“And you that love the commons, follow me”: Shakespeare and the Demagogue

Salon put out an article last weekend decrying the commandeering of Shakespeare by conservative think-tankers who believe that “Shakespeare offers future CEOs and business leaders the models they need to achieve ruthless success behind the veneer of ethical behavior.” While we at the ASC certainly believe that Shakespeare offers some lessons for leaders, the subjects of the article seem to have missed the mark and learned the wrong lessons. The article’s author, Chris MacDonald, does an excellent job analyzing where Shakespeare’s plays send messages that are conservative, liberal, or a little bit of both, pointing towards the concept that it’s not so easy to put him in one box, particularly since he does such a good job showcasing the vast spectrum of human experience. It got me thinking, though, about one element in Shakespeare’s plays that is resonating particularly loudly in this election year.

If Shakespeare has any consistent political message, it seems to be this: Beware the demagogue. Beware the one who tells you only what you want to hear. Beware someone who drives you towards chaos rather than towards construction. In a political climate where success seems to depend on little more than out-shouting one’s opponents, that’s a lesson we could all benefit from revisiting.

Visitors to the Playhouse this fall will have the opportunity to see one of Shakespeare’s finest examples of populism gone horrible wrong in The Rise of Queen Margaret (Henry VI, Part 2), in the figure of Jack Cade. Though he claims he has noble heritage that entitles him to the crown, he appeals to the masses with promises that are so extravagant as to be ludicrous — but the crowd heartily cheers them:

ASCh4_283

The cast of 2010’s 2 Henry VI; photo by Tommy Thompson

CADE
There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in common… There shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score…
I charge and command that, of the city’s cost, the pissing-conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign.

This would all be laughable if not for the fact that Cade’s followers take him seriously. His promises are ludicrous, and he has no plan for their implementation — he just assumes that, once he’s in power, he can do as he likes. Unfortunately, Cade’s influence shows what can happen when this fervor spins out of control. His supporters quickly turn violent, with the famous and almost-always-removed-from-context cry to “Kill all the lawyers.” Cade’s response is alarming because it uses the sort of logical fallacy that modern politicians also employ when they hope to make something absurd, offensive, or dangerous seem rational:

CADE
That I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled o’er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings: but I say, ’tis the bee’s wax; for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.

This turn demonstrates the anti-intellectualism that also permeates much modern political discourse — the sense that, somehow, intelligence and education aren’t things we should want in our leaders. Cade and his followers express distrust of learned men, they claim that men who can read and write must be villains and that those who speak French are traitors, and they hang a clerk for confessing his literacy. From there, the violence blooms outward to encompass pretty much anyone that the crowd doesn’t like or that Cade thinks hasn’t shown him enough respect — “The proudest peer in the realm shall not wear a head on his shoulders, unless he pay me tribute” — leading to the gruesome beheadings in Act Four, scene seven.

Eventually Clifford turns the fickleness of the crowd against Cade, invoking the name of the popular hero Henry V. Realizing he’s been out-maneuvered, Cade states, “The name of Henry the Fifth hales them to an hundred mischiefs, and makes them leave me desolate.” Clifford proves ruthless, however; after promising the rebellious citizens amnesty and glory, he has them prepared to be hanged. King Henry VI pardons them, earning their loyalty — and making the audience wonder if Clifford intended that, making them all unconscious actors in a play staged to bolster support for the king. If so, it’s a psychologically cruel ploy, but an extremely effective one, and one that demonstrates the inherent danger of a populace too willing to hand over power to a speaker who flatters them and makes empty promises.

Shakespeare shows us another drama meant to manipulate the populace in Richard III, when Richard and the Duke of Buckingham stage a scene to win support for his usurpation of his nephew. Richard appears with two churchmen, feigning pious study and claiming he has no desire to the throne, whereupon Buckingham, surrounded by the Lord Mayor of London and various citizens, has to “convince” him both by praising his supposed virtues and by threatening to set someone else up in his place:

RICHARD
Alas, why would you heap these cares on me?
I am unfit for state and majesty;
I do beseech you, take it not amiss;
I cannot nor I will not yield to you.

BUCKINGHAM
If you refuse it,—as, in love and zeal,
Loath to depose the child, Your brother’s son;
As well we know your tenderness of heart
And gentle, kind, effeminate remorse,
Which we have noted in you to your kin,
And regally indeed to all estates,—
Yet whether you accept our suit or no,
Your brother’s son shall never reign our king;
But we will plant some other in the throne,
To the disgrace and downfall of your house:
And in this resolution here we leave you.—
Come, citizens: ‘zounds! I’ll entreat no more.

The Lord Mayor ends up begging Buckingham and the citizens to come back and entreat Richard once again, and he begs Richard to accept. Richard knew how to play against their expectations, gaining the crown by pretending he did not want it.
Even some of Shakespeare’s finest rhetorical speeches can be seen as examples of a leader using clever language and popular appeal to ignoble ends. Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day speech is perhaps as fine an example of persuasive wordcraft as one can find in the English language — you can see Dr. Ralph’s mark-up here — but it’s persuading men to die for a cause that (as other characters in the play point out) is not necessarily just. Mark Antony eloquently whips the Roman plebeians into a fervor in Julius Caesar, skillfully manipulating them to turn against Brutus, the man they had lauded only moments before. Both Henry and Antony feign modesty of some kind — Henry says he does not care for gold, or clothes, or “who doth feed upon my cost”, and Antony claims “I am no orator, as Brutus is” — but both are playing their own attributes down in an attempt to align themselves with the common interest.

JULIUS CAESAR rehearsal-45

Patrick Poole in rehearsal as Antony; photo by Jay McClure

Antony’s speech is more effective than Brutus’s partly because while Brutus makes an argument designed on logic (even if it’s often false logic), meant to appeal to the listener’s head, Antony goes straight for the heart. He appeals to emotions, and he receives an emotional response. He also offers the commons a more concrete reward than Brutus does, however. While Brutus says that the benefit of Caesar’s death will be the somewhat nebulous “place in the commonwealth” for every citizen, Antony pulls out Caesar’s will and promises them their inheritance — 75 drachmas to each man, as well as access to public parks, given to the populace in perpetuity. By the end of his speech, the citizens of Rome set off to burn houses and murder anyone they connect with Caesar’s death, including the hapless Cinna the Poet. Antony openly admits — to the audience, at least — that his purpose was manipulation: “Now, mischief, thou art afoot; take thou what course thou wilt.”

So, what political message can we truly consider Shakespeare’s legacy? Conservative, liberal, or moderate, Shakespeare’s message seems to be to think. Listen carefully and critically. Don’t accept what any potential leader says at face value, even or perhaps especially if they’re promising you something you want — because they want something, too.

–Cass Morris
ASC Academic Resources Manager

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords — Preview #2

This is the second installment in our series about No Kidding Shakespeare Camp 2016: Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords. March 1st was St. David’s Day, a celebration of Welshness, and so for the second installment of our Land of Lords preview series, I thought I would discuss the areas we’ll be visiting in the Welsh Marches, the territory along the border of England and Wales: Shrewsbury, Powys Castle, and Ludlow.

First up: Shrewsbury, probably the most Shakespearean-ly famous of the sites we’ll be visiting in this area, thanks to the climactic battle in 1 Henry IV, where King Henry, his sons, and his allies overcome the forces of Harry “Hotspur” Percy.

ARCHBISHOP SCROOP
To-morrow, good Sir Michael, is a day
Wherein the fortune of ten thousand men
Must bide the touch; for, sir, at Shrewsbury,
As I am truly given to understand,
The king with mighty and quick-raised power
Meets with Lord Harry: and, I fear, Sir Michael,
What with the sickness of Northumberland,
Whose power was in the first proportion,
And what with Owen Glendower’s absence thence,
Who with them was a rated sinew too
And comes not in, o’er-ruled by prophecies,
I fear the power of Percy is too weak
To wage an instant trial with the king.

Battle_of_Shrewsbury_1403_01981Shakespeare stays reasonably close to the historical story: Henry IV was actually on his way north, ostensibly to support the Percys against the Scots, when he learned of their treachery. Henry swiftly changed directly and managed to reach Shrewsbury before the Percys could capture the town. Owain Glyndwr’s forces did not arrive in time to bolster Percy’s forces, allowing the king to cross the River Severn, cutting off Percy’s line of retreat. (At right, a 1781 imaginative illustration of the Battle from Thomas Pennant’s ‘A tour in Wales’)

Percy did have aid from his uncle Worcester, including some excellent Chesire bowmen who, according to one chronicle, made the king’s men fall “like leaves in autumn”. One arrow struck Henry, Prince of Wales — Shakespeare’s Prince Hal — in the face. He recovered, but was permanently scarred.

As in Shakespeare, Walter Blount was killed by the Earl of Douglas. Hotspur was killed not by Prince Hal in single combat, however, but during the charge, apparently due to an open visor. As Shakespeare depicts at the start of 2 Henry IV, there was some initial confusion about whether Hotspur or Henry IV had died. Had it not been for Hotspur’s death, the rebel forces might have won, as the king’s forces sustained much heavier losses.

The 1403 battle isn’t Shrewsbury’s only claim to frame, however. The town has ancient roots, serving as a capital for pre-Roman Britons and as the outpost of Viroconium for the Roman legions. Anglo-Saxons took over the area and built fortified earthworks in the 9th century; the Welsh tried to take it back in 1069, but were repelled by William the Conqueror. Shrewsbury came to further prominence during the late middle ages thanks to the flourishing wool trade. Today, the town retains its largely unaltered medieval street plan and boasts over 660 historical buildings, including several examples of timber framing from the Tudor era.

Powis CastleAerial North Castles Historic Sites

From there, we’ll cross the border into Wales itself, to Powis Castle (above), seat of a dynasty of Welsh Princes. It takes its name from the ancient Kingdom of Powys, a territory covering much of current Wales and Shropshire. (We can blame the English for turning that y to an i in the name). Owain Glyndwr, Shakespeare’s Own Glendower, was descended from these princes, and it was on that basis that he rebelled against King Henry IV at the turn of the 15th century.

Glyndwr proclaimed himself Prince of Wales and began his revolt in 1400, taking territory and castles throughout Wales. In 1405, he signed the Tripartite Indenture with Edmund Mortimer and Henry Percy (Hotspur’s father), an event which Shakespeare places before the Battle of Shrewsbury. Despite this alliance and help from the French, however, the rebellion foundered after 1406.

Owain remained free, a guerilla leader, and was never seen alive after 1412. He is presumed to have died somewhere between 1415 and 1421. However, he was never captured, nor was his body ever found, and so rumors of his survival continued for many years. He has since become something of a Robin hood figure for the Welsh, a noble and legendary hero.

And really, what better legacy could we want for the man whom Shakespeare has claiming:5f1b88d89a94476481b1cf3519e5fe1c

GLENDOWER
at my birth
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
The goats ran from the mountains, and the herds
Were strangely clamorous to the frighted fields.
These signs have mark’d me extraordinary;
And all the courses of my life do show
I am not in the roll of common men.

We’ll finish the day with tea in Ludlow, a market town in Shropshire that’s about 28 miles south of Shrewsbury, nestled in the bend where the River Corve meets the River Teme. The de Lacy family, who came in with the Normans, began building Ludlow castle in the late 11th century, and the area rose to prominence during the Plantagenets’ various attempts to conquer Wales.

Like the town of York, Ludlow also featured heavily in the Wars of the Roses. The Duke of York (later executed in York) used it as a stronghold early on, but Lancastrian forces captured it in 1459 at the Battle of Ludford Bridge. When Edward IV became king, he set up the Council of Wales and the Marches at Ludlow and sent his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, to live there. The prince was there when his father died, and that is what brings Ludlow into prominence in Shakespeare. In Act Two, scene two of Richard III, Richard and the Duke of Buckingham discuss fetching the prince from that stronghold.

Ludlow_Castle_as_seen_from_the_tower_of_St.Laurence's_Church

Above, you can see the medieval town of Ludlow as it appears from St. Laurence’s, the parish church. Ludlow remained important in the Tudor period, remaining the headquarters of the Council of Wales and the administrative center for the Welsh territories. It was also where Prince Arthur, son to Henry VII, wed Catherine of Aragon.

So much for Wales! Next week: Hardwick Castle and the tale of Bess, Mary, and Elizabeth.

We do still have room in the trip, so if you enjoy beautiful venues, good company, excellent conversation, and all the history you can shake a stick at, register now!

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Plenary Session 9

Hello! It’s Mary Finch one last time to blog this Halloween morning plenary session, going from 9:00-10:15am and moderated by Terry Southerington from Mary Baldwin College.

Danielle Rosvalley, Tufts University
Before the Circus Came to town: Big Data, Barnum, and the Bard

Rosvalley began by calling to mind the classic images of circus attached to the name “Barnum.” However, Rosvalley was surprised to find that Barnum boasted of producing Shakespeare, namely The American Museum and Lecture Hall, purchased in 1861. The largest exhibit was the “Moral Lecture Room”—a theatre—which presented performances twice a day. Barnum attracted crowds that normally disdained theaters for their moral depravity.

When the museum caught fire in 1868, Barnum came under attack, specifically for the moral depravity of the Lecture Room. In a defense of his not-theater, Barnum asserted that when he performed Shakespeare he did it with the utmost care, and removed all vulgarity.

From this account, Rosvalley has since reconstructed the performances that Barnum put on at his theater. Data so far shows that only just over two percent of Barnum’s productions were penned by the Bard. Compared to other contemporary theaters, his claim seems absurd.

If Barnum was not producing Shakespeare, what was he producing? Rosvalley displayed a graph, where Shakespeare does not break the top 100 most common plays at Barnum’s Museum; at other contemporary theaters, one of Shakespeare’s plays does break the top twenty, and even top ten. By claiming the recognizable name of Shakespeare, Barnum claimed legitimacy without compromising morality.

This information about what production Barnum produced, Rosvalley is putting into a database where individuals can browse the plays and the evidence of their production. The Bear interrupted the production as Rosvalley was downloading an facsimile from the database.

Niamh O’Leary, Xavier University
The Ends of Sex: Bedroom Deaths in Jacobean Drama

O’Leary, for the sake of brevity, will be focusing on The Maid’s Tragedy looking at female agency within these bedroom death scenes. O’Leary asserts that these scenes can challenge the sexist and victimization of women in culture.

Contemporary performances can highlight women’s frustration with the sexual economy to reimagine the scene. Evadine is “a frustrating character but also a frustrated character.” She is surrounded by men—kings, mentors, and beyond—who have verbally and physically harass her sexually. In Act 3, scene 1, we see Evadine shyness might not be from the ideal of humble quiet wife but from a disgust and distaste for the male gaze. Nevertheless, Evadine is having an affair with the King. While men see it has women’s susceptibility to temptation, it might be a smart, ambitious, political move—a morally neutral move.

Most touchingly, Evadine is completely alone, surrounded by only serving women who are not confidants. By act 4, several men have threatened to kill her and she wonders at her isolation during her soliquoy. With all of this, her decision to use her body to gain control. But beyond just a body, she uses her logic, her reason, and her will to carry through her intention to kill, despite the King’s protestations.

Looking back to the mask from the second act, we can see a parallel between the events later on in the play. O’Leary was interrupted during her final remark s by the Bear.

Zoe Hudson, University of Kent
The Everyday Life of Shakespeare’s Earliest Document Reader

In Richard Stonely’s diary, on Tuesday, the 12th of the June, 1593 he recorded his purchases including Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, making him one of Shakespeare’s first readers.

Looking at the diary from an interdisciplinary approach, Hudson has analyzed Stonley’s diary as a rich source for those trying to recreate life from 16th century London. Despite the dramatic events during Stonely’s life, his diary has not received much research or attention. During his work, Stonely interacted with the powerful and the average, making this a rare glimpse into Elizabethan life.

Within his diary, we can read about family dynamics, clothing purchases, and wedding traditions. When Stonely was imprisoned, he even recounts a brawl at the prison dinner table.

The diary entries combine the emotional, political, and social curiosity that surrounds our growing interest in historically informed theater practices. These manuscripts must be research holistically, as “relatable narratives” that can reveal meaningful information about Stonely’s England.

Thomas Ward, United States Naval Academy
Shouts, Slogans, and Political Consent in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

The voicing ceremony is scene is part of the world of civic ritual that Coriolanus does not belong, but also reminiscent to parliamentary elections in Early Modern England. Coriolanus challenges this ritual and focuses on the practical force of martial law.

Accounts of EM election rituals recount the vehemence of the shouting for candidates. This “a [name]” construction was part of a war cry, making these interactions an intersection between the civic and the martial. For instance, in Henry VI part I we see soldiers call “A Talbot” in the wars as a war cry.

The overlap comes from the tradition of heraldry, which clarified social hierarchy: a main goal of elections. The danger existed that these cries might get out of control, challenging the power the elections were supposed to legitimize. Ward recounts several historical accounts of people denouncing or complaining about rioting and shouting. These cries revealed factions, and certain slogans were outlawed.

In some plays, such as Hamlet, we see crowds attempt to vote a king by shouts and riots: “Chose we Laertes shall be King!” The war cry and election shout are closely related.

Going back to Coriolanus, we see Caius cheered and shouted for after the battle as indicated by the Folio stage directions. In response, Caius asks “Make you a sword of me” again embodies the connection between war cry and election shouts.

Genevieve Love, Colorado College
The Crookbackt Prodegie

“Happy Halloween!” We might see scary things, such as bunchbackt toads. Where did these monstrous things come from? Why are they deformed and how?

Richard Gloucester reaches from a descendant uniqueness, saying “I am myself alone” even though he does have a brother. The metaphorical reading of Richard’s deformity renounces his devious acts, as well as the problems within the text. How are both the man and the text deformed?

The problems for Richard and True Tragedie reflect an issue with origins and accounts. Richard was born both too early and too late, unsettling his temporal situatedness. Not only was her mobile in time in Elizabethan England, but also in contemporary context as shown by the current modes of interpretation through the lens of disability.

The text itself also has a debated text, with varying narratives about how the text might have been “unfinished, sent before its time.” How does this text fit within the time narrative of publication?

True Tragedie contains more lines about the lack of a father, as one of the differences between the text and the Folio.

“In his likeness to his textual brother, Richard is never alone.”

Spencer K. Wall, University of Utal
Where is Leontes? Text and Stage as Sites of Jealousy

Wall presents the question about where the motivation for jealousy comes from within the text, which does not give much time or explanation for Leontes behavior. Drama has its own tricks for showing that more narrative time has passed than the stage time relates. Shakespeare uses Time to tell the audience that time has passed, but does not use such dramatic devices for Leontes’ fall into jealousy. There are no cues that more time has passed than the audience has scene.

However, there is a moment in the scene when Leontes’ appears to be absent. Although present in the scene, Leontes must ask how Hermione’s petition went. He is absent from the conversation, if not the scene, and must be staged.

One choice, could be to physically distance him from Hermione. This raises the question as to why he does not hear the conversation, and what is distracting him. MBC Shakespeare and Performance MFA actors presented the scene (Patrick Harris, Molly Harper, Maria Hart). This difference in Leontes’ attention makes him afraid of either what he saw, or what he missed.

The scene could also be staged with Leontes’ remaining near the conversation and still raises the question about why he is distracted. The choice to distance Leontes (physically and mentally) changes the character’s fall into jealousy.

 — Mary Finch
MLitt Student at MBC Shakespeare and Performance

Wake-Up Workshop: Audience Contact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Plenary Session 5″

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

Elizabeth Sharrett, Shakespeare Institute
Bed Curtains and the Second Blackfriars

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Lopez, University of Toronto
Act three, scene one

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

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

“It is the structural center of any play.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Mary Finch
MLitt Student at MBC Shakespeare and Performance

MLitt Thesis Festival 2015: Session 1

Marshall B Garrett: “‘Prosperous Art’: Rhetorical Direction of Measure for Measure
Garrett begins by introducing a page of directing tips from “John Jory” which includes an admonition “not to do the play until you can say all the words in contemporary English”. Garrett then examines the opening lines of Measure for Measure, using actors Fred Franko, Adrienne Johnson, Aubrey Whitlock, and Jordan Zwick to note the use of hendiadys, synecdoche, metaphor, and hyperbaton, wherein the Duke obscures his meaning through the use of deliberate rhetorical devices. Garrett asserts that while scholastic attention has been paid to helping actors use rhetoric to develop character, less has been done to help directors see the same clues for performance. “Since directors must be intensively aware of structure of their plays” and since rhetoric is, in essence, structure, directors must have a keen awareness of rhetoric.

Garrett moves to discussing his production of Measure for Measure, wherein actors had varying degrees of familiarity with rhetoric, preventing the use of rhetoric as shorthand during rehearsal. The rhetoric, then, had to inform his directing. Garrett points out that, in 1.2, Claudio notes that Isabella “hath prosperous art when she will play with reason”, but that Isabella has been “rhetorically uninteresting” thus far in the play. He then notes that the figures of antithesis, chiasmus, and antimetabole are the dominant rhetorical figures in the play. Actors Johnson and Zwick demonstrate the interplay between Isabella and Angelo in 2.2, with rhetorical explication provided by Franko, and directorial interrogation spurred by Garrett. Through this interrogation, “after Fred identified the forms, we weren’t really talking about rhetoric — and yet we were talking about nothing else.” The rhetoric is a gateway to character discussions.

As the actors move forward, Garrett and the actors examine how the characters build upon each others’ rhetoric. In response to the question of whether to follow the stresses indicated by scansion or by rhetoric, Garrett notes that “this is an art, not a science”. Garrett also notes the points of stress between playing the rhetoric and adhering to other, more modernly-developed, acting practices. In the next section, Whitlock points out that “the most rhetorically sophisticated line so far has been Lucio’s”. Franko points out uses of zeugma, alliteration, anaphora, and the antithetical chiasmus built between Isabella and Angelo. Garrett then has the actors continue, with Franko providing pop-up rhetorical commentary overtop of them, illustrating the rhetorical density of the scene, particularly in Isabella’s implorations. Garrett points out that Isabella moves from schemes manipulating language to tropes manipulating imagination, ultimately demonstrating her verbal superiority to Angelo. Garrett suggests that rhetoric can help find two specific options for when Angelo falls in love/lust with Isabella. Garrett concludes that while rhetoric is not a perfect map to production, it “can more firmly place the approach to the play” and the choices of the actors in the script itself.

Q&A:
Q – From a practical standpoint, not possible to spend weeks on rhetoric in rehearsal. Do you have a sense as a director of how much time should be spent on it in rehearsal?
A – Actually, none. Garrett states he thinks that’s on the director to figure out before hand, informing the directoral process rather than the rehearsal process.
Q – Can you be more specific how you communicated w/ actors unfamiliar with this terminology?
A – In terms of discussing stress patterns, bring out certain words. “Avoiding the Greek words became key” when working with actors unfamiliar with them.
Q – So the idea is that you want to bring in understanding of figures being used to help with actor choices?
A- Yes.
Q – How do you communicate to actors that an epizeuxis is happening without saying “epizeuxis”?
A – Terminology of amplifying or raising stakes.
Q – Menzer asks if it’s necessary to bring authorial intent into it.
A – No. But rhetoric is an avenue into potential choices that has not been much explored in current materials.
Q – When working w/ actors totally unfamiliar to rhetoric and to Shakespeare, are there some key Shakespeare figures that I should focus on?
A – Absolutely the antithesis. Chiasmus and figures of balance. Discusses theory that “every play has its dominant figure”, can be useful in productions w/o rhetorically trained actors.
Q – Spend any time on specific figures for each character?
A – If I found it was important. In Measure, different worlds had different things that were key.

Ian A. Charles: “Instrumental Shakespeare: Case Studies in Cross Training the Singer and Poet”
Charles opens by discussing the overlaps between “the world of musical theatre and the world of Shakespeare”, particularly with regard to the musicality of Shakespeare’s verse and the issues of breath, pitch, etc that speaking it involves. He states his intention to look at the spoken vs sung words in musical theatre as compared to prose vs verse in Shakespeare. Charles hopes “to cultivate a language of actor training” that incorporates both. Charles questions American theatre’s tradition of divorcing Shakespeare training so far from musical theatre training, when he sees distinct similarities and when poetry and music have a shared heritage dating back to ancient Greece. He argues that “dramatic poetry, intended for performance” links more nearly to music than other forms of poetry, particularly with regard to thinking of both as “enhanced speech”.

Charles moves to discussing the difference between the musicality of verse and prose, with prose suggesting “less rhythm, less of an artifice”. When comparing Shakespeare to musical theatre, “verse is to song as prose is to spoken text,” and Charles suggests this leads to similar questions for actors in each genre. He also notes that Shakespeare and musical theatre can both be seen as “a push against naturalism”.

Charles moves to discussing his case studies, beginning with his observations during a LiveArts production of Les Miserables. He plays a segment conducted in 4/4, though with two separate melodies, and draws a comparison to the tempo created by iambic pentameter. Charles suggests that opera and musical theatre may be examined using “many of the same external terminology” as in Shakespeare. Charles introduces concepts from Peter Hall concerning the musicality of pentameter and its application in the rehearsal process.

His second case study examines the rare shifts from prose to verse in Much Ado about Nothing, with actor Sarah Wykowski speaking Beatrice’s verse lines at the end of 3.1. Charles notes that the discovery of love appears synonymous with the appearance of pentameter, and Josh Williams demonstrates Benedick’s failing attempts at singing later in the play. Charles then discusses how certain conventions in opera are analogous to the choices presented to actors within iambic pentameter for creating and breaking rhythm. He keys in on the need to play shifts between speech/song and prose/verse in order to bring forward the heightened nature of the emotions attached to song/verse. Rhyme further augments the unrealistic quality of speech, adding further complexity to the scale.

Charles concludes by reiterating the defined difference between normal and heightened speech in both musical theatre and Shakespeare. He intends that his full thesis, calling upon his experience in both genres, will “prompt an integrated approach for performers seeking a place in both worlds.

Q&A:
Q – Clarify that rhyming that you find in verse, beyond blank verse, is where the singing training should come into?
A – That it could come into, if you have more training in musical theatre than in Shakespeare. Looking for rhyme common ground between two genres of training.
Q – Then what do you do with blank verse?
A – Verse in general still has a beat, regularity and irregularity, knowing where you are in the pentameter, feel the ebb and flow of the line, that’s a very musical function.
Q – Beneficial in education?
A – Absolutely, b/c of inherently interactive nature of music.
Q – Found indication of extant cross-training between RSC and Broadway?
A – Not specifically, no.

Jess Hamlet: “‘A Deed Without a Name’: Macbeth, Richard III, and the Regicidal Fantasies of Civil War Virginia
Hamlet begins by noting the April-focused anniversaries of Shakespeare’s birth/death and the start of the Civil War, and her thesis focuses on the intersection of these events. She looks specifically at the ways theatres in Richmond, Virginia were using Shakespeare’s works in wartime “to process their trauma”. She argues that “the constant performances of Macbeth and Richard III” in Richmond during the Civil War enabled citizens to aestheticize and legitimize their desire for removal from President Lincoln’s authority. She notes that Macbeth saw 27 performances in Richmond during the war, the most not only of Shakespeare but of any play.

Hamlet notes that the local newspapers believed that the theatres were doing “crucial, necessary, and meaningful work” during the war, at least partially by keeping the idea of removing unwanted leaders from power in the public consciousness. Macbeth was, according to one theatre, frequently requested by the citizens, including soldiers, “illustrating that servicemen and not just civilians were eager to see the story of Macbeth and his wife”.

Hamlet then shifts to President Lincoln’s own commentary on Shakespeare, wherein he stated “I think nothing equals Macbeth; it is wonderful” and found Claudius’s soliloquy superior to Hamlet’s. She suggests that Lincoln found Shakespeare “a kind of secular scripture” to help him deal with both his personal and political challenges, “both to cope with and recover from” his experience in a war-torn country. Reports from Lincoln’s last days indicate that he spent much time with his intimates discussing Shakespeare, especially the murder of Duncan in Macbeth. “The fascination here is that both Lincoln and his enemies were using the same text” to work through their feelings about the war, with a central question of casting — who was Duncan, and who Macbeth? Hamlet, through actors Fred Franko, Merlyn Sell, and Marshall Garrett, illustrates how newspapers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon criticized and challenged Lincoln and his actions.

Hamlet notes that Hamlet may have fallen behind Macbeth and Richard III in Richmond popularity because of its lack of action, with the decisive final battles indulging a sense of closure to war-weary citizens, particularly towards the end of the war. She suggests that the British origins of many Southerners may also have strengthened connections to Macbeth and Richard III that they did not feel with Danish Hamlet. Hamlet further suggests that thinking of themselves in Shakespearean terms may have helped Virginians to see their rebellion as a true revolution, returning to their origins and common cultural touchstone. This explains their dominance over plays like the Roman-set Julius Caesar, which might otherwise have seemed thematically appropriate for popularity.

Hamlet then questions the specific purpose of these performances, and provides the answer that the shows indulged their desire to “force the tyrant from his seat by war” and helped them “to purge their anxieties and doubts” about the war’s conclusion. The plays may also have helped Richmonders to place mental distance between themselves and the horrors of the war they were experiencing. She notes a potential difference in the plays’ purpose between the beginning and the end of the war. By 1864, many Southerners were hoping for a swift end to the war, even if that meant reconciliation, not wanting to see themselves as “beheaded Macbeth”. She draws a connection between the Civil War battles, audible within Richmond and visible in the form of hospitals and prison camps, and the advance on Dunsinane of Malcolm and his troops. The soldiers who saw plays in Richmond then took that experience with them back into the field, allowing them to use Shakespeare as a way to conceptualize their work and their worries. In focusing their own lives through the filter of Shakespeare, Hamlet suggests that soldiers would thus have cast themselves as Macduff rather than Macbeth. In regard to Richard III, Hamlet posits that the city of Richmond may have focused themselves on the character of Richmond, with Richard representing the North and Richmond the South, an interpretation that would seem to place Shakespeare on the South’s side. Hamlet concludes by reiterating that the production of Shakespeare in Civil War Richmond both expressed Southern regicidal desires and formed a lense through which citizens could process their experiences of war.

Q&A
Q – Americans fascination w/ Shakespeare has to deal with fact that Shakespeare is so English, how does that fit in?
A – Thinks that Confederate citizens were reaching for the English heritage and the father country, esp since seeking English and French support for the war itself.
Q – Modern-day applications for veterans?
A – Yes, “so much potential in theatre in general for a healing process”, Shakespeare especially because he writes so much about war.

Megan Hughes: “Where are all the Weddings in Shakespeare?”
Hughes will be discussing staged and unstaged weddings in Shakespeare’s canon, but begins with a clip from the Zeffirelli Taming of the Shrew, depicting the wedding of Kate and Petruchio (only described later by Gremio in the play). She notes that this was her first introduction to Shrew, and she has since found that most filmed versions invent the scene. She then interrogates why Shakespeare left this wedding off-stage. Delving into research, she discovered that there are no plays published during the early modern period that include a complete on-stage wedding. Hughes takes a moment to define the difference between a wedding (the ceremony itself, in the period based on the 1559 Book of Common Prayer) and a marriage (the lasting relationship). A third category, spousals, were vows exchanged, but which could have varying degrees of formality and binding.

Hughes then identifies “three plausible restrictions” that may explain the lack of completed wedding ceremonies on-stage: socio-cultural, legal, and literary/dramatic. Socio-cultural reasons could have included reverence for the real ceremony and a level of discomfort in seeing it play-acted between two males on stage. Hughes notes that, since the prevailing thought in early modern England was that speaking the words themselves enacted the union, this may have caused superstitious audiences to fear the on-stage speaking of those words as perhaps resulting in the unintended marrying of the two actors. Educated audiences, however, would have recognized the invalidity of such a union, both on the grounds of the gender of the persons involved and the lack of appropriate ritual. Hughes suggests that plays may have chosen to stage espousals rather than weddings to avoid this anxiety, however. Hughes then notes the variations in Taming‘s wedding that might, to a certain mode of thought, rendered Kate and Petruchio’s wedding invalid — and, if staged rather than described, might have verged on sacrilege and alienated the audience.

Legal restrictions “would have been much more serious in repercussions”. Hughes notes the blurry line between law, ecclesiastical law, and common law during this era in England. A prohibition against enactments of the rituals in the Book of Common Prayer, intended to guard against Catholic rituals, might also have netted in the actions in theatres. Hughes suggests that censorship by the Master of the Revels may also have played a role in keeping weddings off-stage, as playing companies would not have wanted to risk offending church or state and thus losing prestigious opportunities to perform for Queen Elizabeth.

Finally, Hughes discusses the literary and dramatic reasons for keeping a wedding off-stage, which would have been self-imposed by playwrights. She suggests that Shakespeare found that “by restricting the audience’s view of a scene, he could more strictly control their interpretation of that scene.” Actors Marshall Garrett, Ryan Odenbrett, and Stephan Pietrowski then act the Taming scene where Gremio relates the story of the wedding. Hughes notes that Lucentio and Tranio stand in for the audience, feeling scandal on the audience’s behalf. She concludes by declaring that, while it is impossible to determine which restrictions were most significant, socio-cultural, legal, and dramatic restrictions all played a part in keeping weddings off-stage.

Q&A
Q – Any difference between plays set in English vs plays set in Catholic countries?
A – Still medial and interrupted, doesn’t seem to be change in the interruption or avoidance that she’s found so far.
Q – Considering clandestine marriages something different from proper weddings?
A – Would classify that as espousal, not as a wedding, as wedding needs the ceremonial language and the right place and time. Clandestine weddings also generally take place off-stage between scenes, move the plot along, hidden from audience as well as from other characters.
Q – Time and place so important to creating an actual wedding, wouldn’t it be impossible to have a real wedding in a play b/c those would never be correct?
A – Yes, that’s what arguing – but superstition still surrounded just saying the words.
Q – Along those lines, As You Like IT
A – Yes, definitely.
Q – How might you take your research into the rehearsal room?
A – Definitely in raising the stakes in certain scenes. Ex: Celia’s “I will not say the words”, not wanting to initiate. Priest in Much Ado forced to jump to the end, disorders the ceremony.

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

Podcast Archives: 2012

2012 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2012 Spring Season

2012 Summer and Fall Seasons

Wake-Up Workshop #4: Asides and Audience Contact

A fine Saturday morning to you all. Cass Morris here from 8-8:45am to liveblog the fourth and final Wake-Up Workshop of the 4th Blackfriars Conference. Sarah Enloe, the ASC’s Director of Education, will be presenting on Asides and Audience Contact.

Enloe begins by discussing how, as a high school teacher participating in an NEH Institute, she learned about the ASC’s methods of audience contact, and knew immediately that she wanted to use it in her classroom — but wasn’t sure how to implement the ideas effectively. ASC Education, with the help of ASC Actor Ben Curns, developed this method to help teachers think through the various approaches and opportunities.

Enloe asks if anyone knows when the word “aside”, as we currently think of it, first appears, and when no one does, she explains that it’s more than 150 years after Shakespeare’s time. The term appears only twice in Shakespeare, and never with that precise meaning. She prefaces that the group will explain the different kinds of asides that Curns helped ASC Education identify, and will then work through a scene together to identify character choices.

The first method of audience contact is casting the audience. Enloe gives examples of the audience serving as Henry V’s army, as the plebs of Rome, or as Portia’s suitors in The  Merchant of Venice. She points out how Shakespeare not only writes these opportunities into the plays, he also writes in opportunities to return to that audience reference later in the scene or the play. Casting the audience gives the audience member a specific role inside the world of the play.

The second way that we identify audience contact is that of the visual aide. Enloe notes that this can be a difficult distinction for students sometimes, as it has some similarities to casting. The difference is that, rather than bestowing an identity, the visual aide uses something that the audience member already is — generally a physical attribute, something they’re wearing, or something else essential to their own identities, used as an illustration. Enloe uses the example of perhaps casting a man and woman sitting next to each other as an adulterous couple. Auditor Michael Hendry notes that he has been the bald-pated man used as an example in The Comedy of Errors. Enloe notes the favorite example of her co-worker (yours truly): Benedick’s “One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another is…. virtuous… yet I am well,” with the actor picking out a fair and wise woman, but unable to find a virtuous one in the audience.

The third example, which Enloe notes as particularly obvious in characters like Iago and Richard III, is that of allying with the audience. Many characters who get a lot of time alone on-stage with the audience use this to get the audience on their side — and quite often, those characters are the villains. This can also be an example of the character letting the audience in on a secret or providing them with clarifying information.

The fourth way that Enloe identifies audience contact is seeking information. Enloe gives an example of Curns as Polonius in the ASC’s 2011 Hamlet asking an audience member, “By the mass, what was I about to say?” and notes that Curns often got two examples: the terror of “eighth-graders frozen in the headlights”, or the graduate students able to provide the correct answer. She gives another example from Hamlet (this time the Q1, when Curns was playing Hamlet), from the moment when Claudius is on his knees praying, and Hamlet enters, asking, “Should I kill him now?” When Curns took this to teenage boy sitting on a gallant school, the boy replied, “Absolutely, he must die”. In that moment, the actor discovers that Shakespeare in fact wrote in the answer to that question in the rest of the monologue.

Enloe then addresses the probability that someone in the audience is asking how we know that Shakespeare really did write these opportunities into the plays intentionally, and she uses an example from Henry VI, Part 1 to illustrate how, in that early play, Shakespeare actually pokes fun of the convention of audience contact in a conversation between Margaret and Suffolk. Enloe notes that as proof in the text that Shakespeare is thinking about that convention.

Enloe then discusses the possibility that almost any line could be taken to the audience — but that not all of them should be. She suggests letting students go all-out with every possibility at first, then reining them back in so that we don’t lose the connections between the characters. The group then discusses some of the challenges in audience contact, including how to deal with unexpected contributions from the audience. Enloe notes that some of our actors acknowledge everything, and uses the example of Gregory Jon Phelps responding to sneezes or particularly loud laughs.

Moving on to scenework, Enloe hands out the first fifty lines of Julius Caesar. Enloe explains that this worksheet has the four types of audience contact listed at the top, along with the fifth option of actually speaking to a scene partner. Enloe divides the room into three groups, assigning one group responsibility for Flavius, one for the Carpenter and Cobbler, and one for Murellus. She then gives the auditors a few minutes to work through the text, assigning modes of audience contact to each moment for each character.

Each group sends an avatar to the stage to walk through the scene. Enloe notes that the opening stage direction, Enter Flavius and Murellus and Certain Commoners over the stage, is a little odd and cites Dessen & Thomson’s Dictionary of Stage Directions as to what “over the stage” might mean. They take the first suggestion for the Carpenter and Cobbler to enter from the back, through the audience, though Enloe notes that we generally don’t allow that in our Playhouse since there is no evidence of it occurring in the period.

The first decision has the Flavius taking all of “Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home: / Is this a holiday? what! know you not, / Being mechanical, you ought not walk / Upon a labouring day without the sign / Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?” to the audience. The group discusses whether the final question, answered in the play, can appropriately be asked of an audience member. Enloe notes that, at Julius Caesar‘s first performance at the Theatre or the Globe, the audience would in fact have been full of idle creatures who were skivving off work. The group has, sadly, run out of time to run the rest of the scene, but Enloe notes that you can see, through just that little bit, how much audience contact can change the play.

Staging Session III

Beth Burns

Skyping Shakespeare: The Hidden Room’s International Collaboration on Rose Rage

Berns enters and has a screen in front of the discovery space broadcasting an image of Skype, she explains how she brought over British actors to the stage to audition, cast and rehearse a show. Berns advocates blocking via video conference although she does stipulate that they do not choreograph fights over Skype.

Why do people hesitate to work with people far away?

An actor referred to as Lawrence heads to the downstage back of the space.

An actor referred to as James then calls us on Skype and says “Hello everyone in America” the sound is adjusted.

They turn off the Skype camera and get back to Lawrence.

Three men come on from upstage, Lawrence from off stage reads his lines while one actor enacts his blocking in front of the audience.

After the actor silently embodying Lawrence trips over a cord we pause and then Lawrence asks for a few different stage pictures which Burns directs them in.

Now Lawrence is announced to have arrived in the states from the UK and Lawrence enacts the blocking he learned over Skype.

Berns remarks that Lawrence incorporated everything that Jude (the body double) suggested.

Lawrence goes onto explain how he found some of the choices Jude very interesting,and they influenced his interpretation of the scene.

Then Berns and James play a game where she had him stare into her eyes where he saw them on the screen and then give a similar gaze into the camera to show the audience the difference.

Lag is important to manage.  One has to mitigate the lag as much as possible through tech and practice

Actors naturally find a rhythm that works with lag.

Daves and James an(suit) d another man act a scene together across Skype until James phone goes of, but then they continue, when James wants to make eye contact he looks directly into the camera

James says fairwell and is turned off

Dr. Davies, who was an actor in the original project, tells a story about making noise in the kitchen while rehearsing over Skype his father came in and asked how many people were on his computer and he replied “About thirty-five”

Berns puts on a scene with half international actors and half from the states to show off the results of the Skype rehearsal project.

The blocking was well defined, all the actors seemed certain of where they were supposed to be when, no one was upstaged and they were able to interact very naturally and had clearly had sufficient rehearsal.

Robert Matney the tech designer meantioned that theater practitioners are usually luddites. We present a live, real alternative to other entertainment.

We need to retain what is precious about live theater but it is important to overcome luddite tendencies and if you use technology to your advantage you can fold and flatten the world. It is worth the extra effort to be able to rehearse with people on the other side of the world.

 

Kim Carrell

Variants in the Quarto and Folio texts of Richard the III

Textual veriants

Carrell explains that in the Quarto and Folio Richard the III have a lot of small differences, different names, and punctuation differences one speech 12 lines shorter but in Act one, Scene two there is one other massive difference…

Three actors take stage and start the Richard III and Lady Anne scene from the 1597 Quarto. Everything goes as expected and at the end when Anne leaves and Richard says he’ll take her but only or a short time, the audience barely reacts at all.  We are not sure he has won Anne as thoroughly as he thinks he has.

Now they perform the folio.

I Q1 Richard offers her a ring and delights at the way it looks on her finger, when they get to this point in the Folio she offers him the ring first and then he silently gave her a ring and had the same line admiring the way it circles her finger. The reaction of the audience was quite noticeable, and the actors related to each other much more sympathetically for the rest of the scene. The shock was much greater then, after she left and he callously said the same dismissive lines, because we had just seem what looked like a marriage ceremony or at the very least an engagement and he was already making it clear that his vows of love were lies.

Carrell said he came to the idea when he was in an unrehearsed cue script production as Richard III and performed this very scene, he thought he knew what to expect, but when she offered him the ring (which he wasn’t expecting) it really changed the scene.

Carrell asks audience what they think.

MFA student Kelly Elliot says that the moment when Anne offers ring makes Richard’s later speech a much bigger reaction.

Carrell advocates taking advantage of the many sexual jokes. Whitefriars, where Richard says he is going next was red-light district of London.

One little switch makes such a huge difference, so it is really worth it to check the differences between texts.

 

Julia Nelson

Modern audiences are used to proscenium staging, movies, privacy, technology, and less human contact. Early Modern audiences had no privacy, and theater was a communal space where space and light were shared.

So, why would Shakespeare and his contemporaries encourage a rowdy audience to participate in the show with audience asides and soliloquies where the actors directly address the audience and ask them questions?

In places like sports stadiums and Rocky Horror Picture Show modern audiences still get rowdy, shout, and in the latter case (but we hope not the former) throw things at the stage.

Rick Blunt performs Falstaff’s Honor speech. Julia asks him to try if first in the “first circle Stanislavski” style and ignore the audience.  Julia asks the audience to talk back and heckle Blunt.

The audience heckles Blunt while he desperately tries to do his scene and ignore the audience.  The audience got so loud it was difficult to hear Blunt whose character was having an internal discussion. Someone even threw a wadded up piece of paper at him.

The second time Julia asked Blunt to engage the audience as much as possible.

Blunt responded to every shout out and really connected with his audience, the speech with the question and answer format made much more sense the second time around. The audience never got as rowdy as they had the first time, by interacting with the, Blunt was able to keep them in check. Audience interaction was a form of crowd control.

If the play was a disaster on first performance and authors weren’t usually paid until second or third performance.

Nelson explains that the first was similar to modern staging where actors are encouraged to not acknowledge the audience. She then opened the floor to questions and comments.

The actor from the previous scene, known as Lawrence, had been doing Trinculo as audition speech then got the role and then at first performance an overly talkative audience member started interacting with him duringa sene:

L:  What have we here a manor fish?

A: Fish!

L: A Fish. Dead or alive?

A: Dead!

The interaction calmed the unruly audience member down and worked well with the scene.

Another audience member pointed out that we police the audience using the lights, when the audience can see each other they are much more likely to interact. What allows us to hoot and holler is that were sharing the same pool of light.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Paper Session #3

Good morning everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog the third paper session of the Conference. Our session’s moderator is Louisa Newlin from the Folger Shakespeare Library and features papers from Jeremy Fiebig, Davey Morrison Dillard, Kimberly West, Heidi Cephus, and Michael Wagoner. Amy Rodgers, from Mount Holyoke College, was unable to present her paper, “Choreographing Shakespeare” due to illness.

Jeremy Fiebig, Fayetteville State University/Sweet Tea Shakespeare/The Shakespeare Standard

“Actors’ Renaissance Rehearsal as Actor Training: A Case Study”

Fiebig began his paper with a question: “does the Actors’ Renaissance Season (ARS) model produce better prepard actors?” Fiebig decided to use the ARS model with his company, Sweet Tea Shakespeare. Fiebig’s initial results showed that, yes, the ARS model does produce better prepared actors when he entered the first day of rehearsal and found a cast who was completely off-book. As the rehearsal schedule went on, however, Fiebig found that the stresses of using the ARS model led to some interpersonal conflict and morale problems. Fiebig stated that the best benefit of using the ARS model was the incorporation of a “sharer” model akin to the the practices of early modern theatre companies. Fiebig argued for the ARS model as a pedagogical tool which shifts the focus on students from “what can you do” to “how can you be?”

Davey Morrison Dillard, The Grassroots Shakespeare Company

Stressing Audience Interaction: Soliloquy as Dialogue in Richard III

Actor: Mary Baldwin College MFA student Charlene Smith

Dillard began his presentation with a re-enactment of the Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard III as Mary Baldwin College MFA student Charlene Smith performed Richard’s soliloquy from Act 5, scene 5. Smith first performed the soliloquy without any audience interaction and then again where all of Richard’s questions were directed to the audience who were invited to respond vocally to each one. Dillard argued that the audience’s vocal influences the direction of the scene and called this, “a sort of Elizabethan choose your own adventure”. Dillard stated that actor/audience interaction can transform the text and create meaning that may not be apparent in a reading or performance that lacks such audience interaction.

Kimberly West, Cumberland School of Law

“Shakespeare and the Law”

Law professor Kimberly West uses Shakespeare’s plays to teach courtroom skills to future lawyers.  She said that she always begins with The Merchant of Venice because of its famous courtroom scene. West analyzed Shylock’s failure to gain a pound of Antonio’s flesh as the result of a faulty bond. West detailed what exactly voided the  bond between Shylock and Antonio that led, ultimately, to Portia’s ability to save Antonio.

Heidi Cephus, University of North Texas

“The Thundering Audience in King Lear”

Cephus argued that the storm in King Lear represents the audience’s judgment. She stated that the audience becomes the storm in Lear and is “responsible for judgment” in place of the king. Cephus argued that the storm is a consequence of Lear’s refusal to weep and passes the judgment that Lear cannot pass himself. She explained that rain represents the audience’s tears as Lear commands that the storm (or the audience) go on to destroy the world of the play and that it is the audience’s role as the storm that, “transforms the actors into the characters”. For Cephus, the storm is no mere special effect, but the process by which the audience creates the play they are watching.

Michael Wagoner, Florida State University

“Imaginative Bodies and Bodies Imagined in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Fletcher and Massinger’s The Sea Voyage

Actors: Sarah Blackwell, Kelly Elliot, Liz Lodato, Riley Steiner

Wagoner began his presentation with an explanation of the process of “extreme casting”: doubling so extensive that actors must change character without leaving the stage. Wagoner explored how extreme casting affects the process by which actors and audience create character. His example from The Tempest had actors Sarah Blackwell, Kelly Elliot, Liz Lodato, and Riley Steiner use only voice and physicality to demonstrate character difference whereas his example from The Sea Voyage asked the same actors to use costume and prop signifiers. In the example from The Tempest, actress Riley Steiner changed her vocal pitch and accent from that of an old man with a deep voice, to a high-pitched, nasal, and ethereal voice when she switched characters from courtier to spirit. In his example from The Sea Voyage, actress Kelly Elliot showed her character changes through the presence or absence of a hat. When Elliot removed her hat, she changed character, but another actor held Elliot’s empty hat to show that Elliot’s first character had not left the scene. Wagoner explained how, in the first example, the audience does not see a visible absence of the first character but recognizes the character change through the vocal and physical modulation. In his second example, the audience learns that the abandoned signifier, in this case a hat, showed the audience that the non-speaking character was still onstage, but the actor was now playing another character. Wagoner then discussed how the extreme casting process provides links between audience, actors, and characters. For example, casting the courtiers as the spirits in The Tempest constantly reminds the audience the the courtier is also a spirit and vice versa. This practice, Wagoner argued, highlights the audience’s experience of performance.