2017 MLitt Thesis Festival Session 3

Back again for the third and final session of the 2017 MLitt Thesis Festival, 4:45pm-6:45pm.

Brooke Spatol – “I shall study deserving”: A close look at illegitimacy in Shakespeare’s England

Spatol will be using her presentation not to prove an argument, but to inform, so she opens by giving us what the argument of her full thesis is. She focuses on the isolation of bastards in a societal setting. Spatol gives accounts of the lengths parishes would go to in order to prevent bastards from ending up on their tab, including physically dragging a woman in labor over the parish line. Re-enactments of the welfare relief efforts under King James dealt more with the mothers of bastards than with the children themselves. She frames the harsh conditions for these mothers before having actors portray the end of 1.1 of King John, where the Bastard and Lady Faulconbridge discuss parentage.

She identifies the first form of isolation as domestic. Women would go to great lengths to deny their bastard children, and Spatol provides an example of a woman who had plastered her breasts to prevent lactation from giving her away. Other women would abandon their children at church’s or at wealthy men’s doors. Fathering an illegitimate child was seen as shameful and financially burdensome, but with no tests to prove fatherhood, men could more easily slip their responsibilities. Spatol connects the emotional effect of this domestic isolation to Don John in Much Ado about Nothing.

Societal shame attended bastardy in the views of Elizabethan society. Spatol discusses several historical precedents which posited bastards as proof of sin, naturally unclean, and infamous, even if later legitimized. Bastards also struggled financially, as it was difficult for parents to leave money or property to their illegitimate children, even if they wished to — and many did not wish to. Inheritance of names was also a point of dispute.

Spatol then has Chad Marriott present Edmund’s famous “Now gods, stand up for bastards” speech from King Lear as an example of an illegitimate son musing on his state. Spatol encourages us to engage with the bastard characters not as automatic villains, but as humans.

Mary Finch – Pulped Shakespeare: The Origins of Paperback Shakespeare in America

Finch begins by inviting the audience closer so that they may fondle the old books she has brought for everyone’s delight. She asserts that while mass market paperbacks have a somewhat denigrated reputation, their very accessibility may be “the first line of offense” in convincing potential audiences that Shakespeare is not hard or Old English. Finch began her research by looking into the first appearances of paperback Shakespeare in America. The initial difference between mass market and trade paperbacks was the venue in which they were sold: mass markets were sold at gas stations and other common locations, while trades were sold to universities. A series of discoveries led her to find paperbacks in America dating as far back as the 1830s.

Finch’s thesis will examine Shakespeare’s cultural place in the American 19th century as well as printing practices of that era. She notes that, despite the jettisoning of many British traits during and after the Revolution, Americans never gave up their love for Shakespeare. As Shakespeare’s popularity grew, so did the demand for accessible editions of his works — which in turn spurred greater popularity. Finch cautions that she cannot make a claim to which came first, the accessibility or the popularity.

By the 1860s, publishing was a boom industry in America — and an industry rife with espionage and back-stabbing. Finch relates the tale of Edwin Gin, an ambitious and determined young man who went from bookseller to publisher. His first publication, a Shakespeare textbook, was a passion project for him, and he intended to provide an edition ideal for teachers and students. When he updated the Hudson collection, he redesigned their format for ease of use. Finch notes that extant copies have typically been rebound and redesigned (as paperback-bound copies were unlikely to survive).

Later decades produced “library series” editions from “pirate publishers” – generally cheap both in their editing and their production. Houghton’s Riverside Library Series, however, offered a sturdy format with commentary. This had the effect of raising the standards of cheap reading. Gin went on to challenge the textbook monopoly held by the major publishers, not only with his own editions, but also by decrying the low standards of theirs. Gin’s passion for egalitarianism in publishing translated into other charitable works and activism as well, but he never lost sight of his goals of making Shakespeare accessible to the masses. He worked with a teacher, Kitteridge, whose philosophies of teaching sound remarkably similar to the mission statements of the ASC and the MBU S&P program. In 1939, the Kitteridge Shakespeare was first published, anticipating the rise of Penguin, Dover, and Folger editions that would become popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Finch finishes by crediting Edwin Gin with contributing to the ubiquity of Shakespeare in publication in America today.

Clare Boyd – None But Women

Boyd introduces her thesis by way of her love for Margaret of Anjou. In her research, she arrived at the idea that the England of Shakespeare’s histories is dependent upon the performance of gender by the monarchs. She centered her research in the Henry VI plays, positing that the plays are preoccupied with the masculinity of the monarch – or the monarch’s lack of masculine quality. She identifies four modes of femininity: idealized femininity, realistic femininity, transgressive femininity, and masculinized femininity. Boyd notes the difficulties in defining terms with a field as broad and complex as gender studies, particularly when trying to apply terms backwards in time.

In the Henry VI plays, the power of the men of England is shown as broken after the death of Henry V and the victory over the English by a French shepherdess. In 1 Henry VI, we see a “eulogy for masculinity” when the young king’s uncles dispute over the regency. Shakespeare sets Henry VI in contrast to paragons of virility and valor, such as his father and Talbot. “If the king cannot claim full masculine status, then the nation itself is in grave danger.” She notes that the word “effeminate” underscores the coding of Henry’s peace-loving qualities. Boyd suggests that Henry VI lives up not to his father’s masculine ideals, but to feminine ideals as put forth in conduct books of Shakespeare’s era. By the end of Part 1, Suffolk suggests that in order to produce a suitable heir, Henry must be matched to a woman who has the masculine qualities of valor and courage that Henry lacks. Boyd points out that though Margaret will later be mocked for unfeminine qualities, Shakespeare first paints these qualities as those which make her an ideal queen. Boyd argues that Margaret first appears, however, with the demureness and virtue expected of an ideal woman, adhering to the conduct books’ traid of ideal traits: obedience, chastity, and silence.

In 2 Henry VI, Margaret begins by performing feminine virtue before the lords of the realm, in contrast to Henry, who cannot perform the necessary masculinity. Only when alone with her now-lover Suffolk in 1.3 does Shakespeare start to show Margaret’s power and transgressive qualities, particularly when she discusses her husband’s deficiencies. “It hasn’t taken Margaret long to notice the masculine power vacuum in her kingdom.” Margaret then begins to perform the anti-ideal, showing herself to be envious, vain, vindictive, and unfaithful. By Part 3, Margaret has entirely taken over the masculine role: defending her son’s inheritance rights, the murder of Rutland,  the humiliation of York. Boyd argues that the death of Rutland is seen as more heinous than the death of Prince Edward largely because it was done at the bidding of and celebrated by a woman.

Boyd concludes by reiterating that Margaret’s transgressive womanhood takes the place of Henry’s deficient manhood. As she is not a king and a man, but a queen and a woman, she ultimately cannot succeed any more than Henry could, however. The Henry VI

Kim Greenawalt – “Say nothing; I’ll speak all”

Greenawalt distills her directing project on silent characters into two questions: “Why this scene?” and “How will this inform your thesis?” She defines her term “silent character” as a character with extended stage time who does not speak or a character who has run out of scripted lines but is still on stage. Her methodology sought to understand early modern silence, to engage with modern theatrical practices such as Viewpoints and neutral mask, and creating performance art.

Greenawalt discusses the difference between modern notions of silence as complacence to early modern perceptions of silence as falling into four types: foolish silence, eloquent silence, resistant or tactical silence, and chaotic/deadly silence. Greenawalt notes that many silences may blend various types, but that nonetheless these categories were a useful starting point for exploring a character’s silence.

Greenawalt then offers a demonstration of gestural score accompanied by music as a rehearsal practice, using five actors. After her actors move through a gestural score, she encourages them to explore the space, thinking about its architecture in particular. The actors then begin using the components of their gestural score to tell impromptu stories as they encounter each other on the stage. After the actors finish the exercise, Greenawalt discusses the process of discovery through non-verbal communication.

Turning to Measure for Measure, Greenawalt states that she sought to create performance art that would provoke thought and emotional response from the audience in relation to characters who might not usually receive much audience attention. Greenawalt notes that different audiences at different times of day had varying responses to the visual stimuli provided by her performance art. Greenawalt hopes that her explorations and discoveries of her performance art work could help inform a director’s choices when it comes to silent characters. Her actors then demonstrate scenes from Measure for Measure using those explorative methods centered on physical performance: first rehearsing with the exaggerated gestural language, then using that gestural language to present a realistic but emotionally heightened performance.

2017 MLitt Thesis Festival – Session 2

Back from 1:45pm-4:30pm for Session 2:

Glenn Thompson – “My Voice is in My Sword”: Defining and Understanding Dramatic Violence in Early Modern Drama

Thompson’s presentation opens with a highly sneaky attempted murder by Josh Willliams, aborted when Thompson declines to engage in combat. Thompson intends to examine how violence shapes a story and how the story shapes the violence. “Entering with a sword does not constitute violence”. Thompson identifies two modes of working through stage combat: text work and rehearsal work. Text work identifies the violence on the page, and rehearsal work negotiates the enactment of the violence on the stage.

His methodology on text work begins with the simple instruction: Read the play. Thompson notes that while this may seem obvious, it is nonetheless important to return to the play and read it fresh, since even if you think you know it well, you have likely changed since you last encountered it. Thompson then notes specific questions to ask while reading to clarify the motion of bodies on stage, such as: What is the major action of each act? Who is on stage when? After reading and re-reading, then he is ready to identify the moments of violence in the play. This may include both on- and off-stage violence, as either can move the story.

After identifying all the moments of violence, Thompson then determines the specific conditions and needs of each moment and categorizes them into four types: inciting incidents, reported violence, concluded violence, shown violence. For today’s presentation, Thompson will focus on the inciting incident – specifically within Macbeth. The violent image of the “dagger of the mind” is an inciting incident because it drives the action of the play. Williams assists by enacting the speech from 1.7, as Thompson points out the various lines which imply not just violent thought, but violent action. In this speech, Macbeth “is speaking himself into action by imagining the action”.

Thompson then discusses the importance of “inciting incident” violence, noting that it is no less important than the other modes, because it sets us up for the story. This moment is crucial for creating “purposeful dramatic violence” later on.

Madeleine Buttitta – Gals Being Pals: The Moral Complexities of Shakespeare’s Status-Based Female Relationships

Buttitta begins by discussing Queen Elizabeth’s early habits of using noblewomen not only as confidantes but as her proxies and representatives. In Shakespeare’s plays, Buttitta sees a similar relationship: a woman in service who utterly devotes herself to and performs morally ambiguous deeds on behalf of her mistress. She looks particularly at the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Paulina in The Winter’s Tale and seeks to examine the issues of “agency and authority” at play.

Buttitta moves to a discussion of class distinction and status in the early modern period. Status-based relationships she defines as those character dynamics where one character has superior social/class status to the other. To narrow further, for this thesis, she is looking at a relationship of two unrelated women who share at least one scene, where there is  a status difference between them and one is in service to the other. She turns her attention to the relationship between Desdemona and Emilia, then to Juliet and the Nurse. Buttitta asserts that the Nurse’s concern for Juliet aligns with guides for conduct seen in writings on service in early modern England, even to the point where she counsels Juliet to give up Romeo.

Buttitta examines status markers in Paulina’s speech, noting how Paulina defines herself in relation to both Hermione and Leontes. Even when chiding Leontes, Paulina still addresses him with deference. She only chooses to call him “tyrant” when she has to defend not only Hermione but the infant daughter as well. Buttitta centers Paulina’s words as the cause of Leontes’s reformation, giving the servant considerable power in an otherwise status-driven relationship.

Buttitta moves to a discussion of early modern views of friendship which could often be exclusive of women and that a sexist bias in scholarship has shaped the study of female characters in Shakespeare up to this point. Buttitta argues, though, that female characters can have morally complex relationships worth examining from a scholastic viewpoint.

Katherine Little – The French Shades of Shakespeare’s Henriad

Little introduces the intersection of her major fields of study: Shakespeare and French. In this thesis, she focuses on the Henriad: Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2, and Henry V. She begins with an examination of Richard II as he is described by the gardener, then in his own words, as he unwittingly predicts his own fall from power, as he exists in contrast to Bolingbroke. Little argues that Shakespeare’s characterization reflects the cultural and linguistic associations of each king, with Richard representing the Norman French elitism and Bolingbroke representing the more egalitarian English mode. As such, Richard II has a distinctly different feel than the plays that follow, existing almost entirely in the privileged world of the court, with little attention paid to the populace.

Little goes on to assert that the style of the verse in Richard II is also reflective of this difference. Concerned with pomp and circumstance, a certain amount of hedonism, an elaborate language, Richard II is more aristocratic and more French — and uses a higher percentage not only of verse but of rhyming verse than do the Henry plays. She looks particularly at rhymed couplets. The Lancastrians, however, rhyme less frequently and are “more economical rhetoricians” than Richard and those of his faction.

Henry IV “looks both forward and back”, with speaking modes that are somewhere between Richard and Henry V. Henry V’s language represents the shift to English and commoner-friendly language. Little describes the IV and plays as less poetic, more action-packed. “The further the plays get from Richard II, the more prosaic they become.” As Prince Hal in 1 Henry IV, the character “has been able to divest himself of regal ceremony”; when he is king, the play contains slightly more verse — as well as French dialogue. Henry V gains credibility “from his down-to-earth Englishness”.

Little moves next to a discussion of the French-speaking scene between Katherine and Alice. She argues that the inclusion of this scene indicates that French was still a part of English heritage at this time, despite the implication that the French are only to be mocked. She also discusses how Henry attempts to draw Katherine into English-ness, even moving to the use of the English diminutive “Kate”. Katherine however, answers him in French; “Henry fails to convert her French tongue”. Little suggests that this complicates the narrative of English dominance. She also notes that Henry even sees his own progeny as half-English, half-French, thus including French in his legacy. She concludes that “no amount” of analysis can fully strip the French-ness either from the play or from England and English’s history with France and the French language.

Nick Ciavarra – That Is the Question

Ciavarra introduces that he intends to examine what he has termed “rhetorical character analysis”. He then welcomes “Jonas” to the stage to do some impressions — not very good ones, but in acknowledging that, Ciavarra notes that “Jonas” nonetheless uses repeated phrases and gestures to key in the audience in on who he is supposed to be. Ciavarra relates this to the phenomenon of parody accounts on Twitter, “capturing the sense of the person in the words, subject matter, and grammatical” representations. Ciavarra uses these examples to point out to us that: people talk differently.

Ciavarra discusses the nature of the passive voice in use in politics as a pattern of speech that we can attach to a type of “character” in real life – particularly, to politicians. He discusses several key devices attached to certain of Shakespeare’s characters, noting that “Brevity is the soul of wit” is only funny because it plays against Polonius’s established preference for macrologia, excessive wordiness.

Ciavarra moves to examining the ways that the MBU S&P program engages with rhetoric and identifies it as an “oratorical” engagement. He would like to look at rhetoric as a means of better understanding characters. This is not entirely about performing the rhetoric, but also about developing a character’s internal world. Rhetorical character analysis searches for a character’s preferred rhetorical patterns and attempts to draw conclusions based on those findings. He refers to Anna Northam’s thesis which explored the personification of certain devices.

Ciavarra then moves into a discussion of his case study of Iago. He notes the need to first identify a dominant rhetorical form. His first assumption, that Iago asked more questions than anyone else, proved statistically inaccurate, as he asks only one more than Othello. Then he qualified questions by whether or not they are rhetorical, and by that mark, Iago supercedes the other characters, particularly during moments of high persuasion. Ciavarra discusses the manipulative nature of the rhetorical questions: “If you ask a lot of rhetorical questions, you’re probably the villain. Sorry.” Tyler Dale presents Iago’s “What’s he then that says I play the villain?” twice; once, as written; a second time, with the rhetorical questions re-written as statements. Then he and Ciavarra repeat the experiment with a bit of dialogue between Othello and Iago. Through this, Ciavarra points out not only the manipulative nature of rhetorical questions, but also how they provide Iago with plausible deniability. Rhetorical questions put the “logical onus” and burden of proof on the auditor rather than on the speaker. Ciavarra concludes by asserting the importance of rhetorical analysis in an actor’s toolbox.

Elizabeth Areopagita Bernardo – When Cultures Collide: Shakespearean Remediations Today

Bernardo’s presentation opens with two examples of “remediation” – a form of adaptation that takes a work from anywhere other than the early modern period, putting it into Shakespeare’s verse forms, and creating a communication between cultures. Remediation transmutes a cultural work from one moment in time to another as well as from one form of art to another. For this thesis, Bernardo will focus on the remediations of Star Wars and Sleeping Beauty.

Bernardo notes that, like Star Wars remediator Dosher, she attempted to adhere to iambic pentameter as close as possible, with few irregularities. She also discusses the advantage of giving silent or near-silent characters in the source material more lines on stage. She employed shared lines for lovers Aurora and Philip. Bernardo also discusses using alternate verse forms, such as Dosher’s haiku-speaking Yoda or her own tetrameter-using evil fairy. She also used a chorus to sum up action that was difficult to stage (such as flying and fights).

Bernardo then comments on other conventions, such as using a sonnet to wrap up the play. She also used prose to set some characters aside from the others, as did Dosher. To demonstrate, Luke and Boba Fett engage in battle, with Fett speaking in prose to indicate his lower status; Bernardo used prose to indicate characters’ drunken state.

Bernardo advocates for remediations as a counterpoint to the cultural view of Shakespeare as hard or too highbrow. “Translating pop and geek culture into Shakespeare’s format” may help to make these forms seem more accessible, and to make them seem more like play than like work. “The desire to emulate Shakespeare’s forms and styles” hits on retrospection and introspection that Bernardo finds amazing, and she sees in it a potential to reach new audiences.

2017 MLitt Thesis Festival Session 1

Welcome to the live-blog for the first session of the MLitt thesis festival, brought to you by Cass Morris, ASC Academic Resources Manager. This session will run from 9am to 12:30pm.

Tyler Bruce Dale – Cat on a Wooden Roof: Staging Modern Theatre in the Early Modern Style

Dale begins by asking for volunteers to fill the gallant stools on-stage. His thesis examines the development of reviving early modern practices and suggests pushing the exploration further by applying those practices to plays not written for an early modern space. He has focused on three characteristics common to the early modern and postmodern theatre: site specificity, minimalism, and the revelation of artifice.

On site specificity: Dale traces the history of the term and notes its power in dissolving the hierarchy between performers and audience, gives the audience agency rather than leaving them as passive viewer. This focuses on how architecture affects performance. Minimalism fulfills a similar set of purposes: spectators become creators, “creating content in their minds” to fill out the scene before them. Dale cites the Chorus of Henry V asking the audience to “peace out our imperfections with your thoughts”. Dale focuses on the positive experience of the audience being asked to use their imaginations, resulting in “deep investment” in the storytelling. Dale identifies the revelation of artifice as the most important of these three characteristics, with particular focus on the practice of direct audience contact. This contact invites the audience to join in and collaborate in creating the performance.

Dale goes on to discuss how television became, in the 20th century, the dominant form of media in American society, thus affecting all other forms of media, including live theatre. He then challenges this thought, noting that in the past twenty years social media has overtaken television as the dominant form of media. This marks a transition from the economy of reproductive media to one of participation. Dale notes that the early modern style, as exemplified by Shakespeare’s Globe and the Blackfriars Playhouse, now exist at a crux. He asserts that the success of these theatres and others like them will depend upon their commitment to continual experimentation, including the adaptation of 20th and 21st century plays to a 16th century space. He cites the ASC’s 2016 Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, then moves into a discussion of his work on a scene from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He notes the difficulty in applying audience contact purposefully in such a situation. He contrasts the difference in naturalistic theatre, where the characters have no conception of a world outside the fiction, with early modern works which depend upon that awareness of the external audience.

Molly Seremet and Shane Sczepankowski then present a scene from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Dale for the Blackfriars Playhouse. Afterwards, Dale expresses his hope that we have seen the potential flexibility of modern plays for production in the early modern space.

William Leavy – Kill the Prisoners

Leavy begins by stating that he sought to demonstrate that Shakespeare articulated the national character of England through the actions of his characters, and he chose to focus on Henry V for its historical precedence. He focuses in on the troubling incident when Henry determines to execute his disarmed French prisoners, and he asks how an audience is meant to reconcile that action with the portrait of Henry V as a national hero.

Leavy then leaps to another topic, begging the audience’s pardon for doing so: his travels in Europe. He was recently in Ghent, noted for a 12th-century castle museum which features an exhibit on torture. Currently, the exhibit has a component focusing on waterboarding. Leavy connects our current controversy over the practice to the cultural view of killing prisoners during Shakespeare’s lifetime, as either a war crime or a justifiable action.

He then moves into a discussion of English legal tradition, beginning with the Magna Carta and the concept of rule of law over the prerogative of the monarch. He compares the mandates of the Magna Carta to continental practices at the time, then discusses the resurgence of torture and other extrajudicial practices in England during the Tudor and Stuart dynasties. Leavy then brings this concept back to the crucial moment in Henry V and its historical precedence, asserting that Henry V may have relied upon the notion of “extreme circumstances” as justification for his actions. He also connects the thought of torture to the concept of violence as entertainment, such as the bear-baitings that Shakespeare’s plays had to compete with for audience.

Leavy also discusses the intended torture and murder of Arthur in King John, the “orgy of depravity” in Titus Andronicus, acts of cruelty in The Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure, beatings and other cruelties in The Taming of the Shrew, Benedick’s promise to “devise thee brave punisments” for Don John in Much Ado about Nothing, and the vicious prank played on Malvolio in Twelfth Night. He then hypothesizes a mental exercise imagining the writing of Twelfth Night in the age of the Geneva Convention, which creates in Feste a clown who commits war crimes. Returning to Henry V, Leavy notes that Shakespeare has Gower and Fluellen justify the execution of the prisoners by relating the story of the French soldiers killing the “boys and luggage” — but then undercuts the effect by having Fluellen move to a comparison of Henry’s treatment of Falstaff and Alexander’s accidental murdering of his friend.

Sophia Beratta – Coin Flippery: The Study of Dramatic Determinative Variables in Shakespeare’s Canon

Beratta opens with a revisiting of prior years’ jokes regarding her physical similarity to Catie Osborn who, after a coin flip, takes over reading the thesis presentation. Beratta/Osborn notes the ubiquity of coin flips in modern society, including the NFL use of a coin flip to determine the start of games and the theatrical presentation of coin flips in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Beratta/Osborn introduces DDV: dramatic determinative variable – an element of chance to change something in the course of a production as a whole. Beratta/Osborn argues that introducing an element of chance creates excitement for audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with the plays. She cites recent examples where use of a DDV determined something about the production, such as which actors would play which parts or whether a production of Hamlet would use the quarto or folio sequence of scenes. Hamlet is a frequent subject of DDVs, perhaps because its overall story is so well known. Beratta/Osborn relates a story where bored high school students were “transported” when a DDV led to the impromptu casting of a middle aged black woman as Hamlet. The goal of the production was “to find the Hamlet in everyone”, using a diverse cast to reach the concept that Hamlet could be anyone. Beratta/Osborn also notes the use of celebrity casting to inspire this excitement in audiences.

Beratta/Osborn moves on to discussing the 2016 RSC Doctor Faustus where the lighting and extinguishing of matches determined who would play Faustus and who would play Mephistopheles. Beratta/Osborn suggests that this DDV theatricality not only heightened excitement, but also set the mood for the production that the audience was about to see. Beratta/Osborn then presents two different versions of the famous Kate/Petruchio spat in 2.1 of The Taming of the Shrew, demonstrating that DDV can necessitate alternate versions of blocking the same scene to allow for the differences in actor strength and size.

Beratta/Osborn notes the potential of DDV practices to keep return audiences interested, since they may experience a different play if they return to see the production more than once. She then presents the Hal/Hotspur fight from 1 Henry IV dependent upon a DDV that could change the ending of the play – determining whether it is Hotspur or Hal that dies. The same lines, reassigned between the two characters, can thus create an entirely different scene. Hotspur regrets Hal’s death, but finishes off Falstaff with violent rancor. The original audience, Beratta/Osborn notes, reacted with laughter — but she asserts that it came at least partly from surprise and shock. She argues that DDV can reinvigorate centuries-old plays by playing against audience expectations and reviving a sense of discovery in them.

Chad Marriott – Everyman and the Audience: An Exploration of Staging Conditions

Marriott begins, after a digression on the nature of shortening a 50 page thesis for a 25 minute presentation, with a short explication of the action of Everyman. He discusses the difference in effect upon the audience created by early modern staging conditions and 19th/20th century proscenium conditions. The audience’s reciprocal reaction is crucial to the creation of a play, and Marriott explores how the physical playing space can shape that reaction.

Marriott cautions against conflating “staging conditions” with “staging conventions”. He then discusses the notion of “sacred spaces” in theatre and suggests that early modern conventions, in eliminating the barrier between actor an audience, extends the sacred space for the actors, though not for the audience. A darkened auditorium “fixes” the sacred space within particular boundaries. Marriott then has actors present a scene from Everyman as though in a theatre with those boundaries, refraining from engaging the audience. The scene seems, even on a first watching, to have many opportunities for audience address, but the actors turn outward typically only when addressing “God” by way of the rose window at the back of the house.

Marriott discusses how an exit through the audience can make the audience feel “left behind” in the same manner as a character remaining on stage. Shared lighting creates a “varying sacred space”, and Marriott has his actors present the scene a second time, in this iteration moving through and frequently engaging the audience.

Marriott ends by advocating for the consideration of role of both actor and audience in shaping a production. Taking the audience into account when preparing a production will “increase specificity and improve the experience of the audience.”

Garrett Schwalbach – Need Advice on Starting a Theatre Company? Early Moderns Would Like to Share…

Schwalbach introduces his thesis examining the creation of a theatre company in the current economic climate. He suggests that future entrepreneurs may benefit by discarding many current common practices and instead taking inspiration from the financial underpinnings of early modern theatrical business. The dominant business model today is the not-for-profit model: a theatre company can file as a NFP by fulfilling certain requirements There are currently 1750 NFP companies. Benefits include access to grants and the tax-deductible nature of donation to these companies. Schwalbach shares graphs of income (in earnings and contributions) for NFPs for the past ten years. Expenses for these companies follow a similar rate of increase as the income. Schwalbach then relates these graph to “the profit margin” – changes of unrestricted net assets and explains the practice of endowments and the difference between restricted, temporarily restricted, and unrestricted assets.

Schwalbach moves to considering the audience: as audiences have stagnated or slightly decreased in the past ten years, NFPs have also decreased. Paid personnel at NFPs, however, have increased. He states that this is because “a non-profit has to grow”, because all money taken in must be fed back into the programming, which necessitates the presence of more administrators.

Schwalbach then shifts to examining the business practices of early modern companies such as The King’s Men. He compares their success to that of their competition. Schwalbach takes the time to explain how patronage, assets, and capital worked for these early modern companies and how the process of shareholding affected the flow of money into and out of the theatre. Shareholding had no guarantee of profit, thus investing the shareholders in the success of the company — as a result, the shareholders were often directly involved in the theatrical process. As an example, Schwalbach discusses Shakespeare’s role as a businessman, shareholding in the King’s Men to make his fortune.

Schwalbach proposes that future companies look at the idea of individual investment. He relates the early modern theatrical model to that of modern bands, whom he believes are applying this system successfully. He suggests that theatres might benefit from changing to this business model rather than continually fighting the restrictions and other challenges of NFP status. The need to meet these challenges results in higher ticket prices, which then stagnates audience growth and reduces the accessibility of theatre to marginalized groups. “When you’re doing a not-for-profit, a lot of things are out of your hands.” But, Schwalbach argues, investing in yourself gives you more control and a greater ability to produce art.

Jessi Scott – Lost in Translation: The Treatment and Disappearance of Macbeth’s Porter and Othello’s Clown from Stage to Screen

Scott opens with a knock-knock joke, a tribute to Macbeth‘s Porter: “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Othello’s clown.” “Othello’s clown who?” “Exactly.” She moves to discussing the weight assigned to tragedies versus the supposed lightness and inconsequentiality of comedies. She notes that the roles of clowns in tragedies often end up cut from performance, particularly when the play is translated from stage to film.

In examining 14 Macbeth films, Scott found that the Porter appears in nine of them, but several cut the role down to only the equivocation or only the dirty jokes portion of the scene. Othello‘s clown, however, appears far less frequently. Only Trevor Nunn’s filmed production retain the Clown’s lines. While there is humorous material, “the jokes from the script aren’t included.”

Scott notes that, two weeks ago, her thesis took a turn as she learned more about the process of film-making and how that process might relate to the decision to cut or keep the tragic clowns. She discusses the use of forced perspective in film, which can shape the story and the emotional weight of certain objects, moments, or characters. She suggests that, as the clown is often a conduit for the audience, the absent audience in film undercuts the need for and power of that character model. Scott posits this as a key challenge of film directors: “How does one engage with an audience that isn’t there?”

Scott posits that the time of cast and crew, rather than the run time of a film, may determine the presence or absence of characters or scenes. She discusses her own process of wrangling with external factors during a film shoot as an example, then shares the resulting film with the audience. Scott ends by stating that, as we need to laugh in dark times, retaining the comedy inside of tragedies is an important choice.

Allison Jones – Shakespeare for the Early Elementary Classroom 

Jones begins by noting the increasing call for teachers to introduce Shakespeare to students at younger ages, but that few resources exist for that age group (particularly those with no or low reading skills). Many approaches rely heavily on theatre games, “more a generalized exploration of theatre with Shakespeare as a handy frame”. Jones is hoping to develop activities that will center Shakespeare’s language while still calling upon young students’ sense of play.

Jones discusses the goal of the RSC to introduce students ages 5-9 (early elementary) to Shakespeare, recommending that students be exposed to Shakespeare “no later than age 11”. Jones reached out to members of the Shakespeare Theatre Association, and while many agreed that children as young as preschool or kindergarten could enjoy Shakespeare, not all have programs designed for those students. Jones believes that a focus on play is a strong avenue to follow, as it taps into the natural inclinations of children towards imagination and experimentation. She explores an extended definition of “play” and relates how Shakespeare can meet the definition even for young children. Though adults may often “play” as well, she notes that children do not share the “dismissive attitude” that many adults have towards leisure activities.

Young children are also at an ideal age for exposure to the language of Shakespeare, as their language acquisition skills are “highest until the age of 6”. Introducing children to the vocabulary and grammar of Shakespeare’s plays assists in “transforming the archaic and obsolete to the familiar” — as such, students exposed to Shakespeare early will likely not find its language as difficult later on in life.

Jones discusses her experience in leading a workshop on iambic pentameter with a group of second and third grade students. Victoria Buck assists her by demonstrating components of the workshop. Jones discusses the relation of the rhythm of nursery rhymes and the importance of patterns in children’s play to teaching Shakespeare’s meter. The students explored vocal and physical ways of enacting the meter, and Jones compares this to the typical actions accompanying the rhyme “Ring around the Rosy”. She welcomes a group of three early education students to the stage to demonstrate. Dividing a speech between students, one line apiece, exposes the entire class to a larger section of text without placing too much burden on any one student. Jones then moves to demonstrating how she related music to those lines to augment the sense of movement and rhythm.

Back at 1:30pm for Session 2!

MFA Thesis Festival 2017

Good evening! Cass Morris, ASC Academic Resources Manager, here to live-blog the 2017 Mary Baldwin University MLitt/MFA Thesis Festival. Tonight, beginning at 6:30pm, members of the Compass Shakespeare Ensemble, the 2016-2017 MFA class, will present research conducted for and during their year of company-building:

Paul Menzer begins by welcoming everyone, introducing the Compass Shakespeare Ensemble, and reminding us that the MLitt presentations begin at 9am tomorrow. Menzer stresses the unique nature of the thesis festival at MBU, designed to combat the isolating effect of thesis writing and give students the opportunity to share with and hear from “an interested and generous” audience. Each presenter will speak for approximately 7 minutes, ending with a “provocative question”, followed by a short Q&A.

Catie Osborn – Photography as Performance: Archive and/as Adaptation

Osborn begins by explaining the scholastic considerations that her work as production photographer provoked. “There is little to no research on the implications of photograph in the theatre”. She states her intent to challenge a 1956 assertion that “photographs taken during the course of production are uninteresting”. Osborn discusses two types of photographs in the theatre: marketing/publicity and archive/documentation, as well as sharing the OED definition of “adaptation”. She believes that the act of theatrical photography constitutes an adaptation of the theatrical work — the center of the Venn diagram between marketing/publicity and archive/documentation.

Osborn asserts that the photographer working during a performance becomes a storyteller in their own right. She presents some “not at all staged” examples of “That Nice Chris Moneymaker” — one photograph showing him as alone and isolated, another from a different angle showing the actor surrounded by the theatrical audience in universal lighting. The use of photos then becomes “an adapted act”. She also shares examples of photographs that photoshopped together figures from different productions in order to market a show.

Considering the potentially infinite record of production, given the storage capabilities modern technology provides, Osborn questions how to best curate those photographs for archival. She suggests that a production must “include the photographer in the production process”. Osborn states her belief that, by including the photographer in the process, it would be possible to create a record of performance that would allow someone to experience the performance through the archives.

She poses the question: “What is lost in these performances? What is gained?”

Kelley McKinnon – “We know what we are, but know not what we may be”: Engaging a Student Audience in Self-Discovery through the Mechanism of Interaction

“If you’ve spent five minutes with me, you probably know several things:” that she has a loud laugh, that she has Opinions, and that she loves to learn. She goes on to note that another five minutes will expose that she asks personal questions and loves working with students to help them learn. “There is nothing in the world that is better to men than watching a light bulb turn on” in someone’s head. McKinnon states her belief that nothing can replace the value of a personal connection between student and teacher, and she cites a viral video of a North Carolina teacher who invented a different secret handshake for each of his students, noting that his attendance and test scores seem to correlate positively with that practice.

McKinnon notes the importance of “reversing the expectation” for students of Shakespeare, fighting against the ingrained belief many have that Shakespeare is hard and that they’re not smart enough for it. Her thesis is based around how she approaches an educational tour from a director’s point of view with the goal of taking over/changing the world. “My approach as a director is to put the systems in place to build self reliance through connection.” This applies both to her cast and staff and to the audience. For student audiences, “the clarity of storytelling” is always at the forefront, but she believes a further step of personalization can be vital, particularly when interacting with under-served audiences.

McKinnon goes on to explicate why she uses Shakespeare to “change the world”, particularly by working with inner city students, with benefits including but not limited to: explorations of tyranny, nonconformists, and violence, “wrapped up with a bunch of dick and fart jokes”. Treating Shakespeare not as something inaccessible and privileged but as something that is for them augments the experience and can, she believes, be life- and thus world-changing. She finishes by asking: “Who is my audience for this?”

Joshua Richard Williams – “We will perform in measure, time, and place”: The Qualitative Effect of Spatial Architecture on Stage Combat Choreography

Williams specifies that he is looking at the development of stage combat in a touring process and how that does and doesn’t impact the performance itself. Last summer he engaged in training and certification with the American Society of Fight Directors. He discusses the concept of “violence as spectacle” that CSE explored in its touring production of Macbeth. His considerations include examining the ways in which the dimension and orientation of a performance space, and how differences in that in touring locations may change the storytelling. For his thesis, he focuses on the opening fight which establishes the violence of the play: involving eight of ten cast members, several entrances and exits mid-bout. He notes that the paratextual fight “serves as an introduction for the audience” to the play itself.

Williams then walks through the “bloody soldier” interchange from 1.2, pointing out five details which inform the physicality of the fight. While not explicitly called for in the text, these lines allow a director and fight director to make choices about the story they wish to present to the audience. In CSE’s production, it was an opportunity to show Macbeth as a fighter surrounded by violence, continually attacked from behind, instilling a sense of wariness, distrust, and betrayal. The actor playing Banquo appears to save Macbeth twice, establishing their relationship. The fight also introduces Malcolm and foreshadows the appearance of the Weird Sisters.

Williams notes that they blocked the show for two different conditions: Blackfriars-style, with use of a backstage space, and an on-stage presentation, where the actors are all in chairs and visible throughout the production. He notes that this second set-up presented challenges, and goes on to discuss one example in depth, where the company had “a lane of perhaps five and a half to six feet in width and eleven or twelve feet in length” to perform in. Williams thinks this was probably the most challenging space to work in, but also the most illuminating.

His question asks the audience for sources on found spaces for performance or dance. “What is the difference between a performance space and a theatre? What can one do that the other one cannot?”

Justine R. Mackey – “So hung upon with love”: Examining Physical Intimacy with Compass Shakespeare Ensemble

“My work… explores the many ways in which physical touch or the lack thereof” tells a story and communicates emotion. Mackey’s thesis examines touch as a means of communication in performance. She notes that, for her, physical touch ended up being a recurring theme in her roles across the CSE season (Lady Macbeth, the Courtesan in The Comedy of Errors, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Jacquenetta in Love’s Labour’s Lost). “When I refer to physical intimacy, I don’t always mean sexual or lustful touching.” Her definition covers everything from simple familiarity to passionate interaction.

Mackey cites research from the Touch Research Institute which “prove the healthy benefits of touch,” noting that touch appears to be vital not only to human interaction but to individual health. She moves on to discussing how CSE explored the process and potential of touch in their ensemble work. To foster positive energy and the sense of community they would need for their MFA year, one early exercise involved verbally complimenting each other. Mackey took the benefits of this exercise forward into the idea of physical intimacy. Osborn and Odenbrett demonstrate another exercise from the character exploration of Troilus and Cressida, creating a powerful gestural score for two characters who long to touch but are pulled apart by external forces. From this, Mackey decided to focus on how bodies travel and intersect.

Mackey ends by asking us all to close our eyes and re-imagine the process of experiencing their devised show back in September, then asks the audience to share their most memorable experience from that evening.

Clarence Joseph Finn – “Methinks you are my glass and not my brother”: An Experience of Playing the Identical Dromio Twins with One Actor Body in The Comedy of Errors

Finn begins by stating that his thesis focuses on the challenge of playing two characters in one body and the effect that it has had on his body image. He notes that, as a result of bullying earlier in life, he had never engaged in physical training, as he had never seen the point. Entering this program changed his perspective, and he particularly notes the Viewpoints exercises taught by Doreen as teaching him to think well of his body on stage.

Working through the Dromios was his greatest challenge, made moreso by the fact that this performance was part of CSE’s already highly-doubled small scale production. He had to develop different markers for each Dromio. Finn then walks us through his process of developing them, beginning with voices: he started with Linklater choices for finding each Dromio’s voice, then moved into using Laban to marry those vocal choices to physical choices. One Dromio was lighter and quicker; the other low and heavy. He then moved on to behavioral gestures drawn from Viewpoints training. Finn also notes that the relationship each Dromio has to his respective Antipholus further informed his own physicality and spatial relationship. With the help of Sczepankowski and Odenbrett, Finn demonstrates the difference in his two Dromios.

His question: Is there a clear and distinct physical difference, and how might he further develop the physicality to make that clearer?

Molly Beth Seremet – “This is and is not Cressida”: Resisting Anthropocentrism in the Shakespeare of Things

Seremet begins “in the negative space” between the thesis she’ll actually be working on and the thesis she can no longer write. She intended to build upon her MLitt thesis, but notes that the exploration of the conflation of “person” and “thing” has become profoundly uncomfortable in our current political climate. While she’s still fascinated by the cyber-potential of becoming-human value in objects, but she is concerned about the inverse: making an object of a human. Seremet uses several examples from the past month, including the Oklahoma bill turning a woman into a “host” and the interaction of the “nuclear football” with guests at the “Winter White House”.

She goes on to note that the thesis she would like to write isn’t entirely hers to tell, given her own privilege and societal status, and she draws a connection to the “no-place” that Cressida exists in. Seremet hopes to continue elevating the object while also interrogating  the view from her position of privilege. She hopes to connect Cressida’s experience to the current immigrant/refugee crisis and with her own family history of displacement. She discusses her need to “focus on the real and the material in this era of alternative facts”.

Her question: What are the ethical responsibilities of a theatrical and art-making practice in the year 2017? And, in unpacking object-based feminism, how can the voice of the object be viewed through the mechanism?

Zac Harned – Arguing with Myself: Body Building Stories

Harned begins by describing his experience as a rifleman as a metaphor for the various components necessary for success in the small scale production. He will address the roles he played in the small scale production of Troilus and Cressida and how rhetoric informed his physical choices.

“Shakespeare’s characters cause plot by action,” whether that action is implied in what they say or more explicit when they stab someone. “All acting choices are based in necessity.” He keys in on the idea of rhetoric as the art of persuasion, and “art” being, essentially, an action of making something; thus, “rhetoric is the making of getting what you want” — which could also serve as a definition of acting. Harned discusses his discovery that rhetorically-informed performances are not, themselves, a style of acting — so “why should an actor give a damn?” He asserts that without engaging the rhetoric, an actor misses the opportunity for intellectual depth and aesthetic appeal.

Harned continues that “most people approach Shakespeare with a doctrine,” and that almost every doctrine that says “yes” to something says “no” to something else. His focus on scansion and rhetoric is not meant to be dogmatic, but he asserts that rhetorical knowledge enables an actor to be faithful to the story of a character. Harned asks the audience if they can see ways in which this approach is inaccessible to actors.

Ryan Odenbrett – A Face “full of O’s”: An Examination of Ecphonesis in Berowne’s Dialogue

Odenbrett connects his MFA thesis to his MLitt thesis on statsitical analysis. He believes echphonesis (the exclamation) is perhaps the most easily identifiable rhetorical figure. What, he asks, does the use of ecphonesis inform us about a character? He focuses on a line of Rosaline’s, accusing Berowne of having “a face full of Os” — rather than interpreting this as a reference to smallpox scars or syphilis blisters, he wondered if she referred to his exclamatory tendencies.

The process of documenting the use of ecphonesis was “monotonous, but not difficult”. Berowne uses ecphonesis 23 times in the play, 18 of those in 4.3 alone. 11 of those take place after he confesses to having written his love sonnet. 92% of his exclamations occur in verse. Odenbrett runs through a breakdown of the syntactical placements of these instances of ecphonesis. Odenbrett then created a table of the total ecphoneses used in all of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Costard comes in second with 11 instances.

Odenbrett then wanted to know if Berowne uses ecphonesis more than anyone else in the canon — but he believes not, as Love’s Labour’s Lost only has 68 instances (in 12th place), while Romeo and Juliet comes in first with 146. He intends to compare Berowne to other male characters in Shakespeare’s comedies. He asks what information we feel that ecphonesis gives an actor about a character.

George R Kendall – Directing Shakespeare in Intimate Performance Space and the Brechtian V-effekt 

Kendall begins by connecting his work to Mackey’s and Williams’s, as it deals with physicality and physical space. He interrogates the nearness to or distance from the audience in various theatrical approaches, looking particularly at the use of two “intimate spaces”: blackbox theatres and studio spaces. He notes that the Blackfriars Playhouse, while not fitting into either of those categories, still constitutes an intimate space. Kendall characterizes a component of intimacy as the “shared space” of actors and audience which enhances the emotional experience of the audience.

Kendall then discusses the practice of direct address and how it fits into the use of intimate performance spaces. Though it breaks the flow of the action, it does so in a way that is not an obstruction in these spaces. Kendall contrasts the intimacy of direct address in the Blackfriars Playhouse and similar styles to the alienation of the audience and distancing of emotional involvement intended by Brecht.

Kendall states his belief that directors should be very aware of the production space when deciding up on their approach to a play, particularly with an eye towards audience address. The more intimate the theatre space, the more personal that audience interaction can become; direct address has a less profound effect in a large proscenium theatre where much of the audience is physically further from the actors. Kendall questions: What have those of you who are actors discovered about intimate performance space? and How comfortable or uncomfortable are you as an audience member with an actor who addresses you?

Melinda Marks – A Labour Saved: How I Learned to Get Along with Love’s Labour’s Lost

Marks, who was the dramaturg for Love’s Labour’s Lost, also cut that script, and her thesis examines the practical process of cutting, what she cut, and how she decided to cut it. She admits up front that she strongly dislikes this play, which makes telling us about cutting it an intellectually interesting challenge. Since this cutting was for CSE’s “Ren season show”, the show styled after the ASC’s Actors’ Renaissance Season, Marks notes that the dramaturg’s role then becomes complicated, as they have no director’s conceptual parameters for either guidance or restriction. Marks notes the difference between creating a product “faithful to” someone else’s concepts and creating a product with the particular goals of the CSE Ren season show. She both had to rely upon subjectivity and had to combat her own distaste for the play in order to create a coherent script that would be interesting for both actors and audience.

After cutting the play, Marks went through all her cuts and made notes on her reasons for them. This allowed her to distinguish between objective and subjective cuts. She also color-coded these cuts for ease of analysis. She describes her role not only as dramaturg, but also as the editor of her own dramaturgical thought process.

Marks asks what we think would be a valuable quantitative or qualitative addition to this process?

Shane Michael Sczepankowski – The Story of the Storytellers

Sczepankowski informs us that his project is “like a thesis… but it isn’t. But it is.” As a response to a challenge from Paul Menzer to write a contribution to the MFA book that was more than an academic paper. As such, he is working on a play reflective of CSE’s mission statement. He is creating “a soft re-telling of the ‘Shane’anigans that have transpired” during the CSE year; his adaptation of Macbeth responds to and parodies CSE’s process of creating their school touring show. The director appears as Hecate and the “salty actors” as the Witches, among other correlations.

Sczepankowski posits this play as a sort of archival compilation, retelling the process of CSE’s experience. In a scripted scene, Tyler Dale expresses concern that Sczepankowski is skirting his responsibilities as an S&P student; Sczepankowski admits that this is an unusual approach, but believes that it will reflect the unique and meaningful experiences of the CSE journey.

His question: What makes a successful adaptation and what makes an absolutely miserable one?

MLitt Thesis Festival 2016 – Session 2

I’m Cass Morris, back again to live-blog the second session of the MLitt Thesis Festival, 3:00-5:00pm.

Kayla Blue, A Baffling Whim: Sexual Imagery in Film Adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Capulet Ball
The presentation opens with Katie Little, as Blue, watching the ball scene from the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet. Blue then explains that she’s watched thirty-nine film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, and that the ball scenes in 27 of them feature phallic imagery (69%). She noticed the repeated imagery of columns (or column-like vertical structures) and drapery, tapestry, or similar materials. Blue argues that the columns and arras both call upon romantic/historic ideas and invoke sexual imagery.

Columns: have a history of tragic scenery, evoke wealth (particularly ancient money), and connote the Italian heritage to a Western audience. Blue is interested in the conscious result of many directors’ subconscious decision. Little’s Faux!Blue takes a moment to comment on adaptation: Blue moved beyond just versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, using Shakespeare’s own text, to include anything that self-identified as an R&J adaptation (so, things like Shakespeare in Love and Gnomeo and Juliet are on her list).

Blue notes that the stagnant features of the Elizabethan stage, as demonstrated in the presence of our own frons scenae, have been appropriated by many directors of film. Blue notes that film allows for some “minutiae” that are impossible to convey in a theatrical setting. Blue identifies key components of the ball scene: A) Moment of Initial Attraction, B) Moment of Mutual Connection, and C) Moment of First Physical Contact, followed by the shared sonnet. Romeo’s A moment is textually prescribed; Juliet does not have a corresponding A moment in text. The opening of the sonnet brings them together, and “If I profane with my unworthiest hand” is the C moment.

Blue then tells us when to look for columns, including but not limited to: entering the ball, Romeo and Juliet’s A moments, Tybalt’s promise, with servants and musicians, Romeo’s adoration speech, the moment of mutual connection, the moment of first physical contact, during the sonnet, or during the recognition of their identities. Zeffirelli uses what Blue calls the “positive” slope, moving from A to B to C, though it does break down into RA and JA. This is the most common sequence. Gnomeo and Juliet, meanwhile, has the “negative slope” – C to B to A, as the characters accidentally touch hands, then become aware of each other. Shakespeare in Love moves JA to RA to C to B. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet moves B to A to C, as the characters first see each other through the fish tank.

Blue then notes the fourteen adaptations make use of an “in within” – a “private, interior female space” – for the lovers to have their interaction away from the party. They have, however, still “retreat to somewhere public.” The party is still going on and nearby, but allows a certain amount of privacy for the sonnet. “Romeo and Juliet are alone; the party is simultaneously adjacent and distant.” She argues that the audience understands that Romeo is entering a sacred interior space of some kind, which has some form of vaginal connotations to an audience “already stimulated by male phallic imagery… from all the columns!” She connects this to the history of theatre and the classical concern with public and private spaces. Blue parallels her list of where to look for the columns with where to look for the arras: during the sonnet. “The two scenic images together do something special” to the audience’s cognitive awareness, connecting the modern film with the Elizabethan theatre with the classical theatres.

Blue notes that scholars have considered phallic imagery so common as to have become invisible to Western culture. The statement of masculine presence is the erect phallus; Romeo is not just the “cock in the henhouse” in that he is a Montague amongst Capulets, but because he is representative of that masculine presence. She then notes that the imagery connects with Romeo’s already aroused state when he arrives at the ball; the language after he meets Juliet, however, turns gentler and more feminine. The Montague faction represents an unwelcome penetration into the Capulet space, but the arras imagery used within the lovers’ sonnet turns that unwelcome penetration into something mutual, an allowed penetration, consensual and romantic. Blue notes that Juliet chooses to engage in the sonnet with Romeo, telegraphing her own agency and sexual interest to the audience.

Blue ends by asserting that columns subconsciously stimulate sexual ideas in viewers’ minds, and when the lovers share their sonnet and kiss in an intimate, female space, the audience will bind sexual and romantic love together in their story.

Q: These are film adaptations. Are you aware that the arras has been used in this way in a theatrical staging of the play?
A: It could be, but Blue has not seen it. Cohen comments that he has never seen it played quite like that.

Q: Have you seen any correlation with whether there are columns and arrasses in 1.5 and whether or not the lovers are separated or able to connect in the balcony scene?
A: Blue hasn’t, due to needing to narrow the scope of her thesis to examining a single scene. She has noted that columns are most often re-introduced in the tomb scene.

Q: How might you take what you’ve done in terms of film and apply it to the stage?
A: Fascinatingly, “my discourse about how film can provide for certain opportunities, it also has its failures and downfalls. I would have to really think about how to stage a cinematic interpretation on a stage like this.”

Kendra Emmett-Goldwasser, Od’s F***ing Bodykins: Shakespeare as Cross-Section of the Early Modern Flux of Taboo Language
Emmet-Goldwasser begins by noting that she has been interested in swearing and censorship for several years. Applying this to the early modern period, she wanted to know which words were “bad” and why. She notes that religious words were still taking seriously and that some currently offensive words were not yet considered obscene. She moves to definitions: taboo, oaths, obscenities, and vulgarity. “Taboo” is something permanently or temporarily forbidden or inviolable in a society, something which is simple in concept but complex in reality, constantly evolving and variant between cultures. For this thesis, Emmett-Goldwasser uses it to refer to language taboos, which are, in turn, largely oaths and obscenities.

Oaths invoke God or gods as witness to a statement, such as “by God” or “by God’s wounds”. She also includes minced and abbreviated oaths, like “‘zounds!”, or “life!” or “heart!” with an understood “God’s” before them. They then became words uttered due to their evocative or provocative value. Obscenities, then, “are to be defined against oaths,” specifically words that referents to parts of the body and its effluvia, both sexual and scatological: fuck, shit, cunt, etc. These can be found both explicitly and implicitly in early modern texts. She notes that many of these, including fuck and shit, were not explicitly taboo in the early modern period. Vulgarity, for this thesis, means “words that have coarse or impolite reference” but without being the same level of taboo as obscenities. In England, at the end of the 16th and early 17th century, the taboos were shifting from religious to bodily nature.

Emmett-Goldwasser mentions that there is a physiological way to measure the body’s response to words, based on electronic impulse on the skin. Since she cannot travel back in time to test this on unsuspecting early moderns, she examines the effect of words through other means. She begins with ecclesiastical exhortations, such as various publications regarding “the abuse of swearing”. People must have continually used these words, or clerics would not need to warn against them, and the invective publications indicate that these words were still taboo. Swearing, cursing, and oaths do not seem to refer to obscenities or vulgarities in early modern parlance.

“The best way to find out what is taboo in a society is to find out what it censors,” and so Emmett-Goldwasser moves to considering what the Masters of the Revels censored out of plays of the time. Three manuscripts exist with censor marks on them, and Emmett-Goldwasser shares one from The Second Maiden’s Tragedy. It includes no examples of censored sex or sexuality, not even when a tyrant steals his love’s dead body for necrophiliac purposes. Theatrical taboos seemed to focus on religious and political means. The most pertinent instance of censorship was the Act to Restrain the Abuses of Players, which fined 10 pounds for the use of sacred or religious words, again with no mention of obscenities.

Emmet-Goldwasser then considers “print” censorship, noting that the Folio oddly minces oaths, even though the Act only applied to those spoken on the stage and that other quartos printed after the Folio retained the original oaths. She notes Gary Taylor’s argument that the altered Folio texts may, then, have been set from altered playhouse texts, adjusted to comply with the Act. To demonstrate one of her findings, she looks at Hamlet, 3.2 in its three versions. “‘Zounds” in Q1 is exchanged for “S’blood” in Q2, then disappears in the Folio.

So, if these oaths were taboo, then why did playwrights use them? Shakespeare’s plays help us to see the moment when the religious oaths were becoming less taboo and the bodily terms were becoming moreso. As an example, Mercutio’s conjuring of Romeo after the Capulet ball, with the et cetera serving not necessarily as external censorship, but perhaps as a euphemism used for the self-censorship of the word “cunt”, which does not seem to have been taboo earlier in the medieval period (particularly as it appears in a number of place names). Shakespeare puns on the word several times – “Her Cs, her Us, and her Ts” and “country matters”. Emmett-Goldwasser compares these to “fuck” and “shit”. In the 1500s, “shit” appeared in print with no sign of bashfulness or censorship. Shakespeare puns on “fuck” (or its French variant) a couple of times in Henry IVHenry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, and it also appears in Ben Jonson’s Epicene, which refers to a “windfucker” — the common name for a kestrel. If the word “fuck” was taboo, it is unlikely that it would have been used so casually in another context. Emmett-Goldwasser notes that it seems to have been vulgar but not necessarily obscene nor taboo in the early modern period.

In conclusion, censorship seemed concerned more with blasphemous language, as evidenced by the Act. “Oaths still held taboo, and some obscenities were not yet obscene.”

Q: Did you notice how comparatively blasphemous was Shakespeare?
A: Emmett-Goldwasser has looked a little at the contemporaries, but mostly focused on Shakespeare due to scope. Oaths are present, but he complied after the 1606 act.

Q: If words like “fuck” and “shit” weren’t taboo, then why only playfully pun on them?
A: Emmett-Goldwasser feels this is an indication of her thesis that the taboo was shifting; those words might not have been quite as appropriate even though not explicitly taboo.

Q: In “windfucker” to “windsucker”, can you argue against the typesetting?
A: “I wondered about that.” Her thesis posits that it could’ve been a mistake or a matter of convenience.

Davies: One final question — Where was Grope-Cunt Lane? I’ve decided to go there.
Menzer: Thank you, Kendra. See me in my office, Davies.

Megan Clauhs, Her Mother Hath Many Times Told Me So: Innogen and Silence in Much Ado about Nothing
Merlyn Sell opens, as Clauhs, opining that Innogen in Much Ado doesn’t speak because she’s a ghost character, and therefore a ghost, without lines. Clauhs then interrupts to correct. There are two kinds of ghost characters: seen and unseen. Seen ghosts enter in stage directions but never speak, nor are spoken to; unseen ghosts, like Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet, who is referred to often but never appears on stage. Clauhs then argues that Innogen ought not be considered a seen ghost character, as there are lines within the play that do refer to Innogen, at least as Hero’s mother, though her name is never spoken.

Clauhs then presents the opening scene of Much Ado about Nothing with a silent Innogen included. Any mention of her paternity must acknowledge her, if she is on stage. Clauhs then considers places where seen ghost characters get left out of the staging — usually when productions cut servants and attendants due to the constraints of cast size, a practice which does not affect the plot or the audience’s experience of the play. She argues that Innogen, the only married woman in the play, cannot be excised as easily. Clauhs puts forward the idea that, with few exceptions, married women do not talk in comedies, and even Hero is more talked-about than talking. Clauhs points out that even Beatrice stops talking after her mouth is stopped, presumably with a kiss, suggesting that the happy ending requires the silence of the female characters.

Clauhs argues that the Messina of Much Ado is one of Shakespeare’s most misogynistic settings, illustrated both by Leonato’s vitriol (absent in the source material), Claudio’s indifference, and the propensity of cuckold jokes in the play. Clauhs notes that some modern productions have given lines from other characters to a speaking Innogen. She believes this would have raised questions for an early modern audience that it does not for a modern audience. “Just because Innogen is silent in the text doesn’t mean she has to stay silent forever.”

Clauhs stresses the importance of retaining Innogen, particularly as a married woman in the world of a play which focuses on female virtue and chastity, and argues for undoing the editorial choice of Theobald which got carried forward into future editions.

Q: If Innogen is an important part of the play in her silent presence, what does her absence after 2.1 say?
A: The full thesis argues that her absence is the mistake, not her presence. Other characters lack entrances but speak lines within scenes.
Q: What scenes do you think she should be in that she’s not?
A: “My thesis is evolving every day. I’m starting to believe that she should replace Ursula.”

Q: Clarification regarding what defines “happily” married women.
A: Conflict, such as Adriana, indicates an unhappy marriage.

Q: If Shakespeare did intentionally only put Innogen in 1.1 and 2.1, then why is she there?
A: Shakespeare needed a married woman there to be the butt of a cuckold joke.

Q: Is there anything to tie in the possible alternate pun on musical noting in the title?
A: “I hadn’t even thought of that. I was more interested in the vagina joke.”

Q: I wonder if there’s an inverse proportion to sad men. Is there a feminization of Don John the bastard, as if he’s being told to shut up? He does speak a lot but not in public.
A: Clauhs doesn’t think so, “but no offense, I don’t care about men in this thesis.”

Paige Hammock, “Hear My Soul Speak”: Experiential and Atemporal Shakespeare through Music
Hammock considers the musical supplements to the early modern scene, including plays, masques, dancing, bear-beating, “adult dancing”, and even work. “Music was and is a foundation of cultural stability.” Music was an integral part of the early modern theatre transaction, and today can be used as a bridge between what seems archaic and what is familiar. Hammock underscores the ability of music to influence and suggest emotion, as well as to cross temporal boundaries. Examples of music assisting theatrical transaction include those at the Globe in London and here at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Hammock mentions particularly the foreign language productions of the Globe to Globe project, where music told a story that the audiences could follow.

Hammock compares the Globe’s typical use of music, only when called for in the script and at the end with a dance, to the Blackfriars Playhouse’s use of music before the show and during the interlude, which may tell the audience something about what they are about to see. “Music can help clarify and set boundaries for the meaning that the production and the audience will create together.” At the Globe, initial music serves as a signal that action is about to begin; she provides an example from the 2013 Macbeth, wherein the tones of bagpipes serve to silence the audience as well as setting the scene, before transitioning into warlike drum beats. “At the very least, the intro music draws the attention of the audience through sheer volume.” Such abrupt starts seem typical at the Globe, creating an aural boundary with immediate audience awareness. The production ended with a musical salute and a dance. While the jig may be discordant with a tragedy, Hammock suggests that the music and dance signals the end of the play in the same way as the call for applause in other plays. Music then, reminds audience to both pay attention to and to leave the play: an absolute beginning and a clear ending. “Transaction started; transaction completed.” Hammock also notes the ability of music to establish patterns and to signal transitions within a play, such as the music in The Tempest. She plays a clip from the Globe’s 2012 production, during Ferdinand’s initial entrance.

By contrast, the musical scene at the Blackfriars Playhouse “is a bit difference.” Here, the actors perform modern music during the pre-show and interval, often suggesting, as Jim Warren puts it, “something about the play.” During the touring days, it was used as a mood-setter, mediating between what an audience might expect and introducing them “to a potentially less stuffy version.” For example, the use of U2’s “Love is Blindness”, frequently used as an LGBTQ anthem, helped ease the way into Marlowe’s Edward II. Hammock suggests that the interval’s inclusion of “You Shook Me All Night Long” was perhaps more tongue-in-cheek, serving to highlight the play’s melodramatic elements. This, Hammock argues, becomes a different kind of transactional allowance, giving the audience permission to feel that the relationship between the King and Gaveston, while real, is also overly dramatic.

Hammock then considers the 2014 ASC production of The Comedy of Errors. The pre-show and interval music “semeed to take the painfully obvious and making it obviouser,” highlighting the absurdity of the entire play. The opening “Hey Brother” by Avicii has an obvious connotation, in the twins. The long-lost twins and wronged twins find a theme in Three Dog Night’s “One is the Loneliest Number”, and the falsities and mistaken identities get the same treatment in the interval’s “Little Lies” by Fleetwood Mac. All of these, Hammock says, comment on the play’s own absurdity. She also considers the cover of Cake’s “Never There”, which transitions into the door-keeping scene, and Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Think I’m a Clone Now.” The latter is both humorously self-referential during the play and an echoing reference to the original song, “I Think We’re Alone Now”. Hammock argues that there is a cognitive dissonance between hearing modern music on the early modern stage, perhaps creating competing “winks” to the audience, “a lot for the audience to process.” She expresses concern that this may break the transaction between theatre and audience. Another example was the interlude song and dance to “Me and My Shadow” by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.  In comparison, Hammock feels that Weird Al cover might have pulled the audience too far out of the play, while the Sinatra/Davis cover created a stronger sense of the world of the play.

Concluding, Hammock states that music can define boundaries and enhance the theatrical transaction. “Music is used not as an alternative language, but as an additional one.”

Q: Have you thought about the difference between recorded sound and live?
A: Yes; initially Hammock wanted to have the music in her presentation performed live.

Q: You’ve pretty skillfully hacked the layers of something like the Weird Al song; is the atemporality something that comes out of that?
A: Usually when you come to a show, you can make the connection between the song and the play you’re about to see, but the Weird Al song seemed to add too many layers for the audience to then think about.

Q: You mentioned a bit about the audience’s attention to the song, and that got me thinking of how I frequently cannot hear the lyrics of the song thanks to the noise of the audience. How does that ability or inability impact the audience’s experience?
A: Hammock does talk about that some in the actual thesis. It’s not necessarily meant to serve as an essential component of the play. There’s still an aural connection to something happening on the stage, even if you’re not trying to ascribe meaning or listening to the lyrics.

Q: Thoughts on the use of modern music like at the Blackfriars Playhouse versus historical music like at the Globe?
A: Hammock is looking at the variant experiences that creates, without necessarily saying that one is a better choice than the other.

Q:Do you get the same atemporality when productions take early modern lyrics and set them to modern music?
A: It can have that effect.

–This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

MLitt Thesis Festival 2016 – Session 1

Good morning! Cass Morris, back again to live-blog the first session of the 2016 Thesis Festival, 11:30am-2:00pm.

ASC Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen welcomes us, then Dr. Paul Menzer notes that this is just the start of a week of exciting MBC Shakespeare & Performance events.

Justine Mackey, “This Dog, My Dog”: Shakespeare and Man’s Best Friend
The presentation opens with dueling dogs: a lovely (adoptable!) pitbull called Duchess, actor Clarence Finn in a dog suit, and an invisible dog on a leash presented by Tyler Dale, all attempting to present Crab from The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Mackey comes out and introduces herself and her actors, and Jocelynn Joy Murphy presents the “moon” speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, first with Duchess as “this dog”, then a second time with a stuffed dog. Mackey explains how she came to this topic, then notes that theatre still struggles with the choice to use live dogs, whether trained for performance or not, as opposed to prop or imaginary dogs.

“Performing animal” typically refers to an animal trained to do tricks for entertainment value, but Mackey believes that considering non-performing animals in theatre has value as well. A live dog can not only provide an interesting challenge for the actor, but can also create satisfying emotional experiences for the audience — and perhaps find a non-performing dog a forever home. Dogs, Mackey notes, need no special training in order to behave as a dog on stage. She moves to a consideration of various references to dogs in Shakespeare — there are over 2300 references to animals in Shakespeare, and the most-referenced animal is the dog.

This makes sense to Mackey, as humanity’s relationship with dogs goes back thousands of years. She provides a visual of cave paintings involving dogs. “Shakespeare was continuing a longtime theme that began thousands of years before him.” Mackey comments that outdoor theatre, such as the nearby Oak Grove, always contains the potential for unintended animal participation, as when frogs hop on stage. In this case, it can be a distraction for both actor and audience. Even intended animals can be a distraction, however, as their unpredictability can draw focus. Mackey sees this as a chance to heighten excitement. Dogs were, even in the early modern period, “an easy and accessible animal to work with on stage.” Mackey also ties this to the modern age, with the prevalence of animal-related videos on the internet, particularly with regard to the compassion that animals have for each other and for humans, and in turn, the compassion that we feel for them.

Mackey calls attention to the dual experience of placing a non-performing animal next to a performing actor, noting that it also brings up some ethical concerns. She seeks to place the theatrical use of non-performing dogs in line with other considerations of the relationship between dogs and humans. As an example, she speaks of the experiment of bringing a dog into the classroom, which improved both performance and attendance. Mackey ties this to the economic success of having a live dog in the ASC’s 2012 production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, as the marketing for that show let the audience know they could expect to see a live dog on stage.

“Putting a dog on-stage will immediately trigger some response to the audience.” Mackey’s observation is aptly timed, as Duchess makes some cute noises, eliciting coos from the audience. She returns to the ASC’s 2012 Two Gents, where over 13 weeks, with 13 different dogs, 9 of those adoptable dogs found homes from audience members. She then discusses the challenge for the actors: having to quickly get accustomed to a new animal, and to get the animal accustomed to them. “The dog truly becomes a symbol of the improvised.” The actor and director could not block the dog, “but rather familiarized the dog with the stage and the actors.”

She shares some experiences from Ben Curns, who played Launce in that production, including the instinctive acting that the second dog, JR, seemed to demonstrate on-stage. Another dog, Jed, was noisier, likely to cry or whine any time the attention on the stage diverted away from him. She relates that, despite some mishaps and challenges, Curns nonetheless felt that the project was more a success than not.

“Seeing an animal on-stage next to a performing human” stimulates certain things for the audience. According to an ASPCA study, nearly half of all Americans own a dog, and more know someone who does, augmenting the connection that audience members feel with a dog on stage. A live dog on stage changes the way the audience experiences the moment. Mackey notes that Thadd McQuade believes that having a live dog on stage causes a “friction of reality”, which may provoke the audience to think about why the dog is there — particularly in plays like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, where a dog is not explicitly called for. She then speaks to the backstage effect of having a dog in a performance. McQuade’s dog was “miserable backstage” because the dog could sense a level of distress in the actors as they focused on their work, which in turn distressed the dog.

Mackey hopes that her work can help change the way that scholars focus their exploration of live animals on stage. As Mackey discusses the lasting impression that an animal can have on the audience, Duchess sneezes adorably. Mackey concludes by underscoring the long history that live animals have in performance, then states her belief that the live dog generates more connection with the audience, generates more revenue, and enhances the overall theatrical experience.

Q: Is there any sort of consent issue when it comes to using animals in performance?
A: There are organizations that work with regulations on performing animals, more for Broadway and film.

Q: What are the runner-up animal references in Shakespeare?
A: Second was birds, third was horse. Cat was low, and a handful were only answered once, like shark, squirrel.

Q: How does the dog not know that it’s not witnessing real conflict on-stage?
A: There can be a correlation; one dog reacted just to the word “kick”, which suggests that they do pick up on the on-stage dynamic.

Q: Did you get into the history of circus?
A: “I’m digging more into that now and how that has changed, even more recently.”

Molly Seremet, Cyborging Hamlet: A Tabletop Engagement
Seremet opens by referring to Harold Bloom’s assertion of Shakespeare’s singularity, his ability “to write the human.” This line of thinking suggests that Hamlet, then, is a “field sketch” of an entirely new kind of life. Seremet ties this to the idea of a human “that has not yet been,” figuring the conflict between heart and head for future hands that engage with the text. “A man from the future, caught up in the concerns of the past.” Seremet then presents a counterpoint argument from Degrazia, who also engages with the idea of interiority, but suggests that this positions Hamlet as dated, not modern. Defining Hamlet by that interiority only works if you divorce him from his reality; his contemporaries would have understood him in relation to contextual concerns such as land, patrimony, and inheritance. “In order for Hamlet to appear modern, the premise of the play had to drop out of sight.” Trying to make Hamlet’s self-reflection too modern ignores that he exists in a historical set of expectations and influences.

Throughout these discussions, Tyler Dale, on stage, manipulates a series of seemingly unrelated props.

The attempt to “assume modern ownership” of Hamlet ignores his and the play’s reality, and says more about our modern desires than about the play and character. Seremet suggests that the tension between Bloom’s and Degrazia’s interpretations is fascinating because it challenges our definitions of what is “modern”. Seremet proposes that we move away from questions of “what makes Hamlet modern” and instead consider that he has moved beyond modernity and moved into a post-modern idea of humanity, “an emblem of the post-human subject.”

Seremet then directs our attention to Dale as he wordlessly performs a card trick.

Seremet discusses the position of the cyborg in human understanding, then ties the ideas of Hamlet to that definition. Hamlet “as a character symbolizes a kind of human that few can emulate.” He is both “abundantly familiar” yet distant. “In cyborg fashion, Hamlet the character manages to hold us at arm’s length” as he performs humanity. We should consider that he represents not the human, but “a possible human,” an “actant”. He has the ability to act, but chooses not to, and “through the act of non-acting, becomes an actant.”

Seremet suggests that “Hamlet can be seen as a placeholder for the human,” stuck within his story, “an object occupying the subject position.” She argues for the replacement of Hamlet with an unpredictable object, to “shift the character”, which she hopes will re-ground Hamlet within his own text. Seremet refers to the mechanic terms that the play uses in reference to Hamlet. “Hamlet’s actant state can be framed in cyborg terms,” caught between the no man’s land between technological and human. Seremet relates this to the concept of “thingification”, examining the relationship between the animate and inanimate.

Seremet concludes by suggesting how we can capture the cyborg metaphor in theatrical practice, particularly by drawing attention to “thing-power”, thinking beyond the life-matter binary. In theatrical terms, an object remains a prop; an object-cyborg with thing-power, however, could become active rather than passive — a shift in perception, away from how we might use objects to considering how objects already use their thing-power on us. Seremet hopes to challenge the primacy of the human in theatrical practice.

Q: Any connection to the previous presentations, regarding the dogs?
A: Parallel tracks. Animals are different in that they do possess more outward agency.

Q: How does this relate to definition of “property”? What happens when the agency is reversed?
A: “In order for an object to cross over into cyber-territory, it has to act on us.” The difference between a prop and a object-cyborg is whether or not the thing has its own agency.

Catie Osborn, Contextualizing the Sword: Titus Andronicusand Early Modern Performance
Osborn begins by discussing how Raiders of the Lost Ark relates to Titus Andronicus, specifically the moment where Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman rather than engaging with him, because Harrison Ford had dysentery at the time. Osborn wondered how the cultural connotations of each weapon affects the audience’s perception of this as a humorous moment or not. “Does this become a symbol of colonialism and white oppression? Does Indiana Jones become the bad guy? Or, what happens when we understand the story behind the story? … It wasn’t colonialism, it was diarrhea.” Which brings us, Osborn notes, to Titus Andronicus, “famously shit on over the centuries.”

She wants to attempt to illustrate that the rampant violence is not demonstrating Shakespeare as an inexperienced and bloodthirsty playwright, but rather a commentary on cultural violence of the time. Her thesis examines the moments in Titus when a weapon appears and connects them to the early modern audience’s perception of those weapons.

Osborn presents the Peacham drawing from Titus, which illustrates a scene that never happens in the play — so how much can we really learn from it? She looks particularly at Aaron’s sword, not only incongruous in the supposed scene of imprisonment and pleading, but also at odds with the textual description of his weapon as a scimitar (important because the word choices centers Aaron as “exotic other”). Titus, meanwhile, seems to have spear, even though the text describes him as having a sword.

The play, Osborn notes, opens with a call to arms, specifically, to swords. Titus Andronicus, though not a historical Roman story, nonetheless connects to the cultural ideas of Rome prevalent in early modern England. Even without Latin, an early modern reader had access to Roman ideas and stories through English translations of Plutarch and others available in print. Shakespeare opens with a conflict between patricians and plebeians, but because the play has no specific time period, the audience cannot exactly know why either party appeals to each group of citizens. Osborn also remarks that, in Shakespeare’s England, Rome had alternate connotations, thanks to early modern Rome representing the corruption of Catholicism; this may explain some of Titus‘s atrocities, including the literal killing of messengers.

Titus combines familiar references to Rome into something vicious and brutal. Osborn highlights the important influence of Seneca on the text. A juxtaposition exists between the Roman and early modern ideas of vengeance; for the Elizabethans, vengeance belonged to God, and personal revenge was punishable by law. Titus, then staged “an Elizabethan anxiety” about the possibility for personal vengeance to spiral out of control. Osborn connects the 1594 publication of Titus to another text in the same year, which commented on the negative effect that vengeance had upon the revenger – specifically, visions and apparitions, such as that which Tamora visits upon Titus in the play.

Osborn shares a deeper consideration of just who gets murdered in Titus and why, positing it as both a dual morality play and a revenge tragedy. This becomes important when taken along with the religious conflicts of the time. Both Catholics and Protestants, though, would have been familiar with the story of Cain — and the admonition of God that any one who visited vengeance upon him would have it returned to them sevenfold. Osborn points out how many instances of violence in Titus are about brothers and that the “sevenfold” plays out within the play. Actors Sophia Beretta and Chris Moneymaker perform a scene between Chiron and Demetrius, which references their rapiers — a weapon which Osborn states was recognized as “contentious” by the early modern audience. The sword was associated with tradition and honorable warfare, while rapiers were weapons of personal vengeance. Fencing manuals commented on the dueling culture of the period, particularly with regard to the “daring” language that Shakespeare has the Gothic brothers emulate. Osborn points out that Chiron and Demetrius are doing something doubly illegal, both with regard to dueling and to wearing live steel in a royal court (illegal under Henry VIII). The scene, then, explains dueling culture and then tension between new and old styles, “hidden masterfully in a bevy of boner jokes.”

Q: How did the idea of the scimitar register at this moment historically?
A: There’s a notion of “otherness” present in Titus, which carries over into the culture at large — that of a mystical East.

Q: How does the research you’ve done translate to other plays?
A: This actually started with the Wars of the Roses, which ended up being just a little bit too much, because there was so much going on historically and culturally. “I thought Titus was a good test case,” but she wants her research to be something that readers can apply to whatever play they’re working on.

Q: Did you arrive at a sense of “rapiers are always this, swords are always this” in regard to their cultural connotations?
A: Youthful spirits, irresponsibility, people willing to fight in the streets = rapiers; Fancy people, high status people, those with traditions and responsibilities = swords “is generally how it splits across the entire canon.” Chiron and Demetrius are a good example.
Q: Did that link with military vs personal?
A: “That’s a great question; I’ll let you know!”

Ryan Odenbrett, Exit Crying Murder: A How-To Manual for Statistical Shakespeare Analysis
Odenbrett begins by stating that his thesis began as a desire to state Shakespeare’s intention in creating a pattern with the “murdered and escaped” characters in 3.3 and 4.2 of Macbeth, but that the project spiraled into “the Death Sheet”, a catalog of all the deaths in the Shakespeare canon. “I wanted to prove one point, but instead and accidentally, I made something better.” He hopes that this will enhance the Shakespeare community’s ideas about death on stage and that it will be able to inform performances.

His database illustrates topics including but not limited to: the ratio of Shakespeare death plays to non death plays, identification of on and off stage deaths, frequency of deaths within plays, how deaths take place, how they are discovered, chronological placing of death within a play, etc. Odenbrett carefully notes that he refrains from placing authorial intent upon the patterns that the database suggests.  “In short, Exit Crying Murder uses statistical Shakespeare analysis to examine the deaths in the canon.” Odenbrett comments that this is particularly apt in the year in which we are recognizing the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and refers to performances taking place across the globe that are performing all of Shakespeare’s deaths.

To start, he describes the phenomenon of charting Shakespeare’s deaths, beginning with an infographic that circulated the internet in 2013. Odenbrett suggests that the analytical human brain finds something satisfying in “this synthesized information in the way of visual images”. He challenges them, however, on the grounds of being inaccurate, and then presents his own table of the chronological compilation of every death in the canon (recorded from the First Folio).

Odenbrett then shares his “rules for admittance” for including a death in his compilation: that the character must appear on stage, be mentioned as dying on stage, or have appeared in a prequel work (the “Falstaff rule”). Looking at his chronology, Odenbrett points out that Shakespeare averaged one “death play” per year, and that he favored death plays over non-death plays by a factor of roughly two to one. He then shares his own pie chart displaying how many of the total deaths take place in each play. Most of the deaths take part in the tragedies, then the histories, then just two deaths in comedies. Early in Shakespeare’s career, most of the deaths took place in histories, but later in his career, he produces eight death plays in a row. However, the histories tend to have more deaths per play (6 in tragedies vs 8.1 in histories). The deaths in tragedies are also mostly on-stage, whereas more deaths in histories take place off-stage.

Plotting all the on-stage deaths into a line graph indicates a negative correlation over time — more deaths earlier in his career than later. Odenbrett speculates that that may have indicated his competition with Marlowe in the first few years. His last five plays have zero on-stage deaths, “as though he got tired of trying to drag carcasses off-stage”. A trend line of off-stage deaths indicates nothing useful by itself, as there is no discernable pattern, but when compared with the on-stage trend line, it seems that his plays alternate between high on-stage and high off-stage deaths.

Odenbrett uses Macbeth as a case study, intending to highlight the play’s irregularities when it comes to on-stage deaths. “Of the Death plays which feature more onstage deaths than offstage deaths, Macbeth possesses the lowest percentile at 57%.” Only Macbeth and Richard III die in stage directions, speaking nothing after their fatal wounds are received, “as though they didn’t deserve it.” Macbeth is also one of only two plays where a child dies on-stage — only 1.2% of all of Shakespeare’s deaths. Odenbrett argues that killing Lady MacDuff on-stage diminishes the rarity of that death. He mirrors this scene with Fleance’s escape and Banquo’s on-stage death, drawing attention to linguistic similarities between Banquo and Lady MacDuff.

Odenbrett “remains confounded by the amounts of data I’ve yet to explain to you” and hopes that the crash-course will encourage us to use statistical data when examining staging questions in the future.

Q: Is that death sheet going to be available?
A: Yes, it will be!

Q: The reason you excluded Two Noble Kinsmen was because of the collaboration?
A: Yeah, even though he most likely wrote the death of Arcites, but because it’s the most contested play and because it only happens in the stage direction.

Q: Is this information supposed to be just for study or to tell future productions whether or not to stage certain deaths?
A: The purpose is to give productions an informed choice.

Q: What is behind the popularity of the impulse to turn death into data?
A: Not sure “why they do it with death”.

Joshua Williams, Tactical Acting: A Foundational Approach to Actor Training through Stage Combat
Williams begins by stating that every actor has their own method of approaching acting, regardless of training, because of each actor’s individual background, psychological state, etc. Most schools of acting agree on one thing, however: conflict. “The basis of all acting is the physicalization of conflict” by bodies moving through space and time. Williams notes that the past few decades have seen a trend of moving towards privileging scansion and rhetorical devices, at least in the realm of Shakespeare studies, over more physical acting training.

Williams argues that many forms of training often neglect the whole-body concepts that are most accessible particularly for young actors, as well as sacrificing the specificity of intention and the tension between two actors. “The principles at the core of stage combat are the same as those of acting.” Combat foregrounds “the one against the other”, the most basic and savage source of drama. He thinks that combat should be the first skill taught to young actors, as through it, they can learn much about blocking, tension, expression, and specificity. Combat also helps young actors to understand the importance of “stakes” in any given scene. In a fight sequence, “what is ‘at stake’ is life itself.” This also forces young actors to listen to each other, both vocally and with their bodies. Combat, then, “teaches all of the most important lessons in acting.”

Tyler Dale and Melinda Marks assist Williams in demonstrating his methods. He begins with “conflict-style games”, including but not limited to tag, hide and seek, etc. One of the most useful that he found was tug-of-war. Combat there “has been shifted and reduced to its most basic concepts”, that is, two figures moving forward and back. Williams notes the ease of attaching storytelling to the back-and-forth. Marks and Dale demonstrate, attaching tugs and slips to certain words. Williams points out that this also involves breath, eye contact, etc. Partners can “tell the story of struggle” without actually exerting power over each other. Stage combat, Williams notes, “is not about winning”, but about working with a partner to sell the story.

Dale and Marks then demonstrate the basic footwork of advances, retreats, and passes can work in armed combat — pretty much the same footwork as in a game of tug of war. The tension between two fighters creates an unbroken line of tension between the actors, much like the literal line of the rope in tug-of-war. Williams notes that this tension can also apply to rhetorical conflict in the plays. In his future consideration, he intends to pursue that frame further, physically embodying verbal argument. For example: “In a normal scene, without combat, who ‘strikes’ first?” Who draws blood, who retreats, who gains power over the other? “The primary goal of this work is to serve as the basis for an actor training regiment.” His thesis outlines a theoretical conservatory program along these lines.

Q: How do you rectify the required falseness of the aggression in combat with the often-encouraged realness of the emotions in actors?
A: “I mean, it’s all acting.” Williams doesn’t see acting as generating “real” emotions. “That’s not what I’m interested in.” He performs actions.

Q: You’re claiming that your method is easier to train an actor in?
A: “No. I think it’s better.”
Q: So what makes it better than a traditional Stanislavski approach? Why is your terminology better?
A: “In my personal experience, having come up in a method-influenced environment, I never felt like it was enough to connect to the text.” Williams point to the need to connect with a partner and to connect points of action with the story.

Q: Wondering if the lines of tension correspond with Head-Heart-Gut-Groin zone theories?
A: “I have never felt as confident in the idea of physical zones for certain types of expression.” Williams says he wants to find ways of being eloquent in different areas. In terms of the idea of learning the ultimate stakes first, it would give more room to explore along the lines of those zones.

Q: How would you approach the concept of teaching physical neutrality to an actor?
A: “I think you go to another method.”

This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, ASC Academic Resources Manager

MFA Thesis Festival 2016

Welcome! From 6pm-8:30pm tonight, I, Cass Morris, shall be live-blogging the presentations given by the members of Sweet Wag Shakespeare, the 2015-2016 MBC MFA company.

ASC Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen begins with a brief introduction, then passes it off to Dr. Paul Menzer, who welcomes us all to the “annual opportunity for our students to share their work with the entire community.” Each presentation will be 10 minutes with a brief Q&A; a 10 minute recess will follow Maria Hart’s presentation.

Natalia Razak Wallace, “Your Brain So Tempered”: This Is Your Brain on the Company Model
“The ability to move an audience emotionally is theatre’s prime directive,” Wallace states, then moves on to defining the goals of the MFA company model. She states that she hoped to study the neurology of emotion, hopefully “explaining why we feel how we feel when we feel things”, then to apply that to the experience of creating and performing shows. Then she explains why that was a terrible idea for a thesis.

While the neurology of eye contact was fairly clear-cut, the neurology of emotions is poorly understood and harder to explain. Wallace also states that even if she could find a “neuro-hack” for why we feel these things, she would “both revolutionize and destroy theatre.” Instead, she hopes that her findings will speak to the company model and perhaps help those approaching this project in the future.

1) It takes many variables to create emotions, both mental and physical. Humans are born with certain emotional responses, but can only access most feelings through living. “If I have never been in love, how will I recognize it when it comes?”

2) We can manipulate these variables somewhat to manufacture some parts of the emotional experience. Wallace uses an example regarding the biological expression of laughter from the Wags’ current rehearsal process. Manufacturing the physical effect of happiness, laughing, can in some cases contribute to actually creating a feeling of happiness.

3) Positive affects are better than negative affects. Good emotions tend to generate more good emotions, and visa versa. For the Wags, this has had a positive effect, as the company members got along and were generally people more inclined to make the best of situations. Wallace also notes that more challenging experiences create a stronger group affect. Positive emotions also help people to remember experiences, even challenging ones, more positively. “To make sure, we should make something really traumatic happen to the group early in the process: Maybe a devised piece in the first month?”

4) Emotions are contagious. Wallace notes that, in the case of the Wags, this means you have a group of company members who cannot keep a straight face anytime anyone says the word “but”. (The company members proceed to prove her correct by giggling from the Lords’ Chairs).

“Is this useful for future MFA companies? I don’t know.”

Q: Are there any direct actions that can come out of this?
A: The group check-ins help to release any negative emotions, as well as making group members aware of each others’ emotional states. Wallace notes that you can check . Wallace states that the first MFA company, the Rovers, are all still very close friends, and they also used check-ins.

Q: Did having journeymen enter the group (non-MFA company members taking part in a show) change the dynamic?
A: Yes, since one of the key variables in a group affect is the composition of that group. But if a group already has a strong affect, new members are more likely to “adopt that affect” than to change it.

Q: You talked about conflict being negative group affect. Can you think of any examples where conflict ended up moving the company into positive group affect?
A: The words “positive and negative become problematic”, because you can have positive group conflict — if the people taking part are still respectful of each other.

Molly Harper, “Devise with Me”: Devising with Shakespeare
Harper begins with a parable regarding the making of broth for cooking. The devised piece is the broth which will flavor the cooking for the rest of the MFA company’s year. This challenge, which Wallace referred to, involves sticking the company members in a hot room, tossing them ingredients, roasting, then simmer and serve.

“Devising is difficult when most of the participants in the room don’t understand what devising is or how it works.” She uses her personal example of the character of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, connected to the theme of Rumor — a foil to crookbacked Richard, connected to the theme of Ambition. Wallace considers them the heart of the broth for her scene — something to “roast”, to condense and bring to the forefront. They were then redirected to move their scene to a smaller space and to make choices that were more confrontational with one another. “The scene wasn’t really working if you’re actively avoiding conflict and tension.” They found contrasting tempos of movement and overlaying the speeches, rather than taking turns, heightened the tension. “I watched audience members squeeze against walls to get away from us.”

She addresses the slow simmer: tension, both between the characters on stage and within an actor’s body. “The fight to control one’s body was the greatest take-away for myself.” Harper speaks of the challenges involved with “the constant battle to keep tension in my body” as she worked through the scene with Wallace. That tension is what creates meaningful emotional responses, and thus a more satisfying story for the audience.

“The final product was a delicious performance — which you may see again in the upcoming Sweet Festival of Wags!” The broth, she notes, ties the entire course together. The ideas, themes, and words enriched and condensed throughout the devised process ended up coloring those in the other plays in their year. Their actions began with examining Shakespeare’s text, but they then had to find ways to physicalize those concepts. “I believe that the devised show is an integral part of the S&P MFA model” because it helps to bring their studies out of the realm of the mind and more into the realm of the body, “thereby creating richer and more present performances.”

Q: To continue the metaphor, how do you avoid the adage that too many cooks spoil the broth?
A: “Hmm. That’s a good one.” Harper uses an example of, if there’s too much cayenne, you can cut it with yogurt or oregano — so if you’ve got one cook that’s too prone to cayenne, you can balance it out with cooks that like yogurt or oregano. Harper then ties it to Wallace’s ideas about a positive atmosphere.

Q: What ways have you found to continue uncovering these tensions?
A: Harper discusses that she’s focusing a lot on the tension between the upper and lower body — and the challenge created in dealing with a torn meniscus when working with that! She then discusses an exercises that Doreen Bechtol does with a pole, where two actors have to keep a literal physical connection between them.

Meredith A. Johnson, “These Indeed Seam, for They Are Actions That a Man Might Play”: A Humorous Thesis on Costume Design and Character Embodiment in Hamlet
Johnson begins by discussing the connection between early modern humourism and modern psychology and “how the physical manifestation of bodily humours in costume pieces” interacts with character choices and performance. The presentation will focus on Claudius, played by Patrick Harris, and Hamlet, played by Ian Charles.

(This live-blogger notes that there are a number of delightful sewing-related puns that she is not typing quite fast enough to catch)

Johnson provided the cast with single-page humour-based character profiles during their first read-through, meant to be examined alongside the script, in the hope that references and connections might be easily visible. She translated the concepts into costume pieces, relying largely on humoural colors and fabric weights.

During the costume parade, she discovered that “my humoural concept should not visually compete” with the show’s overall minimialistic, high-tech concept. So, she revisited her designs, re-imagining in how the humours might manifest in the costumes. “There is a fine line between serving the process and serving the product, and in that liminal space, I found a fine lining.” Literally — in the lining of the garments.

Johnson, with the aid of Charles and Harris, shows these to the audience, noting how the colors both tie the characters to each other and reflect their humoural balances — or imbalances. The actors then had the choice to find out where they could reveal those inner linings during the natural course of the show.

Harris speaks about how this helped him to think about Claudius’s tension and stress, particularly because: “my choler was located in my collar.” During the play, he first fidgets around his throat, then exposes the choler within the collar. Charles speaks to “playing with opening a button, but letting it be a subconscious thing” inspired by an emotion.

Johnson believes this gave the actors an intriguing new concept to work with, “without interfering with or muddying the aesthetic of the production.” Charles speaks to the consideration that actors then can carry over to other performances: what is the character hiding?

(Ralph: So are there any questions you’d like to be unraveled, any points to tie up?)
Q: How did you avoid stereotyping?
A: It was more about the fluctuation of the humours — which came from working with the actors, to see where they felt the most choleric. Johnson speaks to it being a state of flux, something to activate or de-activate.

Q: You talked about how this created better communication with the audience. Any insight on how that was still readable to the high school audiences?
A: “I actually intended to do the opposite — I think it enriched the performances and made the storytelling more clear.” Johnson notes that that terminology was never introduced to the audience; it was all visual.

Q: In a play where Hamlet literally wears the color of his humour on his sleeve, did you ever think about the fact that the other characters have a surface humour and then the inner humour?
A: Oh, absolutely.

Q: So how would you dress Claudius externally?
A: Phlegmatic, which it is — calmer, more pulled together.

Q: Did you choose colors linked to the humour historically or that would evoke that humour emotionally in the audience?
A: Historically.

Merlyn Q. Sell, Suit the Word to the Actor
Sell begins by stating that for adaptation to function as adaptation, it requires some participation from the audience, that they be able to conceive the similarities and differences from the original text. Actors will shape how the audience experiences those text. For this presentation, she will focus on the function of direct Shakespeare quotations in the staged reading of her One Woman Town.

Quotations can work in two ways: the first is simplest, where characters are performing Shakespeare. The second function, in Shakespeare as well as in One Woman Town, indicates madness. “The disjointed functions of a troubled mind” manifest as quotations, disjointed from their surroundings. The Old Man in One Woman Town utters quotations that are only tangentially related to the conversation he’s taking part in. “The response is not easily interpreted.” Sell is unsure whether or not it is important for the characters or audience to recognize the quotations; they add something of an “easter egg”, but without that awareness, the disjointed nature of his speech is still apparent.

The playwright can define meaning of the quotations via the surrounding context, but the actors also help to shape an audience’s understanding. Shakespeare as a form of ethos, a figure of memory — a character knowingly quoting Shakespeare, even if they don’t specifically reference him. This can function to align the character with Shakespeare’s authority. As example: the “wonder-tonic” salesman in One Woman Town, where Shakespeare seems to give “a celebrity endorsement”. In subtler context, it can draw a connection for the audience, who may associate the quote with a particular emotion or memory. A figure of distance — “a character may find themselves free to say what they really mean only when clothing themselves in Shakespeare’s words.” A character can speak words, as when Jane quotes Goneril, with a different intention than the Shakespeare character’s. This depends on the characters understanding that those words are a quotation. In instances where that is ambiguous, it muddies the understanding; Sell offers potential examples from One Woman Town. Sell also includes moments where the characters are unknowingly quoting, where a script quotes “to ingratiate itself” with an appreciative audience.

Sell discusses how she will revisit these quotations for the re-mounting of the staged reading in the upcoming festival, as well as for future production. For the play to survive outside the audience that will appreciate the inside jokes, “Every line must serve the story.”

Q: What constitutes “failure”, what’s the metric by which a quotation might be found wanting in the script?
A: If the only purpose it serves is to highlight the playwright and not the play itself.
Q: Which playwright?
A: “Me.”
Q: How do you judge that?
A: Sometimes it’s a grey area, and those can be left to the actors to interpret. Sometimes “I know very clearly, I’m just doing nudge-nudge, wink-wink, aren’t I clever, and those can clearly go”.

Q: Do you think in your paring down, you’ll reserve the quotations for certain characters?
A: The Old Man will keep all of his. Some characters would know Shakespeare, so it’s logical for them. Others have mangled Shakespeare, which may still have a function.

Q: You mentioned the role of the audience in adaptation. Would you perform that show for a more general audience?
A: “I would like to perform it for other audiences. As it currently stands, it requires revision to be performed that way.” Sell notes there are currently references that don’t serve the play’s actual story.

Q: Was part of the project related to your MLitt thesis about the prevalence of Shakespeare in the Wild West?
A: It’s definitely where it generated from.

Q: Where the character has mangled the Shakespeare, do you think that’s the character hiding behind it, or discovering it, or remembering it from seeing a Shakespeare show go through town? What did you mean by that?
A: Sell thinks the specifics of some of that could be left to the actor.

Aubrey Whitlock, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Butts: Puppeting As You Like It
Whitlock begins by discussing the nature of a small-scale production, which may require one actor to play multiple characters on stage at the same time. Some previous companies have used either costumes or audible signifiers to indicate the change between characters. Whitlock references Jeffrey Chips’s thesis, which discussed change of costumes as a kind of puppetry; Sweet Wags took this a step farther, casting only three actors to play all the parts in As You Like It and using literal puppetry in the show.

Whitlock identifies three phases of working with the puppetry: Phase One: Delineating the puppet hierarchy; Phase Two: Working w/ signifiers and body parts; Phase Three: Rehearsal, mishaps, and re-evaluation. Choosing body part puppets was not only practical, but tied to the “hipster aesthetic” embraced by the production.

The hierarchy allowed the cast to answer two questions: who claims the actor’s body, and who gets the pieces? (“That’s really gross”). Sell, from the sidelines, shares her instructions to her actors. Whitlock notes that dominance was generally determined by the size of the role and importance in storytelling. Some characters would always need to inhabit the actor’s body (Orlando, Rosalind, Celia); others would only ever be a part. Based on that, they workshopped where, how, and when the other characters could appear. They had to explore how much expression they could . Angular parts of the body provided natural ridges that could approximate nose-like structures; softer parts were more difficult to anthropomorphize “but also far more hilarious”.

Her own hierarchy broke down thusly: Orlando and Dennis, full body; Duke Senior, half of the body; Touchstone, a clown’s nose and mustache Phoebe, on the thigh; Audrey, the bum; the Forest Lord: on one hand. Whitlock proceeds to done all of these costumes before resuming her thesis.

Through rehearsal, they found it impossible to embody more than two characters simultaneously, as they lost mobility. Eventually, the cast realized that the technical skill necessary was “far beyond what we could master in six weeks”. In re-evaluation, they dropped the concept of puppetting secondary characters and returned to other methods, such as stepping between characters. Only one did survive: Adam, which Adrienne Johnson demonstrates. He was always a fully-puppetted character, never one that she had to switch between fully embodying and puppetting.

The exploration of puppetting, however, still helped the actors to inform their physical choices when they moved to fully embodying those characters. Whitlock discusses examples from her own performance: such as Audrey, previously the butt, who turned into someone whose butt was always the first part of her to enter the scene.

She ends with this advice: “Don’t try to totally re-invent the wheel. BUT – do seek for new and interesting ways to approach the small-scale challenge.”

Q: Discuss more of the process of how the puppets continued to haunt your physical process.
A: Uniformity of posture became particularly important. Silvius, who had been a thigh-and-knee puppet, became a knock-kneed character. Charles the wrestler went from just being a bicep to having a bicep-centric signature gesture.

Q: If you had enough puppetry experience, would that be a lucrative experience?
A: “It would certainly be fun trying.” Whitlock notes that more time and specific training would have made that easier. “I don’t know how to make my butt expressive and articulated from the upper half of my body.”

Q: How much merit in the idea of puppetting empty spaces?
A: When it’s clear, it’s effective, but not what we chose to do.

Patrick Aaron Harris, Look at This F*cking Thesis: Modern Counterculture in Sweet Wag Shakespeare’s As You Like It
Harris begins with a disclaimer that this thesis includes strong language and internet memes; viewer discretion is advised.

His thesis examines how early modern “deviant counterculture” might manifest in Shakespeare’s plays and how to engage modern audiences with historically deviant social identities — specifically here, the hipster counterculture. So why is it called “Look at This F*cking Thesis”? Harris invites us to travel back to 2003, when counterculture was presumed dead — and then the hipster revival came, leading eventually to the 2010 creation of the website “Look at this f*cking hipster”, a visual critique designed to mock and expose hipsters. This, Harris believes, demonstrates that “hipsters, to this day, occupy a very precarious cultural position in our society.” On the one hand, they tend to be forward-thinking trend-setters, particularly in economic and environmental concerns. On the other hand, they are often accused of misappropriating cultural identities and of turning important movements into fads, placing the need to be cool above everything else. Harris quotes his mother when she was admonished for not shopping at Whole Foods: “Get off your locally-sourced, recycled-from-the-old-world-forest soapbox.” They are also accused of contributing to gentrification.

“But Patrick, what do hipsters have to do with Shakespeare?” Theatre, Harris states, of any time period, is a vehicle for culture and counterculture. During the early modern period, “many regarded public theatres with suspicion and abject hatred”. He speaks specifically of the performance of Richard II that became involved with the Essex Rebellion. Harris then turns to consideration of As You Like It, quoting director Merlyn Sell’s supposition that as the actors inhabited both male and female parts, the audience would have to question and interpret issues of gender, and that this also fit with the often gender-fluid hipster aesthetic. Harris then shares pictures of the characters in their performance of As You Like It, specifically focusing on Rosalind and Celia’s transition from the court to the forest: “Their choice to dress below their socio-economic status, despite escaping to the forest with a bounty of gold and jewels,” is emblematic of the hipster aesthetic.

Harris closes by stating that he hopes this peek into their concept will encourage us all to think about the relationship between theatre, culture, counterculture, and how we embody those things.

(Matt Davies: I feel so uncool up here)
Q: What is the official culture that hipsters are being counter-culture to if hipsterism is on the rise in culture?
A: “I devoted about 60% of my thesis to explaining that.” Harris draws the line at what is supported by social and government institutions and what contraverts that. There is a grey area. “Hipsterism seems to only be preoccupied with not being mainstream.”

Q: When Rosalind and Celia buy the farm in Arden, that is literal gentrification. Can you talk about that?
A: “For hours.” Harris notes that this changes the economy of the forest, as they pay for land that they’re not going to work, creating a complicated socio-economic relationship.

Maria Hart, Character Gesture in War of the Roses: Using Movement in the Small Scale Touring Model
Hart begins with a disclaimer regarding the title: the lecture is more about the framework for her work than specifically on War of the Roses. She then confesses to a pedagogical pitfall: that she tends to default to teaching the way she was taught; instead, reflective thinking regarding the development of a skill set is more productive, and she wants to apply that to the development of the small scale touring model. She notes that institutional memory allows her to ask three questions: Where did we come from, where have we been, and where are we going?

Since 2010, the program has been involved in an ongoing discussion about “extreme casting”, stemming from Jeffrey Chips’s thesis and the arrival of Matt Davies to the faculty, coming from an extreme doubling company. Though not a new technique nor new to the program, 2010 was pivotal to the role of extreme casting within the program, as it then became a staple of the MFA model. The change in terminology to “small scale” allows for more flexibility in interpretation.

Hart worked with Chips during her first semester at Mary Baldwin and connected it to other productions she had experienced at El Paso Kids and Company. Her awareness better prepared her to take on 10 roles in Katy Mulvaney’s Henry IV x 4. Hart notes that the program’s continued work on these shows is creating a set of alternate rules and methods. Nothing in the scaffolding of program skills directly prepares the MFA company for putting together the small scale performance; rather, they learn both by observation of previous years’ shows and through the trial and error of their own in rehearsal.

The actors must operate within a distinct set of rules in order for the storytelling to remain clear to the audience. Hart then delineates the variant rule sets used by the Sweet Wags’s As You Like It and War of the Roses. While the methods were different, both involved intense physicality. Hart describes the process as one of developing a “physical score” that went along with the verbal script. “The genre also requires an intense sense of ensemble” because the actors are so reliant upon each other for the various components of that physical score. Hart also describes the importance of precise motion, physical virtuosity, and mitigated ego.

Her future work will focus on the transitions, physical tension, stage business, character gesture, and vocal points in War of the Roses. She hopes to then describe a set of solutions for shifting from character to character.

Q: The small scale touring show has generated the most institutional memory; why do you think it might be that this show has generated that body?
A: Hart believes that relates to the ability to define it. Other shows are based more upon a traditional model given to them — the Ren style show derives from the ASC’s Renaissance season, the educational show derives from the ASCTC shows, but the small scale is out of those pre-defined molds.

Q: Interested in the idea that each actor is a storyteller, expand further?
A: Hart views this as a sort of reincarnation of the idea of the Greek chorus.

Q: How small can small go whilst retaining the ensemble?
A: That’s a hard definition. “We know that Kate Norris can do a one-woman show, so is she an ensemble within herself?” Hart discusses the importance of having an outside eye as director even in a one-person show.

(And now, a ten-minute interval)

As we resume, Garrett opens by getting everyone to sing “Happy birthday” to Matt Davies.

Marshall B Garrett, Revisionist History (Plays)
Garrett begins by referencing Hall’s condensation of the 3 Henry VIes and Richard III into one show, wherein Hall begs forgiveness for the heresy of cutting and changing Shakespeare’s words. “We can perhaps forgive the founder of the RSC for having a flair for the dramatic… and the passive voice.” Garrett notes that companies have been adapting Henry VI for centuries, though everyone seems mortified by their own temerity in doing so. Garrett and Harris created their own adaptation, and Garrett argues that this is the same sort of re-imagining that Shakespeare himself did, as evidenced by the variant quarto and Folio texts of these plays.

To convince us of the merit of the quarto texts, Garrett draws our attention to a handout provided to attendees (and which he will perhaps be good enough to provide a digital copy of to this live-blogger for inclusion here). The two versions prepare the audience for the next play in different ways: either preparing for the death of Rutland or for the mirroring of fathers and sons.
(ETA: Garrett.ThesisFestHandout1; Garrett.ThesisFestivalHandout2)

Garrett then turns to considering the quarto’s use of “pull” versus the Folio’s “pluck”. Though using the quarto as a base text, they determined to transpose in the Folio’s “pluck”, as it seemed a distinct revision. “Pull” is a less distinct word, and interesting for examination largely in those places where it changes to “pluck” in the Folio. Their choices “highlighted action over lament”, and, for an audience that has seen the Temple Garden scene, “pluck” has a stronger connotation later on than “pull” does.

Q: Difference between “deliberately unstable” and “deliberately revised”?
A: “I’m not really using them distinctly; that was sloppiness on my part”. He does note that there may be something to examine in the actors available in the different companies that Shakespeare was working with at various points in his career.

Q: Did you find that having worked on the cutting, things that happened in the show that would have changed your cutting?
A: They did make a couple of cuts pretty late in the process. “One thing I would have done” related to the choice to highlight the feuding rather than the familial, where he would have made the pluck/pull substitution throughout.

Jess Hamlet, “Kicks Her and Exit”: Staging Violence in The City Nightcap
Hamlet begins by describing the high volume of “kicks” in The City Nightcap, noting that this presentation will focus on the first two kicks in the play and their relation to early modern ideas of gender roles. The first, “Kicks her and exit, she weeps” may at first seem quite specific, but leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The kicked character, Abstemia, also receives a second kick from Lorenzo at the end of Act One (“kicks her, she swoons”). Hamlet argues that, in a tragicomedy, these kicks contribute to the tragic nature of the play and should be interpreted as such by performers and audience.

She also notes the importance of distinguishing whether these kicks are the same or different. She finds opportunity in the kick being the same, despite Abstemia’s escalated reaction to the second: “he considers her to be a possession, a piece of chattel.” Abstemia’s variant reaction may come from heightened emotional pain in the second instance. Hamlet notes that if her reaction comes from physical pain rather than emotional pain, a production may choose to make the second kick more violent. Patrick Harris and Maria Hart then demonstrate the Wags’s staging of the stage direction. This could be textually supported, as a character then accuses Lorenzo of being “too violent”.

Hamlet then discusses Jacobean notions of appropriate conduct in marriage. Violence against husbands was treason, but wives were subject to “appropriate correction” and were thought to be improved by suffering, encouraged to suffer in silence in the promise of spiritual reward. Though Abstemia does not verbally object, Hamlet argues that Davenport makes her passively eloquent.

Hamlet also points out that the people in this play “kick downward”, sending a message of inferiority and disgust to those being kicked. “In choosing to kick rather than slap or hit, the men are telegraphing” that their victims deserve nothing better than that part of the body most in contact with dirt, mud, and shit. Hamlet suggests that stage directions could be better examined for character clues, and those who do so “may be surprised to find new avenues into the play’s meat.”

Q: How often is the kick that of a higher person to a lower person?
A: Hamlet looked only at the kicks in this play, not at the 40ish in the rest of the canon of early modern drama.

Q: Follow-up: How many of those kicks are against women?
A: “That’s the next step.”

Q: Does the theatrical space (such as lights-on in the Playhouse) affect the audience’s experience of these kicks?
A: Hamlet is interested in how spectator relationships affect the experience; ie, if one audience member sees another being uncomfortable, does that change how the first audience member feels? She thinks this may be different in a larger space such as the Globe, as opposed to the intimacy in the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Q: How do you think the location of where the kick is received on the body may change the perception?
A: Abstemia is already down, both physically and in the marriage, “so that… sends a message. And not one I agree with!”

Q: So how does that relate to other kicks, where they are standing?
A: “Well, in the Turk kick, because he’s a man, he automatically gets more equality even though he is socially inferior. The gender gives him agency.”

Q: Relating to the idea that, when you take a dead body off-stage, if it’s the hand last, it’s tragic, if it’s the feet last, it’s comedic, that the foot is a comedic body part. Is there a connection there?
A: “I would point you to YouTube and groin kicks.” Hamlet thinks less so in The City Nightcap, that only one kick might border on comedy and it comes so quickly on a non-comic kick that it’s hard to separate the two.

Ian A. Charles, The Ur-Melody: Awakening Character and Place in Sweet Wag Shakespeare’s Cymbeline
Charles discusses his role in creating music for Cymbeline: sound designer, music director, and composer. Drawing from his background in musical theatre, he looks at the idea of melody-as-theme, but notes that he must consider what music in theatre is meant to accomplish: to cue transitions, establish patterns, underscore particular moments. Music can thus shape character and place in performance. He then discusses the leit motif, a repeating pattern that gains meaning through association with characters and moments. He uses West Side Story as an example. “I’m drawn to the idea that a central theme” can illuminate something “genetic to the play”.

His argument for this thesis is that they can accomplish something similar in Cymbeline, giving the music “an almost rhetorical power”, using leit motifs as signifiers. How, then, does a composer begin? The temptation is to go to the romantic themes of Cymbeline and Postumus, but Charles suggests that there is more of a heartbeat in redemption and reconciliation. He also notes that many characters could only get away with the things that they do in a romance. Charles then ties this concept to ideas of music itself having the power to be redemptive and soul-lifting.

Charles then shares some of his compositions thus far: the initial music “must be unresolved, maybe even discordant” thanks to the unsettled state of things at the start of the play. He demonstrates a few variants that different characters might have to illustrate how they subvert, twist, or change the main theme. Charles discusses how these might relate to the textual instances of music in Cymbeline as opportunities to inject the redemptive leit motif in different ways, possibly with “something as simple as tempo”.

Music can also usher in a new location. Charles gives examples for royal Britain, rural Wales, and Rome. Jupiter’s intervention might also provide changes and even resolution to the theme. Charles notes that what we’ve heard today is still a work-in-progress and liable to change as they continue through rehearsals. He hopes that this redemptive “ur-melody” will help them find other motifs to illuminate the characters and story.

Q: Is there a period aesthetic that’s pairing with the redemptive theme that’s in line with the concept of the play?
A: Charles shares what he’s considered, though he hasn’t landed on anything. He’s explored Celtic music, much of which he found very upbeat and flexible, but he realized that he has to be able to “let go of Celtic persay, if I want it to be able to be something otherworldly”.

Q: Have you explored the ways in which the story can be told differently by playing the same leit motif on different instruments?
A: Charles notes that they are playing with the instruments and vocals in rehearsals. He wants to capitalize on the vocal strengths of the company.

Q: A question about the specific moment where the brothers question whether they should sing because their voices are breaking.
A: “I’m really excited to get to that scene” particularly since both actors “are stellar singers”.

Adrienne Johnson, Imogen as Britain: Foreign Threat in Cymbeline
Johnson opens by stating that the princess Imogen is a vehicle for the themes of sexual conquest, love, and family bonds, moving through the plot in different roles. Her identity is defined by the men who desire and seek to control her. “All of these men, whether violently or tenderly, seek to desire Imogen at some point in the play.” Johnson notes that the possessive language seeks to objectify Imogen, but suggests that Imogen also illustrates the threats to Britain’s court. Her identity and the various claims on it are then a metaphor for the vulnerability of the British crown. Johnson positions this in relation to the masculine narration of the British myth.

Johnson gives examples of Shakespeare’s use of feminized language in reference to the British body politic, where England is often described as a bloody, bruised, broken woman, ravaged by various wars and strife. In Cymbeline, the men involved consistently fail at protecting and defending the female body they seek to control and which they descriptively place value upon. Johnson notes the vocabulary used to refer to Imogen of “that of exchange”, where the audience is continually reminded that she is property. Imogen later relates her own worth to that of the land she will someday own.

Johnson further suggests that both Imogen and the Queen provide foils to the idea of masculine nationality, at opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Imogen reinforces the patriarchy through her consent to the domestic role. Johnson states that her full thesis looks at the parallel stories of Imogen’s changing roles through the play and the views of Cymbeline’s court and, thus, British power. Without Imogen’s feminine participation, the masculine influences cannot establish themselves as dominant in the narrative of Britain. Her example of forgiveness motivates others, and her acceptance of her deposition allows the masculine nationality, in the person of her brother, to take over.

Q: Curious how this might impact her work on playing Imogen?
A: Since the play is still in production, she has been observing other actors’ work more than directly discussing it with her fellow actors. She’s interested in finding the moments of “value” and making sure they stand out.

Q: Any thoughts about other plays that relate to the Matter of Britain, such as King Lear?
A: Not yet!

Q: How did you arrive at this metaphor of Imogen as Britain?
A: Johnson had been reading an article about the origins of feminine power and when and how it shifted, then defined it further in discussion with Doreen Bechtol.

–This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer/Fall 15 Playhouse Insider: Now on Sale!

I’m pleased to announce that the Summer/Fall 2015 issue of the Playhouse Insider is now on-sale in the Box Office! Here’s a sneak peek at what’s inside:SF15Cover

Artists:

I’m delighted to have an article from Kate Powers, the last person to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the ASC, back in 2011. While Midsummer is always a crowd favorite, Powers initially felt some hesitance to tackle the project – but rehearsing the show helped her find the same love we at the ASC hope you’ll feel for this year’s production.

In Matt Davies’s piece, you’ll hear from an ex-Antony in his own words. Davies played the role for the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, under the direction of our very own Ralph Cohen. While Cleopatra often receives more attention as a famously challenging role, Antony comes with his own set of expectations and imaginings, and Davies will lead you through his exploration of them.

Finally, as our current tour prepares to embark on the first phase of their journey in September, I thought you would enjoy a look at what life on the road is like – and what it means to come home to the Playhouse. Patrick Poole and Lexi Braverman of last year’s Method in Madness tour share their experiences in an interview with Education Artist Lia Razak Wallace.

Scholars

Our first scholarly article illustrates that, at the Blackfriars Playhouse, research and practice are always deeply intertwined. Amy Grubbs shares her observances from working on The Winter’s Tale as a member of Mary Baldwin College’s 2014-2015 MFA Company, Turning Glass Shakespeare.

I’m tremendously excited to offer an article from Michael Poston, a friend from the Folger Shakespeare Library. As technology continues to advance, editors across the world are engaging with new ways to present Shakespeare’s texts. Poston uses some examples from 1 Henry VI to illustrate the challenges of tagging a Shakespeare play for digital mark-up, and the result is a fascinating look at the underpinnings of early modern texts in the modern age.

With the 8th Blackfriars Conference coming up in October, we decided to showcase some thoughts based on a paper from a previous conference. Matt Kozusko’s article on humor in Hamlet is precisely the blend of sharp, amusing, and insight that we prize in the presentations at each biennial gathering, the topic Matt chose also offers a great transition from our Spring to Summer season..

Audience

We’ve just wrapped the 2015 No Kidding Shakespeare Camp, and in 2016, we’ll be taking the team abroad again. Find out what traveling to London to study Shakespeare is like from 2013 camper Lia Janosz – and learn why she considers Dr. Ralph the Indiana Jones of early modern theatre.

Finally, teacher Katrien Vance shares her experience – and those enjoyed by her students – in bringing ASC Education to her school for an exploration of Macbeth and Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions. From special effects to the nuances of rhetoric, her class dove into the work with great enthusiasm – and the pictures from their stage blood workshop are not to be missed!

If you’re interested in contributing to a future issue, please send me an email with your proposal: cass@americanshakespearecenter.com.

–Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

MLitt Thesis Festival 2015: Session 3

Good evening, Sarah Enloe here, taking over for Cass for the final session of the 2015 Thesis Festival. So far, the scholarship and presentations have been excellent. Looking forward to the final five. A little description of the room for those who have not attended a festival before: Down stage right, the MBC seal graces a podium made of stained oak, an extension cord runs from the discovery space to the “media cart upstage left–indicating readiness for tech support for any upcoming presentation. The house features the student body of the three class years of the MBC program, their faculty, and loved ones (as well as ASC education staff). Paul Menzer walks to the front to introduce the session: “Like an episode of COPS: Starts with nudity, ends with cursing,”

Adrienne Johnson “Leave Them ‘Naked as the Vulgar Air’: A Study of the Effects of Nudity in Performance.”

Actor: Josh Williams

In a break from the previous presentations, students occupy the gallant stools stage right and left. The full paper covers the history of censorship in early modern England and concludes with the ending of the position of the Master of Revels in the 1960s, which saw the advent of nudity onstage. The nudity was not limited to London, but expanded to NYC, as well. Appreciation of the human form its most vulnerable state. Nudity can connect the actor and character. When Ms Johnson started to study this, she encountered many who wanted to share their personal experience of seeing nudity onstage, professors, actors, and audiences. The list of actors and theatres who employ the practice is long. But why bother? Why has the London stage become a “wang-addicted world”? The presentation of the actor body as a focal point directly effect the audience experience. The tradition of pageantry By showing the naked body, the production can show that the actors are more than just icons: they are human.

There is no evidence of nudity on the early modern stage. The early modern theatre practitioners were concerned with nudity, though they did not show it. The censors never legally prohibited nudity, but it was not accepted. Could Shakespeare have had nude actors on stage? “I like to think so.” In the early modern period, the Privy Council was continually called on to censor action on the stage, while the Master of Revels was in charge of censoring the text. THe establishment’s need to control content created the Patronage system, in 1572, the Privy Councils’ vagabond act created the profession of actor. The privy council’s rulings in the restoration (after 1672 Drury Lane patent) focussed less on offensive language (even considering witty language necessary). In this period,the appearance of women on stage led some to comment on the states of undress among one particular actor–Nell Gwyn–which could have been merely a pants role or could have been light, revealing clothing. The examples of ROMEO AND JULIET and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA provide scenes that were ripe for thoughts about nakedness. Iago in OTHELLO, tempts his superior to think about the lewdness of nakedness, while in KING LEAR nudity plays a role for Poor Tom. Similarly, in TIMON OF ATHENS, nudity is a driving force in Timon’s exit from Athens.

In the scene presentation, Josh WIlliams plays a scene that suggests a choice for a production, the first time through, Josh removes his suit jacket and throws it against the wall. Ms. Johnson points out that the lines indicate that. the character wants to leave Athens his clothes, this time Josh removed his clothes gradually throughout until he is left nude at the end of the speech. Ms Johnson calls the actor back to stage so that he can participate in a discussion with the audience. After asking the audience to express their feelings, Ms Johnson is, at first, met with silence, then:

–I expected to giggle but became engrossed

–I was waiting for him to get naked

–Where in the text did you find to justify each removal? (Josh explicates that he chose shoe removal on the word cripple because he saw it as related to walking)
Q: Women’s nudity?
–More prominent
Q: Differences between stripping between and immediate clothing
–Ms Johnson wanted the suit
Q: Does pre-warning in marketing have an effect
–only one that she has looked at gives pre-warning. (One did warn about poop.) The Vollage in the 60s ran kind of nudity and theatre
Q: In the last 10 years there has been more male nudity than female, have you noticed a trend?
–not specifically

Jordan Zwick “Cardenio: A Case Study in Textual Reconstruction.”
Actors: Josh Williams, Zac Harned, Mark Pajor
This presentation will not be nearly as naked. Who here has read or seen Double Falsehood? Who here thinks it could use a little work. Greg Doran started a 12 year journey that culminated in a 2011 production. This production will use the Cardenio names, and will focus on one relationship and the actors learnings from them. The play exceeded expectations for a reconstructed text. Through interviews with cast members and the record in Doran’s book, Ms. Zwick pieced together a picture of the rehearsal room. When rehearsals began it was “complete” but Doran had a hard time seeing Stanley Well’s claim that Shakespeare’s hand was in it. Nevertheless, the room was one that welcomed editing and addition. As actors dug in, they found holes in the script, particularly in the Cardenio/Fernando relationship. In DOUBLE FALSEHOOD, the two characters do not meet until late in the text, despite textual evidence of a deep friendship before Fernando dishonors Cardenio by usurping his love, Lucinda. (actors illuminate the relationship with readings from the text). During rehearsals for the early scene in which Fernando and Cardenio discuss the loss of Lucinda, the actors decided it was falling flat and they concluded the need for a scene (one absent from both Theobald and Cervantes), Doran created one in which he tried not to sound like “early modern pastiche.” The framework he created by consulting other early modern plays was fleshed out during rehearsals. With the actors’ help, Doran was able to create a dynamic piece of theatre and gave the process and the actors credit on his title page.

Q&A
Q: In some ways a much darker TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA?
A: Closer to TWO NOBLE KINSMEN, but Doran poached from everywhere
Q: What Genre? and How much blood?
A: Romance, keeping honor in the production was important to the Spanish dramaturg kept the aim on that.
Q: Familiar with Chuck Mee/Greenblatt? Know of any process overlap?
A: Biggest difference would be the length of time, some cast members from 2003 staged reading were with it til 2011.
Q: Gary Taylor’s CARDENIO?
A: Biggest difference (wasn’t able to consult with all of the versions) is that Gary Taylor stuck with the text
Q: Spectrum between careful reconstruction to adaptations:
A: Gary Taylor, Doran, Mee
Q: Why?
A: Appeals to me as a scholar and an artist, because I appreciate the idea of the actor being a text consultant. Across the board the actors said it was most gratifying and they were proud of the production.

Aubrey Whitlock “Shakespeare of the Oppressed”

Actors: Merlyn Q. Sell, Molly Seremet
Begins with a parody of “This too too solid flesh…” You are about to witness a a transculturation (transcend a foreign tradition and create something new from a indigenous tradition). Today the presentation will be playing with Boal’s methods to question thesis presentations. Next vignette: “Speak not the speech”, an oath to trust the text. A scene by the actors debating text and playing it. One folio nut chases the other less adherent off.  Next scene: Political theatre in the form of an infomercial.  “The joker system” will allow you to take your political theatre explorations to the next level, Aubrey explains the joker is a wild card who can interact with the audience or play any character in the play. Boal argued that it could be used in any play. What do you get when you order” this system? All actors can play all characters and comes with a set of instructions:

–The protagonist can only be played by one actor and must be naturalistic and maintains the reality. The character for whom the audience feels the most empathy

–The Joker is the opposite of the protagonist, he can explain anything, speak for the playwright, and company

— chorus, and music.

Actors ask: What if the theatre company is small?

–Can still work

–Each scene can have its own style, linked by commentaries by the joker, episodes end with an exclamation, also can feature the inside story of a character and an exaltation, Boal says it can be adjusted for any need.

Next scene introduced by a poem delivered by Ms. Whitlock.

–narration summarizing Hamlet (DANES OF OUR LIVES)

–Gravedigger scene, Hamlet is accused of breaking the fourth wall, and asked what he knows about Shakespeare of the Oppressed in a good cop/bad cop routine. When asked she says she’d like to apply the Theatre of the Oppressed to Shakespeare and argues for the play to be HAMLET because Boal was “obsessed” with it. It is riddled with the meta awareness in the joker system. THe actor playing the inspector asks: Who is the presenter right now? Hamlet, the joker, Aubrey? All three.

This is an example of the melding of the indigenous to transculturation and surpassed all three forms–Boal, HAMLET, and thesis presentation. This is not acculturation, every transculturation adjusts to the needs of its audience. It belongs among the theatre world and education.

Go, make you ready.

Q&A:

Q: In applying Boal to HAMLET, you are designating roles to different characters.

A: Primary question that drove presenter to HAMLET, see it in performance would answer could involve altering text, costume designation, Hamlet seems most joker like when he speaks prose.

Q: How much can be applied to devised theatre more generally, in terms of the MFA year, will it reach beyond?

A: I do, Boal says it can be applied to any play, and you don’t have to follow all of it and his system (games, etc) can be applied broadly.

Q: Besides protagonist and joker, how are other characters designated–one protagonist? one joker? more of both?

A: Yes, any of that is possible. In the strictest, one actor playing protagonist and any actor can play any other character with the assistance of a physical mask. It is malleable, and I continue to look at it.

Q: Hoping to create a new genre of Shakespeare and the Oppressed, what is the difference between the Theatre of the Oppressed doing HAMLET and Shakespeare of the Oppressed?

A: not a new genre, but more about the transculturation (the indigenous and transculturation)

Q: Would the play follow the same text each night?

A: Up to the audience. Part of what the joker does is bringing in both questions and guidance from the audience.


Danielle Guy “Performing Bedlam: The Performance of Madness in Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi

Actors: Megan Clauhs and Ian Charles

Actors perform a scene from Slings and Arrows re: playing madness. Guidance from Stanislavsky, Mizener, Adler indicate that the Method may not have much to offer the person who needs to play insanity. And particularly not early modern insanity. In the 16th and 17th c, a doctor Napier made case studies of madness and even explained how one might play madness. He separated into temporary and long term disjointed mental states. Giving an actor Napier’s records may assist them in the presentation of madness. With readings from the Napier studies, the actor plays a scene two times, showing the difference the information can make. The steps are: character profiling, diagnosing, actor application.

The malady noted in The Duchess of Malfi, that of werewolfism, is not described in Napier’s notes. But, as it is a madness of physical change and predatory state, revealed by the transformation into his beastly state throughout the play. Presenter suggests that the actor consider the malady described as melancholy because its description well fits the character descriptions in the text, and that they play it throughout the play. Because the descriptions are helpful. Using this method helps tear down the bars of bedlam and gives access to sound comprehension and solidarity.

Q: Were the milch bats part of the raving, or were they milking bats?

A: Yep, it happened.

Q: In depth diagnosis, is there a theatre that could have done this? Contacted Farah Karim-Cooper? Interesting to find out, use that connection.

A: Yes, that would be awesome.

Q: Ethics of playing madness?

A: Need to know the rules before you break them. Maybe in tablework.

Q: Since any play performed today by actors will be for an audience with modern understandings, recommend modern techniques as well?

A: I believe that the audience will go along, this is more for the actor.

Q: Richard Napier is wrong about everything, using his diagnosis might be insensitive?

A: In the world of the play, it should be a consideration for understanding the social roles?

Q: What is the external expression of this?

A: The chart features some physical descriptions and are linked in my thesis, connections to the humors but didn’t have time.

Q: You referenced some characters that are not mad but performing mad, wonder if there is a different methodology or symptomatology. It sounds like your concern is that playing mad will make the actor mad, and that sounds like antitheatricalism discourse. Might want to think about the conversation to be had between those two.

Molly Harper “Stick it in your Et Cetera

Actors: Zac Harned, Ryan Odenbrett

Thanks everyone for staying through to the last one. If you are offended by dirty words, you may want to leave. Flashes O’Keefe images on screen, to begin discussion of euphemisms for “vagina” and lists some including “et cetera”, Scenes from Henry V, 12th Night, Hamlet.

Laurie Maguire’s work on the term “et cetera” discusses its substituting for a woman’s vagina.  A completely spelled out word, in the noun position. In the verb position it refers to defecating. This research agrees with Maguire and asked: What could have happened between the early modern page and stage. Shakespeare uses it two times, in Mercutio’s and Pistol’s lines. Editors believe that et cetera was a censoring mark, but Ms Harper’s research indicates no such thing. When talking about controlling obscenity, a pamphlet from 1579, inspired the reaction against theatrical obscenity.  Actors demonstrate differences between Q and F editions of two Falstaff’s lines indicating this change. Modern editors have been replacing Mercutio’s et cetera with arse to remove their view of “censorship” though the use of et cetera would be more in line if they understood it.

Performance choices (tried with Romeo and Mercutio scene)

Leave it in–say it

self-censoring-skip over it

Embedded stage directions-hand over mouth

Main concern of this presentation is with what happens to the text (with Pistol scene):

This section is titled: Why does the prose character get to keep his et cetera when Mercutio doesn’t?

Pistol’s line is repetitive in its use of euphemisms for the vagina.

Amusingly, different editions footnote the Pistol et cetera with references to Mercutio’s.

Editors are perpetuating the effect that verse can not support the bawdy use of et cetera in prose.  Examples of 20th century bawdy use appear in Ogden Nash and Edward Albee, so why are editors removing the use from verse and not prose? Theatre practitioners make decisions about character portrayal from the text, by not editing the text to fit an iambic pentameter line the editor limits potential.

 

Q&A:

Q: When did it die out as a euphemism?

A: The OED lists it as the 5th definition, it hasn’t actually gone out. But popular language? No idea. Great if rappers started to pick it up.

Q: Euphemism vs Vulgarity?

A: It would have been socially acceptable, because of its latinate origin, but it doesn’t actually work for Pistol because it would have been so well alone. Pie corner/Saddle of Beef=Prostitute. But it would have well known.

Q: What do you make of the double euphemism of et cetera and nothings with Pistol?

A: Trying to find a clever way of insinuating Doll is nothing, not useful, practical, etc. Because it may be diseased.

Q: Nothing tells you that it tells you that it belongs to a woman with comparison to a man?

A: It can serve as a continuance, a shortening, or (as with Nothing) the absence of something.

Q: Why can’t it be an appositive for two words? could be a definition?

A: Used the 2012 2HIV in which the et cetera becomes the final straw before he is kicked out (thrust down)

Thanks to all for a stimulating day.

–This session live-blogged by Sarah Enloe, ASC Director of Education