Colloquy Session XIX: Staging Questions with Actors

Good morning everyone, Liz back here for the last time this year to live-blog Colloquy Session XIX: Staging Queeestions with Actors. Live blogging of this session will run from nine to ten fifteen in the morning on the Blackfriars Playhouse Stage. The chair for this session is Cassie Ash. The presenters are Rebecca Bailey and Julia Griffin. Actors for this session are part of the American Shakespeare Center Dangerous Dreams Tour Tim Sailer, Cordell Cole, Jessica Lefkow, Chris Bellinger, Andrew Goldwasser, and Aleca Piper.

Ash welcomes everyone and thanks them for their presence this morning. She introduces Griffin and Bailey and hands the stage to Griffin.

Griffin says that standing on the stage is amazing and talks about AC Badley’s amazing Shakespearean Tragedy. She talks about note thirty one, “He has no children.” This refers to Macduff’s line in Macbeth. This could refer to Malcolm who, having no children, can announce this deed, to Macbeth who has no child, so Macduff cannot take adequate revenge, or to Macbeth who if he has children would not ask for Macduff’s children to be killed. There is debate that Macduff could not say this to Malcolm because that would be a direct retort and rude. In Shakespeare’s play, Macduff expresses both grief and vengefulness is future lines, so the challenge is to try to decide which emotion influences the line, “He has no children.” For an actor, this is difficult because an actor must make a choice.

Griffin states that she believes, as Bradley, that the line refers to Malcolm. She then introduces that the actors will perform the scene in three ways: with Macduff being heartless, as a direct retort to Malcolm, and as a reference to Macbeth. Goldwasser as Macduff, Cole as Rosse, and Sailer as Malcolm jump up to do the scene three times.

Griffin states that she does not know how the actors do what they do, to which Goldwasser replies, “At nine A.M.” Griffin states that she expected to have to ask questions to clarify the differences between each staging, but acknowledges that the actors did a great job. She states that Goldwasser put more anger when directing the line to Malcolm than she expected. Griffin then turns to the audience and asks what they noticed. Purcell, in the audience, states that Macduff’s lines following all seem to make more sense if Macduff directs the line to Malcolm – especially since Macduff “was cross” with Malcolm earlier in the scene. Purcell states that this session showed him how all three interpretations can work to make a different show.

Griffin then reads an interpretation by a novelist.

We move on to Bailey, who focuses on embodying the humors using Laban technique. She introduces the four humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. She hopes to find an approachable method to use these early modern ideas through modern techniques that many actors are familiar with.

Bailey states that she chose Laban’s movement because he focused on both performance and everyday life. She believes that this will help actors perform the movements of everyday people. She will work with the actors on weight, time, space, and flow. She will have the actors choose along the continuum of Laban to help create characters to make the humors embodied for actors today. She clarifies and further explains the continuum upon which the humors and exist and which actors can access.

Bailey states that we will work on Viola and Falstaff, who are both closely connected to the humors. Lefkow jumps up to portray Viola, who is represented as sanguine with an excess of blood, which is hot and moist and connected to air. Bailey wants to look at Laban’s elements and the elements connected to the humors. She tells Lefkow that Viola is flexible, light, sustained, and free. She encourages Lefkow to embody these choices in her movement and voice. Lefkow them performs Viola.

Bailey then asks Lefkow to perform Viola with the opposite choices on the continuum, with a direct, strong, quick, and bound Viola, to see if the interpretation fights the text. Lefkow jumps right to it.

Purcell asked to have Lefkow perform Viola as melancholy. Another scholar in the audience states that he prefers the second choice for Viola, due to Viola’s first scene in the play’s text.

Bailey has Lefkow be direct, bound, sustained, and strong as a melancholy Viola, per Purcell’s request. Lefkow jumps in and restarts, acknowledging that she must start in a different place and that she has not had her coffee yet this morning. Purcell states that this is the Viola that he likes because this Viola was bittersweet, and he sees Twelfth Night as a bittersweet play. Ash jumps in to state that she enjoys how Lefkow’s third melancholic performance helped illustrate the quoting of another character in the same humor.

Bailey introduces Bellinger as Falstaff. Falstaff is referenced as a phlegmatic character. For example, Hal states that Falstaff sleeps until noon, but phlegmatic characters’ hours started at three in the afternoon. Thus, many humoral elements are explained within the text. Phlegm is connected with water, which is flexible, strong, sustained, and free. Bellinger then gets up to perform a Falstaff monologue.

Bailey then chooses to the stage the monologue again with Bellinger playing the opposite choices as Falstaff: direct, light, quick, and bound. Bellinger takes the direction and performs.

Cass Morris then points out that the main element that she feels is set for Falstaff is time. She feels that Falstaff must be sustained and not quick, but that the other elements seem flexible.

In response to a scholar’s comment, Bailey acknowledges that characters gravitate towards a certain humor, rather than playing the humor all of the time. Ash jumps in to point out that the flow element is about the ability to change into motion or non-motion in performance, rather than constantly moving or not moving.

Goldwasser points out that even within the line, an actor can change any of the elements. He also points out that each element can also describe either space, movement, or voice – or any other aspect of performance.

Bailey acknowledges that this staging session will help her to see the overlaps or exclusivity of the humors and the different elements.

Lefkow explains her personal thoughts on Laban and the humors. She believes that Laban is a great method to use and believes that ever actor is different and will use the technique differently and have different viewpoints.

Another scholar points out that different elements like water and earth take on different forms, like ice, vapor, rock, and soil. She wonders how these can inform the actors and their choices.

Griffin takes the stage again to look at IV.iii. from Julius Caesar. She wants to look at this scene to see if this scene is a textual error that was not supposed to repeat the news of Portia’s death, that Brutus must have this conversation again because of Massala, or that Brutus benefits from revealing the new of Portia’s death twice. Griffin has Goldwasser (Brutus), Cole (Massala), and Sailer (Cassius) come perform the scene with each of the three interpretations for the audience.

The actors speak about what they liked and found easier to perform. Bellinger questions if Cassius can support Brutus in all of these interpretations, especially given Cassius’ character in the play.

Griffin believes that the first staging of this scene allows Brutus to be a sympathetic character. The actors then ask questions to Griffin.

Ash ends the session by thanking the actors and presenters.

Thank you all for allowing me to be your live blogger this week – it was a blast!

Wake-Up Workshop: Audience Contact

Hello everyone! Liz here to start off the morning with the Wake-Up Workshop on Audience Contact! Live-blogging of this session will last from eight to eight forty-five in the morning. Natalia “Lia” Razak Wallace, ASC Education Artist, Mary Baldwin College Master of Fine Arts candidate, and Sweet Wag Shakespeare member, leads this session.

Wallace asks if everyone saw at least one show in the Blackfriars Playhouse. “We really like the audience,” she smiles. She talks about the space informing the performance – including the lights that stay on during the show, the audience surrounding the actors on three sides. She expresses her dislike of messy audience contact, which she calls “the wash”, and states that this dislike led to her thesis on eye contact with the audience. Wallace states that the best way to contact the audience is to face them.

Wallace then transitions and gives different categories for audience contact in early modern drama. She brings up a scholar to perform a scene from The Merchant of Venice to display the first form of audience contact – casting the audience. She and the scholar perform the scene between Portia and Nerissa from II.i. in a proscenium-style, directly on the same plane and facing each other on the stage. Now, Wallace gives the scholar some whispered directions and performs the scene again. This time, she and the scholar point to scholars in the audience, naming them as the suitors mentioned in the scene. The audience laugh more and accurately portray their parts this time around, due to the actors’ engagements with them. “Mocking people in reality is way more fun than mocking abstractions,” Wallace states to explain why making contact with individual audience members in this scene makes it so much stronger. Due to the continuous action and lack of lighting and stage changes at the top of a show on the early modern stage, casting the audience in early scenes commonly occurs to help bring the audiences into the world of the play. The audience cannot be cast the audience as any characters that appear in the play. Wallace states that everyone has one or two reactions to audience contact, which is either positive or negative.

Wallace calls the second allying. Humans are naturally convincing, so we want people to be on our sides. She mentions that Iago is one of her favorite characters because he spends so much time explaining himself to the audience. The audience will give support to characters that ask for audience support, which occurs with many different characters across many different plays. Wallace then grabs another audience member and has them read some lines from Richard III from the end of I.ii. She explains that this is a great example of character allying. Richard loves to share and the text wants to be shared, so the text begs for the actor to ally with the audience in this moment to convey why he is correct. Wallace says that states of emotion are contagious and that when we see someone do any action, our neurocortex actually has a part of us do that action as well. An audience member asks about Ben Curns’ interpretation of Richard as seduced by convincing others and explaining his handiwork to the audience.

The third form of audience contact is asking the audience a question or to seek information. Wallace gives an example of Polonius in the ASC’s Hamlet, where Polonius took the question, “What was I about to say?” to an audience member. Many audience members thought that the actor went up on his line, when he was really including them in the world of the play.

Wallace briefly explains the difference between audience contact and audience connection. Audience contact is an action that can be practiced without people in the room. This is in contrast to audience connection, which relies on the audience member’s reaction to the contact that occurs.

The fourth form of audience contact is using the audience as the object. This makes the audience an example, rather than a specific character. She exemplifies this through the discovery of an audience member with a drink in their hand and generalizing them as like “all drunk men.”

Wallace then has everyone look at a scene from Henry VI, Part I. She then asks for her two volunteers to play Suffolk and Margaret for the scene. She then states that the fifth form of contact is talking to your scene partner, because relationship between characters must be established before contact with the audience can be meaningful. Wallace reminds the group that there was no verisimilitude on the Elizabethan stage. She points out the odd nature of Margaret standing onstage silent for several minutes while Suffolk confides in the audience. Wallace specifically points to the Margaret line, “Why speakst thou not?” as evidence for audience contact on the Elizabethan stage. Suffolk talked for a while and the audience is aware of this, because they are privy to it. Yet Margaret’s line indicates that she has not heard any of these words. This evidences that the audience was Suffolk’s point of contact during the scene. Wallace quickly wraps up the workshop by  wondering how the Margaret/Suffolk scene could work without audience contact.

Colloquy XV: Mediating Music in Middleton’s The Witch

Hello everyone – Liz here again to blog for Colloquy XV: Mediating Music in Middleton’s The Witch in Masonic Muilding – Blue Room. This live blogging session runs from nine to ten fifteen in the morning.The chair for this session is Linda Austen from Northwestern University. The presenters are Katherine Brokaw from the University of California, MercedScott A.  Trudell of the University of Maryland, College ParkSarah Williams of the University of South CarolinaAmanda Winkler of Syracuse University, and Jennifer Wood of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Austen thanks the attendees for their presence and turns the floor over to Trudell.

Trudell explains that this session focuses on the mediation of a song in performance within the text. He also explains his fascination with media transformations that adapt and re-imagine that bring us closer to the original performance of the song. Trudell is part of a project to create an open-source internet media to interface with to hear early modern songs. This project hopes to give archival and historical contexts for lyrics. Trudell and his team want to avoid giving the impression of original musical representations. Trudell explains that songs existed in variants, rather than one authorial version. Through this project, Trudell hopes that teachers and theatre practitioners can find, hear, and download songs for research and performance.

Trudell then gives an example of lyrics in Middleton’s work and explains different ways to view the lyrics. First, one may look at the meter of the song. One may also choose to speak the lyrics. Then, he brings the lyrics into the context of a larger song within the scene with Hecate and her followers singing. Trudell shows some early prints of the play, including a 1778 edition that has the voices “in the air.” He explains that the song itself was first printed in 1774 which numbers the voices, rather than assigning the lyric lines to characters. Middleton’s song appears, in part, in print, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth in 1623. In 1625, the song also appears in print from scribe Richard Cane, which is attributed to Robert Jonson from the 1620s. Trudell hopes that his interface will allow users access to more modern versions of the musical score and to link to other sites that would elaborate on the performance and images of early modern witches. He states that many current links online to recordings of early modern music is of poor quality. His project hopes to work with collaborators to provide cleaner recordings. He hopes practitioners will be able to use this interface to include early modern music in their performances.

Austen then takes the stage to talk about reproduction of early modern music in today’s theatre. Music, in early modern drama, acted on the body it found to change its emotions. Austen shows an image of a recreation of the Blackfriars Theater with a third floor known as the music house. She then shows a photo of our own Blackfriars Theater. She points out a version of The Witch with the stage direction [Music] to indicate music would start before the lyrics to the song begin. She then shows a photo of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London to illustrate another location where performance of music can occur.

Austen moves on to a photo of musical notation in a songbook for the song from The Witch. She explains that this print would be for home usage and allows little room for harmony and chords. She shows a modern notation of the song and explains that modern musicians have to fill in the gaps left by early modern song books. She gives a list of all musical instruments called for by name in the second Blackfriars Playhouse. She divides these into loud and soft instruments, and explains that only the loud band instruments would be used for this scene. The introduces the violin family, associated with May Pole dances and disreputable spaces and performers. She likens violins to saxophones today. She explains that images of cats playing the fiddle abounded, rather than witches playing the fiddle. Then, she shows pictures cornettis and sackbuts with their brass and woodwind-esque sound and explains that they would be versatile. There is debate as to which voices would accompany these instruments.

Williams then takes the floor to speak on witches on the stage. England in the early modern period was less concerned with demonic possession and more concerned with misdemeanors and disruptive behavior. Middleton based his portrayal of witches heavily on The Discovery of Witchcraft. The broadside ballad trade assisted in the spread of stories of witches in a performative manner. Witches were described as hybrid creatures, half-man and half-beast, which Williams illustrates with a woodcut. Boys would play the attendants of witches and men would play the grotesque witches. She points to several textual examples of the grotesque features of witches in literature. Several Jacobean witches sing and dance, as expressed in several texts and illustrated in several woodcuts. The witches’ world was see as similar to our own, but backwards, which Williams illustrates with textual examples.

The seventeenth century illustrated hags onstage through song and dance within the bounds of the century’s language. The dance music would be rustic and abound with language reminding the audience of the bad intentions of the witches. She then introduces the first performance, informed by these evidences. The actors, including Trudell, Austen, and Josh Williams – a Mary Baldwin graduate student -, Wood, and Brokaw perform the scene, accompanied by Williams on the piano.

Brokaw explains her experience as a professor and a theatre practitioner. She talks about directing The Winter’s Tale at Merced last February. She decided to set the first three acts in the 1950s. Then, she had acts four and five take place in the 1970s. She explains her options for the music composition with the possibility of collaborating with a composer to create the music for the show. The Royal Shakespeare Company in 2013 commissioned an indie songwriter to compose music for their performance. Brokaw soon realized that she did not have all of the RSC’s resources at her disposal and could not compose new works. She explains that she finally decided to incorporate modern songs into the play. She also decided to add more music where the text does not indicate music. For example, she had Hermoine and Perdita sing Blackbird at the end of the play as the reunited family looked on at a 1950s portrait of Mamilius. She states that this began a conversation within the community on music on the early modern stage. She shares that this experience allowed non-academic theatre-goers to ask about her scholarship and research. Brokaw explains that she could also have placed Shakespeare’s lyrics into a 1950s and 1970s musical score.

She then introduces the next performance, where this final option is utilized. The performance will use the original lyrics, but will incorporate the tune of a Frank Sinatra song, performed by Wood and Winkler.

Winkler takes the stage to say that working on the edge of scholarship and practice has allowed her to research in a very different way. She states that performing Hecate allows her to experiment with different versions of Hecate, including an option that allows her to emphasize Hecate’s incestuous qualities. She explains that the original text allows for the actor to infuse the song with dramatic choices that can alter the audience’s views on Hecate. She points out that everyone has an imagined version of the song from reading the text. But these imagined versions cannot all appear on the stage at once.

Winkler speaks that the witches in Middleton’s play sip on blood before singing and that by placing the lyrics within the tune of Sinatra’s song gives a shadow of Sinatra’s presence over the witches’ grotesque presence. She states that she hopes to start a dialogue on whether theatre practitioners should adhere to early modern lyrics and music or experiment with contemporary music.

A scholar asks if many audience members were upset by the use of modern songs in The Winter’s Tale, citing that many of her students were curious about the ASC’s use of modern music in the performance. Brokaw questions if we are excising anything by incorporating contemporary songs, but she also states that she feels that lyrics are easier to alter or switch out than the words themselves. Austen mentions that many times she experienced shocked theatre practitioners who did not realize that there were early modern versions of songs within the texts. Trudell speaks that the ASC’s Winter’s Tale did not use any early modern music. He acknowledges this worked very well, but he also calls for greater experimentation with early modern music and ballads.

Blackfriars Conference – Plenary Session VI

Hi there! Molly Beth Seremet again, reporting from the beautiful Blackfriars Playhouse. Plenary Session VI is underway, running from 2:30pm – 3:45pm. This plenary session is moderated by Barbara Bono.

Amanda Zoch (Indiana University)

Maternal Revision in Middleton’s More Dissemblers Besides Women

Zoch’s work will focus tightly on Middleton’s play, a play once called by a patron “the worst play I ever saw.” Zoch’s interest lies in the Page, a character who is actually a pregnant woman in disguise. The Page, a cross-dressed lover, eventually goes into labor during a dance lesson. Zoch point out that even in this moment, the dance-master considers the laboring page a miracle, a boy who is with child, failing to recognize maternity even in its most emergent (and obvious) moment.

Zoch now turns to a historical consideration of maternal legacy. She describes the manner in which expectant mothers materially prepare for childbirth during their pregnancies. Texts authored by mothers in later life, however, often do not refer to pregnancy at all. Zoch terms this phenomenon ‘maternal revision,’ in which the fears and dangers of pregnancy cause mothers to define themselves as maternal figures and not formerly pregnant women.

Zoch compares Middleton’s Page to Shakespeare’s Hermione, managing their self-presentation in the ways they revise themselves as maternal figures. The dramatic representation of the Page in Middleton’s work stages pregnancy by staging the Page’s body, troubling the other characters’ conceptions of the world. Zoch points out that frequently in Middleton’s text, other characters discuss the physical ambiguities of the Page’s body within the text. Zoch parallels this with societal discomfort with the ambiguities of the pregnancy body, suggesting that Middleton’s dramatic language stages a cultural concern with the maternal power of the female “troublesome body.”

Zoch describes an instant in the Middleton text in which the dance-master instructs the Page to dance faster and harder, spreading his (her) knees “Wider. Wider. Wider!” and exhorting “have you ever seen a boy dance this clenched-up.” Not surprisingly, the Page in trying to comply with the dance-master’s order goes into labor and calls for the midwife. Thus, the boy begins to give birth.

After this vivid imagery, Zoch moves into an exploration of the Page’s silence after the moment of the birth, a silent presence in the play’s final scene. Zoch contends that this moment would be highly noticeable in the world of the play, staging maternal silence after the rich of activity of birth.

Zoch’s paper ends on a cliffhanger, however, as the Bear chases the valiant Zoch offstage!

Bob Jones (University of Texas – Austin)

“Heave Up!”: The “wicked weight” of Shakespeare’s Antony and York’s Christ

This paper features American Shakespeare Center actors Gregory Jon Phelps, Alli Glenzer, and Chris Johnston.

Jones comes out of the gate with a raucous comparison of Shakespeare’s Antony with a crucified Christ.  Jones posits that the hoisting of Antony up over the balcony constitutes a “naughty challenge” in the theatrical world. Jones suggests that the Folio text of Antony and Cleopatra demands that Antony’s body must be ‘heaved’ into position, given the fact that no exit is specified for the character in this moment. Indeed, Jones urges us to remember that the word “heave” is a unique word with distinct physical behaviors required as a result.

Jones provides an example of this stage direction in practice, describing a Shakespeare in Winedale production in which Antony almost fell.  That Antony happens to be in the house for this plenary and corroborates Jones’ anecdote from the balcony, to cheers and grimaces from the gathered scholars.

Jones now turns us to a close look at the crucifixion scene in York, pointing up the challenges of depicting an onstage crucifixion without actually resorting to the action itself (more laughs from the audience). Jones suggests an inherent tension between theatrical display and oral discourse. The ASC actors and Jones now move to a presentation of the crucifixion scene. Glenzer, Johnston, Phelps, and Jones stage a moment in which they work together to lift the (imaginary) cross and bear it heavily on their shoulders, while grimacing their way through York’s text.  This staged teamwork reinforces Jones’ position that these dramatic moments stage both language and the effort embedded in the text.

The scene now shifts to the scene in Antony and Cleopatra in which Antony is lifted to Cleopatra’s monument. Johnston and Phelps support Jones, holding him up to the aloft Cleopatra, portrayed by Glenzer. Jones’ Antony cannot reach his Cleopatra and the audience enjoys this productive “failure” heartily.

Jones posits that these moments in early modern drama stage moments of ‘burlesque comedy of effort” allowing for instants of surprising success.  Jones suggests that these moments exist precisely to stage work, while also epitomizing sacred events.  Further, secondary characters bear the responsibility of the effort in these moments, staging the work they do and their comic struggles to fulfill their orders.  As Jones urges, these moments instill feelings of relief and pride in ‘jobs well done’ into the theatrical frame, foregrounding the physical labor that enables theatrical work with cognizance of its own fragility.

Dan Venning (CUNY Graduate Center)

Great Lengths? Shakespeare’s History Cycles on Stage

Venning begins his presentation with an anecdote from current Broadway show Something Rotten, saying “Why is he doing Richard II? He just did Richard III? Who goes backwards?!” Venning points out that while it is easy to imagine history plays as cycles, these plays were likely not written as marathon theatrical events. Venning notes that the first recorded instance of the history plays as a cycle appears in history in 1864 in Germany, helmed by Franz von Dingelstedt.

Venning postulates that history play cycles serve as an assertion of  virtuosity in Shakespearean performance. He refers first to a German staging of the history cycle by von Dinglestedt, influenced by Schiller. This cycle was presented right after a staging of Schiller’s history cycle, uniting English and German history in parallel dramatic history marathons.  Historically, this is a fascinating image of unification in a historical moment.  Venning then explains that von Dinglestedt’s cycle aimed to a site-specific endeavor which Venning compares to work made in the reconstructed Blackfriars Playhouse.

Venning now moves to an exploration of marathon plays at large, which he defines as plays extending for longer than five hours in length. He explains that these cyclical plays may be “necessarily boring,” requiring that audiences perform a feat of their own in endurance spectatorship. This brings up interesting intellectual and theoretical issues as these history cycles deal thematically with issues of war and human suffering, in which form seems to highlight content. Venning concludes that directors frequently invest audiences in a particularly clear version of today’s world through engagement with these historical cycles.

Melissa Aaron (Cal Poly Pomona)

The Bear Essentials: Cost-Effective Bears in Original Practice Productions of The Winter’s Tale

Aaron leads off by saying, “It all begins with a bear,” summoning up images of her own initial experience with Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Aaron is particularly interested in non-textual Shakespeare and in reading Shakespeare through an economic lens, such as looking at the acquisition of props, costumes etc.

Aaron now moves to a historical look at early modern fascinations with white bears, such as those staged in Oberon and Mucedorus. As a result, Aaron posits that the King’s Men would have already owned a bear suit and suggests that having a bear suit on hand means the bear practically writes himself into The Winter’s Tale at all. In addition, Aaron points out that this repetition is a productive and common one in early modern original practices.

Aaron now dangles the provocative question, “what is the economic significance of original practices?” Aaron suggests while we must be careful to not become Doctors Frankenstein in our engagement with early practices, we must not ignore the benefits we might gain from echoing historical practices. Aaron then wonders what might be gained from borrowing historically informed theatrical economics. She suggests some possible examples in this model such as no more purpose-built theatres, actors providing their own costumes, and reusable props. She also suggests some shifts to the public funding paradigm, but due to time (and bear!) constraints, she asks that we chat about those aspects over a drink after her paper presentation.

Aaron now moves to a specific examination of the Blackfriars Bear. She reminds us that bear suits are expensive and not terribly cost-effective, unless reasons can be found for it to be staged frequently. Aaron then calls out the frequency with which companies like the American Shakespeare Center stage The Winter’s Tale and then employ the Bear to chase recalcitrant scholars off the stage during the Blackfriars Conference. Aaron asks “do we ever get tired of the bear?” earning a hug (and a curtain call) for our trusty bear.

In conclusion, Aaron urges us to consider the ways in which mirroring early modern business practices can enrich modern day theatre-making. The Bear cheers!

Patrick Midgley (American Shakespeare Center)

Echoes and Entreaties

This paper features American Shakespeare Center actors Chris Johnston, Alli Glenzer, and Gregory Jon Phelps.

American Shakespeare Center actor Patrick Midgley now takes the stage! He begins with a list of the questions he and the other actors answer over and over again. “How do you speak in old English? How do you learn your lines? Do you ever forget what play you’re in?” and so forth. Midgley tells us that this is paper written from the wings, as it were, focusing on theatrical echoes in the space of rehearsal and performance.

Midgley elucidates that for him, the word “rehearsal” is aurally evocative – ” re — hears — all.” He mentions, however, that during the ASC’s Actors Renaissance Season, the abbreviated rehearsal process and cue script practice is more like “first time ever, hears a little.”

Midgley now turns to an exploration of language in Webster’s The White Devil. Actor Chris Johnston performs some of Flamineo’s text, harkening up the animal imagery in Webster’s text, revealing a repeated motif of animalistic imagery such as “bitches, dos, curs, spaniels” etc. Midgley muses about the uses of researching this aural motif as an actor, and how to work with this repetition in performance practice. Midgley further details that this motif is well-researched, called up and glossed by many prior scholars.

Midgley then explains that he took an interest in looking for similar motifs in other plays in Actors Renaissance Season as well.  He points out the word “entreat” appears 14 times in The Taming of The Shrew, occasionally with an alternate spelling echoing after the normal spelling of “entreat.” Midgley jokes that “you can’t play an alternate spelling” and he is right, though actor James Keegan heckles him from the peanut gallery saying, “maybe you can’t!”  Midgley gathers us back into his argument, noting that unlike Webster’s animal imagery, the switches between “entreat” and “intreat” in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew are not often researched by scholars. He ponders this and asks us to imagine what performance might unlock about the significance of these switches. Midgley turns to an exploration of the way the words “entreat” and “intreat” function across The Taming of the Shrew, spelling variants notwithstanding. He terms this an echo and asks us to hear this echoes as “calling backs.”

Midgley now calls on fellow American Shakespeare Center actor Alli Glenzer to demonstrate the multiple uses of the word “entreat” in Kate’s monologue and the presentation closes out with those lovely words resonating through the Blackfriars.

Matt Kozusko (Ursinus College) 

Implied Stage Directions

Kozusko begins his paper by calling out a final moment of proto-feminism in the final scene of Measure for Measure. He asks the audience to locate the embedded stage direction in the text of this final scene. As Kozusko points out, there is a pause in the Duke’s proposal line in this scene which might open up a moment in which Isabella responds in some way to the situation. Kozusko’s work will explore embedded stage directions and implied embedded stage directions.

Kozusko now asks us to look at a moment from Romeo and Juliet, in which the Watchman introduces us to a Friar who “trembles, sighs, and weeps” and also bears a “mattock and this spade.” This moment is performed nicely by American Shakespeare Center actors Johnston and Glenzer. Kozusko points out that this moment stages several overt stage directions that govern both performative behavior and stage properties.

Now, Kozusko turns to a moment in Comedy of Errors, in which Egeon asks Antipholous of Ephesus, “Why look you strange on me?” which the actors again perform for us. Kozusko suggests that this might be an embedded stage direction dictating behavior, but also be a moment in which the text replaces a visible behavior.

We now return to the original Measure for Measure example, which Kozusko stages for us as well.  Here, Isabella (played by Glenzer) backs away from the Duke (Phelps) when asked for her hand. The Duke pauses and turns towards Claudio (Johnston) who smiles to the audience, perhaps in preparation to offer his own hand. The audience delights in this moment and laughter fills the playhouse. Kozusko notes that this staging may be an exaggerated bit of silliness, but also points out that the silence in the text at this moment might make us see something.

Now, Kozusko presses on this moment further, suggesting the potential this moment has to make us as an audience look (or perhaps not look) as Isabella. The notion that Isabella needs to respond non-verbally in this moment suggests a behavior of consequence. If Isabella were supposed to “look strange” upon the Duke, we might assume that the text would say so.  Kozusko then offers this Measure moment as a challenge to notions of embedded stage directions and the behaviors they dictate.  For Kozusko, this moment of silence creates discomfort which may perhaps represent authorial intention and may also show an audience something uncomfortable that we need to see.  He concludes his work be celebrating this uncertainty and the potentiality for reading and staging possibility.

Three cheers for a rousing and enlightening plenary session!

-Molly

Keynote: Ayanna Thompson

Hello everyone, and thank you for joining the ASC blog for today’s Keynote speaker today, Liz is here to blog this session from ten thirty in the morning until eleven thirty in the morning. Our Keynote speaker today is Ayanna Thompson of George Washington University. Today, she will be speaking on Reading Backwards from Morrison to Shakespeare: Desdemona/Othello. John Attig sponsors this session.

First, Sarah Enloe, ASC Director of Education, comes out and introduces our very first conference sponsor, John Attig. We thank him for all of the really cool new events. Enloe also encourages everyone to get to the Lunch and Learn at Masonic as soon as possible after the Keynote ends at eleven thirty today. She also encourages scholars to fill out some prompts from Antony and Cleopatra to help with the staging session tomorrow. Finally, she advises presenters to email their presentations to kim@americanshakespearecenter.com.

Next, Dr. Ralph Cohen introduces Thompson, a Professor of English at George Washington University and Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America. He enumerates her published works, both as an author and editor, most of which focus on race and Shakespeare. These include Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America, and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance. Her current focus is on two in-progress books, one of which centers on Peter Seller’s form of directing. Dr. Cohen emphasizes that Thompson brings her research and scholarship puts her findings into practice in the real world. He ends his introduction and points out the largely white audience at the conference today and stresses the need for Thompson’s work today.

Thompson thanks Dr. Cohen for “possibly the best introduction she has ever had” (a rough paraphrase) and jumps right into her speech. Thompson points to Desdemona as an empowered and empowering female character, yet also disempowered and complicit to the Moor, Othello. Most performances choose to place Desdemona on one these two poles. Thompson mentions the misogynistic tendencies in both Iago and Othello throughout the play and shares an example of Iago’s flawed logic. She then states that scholars have grappled with how to portray these tendencies to modern audiences along with how to portray Desdemona.

This talk focuses on a specific form of adaptation of Othello, that of Toni Morrison’s Desdemona. Thompson clarifies that she believes that appropriation has a more direct and pointed purpose than adaptation. She then explains that she believes that re-vision takes appropriation a step further by breaking new ground. Thompson follows this up with an introduction to several late twentieth century adaptations and re-visions of Othello, including Goodnight, Juliet, Good Morning, Desdemona and Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief.

Morrison and Sellars collaborated to give Desdemona a full voice in the actress Rokia Traoré, who plays Barbary. Desdemona, in this production, is enigmatic, but also beautiful. Here, Desdemona’s voice dominates the play. The original intent for this production was for Morrison and Sellars to create a companion piece to Othello to show at secondary schools.

Thompson shares a story where she talked with Sellars’ The assistant told Thompson that the production team asked her to come in based on her research and work on casting. Thompson jokingly states that when she saw what was happening, she said, “Oh shit!”

Thompson explains that Morrison wanted to create a Desdemona that was different from any Shakespearean production with a great emphasis on music because “if Othello is about vision, Desdemona is about sound.” The goal was to unbind the story from time. The play takes place after death, in a “timeless” world. Desdemona knows more after death than she did during her life. Morrison’s response in this re-vision helps the audience reconcile with the tragedy of Othello that Iago brings to the life of Desdemona and the other characters.

Thompson explains that she offers a less optimistic view on the Othello/Desdemona binary. She believes that the lack of dialogue with other feminist writings has stunted development of new re-visions of Othello. She states that she sees the play as more of an event than a play, which impacts the play’s reproducibility. In addition, Thompson questions the ultimate utility of revisiting Othello.

As a performance product, Desdemona is a great experience. She describes the mostly-bare set, with the actress Traoré playing her guitar with teenage backup singers. Thompson describes these backup singers as upbeat and “in their own… play.” The stage is black with white costumes for the performers made of Malian linen. Projections on the background translate the text into the language of the location of the play, such as French. The actress playing Desdemona plays all of the other characters, with the exceptions of Cassio, who appears as a projected voice and Barbary – whose name is revealed to be Sa’aran [sic] – played by another actress. Thompson then plays a short clip of the performance with a song by Traoré for the audience.

In Desdemona, Desdemona and Othello’s mothers speak to each other. While the two women come to no clear resolution, but do come to an understanding about the different worlds from which they come. However, they cannot connect through religion. Desdemona’s mother wants to kneel and pray for her daughter, while Othello’s mother desires to make sacrifices for her son’s death. This found understanding comes through dialogue and appears again and again.

Thompson further talks about the character of Desdemona in the production Desdemona. Desdemona is the focus of the performance. Her parents named her “misery,” but she will not be passive to the misogynistic society which she was born into. Her character is “inquisitive, forceful, and direct.” Her insights alone are more hollow and shallow than in her conversations with other characters. These engagements with other characters allow her to explore herself and others. Here, Desdemona and Emilia gain a greater understanding with each other and Desdemona moves from judgment to understanding with Emilia. Time also allows Desdemona and Othello to gain a greater understanding of each other. Othello, in Desdemona’s afterlife timeline, tells his wife of his days in the army on the field. Othello describes to Desdemona how he and Iago raped a woman with a young boy viewer. He reveals their shame from this act, but also states that the memory will live in another: that of the young viewer. While Desdemona does not forgive him, but states that she will remain committed to him.

Here, in Desdemona, “we are not simply left with tragedy.” Thompson stresses that we get the apologies we have waited years for in this production. This re-vision allows for a resolution and the concrete possibility for another world. Desdemona’s interactions with other women creates a “queer space,” particularly with Barbary. Desdemona attempts to connect with Barbary; however, Barbary does not reveal an interest in further engagement with Desdemona. Desdemona includes her own suffering with Barbary’s suffering, which invites several interpretations of the connection of the suffering between these two women, including cultural appropriation.

Thompson states that the performance mode of Desdemona does not bridge the gap between sound and vision. Here, the potentials for the play contract, rather than expand, due to this limited scope. In addition, Thompson describes Traoré as the cornerstone of this production, and points out that currently the play does not have a run outside of her. In contrast, the production changed the actress for Desdemona at one point. This text, like many other re-visions, remains insulated and does not connect with other re-visions of Othello.

Thompson further stresses that Desdemona attempts to give a voice to the absent black woman in Othello through Traoré’s portrayal of Barbary.

Thompson, in quoting a woman who did not want her husband to play Othello in a performance, states that “This play is a struggle.” She then reflects that perhaps that should be the tagline for Othello, garnering a huge laugh from the audience.

Most revisionists have turned a blind eye to the breadth of Othello re-visions, particularly female-written re-visions, who seem to resist reading other re-visions of the play. Thompson notes that there is less of an intertextual dialogue between multiple present texts and a greater focus on the past original text, the Shakespearean text, and the present text in creation by the re-visionist.

Thompson notes that Traoré often talks about her travels between Mali and France and the greater death in childbirth among her friends in Mali. She has several concerns about death, a topic which she sings about a great deal in Desdemona. Thompson wonders if the play is the proper venue for these concerns that Traoré portrays within the contexts of Shakespeare’s story. She concludes by suggesting the possibility that Othello must stay on the shelf for this purpose, in order to fully explore this voice.

Paper Session II

Hello everyone – this is Liz once again to blog for Paper Session II at the Blackfriars Playhouse. This session is full of great presentations, moderated by Mary Hill Cole of Mary Baldwin College. The presenters, in order, are Stephen Purcell of the University of Warwick with Just Who Do We Think We Are?: Some Models for Practice-as-Research in Shakespeare Studies, Nick Hutchison, a freelance director, with Is This Winning? Thoughts on The Two Noble Kinsmen in Performance, Jess Hamlet of Mary Baldwin College with Q2 Hamlet and its Neighbors, Sid Ray of Pace University with Staging Epilepsy in Othelloand Catherine Loomis of the University of New Orleans with “Sore hurt and bruised”: Visual Damage on the Early Modern Stage. Live-blogging of this session will run from two forty-five to four in the afternoon.

Mary Hill Cole introduces the panel, but it seems that one presenter is missing… She passes the question to Dr. Cohen, and the decision is made to have Stephen Purcell start off the session.

Stephen Purcell: Just Who Do We Think We Are?: Some Models for Practice-as-Research in Shakespeare Studies

Purcell begins with examples of practice as research, such as Mark Rylance’s work of performing Romeo and Juliet lines in monotone and inviting the audience to give an emotional cast upon the performance. He asserts that there seems to be a divide between the practitioner and researcher. Purcell gives the Globe recreation as a case where both practice and research can merge, particularly in how the remodel allows for an investigation of original staging practices. 

Purcell gives three different models for collaboration between the actor and researcher and suggests a fourth model. The first model is the expert and the craftsperson. This model lets the researcher overlook the research and theory, however, this method also sees the actor primarily as a skilled craftsperson. He points out that, in this model, “one of them makes through thinking and the other thinks through making.” The practitioner is the source and the researcher is the witness, in his second model. In a way, he clarifies, his second proposed method is almost the reverse of the first model. Here, theory translates to practice, rather than the other way around. He speaks about anthropological research, collaborative research together, which segues into the third method: co-examiners. In this method, the practitioner and researcher work together to explore. This method allows for an open-ended method. He then suggests a fourth method, that of an academic practitioner that is a never-ending cycle of questioning and searching for answers. Here, the practitioner and researcher are one, simultaneously practicing and researching to ask and answer questions.

Nick Hutchison: Is This Winning? Thoughts on The Two Noble Kinsmen in Performance

Hutchinson talks about working on The Two Noble Kinsmen at a university, during a season when he had the ability to do productions he normally would not be able to do. Previously, he states, much scholarship focused on who wrote which parts of this collaborative play between John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. In his production, Hutchinson wanted to focus on one authorial voice and theorized that Shakespeare relished working with Fletcher. 

Hutchinson brings out ASC actresses Allison Glenzer and Sarah Fallon to perform some segments from The Two Noble Kinsmen, in cross-gendered roles. He argues that the inconsistencies in the authorial voice are inherent in the characters, rather than “dramatically inconsistent.” He believes that these inconsistencies make the characters more human, rather than unbelievable and poorly written. 

Hutchinson then states that the women in The Two Noble Kinsmen are at the heart of the play and the two authors’ intentions. Glenzer and Fallon join Hutchinson again to perform more segments from the play, now as female characters. He speaks about the sexuality of the female characters, particularly Emilia and the Jailer’s Daughter. He speaks of the inherent sexual implications between these two women. To illustrate, Hutchinson has Glenzee and Fallon perform a scene and highlights the inherent sexuality in the dialogue. 

In contrast, he speaks of the boys’ adoration toward these women. He states that, in the end, no one is ultimately happy with their fate. Hutchinson points to the mixture of moods, comedic and tragic, in the play that reinforce the whole of the play. He expresses his hatred for the Morris dance, but then speaks of the courting dance and the “bouncing” in the woods that this portrays. This leads to the dark ending of the play. Hutchinson states that this dark ending illustrates the price of chivalry, because the characters will soon be dead. Hutchinson states when he focused on one voice in the play, rather than the inconsistencies, the true heart of the play became clear.

Jess Hamlet: Q2 Hamlet and its Neighbors

Hamlet starts with reminders that the print and book trade fell, ultimately, into the hands of the publishers. In the early 1600s, publishers judged which plays and texts appealed to patrons more. The second quarto of Hamlet, Hamlet states, appeared on the shelves of Nicholas Ling’s bookshop on Fleet Street. 

The second quarto appears in a short-title catalog on the shelf of this bookshop that worked with about six printers, two in particular more often than the rest. The short-title catalog names other Shakespearean titles surrounding the Q2 Hamlet. These were The First Part of the Contention betwixt the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster, Titus Andronicus,  the first quarto of Hamlet from 1603, and Henry IV. 

Hamlet suggests that, despite the similarity in authorship of Hamlet to the other Shakespearean plays, Gowrie was actually the more interesting of the surrounding books. Many similarities in the revenge plots and strong family ties solidify this assertion. She suggests that the similarities between Hamlet and Gowrie inspired reader to read both books: one as a dramatic text and another as a sort of sensational political writing. 

The first quarto of Hamlet also shared the shelf with the second quarto. This presented, in Hamlet’s words, a “unique marketing challenge.” A bookseller could market the second quarto as an elaboration of the original text. In addition, Q2 also emphasized the original authorship of the second quarto, rather than the performance nature of the first. Hamlet concludes that, without time-travel, we will never know the true story, however, we may speculate.

Sid Ray: Staging Epilepsy in Othello

Ray talks about Act IV, scene i as a sort of epilepsy. She states that Othello takes the position of the starer in this scene and wonders how this moment could bring up questions of perception for the audience, who are the “starers”of the play. 

Ray references the depiction of a falling sickness narrated in Julius Caesar. In Julius Caesar, Cassius narrates Caesar’s falling sickness and uses the narration to feminine Caesar. She states that in contrast, Othello demonstrates this epilepsy onstage. 

Here, Iago works Othello into an epileptic state. She looks at the stage directions, where the folio states that Othello “falls in a trance” versus other editions that state that he simply “falls down.” She talks about the impact of the staging of this scene where a black man writhes on the ground while a white man stands above. Ray acknowledges diagnosis studies and states that many psychologists and other professionals give their ideas on Othello’s condition, all differing in their conclusions. She points out that none of the professionals revert to the beliefs of Shakespeare’s day, which took into account cosmic goings-on and excesses of phlegm. She also talks about Iago’s medical views, through which the audience hears of Othello’s epilepsy, which she sees as dubious. Ray further explains that audiences in Shakespeare’s day believed that the mere sight of a disease passed on the disease. 

Ray then has Rene Thornton Jr. (Othello), Allison Glenzer (Iago), and Sarah Fallon (Cassio) perform this scene from Othello. Ray states that what the audience feels now, involving our history, experiences, and biases, is what the theatre of this scene is all about.

Catherine Loomis:“Sore hurt and bruised”: Visual Damage on the Early Modern Stage.

Loomis talks about visible and physical evidences of violence on the stage. She focuses on Othello, in the scene where Othello strikes his wife. 

Loomis brings Fallon (Lodovico), Glenzer (Emilia), and Thornton (Othello) to stage this scene from Othello. She talks about the use of the word “strike,” which normally shows status and authority. The character striking often has status over the stricken character. She wonders about the effect that a colored mark on Desdemona’s cheek has on an audience. 

The actors, Fallon, Glenzer, and Thornton, stage the scene again, this time with Desdemona applying makeup to indicate a mark from the strike. Loomis then previews of the next scene, where Desdemona can bear the black and blue marks of a bruise through more makeup application. She also states that a bruised Desdemona brings to mind a woman beaten to death. 

The actors then stage this next scene and Loomis points out the language that actively references the bruise from the previous strike. Glenzer and Fallon then stage a scene between Emilia and Desdemona. She asks the audience to focus on how these moments work both dramatically and thematically and the different perceptions audience members gain or lose with the visibility or invisibility of the bruise.

Questions and Answers

A scholar asks the actors what they think about staging the Othello scenes. Fallon states that a physical bruise makes it more apparent that Othello has hurt Desdemona. Thornton states that the use of makeup gave him a physical reaction. Due to another question from a scholar, Fallon reveals that she palmed a tube of makeup in her hand which she squeezed onto her face when she dropped to the ground. She reveals that with talking between scenes, she was able to apply more bruise makeup to make the bruise look darker and different.

A scholar asks a question about outsiders and disabilities in Shakespeare’s plays and if a more accepting society changes the influence of these characters. Ray states that Shakespeare’s audiences most likely saw seizures, which may affect their perception of epilepsy onstage.

A scholar asks how Hutchinson staged the relationship between Emilia and the Woman, or Jailer’s Daughter. He states that he believes that productions often neglect Emilia, and that he wanted to foreground Emilia to bring light to her in the production.

Colloquy IV: Bilingual Shakespeare

Hello everyone – Liz Bernardo again, here to blog this session. This Colloquy IV is on Bilingual Shakespeare. The chair for this session is Joe Falocco of Texas State University. The presenters for this session are Ian Borden of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Tyrone Giordano of Gallaudet University, and Michael Saenger of Southeastern University. This session is in the Augusta Room of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. Live blogging of this session runs from nine to ten fifteen this morning.

Borden explains his presentation What if Shakespeare Wrote for Actresses? Examining the Work of Lope de Vega as a Lens of Possibility for 21st Century Productions of Early Modern English Drama. Borden wonders if we have a skewed understanding of female characters on the early modern age due to Shakespeare writing for male actors, even in female characters. He speaks to the differences between Restoration female characters, who had greater liberty than female characters in early modern drama. He states that the early modern stage always reinserts female characters into the patriarchal system. He draws comparisons between early modern plays and de Vega plays in Spain. Borden talks about de presenti vows in The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster and the censurship of the Duchess who lives outside of the cultural norms. He notes that in de Vega’s version, the Duchess’ moral standing stays in tact. He compares the two and points out that the British version focuses on violence, which is not central to the Spanish version. He compares the Shakespeare and de Vega versions of Romeo and Juliet. Borden has scholars read from a translation of a scene from the de Vega version of the story. He points out Julia’s active role in the Spanish version and the comedic, rather than tragic, ending in the British version. He hopes to enlighten our views of female characters of the early modern stage by a comparison to their Spanish equivalents.

Saenger’s Shakespeare and Multilinguistic Affairs looks at conections between Ben Jonson and Shakespeare’s language. He speaks to the iconography of Shakespeare as a unifying force in English language. He speaks that modern cultures, especially cinema, undoes Shakespeare’s English. He speaks about adaptations, that must confront issues of language. He speaks about the dilemmas of performance to modernize or not and the ever-expanding contexts that Shakespeare is performed in. He states that adaptations are now the norm, rather than radical. He points out that cultural adaptations now often mix languages. He states that Shakespeare’s London was multilingual, hosting many Protestants, both in the streets and in the translated and printed books. He states that many linguistic modes mingled in Shakespeare’s day. He points out Shakespeare’s mix of languages, such as French in Henry V and Welsh in Henry IV Part I. He points out that Shakespeare’s foreign and magnetic Cleopatra implies the unreliability of English language in the presence of foreign influences. He states that several influences entered the English language since Shakespeare’s day. Saenger states that Shakespeare engaged in interlinguistic engagement, just as we live in a multilingual environment today.

Falocco begins his presentation with an introduction. He speaks of a desire to produce The Comedy of Errors where the characters from Syracuse speak English and the characters from Ephesus speak Spanish. In the production of this play, Falocco realized that several times characters speak English and Spanish to each other. He found the opening scene with Egeon difficult to translate between the two languages, which he solved with the creation of a character named The Bilingual Soldier who translated and acted out the speech into the new language. He explains that the Bilingual Soldier used a version of southwestern Spanish that “killed” in Texas.

Giordano signs his presentation with a translator. He states that he is in charge of the Folio exhibit that comes later this year. He shows a video about Shakespeare and translation issues with American Sign Language. The video comes from a project, #transformSHX. He explains that he does bilingual Shakespeare because Shakespeare is so ingrained into the curriculum, but translators must translate the text. He explains that the adaptation of the texts can be very limited and that often the deaf community must start at step one. He adds that there is a strong resistance to Shakespeare in the deaf community, but states that exploring Shakespeare with the integration of the deaf experience aids in embracing Shakespeare.

Falocco states that a unifying theme seems to be a call for diversity in theatre. He then opens the floor for questions. Student Melinda Marks asks Falocco the extent to which he workshopped his bilingual production of The Comedy of Errors. Falocco replies that the actor translating to Spanish as the Bilingual Soldier in his production would live-translate the Egeon speech every night. Marks points out that the Spanish speaking characters in the play seemed to rely more on hand gestures than language.

Student Sophia Beratta also asks Falocco if he was troubled to speak his English role (Egeon) with a translator (the Bilingual Soldier) translating what his words. Falocco replies that he did not have trouble. He adds that neither his Dromios nor Antipholuses experienced confusion too, whom he double cast into both roles with one pair speaking English and another pair speaking Spanish. He clarifies, with a question from Marks, that the production brought doubles on at the end of Comedy of Errors.

Beratta asks Giordano how ASL handles Shakespearean prose and verse. He explains that different hand shapes and repetition illustrate verse onstage and that audiences can see the meter and rhythm change to prose onstage with sign language. He states that other staging elements also help to amplify the changes. Marks asks a question about Shakespeare in international sign language. Lindsey, Giordano’s translator, speaks about translating Shakespeare into sign language in foreign countries. She states that translators in this case can either work from a translation to their native language or the base English text in order to translate to sign language. She points out that different colloquialisms appear locally. Giordano explains a difference between signing and gesturing and states that there are different sign languages for different cultures, even within the same native language. Giordano calls for translation straight to ASL from the original Shakespeare text. He hopes to develop a set method of translation for the future.

A scholar asks how signing works in Shakespeare with occupied hands. Giordano demonstrates that signing can still occur when the hands are in use. He states that violence and fight is different, but points out that ASL actors can play with both the fight and the language, which becomes solid in the rehearsal process. Falocco asks about different languages in sign language, particularly of British Sign Language productions. Giordano states that there have been BSL productions of Shakespeare. A scholar asks if there is a difference between BSL and ASL productions of Shakespeare. Giordano states that differences would depend on the direction. He also states that signing bilingual performers will honor the hearing audiences, but that hearing performers often do not honor deaf audience members.

Falocco ends with a plug for BXSW in Texas and encourages scholars and students to submit to present a paper at the conference. He encourages those within driving distance of Austin to travel to visit the conference.

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.

Introducing the BFConf15 Blogging Team

As we did in 2011 and 2013, ASC Education will be live-blogging throughout the Blackfriars Conference. Every plenary session (as well as the majority of our colloquies, staging sessions, wake-up workshops, lunch meet-ups, and assorted other events) will have a devoted post here on the blog, updated in real-time, so that those of you who can’t join us in Staunton next week will still be able to follow along with the proceedings. I am pleased and proud to introduce the following individuals who will be helping me to document the 8th Blackfriars Conference from start to finish:

Elizabeth “Liz” Bernardo is a first year student in the Mary Baldwin Shakespeare and Performance program. Liz hopes to receive her Master of Letters and a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in Directing. She is excited to assist with live-blogging and live-tweeting for her first Blackfriars Conference and cannot wait to share insights from the speakers and presentations throughout the week.

Whitney Egbert has been a theatre actor for 20 years.  She has been based in NYC for 4 years, adding work in the midwest and east coast to her west coast beginnings.  She is currently the Managing Director for The Shakespeare Forum in NYC. She has been a teaching artist with Shakesperience Productions, Inc., Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, The Shakespeare Forum, South Dakota Shakespeare Festival, and LaGuardia Community College.  Theatre credits include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labour’s Lost (The Shakespeare Forum); As You Like It (South Dakota Shakespeare Festival); Platonov (Columbia Stages); Romeo and Juliet (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival); Much Ado About NothingOthello (Hip to Hip Theatre); Romeo and JulietJulius Caesar (Shakesperience Productions); Fat Pig, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Salem Repertory). B.A.: University of Portland. www.whitneyjegbert.com

Mary Finch is a first year M.Litt student in Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance program. When not in the midst of academics, she writes for Shakespeare Magazine as their US Staff Writer. She also dabbles in acting and enjoys spreading the love of Shakespearean theatre through education.

Bill Leavy is a first year M.Litt student with Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance program. He holds an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College Graduate Institute and he earned his BA in Theater at the University of Albany. He entered the acting profession twenty years ago and is a proud member of Actors Equity and the Screen Actors Guild. Among his favorite stage roles are Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol and Lucius in a staged reading of Titus Andronicus with the Orlando Shakespeare Company. Bill’s paper on Shakespeare’s Richard II is available online at http://www.academia.edu. He is excited to be attending his first Blackfriars Conference and looks forward to attending many more in the future.

Merlyn Sell is currently a third year MFA student in Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance program.  Prior to her stint at MBC, Merlyn could be found on and behind stages in California’s Wine Country.  Merlyn is the publicity lead for Sweet Wag Shakespeare and will be directing their As You Like It this December.  Her future hopes include beginning a Shakespeare theatre in her home town of Deadwood, South Dakota.

Molly Beth Seremet is currently an M.Litt Candidate in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College.  She holds an M.Res with Distinction in Performance and Creative Research from London’s University of Roehampton.  She has worked professionally in Europe and the United States as an actor, dancer, and deviser.  Her writing has been published in Activate and Platform e-journals and Praxis Magazine. She works frequently with her own company, the New York City-based Morse Code Theatre.

I’m also pleased to announce that we will be livestreaming select keynotes and the Thursday morning, Wednesday afternoon, and Saturday morning sessions. Look for links on the ASC Twitter feed: @shakespearectr, and be sure to follow the official conference hashtag, #BFConf15, for other tidbits!

Check out the schedule of events on the ASC website, and come back here starting Wednesday, October 28th, at 8am, for all of our real-time updates.

–Cass Morris
Academic Resources Manager

“So sensible seemeth their conference”: On Academic Conviviality

There’s a danger in academia, and in theatrical practice, of sometimes letting yourself get into an echo chamber. When you live and work with so many people who are all focused towards the same mission, its easy to feed off of each other’s brains and lose sight of other perspectives. This, I think, is the main reason we have conferences. (The other reason, so far as I can tell, is that it’s beneficial to one’s sanity to realize that, no, you aren’t the only one crazy enough to care with fervid passion about the placement of stage directions or punctuation marks). Leaving our home base and trekking to far-off climes can reinvigorate our own studies and pedagogical practices. Sometimes, getting out introduces new concepts. Sometimes, it reminds me that — yes, I do think the way I think for a reason, and I’m sticking to it. Both experiences are valuable.

This spring has given me a lot of opportunity along those lines. In April, Sarah and I went to Vancouver for the Shakespeare Association of America conference, an annual gathering of hundreds of scholars and graduate students from the US and beyond. The conversation is large and robust, a mix of the venerable and best-known scholars with the up-and-comers. Each year, particularly among the young guard, there’s more conversation about digital approaches to Shakespeare, about community outreach, and about how Shakespeare speaks to different diverse populations. It’s great to know that so many people are so invested in using new technology and opportunities to breathe continual life into the plays we’ve all loved for so long.

The trouble with such an enormous conference, though, is that you can often feel like you’ve missed out on a lot. There are only a few plenary presentations, and a dozen or more seminars run concurrently. I’m grateful for the thriving conference hashtag — widely proclaimed the best on Twitter — #shakeass15. Tweeting sessions not only helps me take notes for myself, it puts me in conversation with other scholars and students with similar interests — and following the hashtag helps me know what I’ve missed due to scheduling conflicts. It’s nice to have a sense of what everyone’s working on, even if I can’t get all the details. Just knowing what conversations are ongoing is an important awareness.

By contrast, the Halved Heart Academic Conference at Shakespeare’s Globe was an intimate affair. A dozen presenters, two keynotes, and an audience of roughly forty scholars and students, all focused on a single topic: friendship in early modern drama. Because of the tight focus of the conference, we all came in with even more of a shared vocabulary than early modernists typically have. There are few other places, I think, where references to Cicero, Erasmus, and Montaigne could get thrown out quite so casually, with such little footnoting. While being at a large conference can sometimes leave me feeling a bit at sea, that communal focus at Halved Heart helped me to feel immediately part of a group, welcomed and warmed. A small conference is, by its nature, exclusive, though. We shared ideas passionately and with brilliant conversation, but it’ll be harder for those ideas to keep propagating. (We had a hashtag there, too: #HalvedHeartConf, if you’d like to see what we were on about). We can each bring what we learned back to our home institutions, and I’ve made some wonderful friends I look forward to connecting with in the future, but it’s just naturally more of a closed loop than a larger conference.1479469_10151906077508347_1988637814_n

In October, we’ll welcome a few hundred scholars and students to the Blackfriars Conference. We hope to strike a happy balance between the broad-reaching topics and the intimate, friendly atmosphere. Towards that end, most of our sessions are plenary. While a large conference might have only six to eight papers with no competing programming, the Blackfriars Conference has sixty-six. This allows for a wonderful exchange of ideas, where everyone gets to hear the same papers and join in the conversation. But then we also have our colloquy sessions, each focused on a single topic, to further the detailed conversations and to encourage scholars with similar research interests to connect with each other. (And yes, we’ve got an official conference hashtag, too! Follow #BFConf15 for updates as we organize and for information from the conference itself once October rolls around).

All of these conferences serve different purposes, and they’re all great in their own ways. I’m definitely looking forward to SAA 2016 in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world; I hope I’ll be able to head back to London (another favorite city) for another Globe conference sometime; I look forward to welcoming all our friends to our home, here in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

–Cass Morris
Academic Resources Manager