Was’t not at Hallowmas?

Though Halloween as we know it is largely one of merriment and good-spirited spookiness, it has somber origins in both the Roman Lemuralia and the Celtic Samhain. The three days of the Lemuralia were devoted to banishing malevolent ghosts and other negative spirits. Though the Lemuralia was originally held in May, once it merged with similar Christian observances, its associations got transferred to the autumn. It may also have connection with three autumn days when the Romans opened a gate, believed to lead to the underworld, in the Temple of Janus, and appeased the spirits there with offerings from the harvest. By contrast, the Celtic Samhain (pronounced SHAH-vahn in Irish Gaelic) was primarily a harvest festival, marking the end of seasons for herdsmen and traders alike, but was also traditionally the day when the veils between our world and the Otherworld were thinnest, allowing fairies and ghosts to slip across the threshold. Many Scottish and Irish legends feature abductions carried out on Samhain. Customary protections included wearing one’s clothing inside-out and carrying iron.

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Jonathan Holtzman, Gregory Jon Phelps, and Patrick Midgley as the Weïrd Sisters in MACBETH. Photo by Lindsey Walters.

By the 16th century in England, those pre-Christian traditions had blended with the Christian ideas of Allhallowtide — a three-day observance from October 31st to November 2nd, featuring, in succession, martyrs, saints, and all departed Christian souls. Commoners would go begging at the houses of the rich for soul cakes, in exchange for which they would promise to pray for the souls of the rich and their families, a practice Shakespeare refers to in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, when Speed says that a lover would “speak puling, like a beggar at Hallowmas.” Sometimes they would do this disguised or masked, perhaps as an outgrowth of the Samhain traditions, and in some areas, it was customary to dress up as the saint who was the patron or patroness of the local church. Considering the gory ends that many saints and martyrs came to, perhaps the later association of Halloween with the horror genre is a natural shift. Eventually that procession, well-known to Shakespeare, evolved into trick-or-treating.

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Josh Innerst as the Ghost of King Hamlet and Patrick Earl as Hamlet in HAMLET. Photo by Lindsey Walters.

The early modern fascination with the supernatural infuses many of Shakespeare’s plays. Vengeful ghosts show up in Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet. King Hamlet even references the idea that spirits wandering the earth were souls in Purgatory:

I am thy father’s spirit,
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away.

King Hamlet certainly doesn’t seem restricted to a single night, but maybe this is a hint that at least part of the play takes place on or near Halloween? Puck calls on the same idea of wandering spirits in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

My fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger;
At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there,
Troop home to churchyards:

Oberon is careful to remind him — and the audience — that the fairies are “spirits of another sort”, ethereal but not infernal.

That cultural delight in the paranormal isn’t so far removed from the modern day as our post-Enlightenment society might believe, either. Consider the enduring popularity of horror films, paranormal romances, and ghost-hunting TV shows, or the yearly pilgrimages many of us make to theme park haunted houses, paying for the privilege of being spooked. Here in Staunton, ghost tours of downtown have become so popular that they now start in June and keep running until winter chill sets in. Medieval and early modern superstitions have hung on as well: if you’ve ever knocked on wood, crossed your fingers for luck, or even said “Bless you” when someone sneezes, you’re continuing centuries-old traditions meant to maintain a barrier between the spirit world and our physical realm.

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.

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Plenary Session 5″

Hey folks! It’s Mary Finch once again to live blog this plenary session running from 1:00-2:15 pm, moderated by Marina Favilia from James Madison University.

Elizabeth Sharrett, Shakespeare Institute
Bed Curtains and the Second Blackfriars

Sharrett opens with some numbers about beds and the Blackfriars; according the numbers, beds are most frequently used in the Blackfriars space, and only three of the plays with beds performed in that space explicitly mention bed curtains. Sharret will be looking at prop beds and the details of their construction, namely the use of curtains.

Most likely, prop beds at the Blackfriars were basic in order to be changed to match the requirements of a variety of plays. For all her research, Sharrett admits that the information on prop beds is sparse and inconclusive. Nevertheless, looking at the patterns from the information we do have is worth considering.

The ambiguity about curtains comes from the assumption that all beds had them, as stated by multiple scholars including Andrew Gurr. Sharrett showed several images of different Elizabethan beds from a range of institutions that did not have curtains. Audiences and playwrights would have known about the difference between a couch-bed or a half-headed bedstead, whether on stage or alluded to. The half-headed bedstead was easy to transport and served people of varying status, therefore making it a good candidate to function as a prop bed.

Sharrett shares several instances of beds and curtains in one scene, but highlights that the stage directions do not require that the curtains are on the bed itself. A research and action exercise allowed Sharrett to experiment with staging using beds with and without curtains. We should not assume that curtains and beds must be connected, and use that to evaluate how we see the Blackfriars space and use of large properties.

Jeremy Lopez, University of Toronto
Act three, scene one

“In any Shakespeare play there is no scene more important that act 3, scene 1.”

Lopez documented the major plot points that occurs in this scene across a huge range of scenes from Hamlet to Henry V to Twelfth Night and well beyond.

“It is the structural center of any play.”

Some of the less seemingly event scene are no less important, or interesting, such as in All’s Well That Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline. These scenes rove into mundane life, clowns, or politics–they frequently feature characters that appear for the first and last time, transitioning the tone and, often, the location of the play. These plays give a glimpse of how the play world ought to be: a place of serious politics and delightful truth. 3.2 returns to real, imperfect, world of the play with vengeance.

In the more dramatic 3.1 scenes, 3.2 echoes the preceding scene by often containing things “unseen” and heightening the drama began.

Of course, act three scene one is an arbitrary and anachronistic structure that has been added after the plays were written and published. Therefore, the point of this paper might just be “this play has definite centers.” When 3.1 is a complex scene, it will be followed by a more complex scene that echoes it through juxtaposition. When 3.1 is less complex, it creates a longing for how the world might be.

However, Othello breaks all of these rules with a clown scene dealing with honesty. Then, 3.2 briefly allows us to see Othello be a general, the thing he is best at being.

So a revision: “In any Shakespeare play, there is no more important scene than act 3, scene 2.”

James Seth, Oklahoma State University
When Merchants Became Actors: Why the East India Company Performed Shakespeare in Sierra Leone

Seth opened with a passage from the journal of trader of the East India Company recounting royal meetings, a Hamlet performance, and an elephant hunt. It is very well likely might a forgery, but is cited as the first performance of Hamlet outside of Europe. The physical journal that recounts this has been lost, throwing the accounts of performance into doubt. Many scholars doubt that a traders could have staged such complex play.

Seth is less concerned with the veracity of these accounts than what these accounts tell us about the culture of performance on trade ships. These performances might have been signs of peace and means of earning favor, and were certainly not impossible for those used to performing for foreign powers.

There are other accounts of “very fine entertainment” from other, less contested, journalistic travel narratives. The EIC had their own script to follow when meeting foreign dignitaries in order to form trading relationships. English merchants played the roles of host and guest constantly, and their safety and success depended upon the skill in their performance. Giving kind entertainment allowed the traders to bring new products, and possibly Shakespeare, around the world.

Nell McKeown and Stephanie Donowho, The University of Texas at Austin
Foul Fiends of France: Staging Interpretations of Joan of Arc and Margaret of Anjou

NcKeown and Donowho presented a two women show consisting of the scenes with two of Shakespeare’s most tyrannical French women. They looked to make them sympathetic and morally justified.

In the text, Joan is wildly incoherent. To make her sympathetic, they believed what she said about herself. Although the men challenge her chastity, Joan only claims sexual behavior when threatened with death. One of the difficult scenes was Joan’s rejection of her father. Interestingly, Joan does not speak at all until her father threatens to die with her, making her renouncement an attempt to save her father’s life. The second difficult scene is the moment with the fiends; what if this is the first time Joan has reached out to the devil instead of to god? In a moment a doubt and desperation, she listens to the accusations of those around her of witchcraft and tries to invoke witch craft. She even says, “help me this once” helping the interpretation that she had not used demons before. ASC actor Abbi Hawk performed the roles with this lens of interpretation. The scholars admitted that this interpretation “fights the text.”

Margaret has strong similarities with Joan in their politics, war tactics, sexual aggression, and they are both French. Margaret even enters immediately after Joan exits to die. Where Joan is virtuous, Margaret decides to “earn her titles” that the men give them. “They have a shared experience of disempowerment and danger.” The only thing that makes Joan and Margaret monstrous is their gender.

The harshest scene for Margaret is when Margaret kills York. York does not have a good record: he killed Joan and did not care that she might have been pregnant. Margaret appeals to the audience to remember all of his wrongs. She is not a murderer, but giving justice.

Playing these women as evil is interesting, but not the only choice for interpretation.

William Proctor Williams, University of Akron
Cecily Neville’s Parenting Skills

Williams began by giving a brief history of the life of Cecily Neville, the mother of Richard III and his brothers. Although she is important, she seldom appears in historical plays, one of the few exceptions being Shakespeare’s Richard III.

One of her most famous scenes, in act four scene four, is when she curses Richard III on his way to Bosworth; however, this story has no basis in fact. Nevertheless, this moment is excellent theater even if it is political propaganda. ASC actors John Harrell and Abbi Hawk staged the moment. Although the cursing is not historical, the Duchess’ opposition to Edward’s marriage is historical. Again, the actors staged this moment from Haywood’s play.

Despite slight reconciliation, there was never a full forgiveness. Neither of her sons listened to her advice, despite her desperation. In both cases, her harsh mothering makes great theatre.

Peter Kanelos, Valparaiso University,
Hamlet and the Art of Memory

“Theater is the art of memory” where actors defy the gravitational pull of forgetting lines and cues. Like memory, theater is also transitory. Even our clearest memories are imperfect and fading.

Francis Yeats suggests that Elizabethan theaters might have been “memory palaces.” Memory was understood in spatial terms. For Cicero, the key to memory is sight.

Therefore, the art of memory is the striking arrangement of distinct images in a unique architecture. So Shakespeare arranged theater properties in such a manner. Hamlet is Shakespeare’s play most focused on memory, and indeed it was branded into the mind of Elizabethan audiences by previous versions of the story.

Shakespeare interrogates memory in Hamlet through a number of artful emblems scattered throughout the play. Memory is mentioned from Hamlet’s first scene to the final scene: “Heaven and earth, must I remember”… “Rights of memory in this kingdom.”

Memory itself instigates the action, since the ghost is a figure of memory. The ghost calls Hamlet to remember, not vengeance. After the ghostly encounter, Hamlet looks to write down all that has happened, rather than grasp his sword. Of course, memory is always contested, as we see when Ophelia attempts to return “remembrances.” A manner of madness was even called “forgetting oneself.” Most famously, the skull represents remembering death, or more specifically, remember Hamlet remembering death. Perhaps forgetting might have been better. Looking at death, Hamlet does not think of his father, but a fool.

Using the signet ring of his father to avoid death and return to Elsinore, Hamlet comes into his own title, but also forgets his mission; neither his father nor the mission are mentioned again in play.

(Kanelos barely finished his sentence as the bear stalked across the stage to pounce.)

— Mary Finch
MLitt Student at MBC Shakespeare and Performance

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.

Wake Up Workshop: Cue Scripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast Archive: 2015

2015 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2015 Spring Season

Summer/Fall 2014 Playhouse Insider: On Sale Now!

The seventh issue of the Playhouse Insider is now available at the Blackfriars Playhouse Box Office. Here’s a sneak peek at the articles within, exploring the shows of the 2014 Summer and Fall Seasons:SF14InsiderCover

  • What is it that most defines Cyrano de Bergerac? His panache. ASC Education Artist Natalia Razak explores “what it really means to live, love, and die without compromise.”
  • Jeremy Fiebig of the Shakespeare Standard and Sweet Tea Shakespeare examines characters as actors in Macbeth and Hamlet, with particular attention to how the titular men fit into or fight against their own stories.
  • Former ASC actor Luke Eddy, now teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma and at Oklahoma City University, discusses how playing Antipholus of Syracuse in the ASC’s 2008/9 touring troupe helped his own journey of self-discovery.
  • What makes Macbeth and other villains “break bad”? Benjamin Curns, a longtime ASC actor and fight choreographer who is now pursuing an MFA at UNC Chapel Hill, explores the nature of villainy in Shakespeare’s plays.
  • MBC student Sarah Martin discusses the rehearsal process behind the MLitt program’s 2012 production of Pericles, including the dramaturgical information on the play’s sources which contributed to the cast’s stylistic choices.
  • Bob Jones, who holds an MFA from Mary Baldwin and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Austin, discusses his experience directing Edward II at the Blackfriars Playhouse in 2008, focusing on the relationship between Edward and the audience.
  • What’s Shakespeare like at a re-creation of one of his other playhouses? Katherine Mayberry of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare shares experiences from actors and audiences at the Rose Theatre in Twin Lake, Michigan.
  • Did you know that our Director of College Prep Programs is also a champion of under-appreciated early modern plays? Kim Newton celebrates Fair Em, which had its North American premiere during this summer’s ASC Theatre Camp.
  • Last year, the ASC passed a major milestone: completing Shakespeare’s entire canon in its 25th year, and audience member Tim Hulsey has seen all thirty-eight plays at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Find out what keeps him coming back, season after season.

Pick up your copy of the Playhouse Insider at the Box Office for just $5 — a perfect companion to your playgoing experience. The issue not only contains the brilliant words of these contributors, but full-color photos from ASC productions, as well as from performances by MBC students and the ASC Theatre Camp, and from the Rose Theatre.

Podcast Archives: 2011

2011 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2011 Spring Season

2011 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2009

2009 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2009 Spring Season

2009 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2007

2007 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2007 Spring Season

2007 Summer and Fall Seasons