and later critics for the bawdiness of her works and her supposedly masculine style, Behn had the support of writers like John Dryden and Nahum Tate, and her influence encouraged other female dramatists, including Susanna Centlivre, an early favorite at Drury Lane (and author of upcoming Staged Reading A Bold Stroke for a Wife). When Behn died in 1689, she was buried in Westminster Abbey, with a marking stone in Poets’ Corner, near the graves of Chaucer, Spenser, and Davenant – an unusual honor for a woman at the time. Her memorial reads “Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be Defence enough against Mortality.” Perhaps not – but as her enduring legacy ensures, mortality itself is not enough to kill a wit as sparkling as Aphra Behn’s.

–Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

This blog post was adapted out of an article for the upcoming Winter/Spring 2015 issue of the Playhouse Insider. Get your copy in the Box Office or online starting in February, and see The Rover starting today at the Blackfriars Playhouse!

Podcast Archives: 2012

2012 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2012 Spring Season

2012 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2011

2011 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2011 Spring Season

2011 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2008

2008 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2008 Spring Season

2008 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2007

2007 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2007 Spring Season

2007 Summer and Fall Seasons

Winter-Spring 2014 Playhouse Insider Now On Sale

The Winter-Spring 2014 issue of the Playhouse Insider, celebrating the shows in the Actors’ Renaissance Season and the World’s Mine Oyster Tour, is on-sale now in the Box Office and will soon be available for purchase through our online shop. CoverWith this magazine, we hope not only to introduce readers to the fascinating shows in these seasons, but also to provide a spectrum of viewpoints from the wonderful scholars, artists, and audience members who love these plays as much as we do.

In this issue:

  • Frequent ASC patron and blogger Adrian Whicker discusses his love for the Actors’ Renaissance Season and chronicles his reviews on the Mid-Atlantic Traveler.
  • Amanda Trombley, Director of Education at the Southwest Shakespeare Company and MBC MFA graduate, delves deep into her experience playing the role of Evadne in a 2011 production of The Maid’s Tragedy.
  • Jade Eaton, ASC patron and No Kidding Shakespeare Camp participant, compares Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters with Richard Bean’s adaptation One Man, Two Guvnors and tells us why she’s so excited to see The Servant of Two Masters at the Blackfriars Playhouse.
  • Eliza Hofman of Chicago’s Two Pence Theatre, another MBC MFA grad, shares her insights on the role of Celia in As You Like It from the 2009 MFA production directed by Ralph Alan Cohen.
  • University of Delaware Professor Emeritus Lois Potter analyzes the performance history of Othello, with special attention to how the central roles have developed over time.
  • ASC actors René Thornton Jr. and Benjamin Curns talk about playing Othello and Iago with an MLitt class in a conversation recorded by Kim Newton, ASC Director of College Prep Programs.
  • A Dramaturg’s Corner features five things you might like to know about Henry IV, Part 1, including a family tree to help you keep all of those dukes and descendants straight.
  • Former ASC actor Daniel Kennedy relates his discoveries and experiments in directing Richard II for the 2013 ASC Theatre Camp.

Would you like to write for an upcoming issue of the Playhouse Insider? Email Cass Morris to find out more.