Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Liveblogging Masterlist

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Photo by Miscellaneous Media Photography

Wednesday, 10/28
Wake-Up Workshop: Cue Scripts
Colloquy I: Audience and the Actor
Colloquy II: History Plays
Colloquy III: Cultural Appropriation
Colloquy IV: Bilingual Shakespeare
Colloquy V: Asides and Villiany
Colloquy VI: Shakespeare’s Life and Times: Contributing Context
Welcome and Keynote Address: Paul Prescott: The Life, Adventures, and Opinions of Sam Wanamaker
Plenary I: Lars Engle, Alice Dailey, Amy Grubbs, Richard Priess, Tiffany Stern, James Keegan
Plenary II: Anthony Patricia, Stephen Purcell, Nick Hutchison, Jess Hamlet, Sid Ray, Catherine Loomis
Plenary III: Jeanne McCarthy, Ann Thompson, Kerry Cooke, Shannon Kelley, Sarah Neville, Paige Reynolds

Thursday, 10/29
Wake-Up Workshop: ROADS to Rhetoric
Plenary IV: Jesse Chu, Lauren Shepherd, Sarah B T Thiel, Claire Bourne, Claire Kimball
Keynote Address: Ayanna Thompson: Reading Backwards from Morrison to Shakespeare: Desdemona/Othello
Lunch and Learn: Meet and Drink with MBC Shakespeare and Performance
Plenary V: Elizabeth Sharret, Jeremy Lopez, James Seth, Nell McKeown and Stephanie Donowho, William Proctor Williams, Peter Kanelos
Plenary VI: Amanda Zoch, Bob Jones, Dan Venning, Melissa Aaron, Patrick Midgley, Matt Kozusko
Staging Session: Caroline Latta and Kevin Quarmby

Friday, 10/30
Wake-Up Workshop: Textual Variants
Colloquy VIII: Practical Rhetoric
Colloquy XIII: Magic in the Early Modern Stage
Colloquy XIV: Political Wisdom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, and 1 Henry VI
Colloquy XV: Mediating Music in Middleton’s The Witch
Keynote Address: Gina Bloom
: Every Body Can Act: Reclaiming Histrionic Gesture through the Digital Theatre Game Play the Knave
Honorific for Barbara Mowat
Plenary VII: Joseph Stephenson, Patricia Wareh, Katherine Schaap Williams, Peter Hyland, Julie Simon, Gretchen Minton
Staging Session: Tina Packer and James Loehlin
Plenary VIII: Neil Vallelly, Holly Pickett, Musa Gurnis, Marie Knowlton, Adam Zucker, Jennifer Holl

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Photo by Miscellaneous Media Photography

Saturday, 10/31
Wake-Up Workshop: Audience Contact
Plenary IX: Danielle Rosvally, Niamh O’Leary, Zoe Hudson, Thomas Ward, Genevieve Love, Spencer K Wall
Keynote Address: Tim Carroll: Confessions of an Iambic Fundamentalist
Lunch and Learn: Masters of the Space
Plenary X: Maryam Zomorodian, Katherine Mayberry, Nova Myhill, Michael Wagoner, Adam Miller-Batteau
Plenary XI: Abigail Montgomery, Alan Armstrong, Steven Urkowitz, Travis Curtwright, Eric M. Johnson, Don Hedrick

Sunday, 11/1
Colloquy XVII: Teaching Shakespeare as an Integrated Process
Colloquy XVIII: Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse: The Study, the Stage, and the Classroom
Colloquy XIX: Staging Questions with Actors
Brunch and Buck Fizzies: The Body’s Knowledge
Scenes from Tate’s LEAR: Scholar/Practitioner Collaboration with Tiffany Stern and Hidden Room Theatre

A Special Note from ASC Director of Education Sarah Enloe

Blogger Bios

Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Scenes from Tate’s LEAR: Scholar/Practitioner Collaboration with Tiffany Stern and Hidden Room Theatre

Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare & Performance Director Paul Menzer introduced Tiffany Stern of Oxford University to speak of her work on Tate’s Restoration Version of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.”  In her brief introduction to the Hidden Room Theatre’s performance on the Blackfriars Playhouse stage, Professor Stern explained to the audience that her work includes both scholarly study as well as that of study in performance.

Nahum Tate undertook his adaptation of “King Lear” in 1681, Professor Stern informed her listeners, because he found Shakespeare’s tragedy “too tragic and upsetting” for his audience.  He removed the character of the Fool from the play for being “vulgar.”  He sanitized motivations and actions in Shakespeare’s play and “cleaned up” the verse, to make it “beautiful” in accordance with his aesthetic and puritanical values.   His version held sway on the stage over Shakespeare’s original “Lear” for one hundred and fifty years. This bowdlerized version is the one that made America take to Shakespeare in the first place, Professor Stern informed her audience.  She added jovially, “So, remember that!”

Restoration movement has a very different feel from Early Modern Theater, Professor Stern continued. It sought for an “elegant, beautiful” performance style in an effort to edify the audience. She relied upon illustrations of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century gestures, paintings and drawings for her research. The audience would get to see these gestures in practice momentarily.  Nahum Tate’s practices and his “improved” version raise a number of questions concerning adaptation, both of “Lear” and other Early Modern dramatic works as well as those of other periods and styles.

Professor Stern then introduced the Hidden Room Theatre Company in a dress rehearsal performance of Tate’s version of “Lear.” She qualified what her audience would witness presently with a kind of apologia: “This is a skeleton crew,” of the full company production, she explained, shortly before the troupe of Restoration period-costumed actors took the stage.  Each costume was elaborate and meticulous in detail, creating spectacle which, along with the Hidden Theatre Company’s recreation of mannered performances including detailed hand gestures, faithfully represented a late Seventeenth Century theatrical experience for today’s audience.

The Hidden Room Theatre Company’s performance lasted approximately forty-five minutes and included selected scenes from Tate’s “King Lear.”  Professor Stern introduced each scene, telling her audience briefly what had transpired between scenes, helping to set the stage for the next one.  After the performance concluded, there followed a ‘Meet the Actors’ session upstairs in the Cutaia Lounge.

–Bill Leavy

Blackfriars Conference 2015: Brunch and Buck Fizzes: “The Body’s Knowledge: Merging Multiple Ways of Knowing in Shakespeare’s Plays”

Following Sunday Brunch, Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen of the American Shakespeare Centerand Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare & Performance introduced Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Company to speak about what she termed as “body knowledge” in performing Shakespeare.  Professor Packer began her presentation by leading the audience of conference attendees in a breathing exercise, instructing them to engage in breathing with “the whole of your body.” She then had her audience members take their pulses and count the number of pulses per individual breath.  The most common response from individual audience members was five heartbeats per breath.  She likened that ratio to that of iambic pentameter in a line of verse. “Iambic Pentameter is an extension of what we do in our natural state,” Professor Packer informed her listeners.  “Your body is who you are.  You are impulse with an “im-” in front of (your pulse).”  She then advised her listeners, “Remember the intelligence behind every figure of speech.”

Professor Packer applied her insights to the plays overall: “The power of the story lies in what’s going on with the storyteller or with the actor,” she said.  “The line endings in a speech reveal the speaker’s psychological development.”  Perhaps in reply to Professor Tim Carroll, Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival’s keynote address conference on the subject of Iambic Fundamentalism the day before, in which Carroll stressed that in Shakespeare as in public speaking, the speaker should not, as a matter of form, stress ‘I’ or ‘me,’ Packer in contrast, gave actors the green light to hitting ‘I’ and ‘me’ in a line as long as actors also follows up those first person descriptions by hitting the active verb in the same lines in which they appear.  She also gave a key piece of advice to actors: “To hell with the operative words!”

Professor Packer then introduced ASC actors Sarah Fallon and Allison Glenzer to play a scene from “Othello.” She set the stage by discussing how Othello’s and Desdemona’s bed sheets symbolized the couple’s (interrupted) Wedding Night.  Othello and Desdemona could not consummate their marriage on their Wedding Night, she said, because Cassio’s brawl which opens the play prevented such an event from taking place.  She then directed Glenzer, playing Othello, to slap Fallon, playing Desdemona.  Fallon’s Desdemona cried out in pain when Glenzer’s Othello struck her.  Immediately, Professor Packer surveyed the audience and asked for its response to what it just witnessed.  Several members of the audience expressed that they “felt” Desdemona’s cry of pain instead of simply having heard it.  Packer explained, “The visceral response is in the body.” She continued, “You have to get to the form before you can ever get to the content, and in Shakespeare, the silences are in the audience’s body as well as those which the actors express.”  Professor Packer elaborated how Shakespeare in his later works began to shift the characters’ emotional feeling behind the words, as well as how the line of dialogue sounded to an audience. The actor shifts the thought, intellectually and emotionally, she concluded.

Bill Leavy

Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Colloquy XVII: Teaching Shakespeare as an Integrated Process

Heidi Snow of Principia College chaired the colloquy session on pedagogy which included presenters Chrissy Calkins Steele, also with Principia College, and Alicia Huber, an independent scholar.  Three Principia students, Anna, Kelsey and Nathalie would be presenting their papers, Professor Snow informed her session participants, and she also announced her  intention to open up the floor to expand the conversation to encompass everyone in the room.

Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare & Performance alumna Alica Huber was the first to present after the Chair’s introduction, discussing how pedagogy relates to a subject she teaches to undergraduates, Theater History.  She told the session’s group that she meets many faculty members at the university where she is an Adjunct Professor who are skeptical of the need to teach Theater History.  She then projected a slide which read, “Theater History: We can Do Better.  Let’s science on pedagogy.”  She related a personal anecdote of a student show she directed which, although a modern play, incorporated elements of classical Greek Tragedy.  She expressed her student actors’ antipathy towards the subject she teaches even though, she noted, they enjoyed performing in the play.  She researched through Rosetta Stone the subject of adult pedagogy, the science of how adults learn.  She recommended three books, the first of which was Ken Bain’s, “What the Best College Teachers Do.”  Daniel Willingham is the author of the second book she recommended, “Why Students Don’t Like School?”  The third book Huber named was,  “The Absorbent Mind” by Maria Montessori.  “We teach Theater History via the traditional “Sage on the Stage” model,” or, fact dissemination, which is largely ineffective and is not engaging, she contended.

“The process is what’s interesting,” Huber continued: “Pull back the curtain on the process.”  How do Theater History teachers and educators find engaging and thought-provoking questions to begin with? she asked.  The student, she explained, may not know much history, theater history or in general, but they usually know something about theater itself.  She begins teaching her course by asking her students, “What is theater?”  Huber then read a paper from one of her students she had taught who expressed in her answer that in thinking about her definition of theater, as she wrote her paper, the student began to ask herself deeper questions, and ultimately confessed that the more she thought about it, the less and less sure she knew what theater was.

Textbooks, Huber explained, contain “received expertise.”  She projected then a slide reading, “We must empower our student to become experts.”  How do we know what we know? she asked.  Much of our understanding of Early Modern Theater is from the attempted reconstruction based on what little evidence still exists today.  She then recommended, “Let’s not learn history, let’s learn to be historians.”  Evidence comes first.  She teaches history with such evidence including texts, physical evidence which she presents to her class in the form of photos of Hellenic Theater at Epidaurus, and she also utilizes movie clips to help frame her textbook chapter readings.  She encourages her students to challenge what they read in the textbook after she has presented them with historical evidence in the classroom.

People learn by doing, Huber continued. Students learn to become critics in her class.  She stated she is committed to learning in a studio space: How can teachers create an environment in which the students themselves can make discoveries?  “Discovery is the best teacher,” she explained.  Huber comes from a background rooted in laboratory research, referring to her work with Rosetta Stone while she completed her M.Litt degree. She conducts experiments in her class with masks.  She informed the members of the session, that Chinese Theater Works, NYC, and The Greek Theater at Randolph College, in addition to The Blackfriars Playhouse, also incorporate original practices.  We must remember that Theater History is a narrative because people love stories, she stated in conclusion.

The Chair next proceeded to discuss the study abroad program she and her colleague Chrissy lead, “Shakespeare’s England”  The course includes seven-and-a-half weeks of students engaging in research at the Globe Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, and also with the Lake District.  The course proceeds with another seven-and-a-half weeks on campus where students put on a full play.  The campus course students take are, Cultural Studies, Acting Shakespeare, Shakespeare in England, History of English Drama, and Voice for the Actor.  Students create artistic journals.  Professor Snow called upon her student Anna to display her artwork which she produced in class.  Her student Anna also displayed the theater program she worked on.  Professor Snow stated she uses Wordsworth Trust for teaching primary source material.  She said that she has her students conduct research at the British Museum as well, including making use of the Museum’s Rare Book Room.  Two weeks at the Globe follow this research, and there students learn movement, work with the text, and learn about costumes.  And of course, Snow, informed the group. students also view Globe productions.  Her students then design what they are going to teach as schoolteachers to their pupils.

Anna next presented her paper, “How to Handle Old Books and Papers,” providing the student perspective.  She wrote an in-depth dramaturgical paper on jailers in “The Winter’s Tale” which she researched at the British Museum.  Her paper addressed the question, “How does the jailer’s depiction in Shakespeare’s play vary from what we know from recorded evidence about how jailers behaved in real life?”

Next to present her paper was Kelsey, a Senior at Principia, who played Paulina in the student production of “The Winter’s Tale”  She read what she’d written about her experience at The Globe and of the Birthplace Trust.  The latter resource is the recipient of the Royal Shakespeare Company archives.  “There isn’t one answer,” she said she learned.  Shakespeare’s Globe Education Center Director Michael Gold immerse the students in Shakespeare’s language.  “Why the play’s character might be off-balance, she explained, “iambic study reveals clues to such characters.”

Nathalie, also a Principia student who went through the same Shakespeare course with her fellow actors Anna and Kelsey, read her paper on her course experience.  All three students then performed a scene from “The Winter’s Tale,” demonstrating for session attendees how much they had learned in the study abroad course.

The Chair then concluded the session by opening up the floor for questions.

Bill Leavy

Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Colloquy VIII: Practical Rhetoric

How can rhetoric help students?  How can actors use it?  Colloquy Chair Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager with the American Shakespeare Center introduced the session’s format as a conversation, as she put it, rather than that of a lecture, and she then had the presenters seated around the meeting room table introduce themselves and state exactly what it is that they do with rhetoric.  Tom Delise with the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory teaches his students fifteen rhetorical devices to help them in their acting.  Marshall Garrett, Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare & Performance MFA candidate mentioned how his thesis on “Measure for Measure” focused on rhetoric, and stated that he is interested in helping actors who are not familiar with rhetoric to be aware of it and be able to work with it.  Sign language interpreter Lindsey D. Snyder of Gallaudet University said she is interested in making rhetoric understandable for the hearing-impaired.  Annette Drew-Bear teaches Shakespeare courses at Washington and Jefferson College, and she said she wants to discover more effective teaching techniques, including ways to improve her students’ assignments.  The other presenters included Collin Bjork with Indiana University, Scott Crider with the University of Dallas, and Kathleen Quinlan, English Teacher with Stonewall Jackson High School.  

The Chair then talked of methodology and strategies in rehearsal and in the classroom.  Delise distributed around the room his “Rhetorical Devices Worksheet,” explaining that he gives this to his students/actors to help them prepare for a role.  The worksheet calls upon the student to name the rhetorical device, give an example of it from the text, and then asks the question, “How Can It Inform an Acting Choice?  What Questions Does It Raise?”  Garrett discussed his work on “Measure for Measure.”  He said he discovered that the flow of rhetoric in Shakespeare’s play reveals that the prison characters use almost no rhetorical devices at all, while by contrast, the character of Isabella uses rhetoric to render her antagonist Angelo speechless.

The Chair next proceeded to the topic of Dramatization of Rhetoric, mentioning that Crider’s paper in particular explored the “performativity” (performance conventions and audience perceptions) of rhetorical devices.  Some of these, such as “epizeuxis,” or the immediate repetition of a word, are definite cues for the actor.  Snyder demonstrated through signing how different words and expressions utilize different hand signs.  She also discussed how the meaning and the meter of the verse are affected by the actor’s breathing.  Crider asked the sign-language interpreter if she had worked in gesture and if so, how it relates to Early Modern acting.  Gesture, Snyder replied, didn’t appear in print until sometime in the mid-1600’s.  There is some documentation which still exists today, she added, but there is not much writing on how it was used on the stage.  She suggested that some actors were not as declarative as we now believe they were, and that the practice of using gesture became more established over time.  Snyder continued on a related subject, stating that physical training and classroom training should not be separate and distinct from one another.  Instead, rhetorical instruction should synthesize both of these approaches.

Garrett discussed Shakespeare’s use in “Measure for Measure” of the rhetorical device known as “anadiplosis,” which is the repetition of a clause or sentence’s last word or phrase at the beginning of the next line, clause or sentence.   “Do we stop Angelo’s action to try to get a word in,” Garrett asked, “or do we just let him keep on going in the scene?”  Rhetorical devices can be translated into actors’ actions as well as into words and emotions, he explained, as when one character in a scene mirrors the posture of another, indicating to the audience love and attraction between two characters.  “Souls and hearts start beating together; characters start to move in tandem,” he noted.

Quinlan shared her insights as an English Teacher on the performativity of rhetoric as well.  The character of Iago in Shakespeare’s “Othello” uses a device known as “aposiopesis,” or a sudden breaking off in mid-speech, as a kind of innuendo, she explained, to imply to Othello his wife Desdemona’s fabricated infidelity.  Quinlan also discussed another kind of omission, “ellipsis,” in storytelling.  Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell Tale Heart,” she illustrated for her listeners, intentionally leaves out the names of the characters.  Her students comment on this omission in her class, remarking that the narrator refers to his antagonist/victim simply as, “The Old Man.”  The reader is left to fill in the blanks by using his or her imagination.

Garrett in addition discussed his staging for “Measure for Measure,” particularly in ways to communicate to the audience a sense of balance and also the sense of miscommunication.  Bjork then shared an anecdote from his days as an actor.  He was rehearsing a scene in which his character uses alliteration, in this case it was a repetition of ‘f” sounds.  His director explained to him that the rhetorical device informs the actor’s face in performance.  The director told the actor, “You are making a kissy-face!”  Bjork said the repeated ‘f’ sounds in his character’s language was his cue to pucker up to his lady scene partner.

The Chair then asked her presenters the question, How does rhetoric figure in writing and composition?  Crider mentioned that rhetoric helps his students in their composition, and that learning rhetoric develops them into better readers of Shakespeare and in general.  Morris next asked, “Students may learn the correct term, but how can an actor use it onstage?”  The Chair proceeded to describe as an example of practical rhetoric, how emphasis on rhetorical usage in ASC’s leadership workshop helps workshop participants, who have included leaders in the business community as well as in politics, become more persuasive leaders through its use.

The Chair opened up the floor to “gallery” questions shortly before the session concluded.  Lia Wallace, ASC Educator, talked of how she taught rhetorical devices to younger kids, such as “anthimeria,” or nouns as verbs.  Wallace remarked how younger children are able to learn rhetorical devices and their names with great facility because they haven’t yet learned from cultural bias that it is supposed to be so “hard.”

Morris admitted to the colloquy’s attendees that what it is she needs to know now is what is the “next step” in the practice of rhetoric as she brought the session to its conclusion.

–Bill Leavy

Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Wake-Up Workshop: Textual Variants

This morning’s Wake-up Workshop covered the topic, Textual Variants, and attendees included professional actors, teachers and professors..  Kayla Blue is an as an Education Artist with the ASC .  She began the workshop by explaining how Early Modern texts are “alive and constantly changing.”  Printers, editors and even booksellers and academics manipulate the plays into a version they prefer rather than attempt to present an authoritative copy for posterity.

Blue moved on to her first subtopic, From Shakespeare to the Printer: How did these texts come into print they way they have?  She then asked for six volunteers from her audience to join her on the Blackfriars stage to engage in an activity which would help illustrate the answer to that question.  She assigned the first volunteer to personify Shakespeare’s “Foul Papers.”  All of the foul papers, which may include plays in their original forms, she explained, were lost, as opposed to surviving extant “Fair Papers.” Blue assigned the second volunteer to personify Fair Papers, which may include cue scripts and recopied plays.  In the recopying process, ” ‘Sin’ can become ‘sign’,” Kayla explained to help her audience gain a deeper understanding of the origins of some variants in texts.

Blue explained that the terms, “role” and “part” came from the standard Early Modern practice of actors using cue scripts.  Actors were not presented with a complete copy of the play they were rehearsing, as printing a copy for each cast member was usually prohibitively expensive.  Instead, actors worked from a partial script which contained only the “part” he would play.  The actor’s script would contain the cue preceding his lines, and the script was transcribed onto a parchment roll, from which the word, “role” derived.

Fair copies, Blue continued, were copied into “presentation copies” which were kept for performance records.  These records were known as, “Book Copies” for bookkeeper use, she explained, and additional stage directions frequently were added in the process, including cues for “dumb shows.”  Shakespeare’s star clown from his stock company, Will Kemp is listed in one of these added stage directions in the place of the character’s name.  This may indicate that a bookkeeper added Kemp’s name to record his role in a specific production or performance.

One of Blue’s volunteers then asked her about published plays called, “Playbooks,” wanting to know if they were ever intended for private consumption.  She answered  the question in the affirmative, and she discussed the origins of the term, “quarto” as explanation.  Blue said that the term, “quarto” referred to the way the printed booklet was folded: where a folio is folded into two pages out of a single sheet, she demonstrated with a piece of paper, a quarto is folded into four pages.  The two-page per sheet folio cost one English Pound and was considered expensive in Shakespeare’s day.  The more paper used in printing, she explained, the more expensive the publication.  S&P student George Kendall added to this by informing the rest of the audience that a quarto originally cost only five- or sixpence.

Blue continued her discussion by asking the question, How did printers obtain play copies?  Copyright laws of the day were largely ineffectual at the time.  Most playwrights didn’t receive money for their printed plays.  One remedy, she suggested was the possibility of a “memorial reconstruction.”  This is a play published from a player’s or patron’s memory after a performance.  Printers may have added stage directions at this stage as well.  Some scholars allege that the practice may have been invented and never actually happened.

There are five “Romeo and Juliet” quartos, Blue continued.  She then distributed handouts, copies of “Romeo and Juliet” quarto covers, beginning with that of the First Quarto, or ‘Q1″ as it is now known.  The copies of the cover are available on the internet from the website, “Early English Books Online”: http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home  On the handout’s reverse side, Blue had transcribed a piece of the play’s text.  The First Quarto of “Romeo and Juliet” or Q1 was published in 1597, she explained, and it is 688 lines shorter than Q2, the Second Quarto.  She then asked volunteers to identify some textual variants between their copies of quarto covers.  Volunteers observed from the handouts that cover pages often included the name of the shop in which the quarto was sold.  Later quartos included such descriptions as, “newly corrected and augmented” on their covers.  This language biased scholars over the years that earlier copies were “bad quartos” and were less authoritative than “corrected and augmented” later quartos.  Scholars today challenge this presumption, however, as Blue informed her listeners.  One of her volunteers suggested that the “correction” terms publishers used were most likely a marketing ploy to sell new copies.

Blue next read the reverse side of her first handout, the “Romeo and Juliet” tomb scene from Q1 and compared that against a later quarto by reading aloud changes in the scene’s dialogue.  She finished her the workshop by displaying several various and different “authoritative” editions of “Romeo and Juliet,” reminding us that editors, and not Shakespeare, were responsible for most textual variants.

–Bill Leavy

Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Lunch and Learn Session: Meet and Drink with MBC Shakespeare and Performance

Today’s Lunch and Learn session, Meet and Drink with Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare & Performance hosts, all of whom are S&P instructors: Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen, Dr. Paul Menzer, Professor Doreen Bechtol, Dr. Matt Davies, and Professor Janna Segal.  Dr. Menzer, director of the program, opened the session by mentioning the opportunity for prospective students to attend the MBC Shakespeare & Performance program.  He said the “&” denotes the new and original approach to learning Shakespeare in training students to be both practitioners ‘&’ scholars: “Above all, what we study here is in collaboration,” Dr. Menzer stated.  Several of the S&P program’s alumni next introduced themselves to the congregation, and this entry lists each one in the following paragraph.

Jemma Alix Levy, Assistant Professor with Washington and Lee University was the first alumna to speak to session attendees about MBC’s Shakespeare & Performance program.  She discussed how the program’s “marriage” between scholarship and practice attracted her to undertake it and earn both of its degrees, the M.Litt (Master of Letters) and the MFA (Master of Fine Arts).  She will present the devised show, “Believe None of Us”, which the conference’s program describes as, “An exploration of Shakespeare’s three Hamlets,”  late Friday night.  Casey Caldwell was the next alumnus to speak.  He is completing his PhD in English at Northwestern University.  He thanks the program for giving him the scholarly and intellectual foundation to speak to everyone he encounters in academia as well as to members of Chicago’s performing community.  He said The Blackfriars Playhouse gave him an awareness of the role that a performing space plays in helping to achieve a greater understanding of Shakespeare and Early Modern texts.  Alumnus Rick Blunt, the next to speak, now performs with ASC as one of its regular cast members.  He discussed the help MBC S&P program’s faculty gave him the help he needed to write his first thesis as well as train him to perform in an ensemble.  Alumna Katherine Mayberry, Class of ’07, is now the Executive Director of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare, Michigan.  She is an Adjunct Professor at her undergraduate alma mater, Grand Valley State University, and in addition she freelances as a dramaturg.  She expressed that the MBC S&P student community remains a vital part of her life and work.

Natalia Wallace, a current MFA candidate announced her upcoming performance in the original show, “One Woman Town” by her fellow “Sweet Wag” (fellow MFA candidate) Merlyn Q. Sell.  The show debuts tonight (Thursday) in the Blackfriars Playhouse at 11:30 pm.  Wallace talked about her experiences in her first two years with the program.  She wrote her M.Litt thesis on neuroscience, and she expressed her gratitude for the S&P faculty’s help and how she now incorporates what she learned in her first two years into her MFA year.  Patrick Aaron Harris, MFA candidate, also a “Sweet Wag” was the next to speak, and he shared with his listeners how another S&P alumnus he knew from the theatrical community of which Harris was a member suggested that he consider enrolling in MBC’s S&P program.   He mentioned how the S&P faculty supported him on his thesis idea about hipsters.

After the S&P alumni shared their stories, Dr. Menzer introduced the program’s founder, Dr. Cohen to discuss the creation of the Shakespeare & Performance program.  Professor Cohen wanted Mary Baldwin College to help with the Blackfriars Playhouse.  The college agreed to supporting the playhouse, and Dr. Cohen thanked his colleagues for sending him people who now constitute a “community of helpers.”  The ‘&’ of “S&P denotes the intersection of performance with metrical and textual work, he said.

Dr. Menzer then introduced Dr. Matt Davies to discuss the third year of the S&P program, the MFA year.  MFA training reinforces “disciplinarity” and “individuality,” Dr. Davies explained.  He stated what is the program’s major innovation in its training approach with the following analogy: actors preparing for a role ask of their characters whom they portray, “What do I want?”  Dr. Davies adapted that fundamental question into “What do we need?” to better help a producing theatrical company in facing what he sees as its essential challenge.   He then went on to describe the program’s training model as one consisting of three “pillars.”  The first pillar of the model is collaboration.  The second pillar is participation in the company’s ongoing discussion and then making decisions as an ensemble.  The final pillar is employabliity, which for the purposes of today’s globally competitive and ever-changing marketplace, Dr. Davies defines as “entrepreneurship.”  The MFA program, Dr. Davies concluded, is both a class and a professional training program.

Doreen Bechtol next spoke, discussing the S&P program’s operational perspective.  She discussed the May Term at the start of the MFA year in which her students put together their upcoming year’s season in just three weeks.  The S&P program, she informed her listeners, subsidizes several internships with other Shakespearean companies presenting students with additional training options before they return in August at the start of the MFA year.  The first production of the training year is the “devised show,” which Bechtol explained is concerned primarily in helping the new student company it to find its voice.  The goal of the MFA company’s next show of the season is to tour schools and show school students in their audience “how accessible Shakespeare can be.”  Next on the season’s program is a small-scale touring show in which the MFA troupe is divided into two companies who perform at community and arts centers.  Next, Bechtol informed her listeners, is the Renaissance Show whose goal is to stage a production under conditions which are as close to those with which the original Blackfriars actors worked in Shakespeare’s day.  This includes actors having to use cue scripts instead of providing each actor with a complete copy of the whole play as is standard practice today.  The MFA company proceeds from that staging challenge to performing in a guest-directed show.  The goal here is to develop professional ties with the theater community by working with one of that community’s veteran directors.  Ultimately, the MFA training year culminates in a final production as well as “final chapter,” which Professor Bechtol explained can either take the form of a thirteen-minute conference or as a publishable work for a book which the MFA students author.

Janna Segal who is with both the S&P and the MBC undergraduate Theater Department, teaches the May Term course, “Company Management and Company Dramaturgy.”  She discussed company partnerships, such as that of MBC’s with ASC.  She searched extensively to find other graduate training programs in Theater and found only six MFA programs with “mentored professional stage experience” through full-time, professionally-performing regional theaters, including the S&P program.  Only four of these programs, she discovered, have MFA’s available in Performance and Production, and she found that all of these programs include Shakespeare as part of their training.  Only the Shakespeare Theater Company, she found, also includes other Early Modern theater works in addition to Shakespeare as part of its training, but it is an acting-only MFA degree.  The MBC S&P MFA training program, Professor Segal went on to explain, is the only such program to combine dramaturgy, collaboration and company management into its MFA curriculum.

Dr. Menzer brought the session to a close by mentioning the Shakespeare Intensive which is held on the first weekend in June to give prospective students an idea of what the S&P training program does in this community.  He then opened the floor briefly to questions.

–Bill Leavy, S&P M.Litt Student, blogger.

Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Colloquy Session VI: Shakespeare’s Life and Times: Contributing Context

Welcome to the 2015 Blackfriars Conference Colloquy, “Shakespeare’s Life and Times: Contributing Context.”   Kate McPherson of Utah Valley University and Kate Moncrief of Washington College chaired the colloquy session.  Dwight Tanner of UNC-Chapel HillWilliam Jones, Associate Professor of English at Murray State University and Karoline Szatek-Tudor of Curry College presented their papers as part of the colloquy.

Internet Shakespeare Editions has been operating now for fifteen years. The website,http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/,  includes a section covering Shakespeare’s ‘Life and Times’.  Michael Best originally created ISE as a CD-ROM in the late 1990s, and today the website receives 250,000 internet hits per month.  The idea behind the website’s organization has been for the user to be able to read its contents as a book, from the beginning of an article to the end of another.  Now, in a three- to five year-project, the site design is being overhauled, converting it into more of an encyclopedia format.  The website’s bibliographies have not been revised in over ten years, Professor Moncrief disclosed, but the ISE intends to update all of them as part of the site’s overhaul.

The Internet Shakespeare Editions site is designed to be user-friendly to high school students, and in keeping with this intended purpose, articles are limited to a length not exceeding one thousand words.  Footnotes are presented in the form of pop-up boxes.  Each page of the website includes one or two relevant images.

Ongoing pedagogical projects will allow educators and researchers to update and revise the information on the ISE website. Edition editors will be able to click on individual topics and make suggestions.  Today’s colloquy session is devoted to discussion of International Shakespeare Edition’s website, in particular the section entitled “life and Times,” as well as the discussion of five brief articles which the site’s continuing updating project generated.

The five authors named above presented their papers, beginning with Professor Jones who talked about his web-piece, “Shakespeare and Satire,” and he distributed copies of his paper, “A 1599 Poem in Praise of Shakespeare?”  He read aloud the subject of his paper, the 1599 John Weever poem to Shakespeare, “Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare” (“To William Shakespeare”) which in his view criticizes the playwright’s “Ovidian passion.”  Professor Jones uses this poem in his classroom, he told attendees, as a discussion topic for his students, presenting them with an opportunity to weigh in on the ironic tone and the satirical object of Weever’s poem. “Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare” demonstrates, as Professor Jones put it, the passive/aggressive attitude that Puritans leveled against playwrights and Shakespeare in particular.  A contemporary of Shakespeare, Weever was an aspiring poet and would-be playwright as well as a churchman.  Shakespeare may have used Weever as at least partial inspiration when he created the part of Sir Andrew Aguecheek in his play “Twelfth Night.”

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Dwight Tanner discussed his piece, “The Plague.”  Tanner’s article explores contagion, treatment, bureaucracy, and the plague’s impact on Early Modern Theater, particularly the impact it had upon theater owners.  The piece examines quarantine practices of the period and includes an example of a plague-victim, a man named ‘Decker.’  During the discussion, Professor Moncrief tried a site search to see how easily users can navigate to Tanner’s piece.  Eight years ago, Moncrief explained, the site managers integrated a rudimentary mobile app, and she wanted to see if it still functions and how it could be improved.

Professor Szatek-Tudor discussed as well as distributed copies of her paper, “The Twitters and Tweets of Shakespeare’s Birds in his Early Modern Plays.”  Shakespeare cited fifty-nine species of birds in his plays, though his bird allusions diminish in number in his later works, Szatek-Tudor claimed.  Shakespeare wrote about birds of prey as well as birdsas prey.  Professor Szatek-Tudor also talked about Shakespeare’s use of birds as verbs, giving as an example how Shakespeare wrote that Falstaff “quails” in fear.  She mentioned she is working on the History Plays and at the moment is looking for editing help with this.  The Professor distributed to attendees copies of an “Ornithological Chart of Some Birds in Shakespeare’s Plays” in addition to her paper.  Her chart classifies twenty-one different species of birds while grouping them under six separate classes, including “Land Birds” and “Water Bird.”  The Quail, for example, appears listed beneath the class of birds called, “Galliformes.”

Professor Moncrief discussed her article, “Childbirth.”  In the Early Modern period, a woman typically had six to ten children, she informed listeners.  Moncrief read a Jane Sharp quote from her paper and described the rest of its contents, including her paper’s references to Shakespeare’s plays, “Pericles” and “The Winter’s Tale.”  Most women spent their lives, she went on to tell attendees, pregnant or recovering from their pregnancies.  Her article explores the social impact of the culture’s views of morality and how that culture judged women, often disparagingly, by their pregnancies and childbirth.  The Professor discussed mortality rates in the session when she was asked about that, but she informed her listeners that she took that topic out of her piece over concerns of exceeding her article’s 1000-word length.

Lastly, Professor McPherson talked of her piece, “Early Modern Anatomy,” which explores anatomy as both subject of learning as well as spectacle.  She distributed to each attendee a copy of an illustration of The Anatomy Theatre at Leiden, circa 1540, which depicts the dissection of a human cadaver in an Early Modern operating theater.  Cadavers for dissection and study came from the gibbets and from other public executions.  The fascination with anatomy in that time period affected the depiction of dead bodies onstage to suit audiences’ demands for greater realism, she explained.

Blog posted by Bill Leavy, M.Litt. student, Mary Baldwin College graduate program in Shakespeare and Performance.