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

MLitt Thesis Festival 2014: Session 2

Rebecca Wright: “Infants as Characters: An Investigation of Babies Onstage”
Actors: Josh Brown,Ian Charles, Kelly Elliott, Amy Grubbs, Patrick Harris
Wright begins by interrogating the audience’s perceptions of props as tied to certain plays. To a list including rings, letters, beds, trunks, and rapiers, she adds “babies”. Wright wishes to interrogate the position of an infant on-stage as a character, rather than as an inanimate prop. She notes that most productions do not use live babies on-stage, though it has been done. Despite this, however, she finds few references to babies as properties. Wright notes the difficulty in presenting an inanimate prop as a live baby, generally unconvincing yet just as generally accepted by audiences.

The actors deliver a list of shows which call for the use of an infant onstage, from the early modern period up to modern musical theatre. Wright moves on to discussing the pageant of Princess Elizabeth’s christening in Henry VIII. She interrogates the interaction between Henry and Elizabeth in this scene, wondering if it is significant that Henry kisses but does not hold the infant. Conversely, in Titus Andronicus, off-stage trumpets herald the arrival of a prince — Tamora’s illegitimate child by Aaron the Moor. In this scene, a nurse enters with the child swaddled, sufficiently to disguise its skin tone, which she later reveals. Aaron takes possession of the child, asks who else has seen it, and murders the nurse to keep his secret, serving as the child’s protector both verbally and physically. In Pericles, the nurse hands the infant Marina to her father; Pericles chooses to lay the child with her supposedly-dead mother. Wright argues that, when an infant is set down on stage, the lack of actor interaction removes some context from the infant-as-prop. The actors then present a scene from The Winter’s Tale where Paulina lays the infant Perdita at Leontes’s feet; he refuses to take it up. The protecting male figure who does eventually pick up the child is, instead, Antigonus.

Wright argues that actors provide manipulation and significance to the prop infant. This is particularly important in instances where the infant, over the course of the show, grows to an adult character. She argues that infants “needs stronger character consideration on stage.” Wright then brings a live infant, her ten-week-old nephew William, onto the stage. She asks if having a real infant on stage seems “too real” compared to the fake babies, especially in context of the infant characters who have violence threatened against them. Still holding William, she asks her actors what challenges they felt interacting with her prop infant. Amy Grubbs identifies a challenge in expressing the nurse’s revulsion for the baby, competing with her experience handling infants. Ian Charles admits that he felt as though he had to be “acting for two”, which is a challenge, but also allows him to endow the baby with reactions through the eyes of his character. Josh Brown expresses difficulty thanks to his own inexperience with children, identifying his interaction with the baby as “glass-like”. Kelly Elliott saw it as “relief” to be able to transfer the baby off to Pericles and to gain the father’s acceptance. Finally, Patrick Harris discusses the challenge of fighting while holding a baby, trying to be threatening while not endangering the baby. “It was easy to forget that what I was holding was supposed to be alive”. Wright concludes that, whether a real baby or a property doll, the actors involved with an infant character need to work to endow the infant with character.

Q&A: Ralph Cohen begins by snapping a picture of “the youngest performer on our stage”.
Q: Matt Davies asks about how to invest the baby with its own movement, suggesting that it is dependent upon the actor holding it to be in constant motion. He suggests another play for Wright to look at, wherein a baby is stoned to death in its pram.
Q: Celi Oliveto wonders how much it has to do with the focus of the audience, suggesting that a live baby draws focus. A: Wright acknowledges the possibility, noting that, yes, it is more difficult to work with something alive than something inanimate. She would like to continue looking at how this idea influences other creatures onstage, such as the dog in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Q: Scott Campbell notes the similarity between a real baby and real stage violence as possibly being detrimental to an audience’s experience. A: Wright is still dealing with the discussion of what is “too real”.

Arlynda Boyer: “Plague, Playing, and Publication: A New Narrative”
Boyer seeks to re-examine Shakespeare’s publication history, particularly the gaps which occur when “he ought to have been at the height of his popularity”. She notices a correlation between these gaps and years of plague, particularly with regard to the tendency of title pages to publicize “diverse and sundry performances”. She suggests that “plague interrupts playing interrupts publication”.

Boyer traces the relationship of the plague to the theatre, noting that anti-theatrical polemics tended to see them as God’s judgment upon the theatres. The conditions to close the playhouses changed over time, from total mortality rising above 50 per week, to plague-specific deaths rising above 30; for the playhouses to re-open, mortality had to drop below 30 for three weeks. She notes the difficulties in assessing closure dates from mortality records, since the strictures were not always exact. She points to the 1603 major outbreak of plague, which did not ebb and flow as expected, but persisted in London for eight years. Shakespeare’s plays written in this period had to wait to see audiences until there was a break in the plague. Boyer cites Roz Knutson’s theories on quartos serving as part of the marketing strategy for a play, as much to sell books as to remind potential audiences that a play was ongoing. Plague disruptions affected this interaction. “If a play never had its full first run, what reason would a company have for allowing it to reach a stationer?”

Boyer refers to a handout, which demonstrates that plays supposed to be written in plague years were more likely to be first published in the Folio rather than in quarto. She notes that Julius Caesar and As You Like It, likely written in 1599, were also not printed until the Folio. Though there was no plague that year, there was a strange closure in the summer of that year. These closures may have had more to do with financial difficulties, renovations of the Rose, or staggered re-openings. Boyer also notes the possibility that plague may have been used as an excuse to close theatres, when the real reasons were more political. 1599 saw rumors of a second Spanish Armada and threats of revolt, and these may have contributed to authorities’ decisions to close the theatres. Boyer then examines the complicated textual history of King Lear and Pericles. Boyer concludes by reiterating her hypothesis that publication depended on performance, and that plague disrupted both.

Q&A: Paul Menzer confirms Boyer’s acknowledgement that this is a London-centric narrative, since plague closures in London did not necessarily mean no plays happened, since companies were likely to tour during plague closures. A: Boyer is still working on incorporating that element into her thesis, but states that since print industry was centered in London, the correlation remains strong.
Q: Matt Davies questions the printers’ advertisements and their role in the thesis. A: Boyer notes alternate title pages which either swore that a play was or wasn’t performed.
Q: Dane Leasure asks if Boyer had considered using the 2nd edition of the Oxford’s chronology of the plays. A: Boyer has not, but will.
Q: Menzer asks how the Stationer’s Record weaves into the conversation. A: Boyer notes that the information on Shakespeare’s plays is scant in the Stationer’s Record. Boyer notes that, of other plays published in plague years, their title pages almost never mention performance. She acknowledges the difficulties in determining chronology to begin with, pointing to the recently changed supposed performance date of Twelfth NIght from 1599 to 1601i

Clare von Rueden: “The Moral of the Story: Medieval Morality Plays and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale”
Actors: Monica Cross, Amy Grubbs, Megan Manos
Von Rueden begins with a story about Disney, regarding the influence that Lady and the Tramp II may have had on her youngest sister’s attitude towards their parents. She notes that stories have an ability to impact not only children, but also adults, in terms of behavior and identity. “Stories shape who we are”. Morality plays, she argues, recognize this ability “and exploit it.” She specifies that she will be discussing pre-1500, pre-Protestant Revolution plays. Through “a rhetoric of ethics”, morality plays seek to persuade audience members towards certain behaviors. Shakespeare, Von Rueden notes, was aware that theatre “plays a part in our ethical lives”.

Von Rueden examines the use of audience contact in morality plays, suggesting that morality plays developed this relationship in order to enhance the play’s ability to affect its audience. Amy Grubbs presents a selection of Lucifer soliciting the audience for sympathy, which Von Rueden notes as typical to, not extraordinary for, morality plays. She relates this to the fact that every named murderer or commander of murders in Shakespeare gets a monologue with the audience in which to explain himself and try to earn sympathy. This extends even to intended or attempted murderers, as Monica Cross demonstrates with a monologue of Leontes. Von Rueden notes that the more vice characters, in Shakespeare or in morality plays, solicit the audience, the more likely they are to lose sympathy, especially when they start to sermon against themselves. Von Rueden also discusses the interactions of virtue characters with the audience.

These sympathies often relate to ideas of grief and repentance, as Von Rueden and her actors demonstrate in two reconciliation scenes: one from a morality play, and one from The Winter’s Tale. The latter, she notes, is not presented, but recounted by witnesses. Von Rueden posits this as an example of Shakespeare’s awareness that everyone who sees a play will respond to it emotionally, though perhaps in different ways, and that plays “exert an ethical influence on our lives”. She concludes by suggesting that productions need to be responsibly aware of this connection as well.

Q&A: Kelly Elliott asks for clarification if Von Rueden was intentionally connecting Leontes to the vice characters. A: Not intentionally; more of a vice “state”, since he’s attempting to justify murder.
Q: Charlene Smith asks if Von Rueden had read Shaw’s writings on Shakespeare, since Shaw complains about Shakespeare’s lack of moral instruction. A: No, but Von Rueden did read something which stated “Shakespeare is not a moralist, but presents morals”, actually allowing a stronger emotional response from the audience, since they have to work through it themselves. Ralph Cohen suggests that she also look at Tolstoy’s comments on the topic.
Q: Celi Oliveto asks if Von Rueden can identify places where Shakespeare may be consciously drawing on the morality play tradition and either subverting or mocking it, or using it to do something else. A: Von Rueden has not looked specifically at that, though he does refer to the vice characters.
Q: Scott Campbell questions her final thought about production responsibility, if Von Rueden is looking specifically at this moment in time, as 21st century theatre needing this responsibility, or more generally. A: Both. “We need to be aware that we are encountering their ethical being.”

Nora Manca: “Shakespeare Walks into a Bar”
Actors: Ian Charles, Kendra Emmett, Jess Hamlet, Meredith Johnson, Aubrey Whitlock
Manca’s presentation opens with an imagined conversation of several of Shakespeare’s early contemporaries, including the famous invectives of Robert Greene, together with commentary by Nashe, Lodge, Peele, and Marlowe. The scene explicates the marks against Shakespeare according to the established poets and playwrights of the age: too common, too contradictory, too prolific, too imitative, too uneducated, too avaricious, a moneylender. It falls to the imagined Marlowe to defend Shakespeare on these counts, but a malfunctioning time machine prevents Will from appearing himself.

Manca explicates that she hopes to take the facts known of Shakespeare’s life together with his own writings to explore the idea that Shakespeare’s portrayal of “Others” in his plays stems from his identity as an “Other” himself. Manca discusses the sociological tendency of all groups to set themselves up as the “One” in opposition to the “Other”. She notes the contempt of the University Wits for Shakespeare, as seen in Greene’s “Groatsworth of Wit”. Manca then looks at Shakespeare’s family history, particularly John Shakespeare’s social climbing, and how it positioned William Shakespeare in society. She moves on to the theory that Shakespeare’s family may have been Catholic recusants, then to the circumstances surrounding Shakespeare’s marriage. She then attempts to fill out some of the missing years in Shakespeare’s history with supplements from events that occurred in his home county of Warwickshire. Manca then draws a correlation between Shakespeare’s experience as an “Other” and the character of Shylock, whom she posits would be more Othered than any other character if dropped into Shakespeare’s England. Her full thesis will involve a closer reading of the character of Shylock.

Q&A: Amy Grubbs asks if Manca found any connection to the French Catholics possibly present in London. A: Manca has not, but is interested.
Q: Martha Walker questions if Manca’s thesis would hold up under any other definition of “Other”, depending on the absolutism of alterity. A: Manca believes that it does, though she is unfamiliar with the alternate definition Walker presents.
Q: Matt Davies asks, “Why does biography matter?” A: Manca thinks that the facts of Shakespeare’s life are key to whether or not he can be defined as an Other. Q: Davies continues, asking, “To write about Iago, why does he need to be an Other?” A: Manca admits that he doesn’t, necessarily, but posits that all of us are Others in some way and believes that that would have influenced his writing.
Q: Clare von Rueden asks if this can then influence the performance of Otherness in his plays. A: Manca says yes, and she hopes that this will help her in her directing in the future. Q: Von Rueden continues, asking if Manca has had any revelations on that count thus far. A: Manca thinks that, for an actor, understanding Shakespeare’s Otherness “would probably be influential”.

Nicola Collett: “But One Only Man: Masculinity in Julius Caesar”
Actors: Marshall Garrett, Jamie Jager
Collett suggest that Julius Caesar, more than any other of Shakespeare’s plays, is “about men” — not a single man, but four very different men with competing interests and variant approaches. Collett posits that Caesar, Brutus, Antony, and Cassius represent four distinct aspects of masculinity, which she defines as imperial, stoic, performative, and emotional, respectively. She runs through other critical approaches to analyzing masculinity in Julius Caesar, before moving on to her own approach, analyzing masculinity “not as a unified whole, but as fragmentary”, which she will present in opposition to each other rather than in opposition to femininity.

First, she examines the disconnect between the frailty of Caesar’s mortal form as opposed to the strength of his immortal, imperial spirit. Both Cassius’s stories, Casca’s reporting of his swoon, and Caesar’s own admission of physical failings demonstrate his weaknesses. Yet Caesar puts forth an image of himself as “constant as the Northern Star”, immoveable and eternal, and his assassination in fact cements that immortality of spirit, despite killing the body. By contrast, Brutus is dominated by his stoic philosophy, focused on denial or control of the passions. “His struggle is that his emotions are in conflict, with themselves and with his reason.” Cassius, meanwhile, conflates the personal and the political, particularly in regard to the wrongs Caesar has supposedly done him. Collett links these passions with Cassius’s tendency towards suicidal rhetoric and, eventually, to suicide itself. Jamie Jager presents Cassius’s offer of suicide in the 4.2 “tent scene”, when he offers himself up first to the absent Antony, then to his own dagger, wielded by Brutus. Though Cassius’s emotions give him insight into other characters, they also lead to his downfall. Collett identifies Antony as an actor, able to adapt his presentation to the circumstances. His offer of suicide is calculated, not emotional, and a bluff that he knows Brutus will not call. Collett notes the rhetoric of Antony’s funeral oration as manipulative of his audience’s emotions, even to the extent that he denies his own power to do precisely what he’s doing. Antony also shows himself as an expert in the use of props: Caesar’s will, Caesar’s mantle, and Caesar’s body.

Collett concludes by reiterating the four disparate types of masculinity the men embody, and then offers a rhetorical analogy: that Caesar represents ethos; Brutus, logos; Cassius and Antony, pathos (internal for Cassius, externally for Antony).

Q&A: Menzer begins by stating that masculinity “seems to keep shimmering between material and immaterial” and asks how Manca has addressed that idea of where masculinity is located. A: Collett has not addressed that yet, but hopes to find it through her future rhetorical analysis
Q: Cyndi Kimmel asks if Collett has looked at the presentation of male friendship through a homosexual lens. A: Collett has encountered it tangentially, but believes it beyond the purview of her project at this time.
Q: Patrick Harris questions if, in performance, a female actor playing one of these roles could embody that aspect of masculinity and still play the role as a female. A: Collett thinks, yes, that would be possible.
Q: Ralph Cohen suggests an article for Collett’s inspection, as well as mentioning Vanessa Morosco’s recent re-gendered Cassius.
Q: Marshall Garrett questions where Octavius fits into all of this. A: Collett places him under Caesar’s aegis, noting that he “comes on and becomes the spirit of Caesar”, a “new physical locus for the idea of Caesar-ness”.
Q: Monica Cross asks if Collett sees an effect of one type of masculinity on the other. A: Collett is still working on that aspect.

Colloquy Session V: Published Text

Doyle Ott

As a circus performer and director, Doyle Ott is interested in how much abuse plays may take, and if it gets a laugh, let it rip. Ott explains that circus and Shakespeare have a habit of feeding off each other.

Starting in the 1800 across Europe and America there were clowns who had solo Shakespeare and performance acts. Acts were introduced to by short speeches and full of physical comedy.

In the 1800 circuses would mount versions of Shakespeare histories and battles.

Audience would have been familiar enough with the plays to recognize the verbal parody of the Shakespearean clowns.  Most circuses would boast a Shakespearean Clown or Jester.

The scenarios in which Shakespeare’s language was used were often little related to original scenario, for example “to draw or not to draw” referring to a tooth ache.

One clown was referred to as “the Shakespearean Jester” and another “the Touchstone of the circus”

The repartee of Shakespearean clowns was influenced by Shakespeare’s description of York in Hamlet.

The clown evokes Shakespeare’s name to lend himself authenticity as a fool.

Dan Rice was a prominent Shakespearean clown in the United States.  His costume recalled Uncle Sam, and he didn’t wear clown white, he was more jester than buffoon.

Another famous Shakespearean clown, Wallace, once worked with Rice on short notice, Wallace played high status fool, and Rice took the place of the lower status clown, playing off of Wallace’s pretensions.

In 1849 the Rose Olympic Circus was built where Othello, and Richard II were performed by actors described as second rate actors but first rate clowns.

Shakespearean clowns had to have enviable knowledge and experience of Shakespeare’s works in order to parody them so effectively.

Lack of documentation leads many to discount them but relevant to Shakespeare performance tradition.

Iska Alter and William Long

Sidestepping feuds over who wrote what in Romeo and Juliet Alter and Long examine a few key important storytelling differences between the First and second Quarto publications.

First seven scenes of Q1 and Q2 are similar, but the variations they have are very import and inform context and content that inform audience about the play.  Differences abound even in title pages and in the opening Chorus. In Q1 the prologue starts out “Two household, both friends in dignity” which sends a very different opening message than the version in Q2 “Two households, both alike in dignity.”

Servants and their conduct differ slightly in Q1 and Q2.  The space they occupy is quite different because the servants dominate action in Q1, which suggests that comic action dominates the scene whereas Q2 is bawdier and the action shared more among the servants the young men of the family and the Lords.  Q2 also names 3 out of 4 servants who appear.

In Q1 “I” is used more in this scene and in Q2 “we.” What might this mean?

In their entrances in Q1 Benvolio and Tybalt don’t speak, but in Q2 we immediately are given clues to their characters by what they say. In Q2 Benvolio has a better idea of how fight affects city and the families. In Q1 everyone just stars fighting, in Q2 we get to know the characters a little better.  Q2 folio presents citizens entering fight led by officer.

When Lord Capulet and Lord Montague join the fight with their wives resistance are we meant to laugh at the sight of old men attempting to use their long swords?

In Q1 the Price’s speech after the brawl is shorter than in Q2.  However, it is not merely the length of the respective speeches, but prince’s condemnation is fiercer in Q2.

Q2 folio gives us are presentation of the destabilizing effects of the feud.

Arlynda Boyer

Plague, Playing, and Printing

A new narrative about Shakespeare’s writing history.

Ms. Boyer points out that gaps in the publication history of Shakespeare’s plays coincide with outbreaks of plague.

Most quartos boast of diverse and sundry performances, which could only happen out of plague time.

What if the plays weren’t published because they weren’t being performed?  Plague interrupts playing, which in turn interrupts publication.

Playing and plague shared a relationship, opponents blamed theater for plague infection partially because they believed that theaters offend god.

For plays to resume totally mortality rates in London would have to stay under between 30 to 50 people a week for 20 days depending on the date.

Privy Council was so anxious to ward off infection would often close theaters at the smallest risk.

1603 1 in 5 would get the plague that finally ended in late 1609. Shakespeare wrote some of his darkest plays during this period, not knowing when they would be performed.

Quarto publication followed performance between 18 months to two years on average. But if plague interrupted performance for too long this formula was shaken and if plague lasted even longer we have to wait for folio for the publication of the play.

Shakespeare moved companies during first plague of 1593.

During the long 1593 closure Shakespeare wrote Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece.

Only Lear, Pericles and Othello were published in quarto out of nine plays written in plague the 1603-1609 plague years, Pericles may have been sold by co-writer because of hard financial times.

Julius Creaser and As You Like It are thought to have been written in 1599 but not published until folio, even though there wasn’t a large plague outbreak during this time. However, anything that interrupts performance influenced publication.  In June-October 1599 Henslowe records no income, but plague was virtually unknown. This is one of the only instance where not all playhouses closed and opened together, it may have been financial difficulty at Rose or may perhaps improvements to the playhouse. In times of unrest a crowd could turn violent quickly State and city were on edge all summer long, it is possible that this was the reason that the theaters were closed down.

Closures continued through 1613 on and off.

The one thing Early Moderns new about plague was that it spread in crowds, so playgoers may have been staying away, which might have deterred publication.

Amanda Finn

Nothing is so funny as a man in drag unless you’re the butt of the joke.

Changing the spelling of Epicene’s name changes the emotional feel of the play

2008 edition of Johnson’s work limited the stage direction of the elaborate clothing removal.

Epicene means sexless or neuter in Geek.

Epicene was a common name for sexless characters so Early Modern audiences would not have been as shocked by the twist ending

Not one character in Epicene is meant to be taken at face value.

At one point an editor decided that removal of clothing was unnecessary and to just removing the wig.

The revelation in act V exposes the men as the fools that they are.  Removing clothing is more shocking than removing a wig to show definite proof of gender, this is a pivotal scene for nocking men off their pedestals and destroying their social position.

While the men are acting effeminately towards everyone the women are acting mannish. Epicene is the only women who acts the way that a character earlier in the play defines as “womanish.”

Considering the lack of stage directions from this time, it seems unjust to remove this one.

Mathew Vadnais

Plays of the Queen’s Men influenced Shakespeare’s writing style as well as content.

Queens’s Men were designed to divide to reach the most places possible.

Playwrights would not have been able to write for specific actors.

In order to make performance cue parts easier developed strategy of longer speeches and easily recognized cue lines.

The demands of a company that broke and came back together made playwright focus on structure.

By pairing plays with later Shakespeare history plays we see same speech percentages.

New Matter and Infinite Variety

There have been a spate of articles lately questioning the continual worth of Shakespeare. It’s a media trend that comes around every once in a while, and I suspect the most recent fad for it is related in some way to the UK’s ongoing debate about how much Shakespeare to include in the curriculum. We understand the argument on this side of the pond, too, where Shakespeare, and the humanities in general, are frequent targets for those who believe that STEM subjects are the only ones with intrinsic value. Today’s entry into the conversation is “Is there anything new to say about Shakespeare?” from Michael Reisz at Times Higher Education, an article examining Shakespeare’s role in critical theory throughout the ages, wondering if scholarship has simply exhausted itself on this topic — if we’ve tapped out Shakespeare’s reserves. The article considers several different viewpoints, academic and practical, both from the ivory tower and from the trenches, and it got me thinking: my instinctive reaction to that question, “Is there anything new to say about Shakespeare?” is “Yes, absolutely, and furthermore there will never stop being new things to say about Shakespeare.” But how do I back that up?

Because it’s true: there is a lot of scholarship out there, and it’s been accumulating for a long time. As Reisz’s article points out, a lot of it is outdated, or repetitive, or erroneous, or simply out-of-fashion, yet still, there it all sits, a looming Golgotha of the supposed wisdom of our forefathers and our peers. And, despite being a scholar of Shakespeare, in possession of an advanced degree on the topic, and someone who does devote most of my waking hours to his plays, I am all too aware that the scholarship can, itself, intimidate and put people off the subject. The sheer weight of all that analysis can feel oppressive, impossible to negotiate around — which is why, at the ASC, we put so much emphasis on exploration of the plays themselves. Dramaturgy and critical theory are great tools, but they should be a means, not an end. The scholarship should be there to help, not to terrify.

Perhaps it’s because I’m an educator more than a scholar, really. My focus is primarily on getting students to find things to love in Shakespeare, only secondarily on making my own contributions to the miasma of scholarship (and even when I make the attempt, as I’ll be doing at the upcoming Blackfriars Conference, it’s still with an eye towards improving accessibility). I’m more interested in a student’s personal background than I am in the history of a certain type of critical theory. I can find new ways of hearing Shakespeare’s words by listening to what high school students, without knowing new-historicism from a hole in the ground, deliver and discuss monologues that have personal meaning for them. And I can watch Dr. Ralph, who’s been teaching Shakespeare for forty years, become overwhelmed with glee at finding something new in a passage he’s visited a hundred times.

When will you have learned everything there is to learn from Shakespeare? When you have scanned every line, analyzed every rhetorical device, played every part. And then done it again. When you’ve done it at a different age, in a different location, in front of different audiences who are feeding different emotions back to you. When you’ve done it as a different gender. When you’ve done it as a member of a different race. When you’ve done it as a member of a different economic class. When you’ve done it in a different political climate. When you’ve done it in a prison, in a school cafeteria, in an open field. When you’ve experienced the words of his lovers immediately after having your own heart broken, and immediately before getting married. When you’ve experienced the cares and concerns of his parental figures as a rebellious teenager, as a new parent yourself, while celebrating, while grieving.

My point here is that Shakespeare will never stop having new things to teach us, because we bring ourselves to Shakespeare. As there will always be new people, there will always be new Shakespeare — and no one person is ever going to experience absolutely everything his plays have to offer, though we can (and should) listen to and learn from each others’ experiences. So too do our societal, cultural, and political conditions cast a different reflection on the plays: Julius Caesar plays far differently now than in 1813 or 1613; who knows what it will have to say for us in another twenty, fifty, hundred years? There is no amount of scholarship that can account for all the variables which humanity has to offer.

A way of examining Shakespeare might grow stale, a particular production might be uninspired, but — well, Shakespeare has something to say about that, too. The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. Someone who hasn’t found something new in Shakespeare — if not new to the world, then at least new to an individual experience — just isn’t trying hard enough, or perhaps just isn’t open enough to the possibility of discovery, in art or in himself. Remove the prescription of Shakespeare as medicinal tonic, which I think so much scholarship can engender in the casual participant or new student, and you get back to joy of what his words help us find in ourselves. All the mountains of literature written about Shakespeare’s plays do nothing to diminish the brilliant flame of a teenage girl discovering for the first time that Beatrice is speaking her language and her heart. I rather think the latter is more beautiful and more valuable than anything you’ll find on JSTOR.

So yes, Virginia, there is something new in Shakespeare — but I can’t tell you what it is, what it might be for you, whoever you are, wherever you come from. I sure hope you’ll find it and tell me about it, though.

“You must translate; ’tis fit we understand.”

Sarah works with students during a Little Academe.

Sarah works with students during a Little Academe.

As ever, I find myself wrestling with “Shakespeare in Translation.”  I have been invited, as part of the Shakespeare Theatre Association Executive Board, to travel to Brazil for 10 days next month to serve as an adviser on a reconstructed Globe that the Instituto Gandarela is looking to build.  Never mind that this is a trip to Brazil (!!!) or that I will get to work with the amazing Peter McCurdy, the builder behind Shakespeare’s Globe and their new indoor playhouse, The Wanamaker (and a good friend to the ASC). As I prepare for this trip, I am wondering how to get past our condemnation of “No Fear Shakespeare”-style translations (as so eloquently argued by our friends at the Folger Shakespeare Library) yet fight the good fight for Shakespeare in other languages.

Word has it (how I wish I could personally confirm) that the productions at Shakespeare’s Globe in London last summer as part of the Globe to Globe celebration were stunning and amazing explorations of theatrical production.  I have personally, and to my delight, had the opportunity to see Der Brudermord, a German translation of Hamlet directed by Christine Schmidle at the Blackfriars Playhouse.  The play was fun, and I didn’t have too much trouble following the story, despite it being in German (full disclosure: I am familiar with the English version).  I thought the experience brought me closer to what German audiences seeing the play in English in the 17th century may have experienced, but I didn’t note any particularly stirring phrases or textual expertise that stirred me to embrace the play as I did when I saw Hamlet performed for the first time by Khris Lewin on our stage.  At that performance, the “nunnery” rang in my ears, the “rant” struck my senses, the players “did not saw the air too much,” and I knew why.

My original training, in Theatre Arts, should provide a clear answer to my questions about these translated productions.  Good theatre, good productions, good performances should satisfy the quandary. But, since immersing myself in the performance of Shakespeare here, I find that I cannot break those things from the text. From the words. From the arrangement of the words to form verse, to shape rhetorical figures, and to provide clues like embedded stage directions.  Our practice is so engaged with the methods we think Shakespeare and his actors engaged with (see Tiffany Stern’s Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, see the American Shakespeare Center’s Actors’ Renaissance Season podcasts, see our current education workshops list), that I don’t know where to begin with the question.  But I would love to start a conversation. Are you an ESL/ELL student who loves (or, for that matter, hates) Shakespeare? Are you fluent in language other than English and have read (or written) translations? Are you a professor in Japan or Taiwan (as some of our Conference attendees are) who is working with students? What are you focused on when you discuss or play with Shakespeare? Do you find that Shakespeare has an influence on Portuguese? Or French? Can you recommend a place for those of us engaged in building a Global network of Shakespeare theatres (including education departments) to go to find a common thread for exploration with our foreign language students and audiences?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and, working with Cass and Kimberly and our fabulous interns, to finding ways to make the work with do with all of our students deeply engaging and illuminating.

–Sarah

The Rabbit Hole of Textual Oddities

This story started innocently enough. One of my current projects is to complete a full metrical and rhetorical analysis of Romeo and Juliet (as I did for Julius Caesar last year), but in order to begin that, I first have to complete a full check against the Folio. At ASC Education, we like to return to the 1623 First Folio to recover stage directions, emotionally inflected punctuation, and other textual variants which editors have sometimes obfuscated over the years. This practice can lead to a lot of intriguing discoveries; little did I know that one such curiosity yesterday would end up devouring a significant portion of my morning.

While checking 1.4, where Mercutio and Benvolio attempted to cheer Romeo up as they head for the Capulets’ ball, I ran across the fascinating error at right: Hora. as a prefix, presumably for Horatio. There is no character in Romeo and Juliet named Horatio, though the stage direction for this scene does specify the presence of “five or six other Maskers, Torch-bearers.” ‘How odd,’ I thought. ‘I wonder if that error is in the Q2.’ The 1599 second quarto of Romeo and Juliet is the other reliable text for this play; most modern editions conflate elements from the Q2 and the Folio to arrive at their preferred version of the text (though many slip in elements from Q1 as well). As you can see below, yes, the 1599 Q2 does contain this error — even more explicitly as Horatio. The Folio, then, simply retains what Q2 shows.

So I wondered, ‘Huh. How strange. Does this error exist in Q1, then?‘ A quick check revealed that: no, it doesn’t. These lines are not in Q1, which jumps straight from Romeo’s “So stakes me to the ground I cannot stirre” to Mercutio’s “Give me a case to put my visage in,” skipping the pictured section of dialogue entirely. So how did the wandering speech-prefix come about? (And ought I to call it a prefix-errant?).

The simplest explanation is basic printer error: speech prefixes and names were often struck as sets, rather than assembled from individual letters. This practice is why the prefixes and names within the verse generally appear in an italicized font rather than the plain text. It’s easy to imagine, then, that a Horatio, struck for some other play, somehow got mixed in with the Mercutios intended for this scene, and that the type-setter’s quick fingers grabbed it and placed it without the type-setter consciously noticing the incongruity. It’s possible, though I suspect far less likely, that the printer did strike the speech prefix Horatio for this single instance. Perhaps Shakespeare wrote Horatio once where he meant Mercutio (in simple Italianate error, or perhaps thinking of another role the same actor played) and that error stayed in the fair copy or prompt book Creede received to set the type off of. Other similar errors exist, as in the editions of Much Ado about Nothing which have Kemp instead of Dogberry — but each of those gets used more than once. It seems less likely that Creede would create and strike a new full-length nameplate to use only once, so, for the intellectual exercise, I decided to pursue my first theory.

I was at first only tickled by this appearance, amused to picture Hamlet’s best friend getting ready to go to a party in Verona. Did he take a weekend trip away from Wittenburg? Did he decide to move south after the tragedy at Elsinore? Fanfiction-like possibilities abound. But then I remembered — the Romeo and Juliet Q2 was printed in 1599. The first quarto of Hamlet wouldn’t be printed for another four years, so it’s unlikely that the speech prefix was struck for Hamlet‘s Horatio. The light amusement began to grow into a prickling curiosity. What character could it have existed for, then?

The only other Horatio who jumped to my mind is the gentleman in Thomas Kyd’s A Spanish Tragedy — which, as it turns out, had a quarto printed in the same year as the Q2 of Romeo and Juliet in which this error originates. Ah-ha! This seemed to fit my theory perfectly. How easy to make the error if both plays were being printed at the same time, or at least within a reasonably close amount of time — especially since both are full of Spanish/Italianate names.

So, I went to Early English Books Online (EEBO) to find out, first, who printed the Q2 Romeo and Juliet, and if that was the same printhouse that put out the 1599 Q3 of The Spanish Tragedy. Answer: No. Thomas Creede printed the Romeo and Juliet Q2, while William White had the 1599 Spanish Tragedy. The next-earliest Spanish Tragedys were in 1592 and 1594, printed by Edward Allde, so there’s no strong connection there, either.

Who, then, is Horatio? How did this speech prefix sneak in? I felt compelled to push my theory farther. If we accept our Occam’s-Razor-Compatible explanation of a wandering prefix from something else originating at the same printhouse, then what other plays and books were that printer putting out around the same time, and was there a Horatio in any of them? Between 1597 and 1599, Creede printed six other plays, including the 1598 Richard III, John Lyly’s Mother Bombie, and the anonymous Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, as well as a lot of prose histories. I skimmed through a couple of the plays — no Horatios (though, as a side note, skimming just the stage directions in an unfamiliar play can give you an interesting perspective on it. The Comicall Historie of Alphonsus apparently includes a brazen head, Venus and the Muses, Medea and Iphigenia having a conversation, and at least one murder). I, sadly, do not have the time to look through all of the narrative histories and discourses to see if Horatio appears in the text of any of them. As such, I have no notion where this error originates, who that first Horatio was that ended up reveling with Mercutio and Benvolio, and I may never have that curiosity satisfied. Such is often the travail of academia.

Why does any of this matter? I recognize that, while I found this to be a wonderful scavenger hunt and an entertaining game, not everyone is thoroughly geeky enough to share those effusive emotions about a relatively minor textual variant. So what’s the practical application? Well, that has to do with the choices editors have made in repairing the error over the years. Every modern edition of Romeo and Juliet that we have here in the ASC Education office assigns those lines to Mercutio. It makes sense. He and Romeo are enjoying a back-and-forth. But… they don’t have to be Mercutio’s lines. Would anything change by giving them instead to Benvolio? It would certainly make him more involved in Mercutio and Romeo’s conversation, part of their lively sparring, not separate from it. What sort of a different Benvolio might that yield for the entire production? I don’t know, but I’d like to give that option back to production companies and classroom discussions so that we can find out.

2012 MLitt/MFA Thesis Festival: Session 1

Good evening, all. Tonight and tomorrow at the Blackfriars Playhouse, twenty-three students from Mary Baldwin College will give presentations on their MLitt and MFA projects. These presentations are a required portion of the thesis project for all candidates. The ASC education team will be live-blogging throughout the both days of the event. The first session runs this evening from 6:30pm-9:30pm.

With his characteristic wit, Dr. Paul Menzer opens by apologizing for scheduling this event during that great Sunday ritual, but reminds us that Downton Abbey re-airs on Thursdays. He also notes the infeasibility of sharing chicken wings and airing misogynistic commercials between presentations.

Amy Bolis: “Color-Conscious Shakespeare: A Dramaturgical Investigation of ‘Othello’ and Its Legacy

Bolis begins by noting that, in Othello, the word “Moor” appears more times than Othello’s actual name; she then moves on to a list of the “contradictory characterizations” of the title character contained within the play. She then probes the “problematic construction of blackness” within the play, questioning what role Othello should hold in modern theatre. The problem, as she notes, is further complicated by the divergent opinions of those in the field; her actors Brittany Fauzer and Katy Mulvaney read from such opinions throughout the presentation. She uses the example of Patrick Stewart’s photo-negative production, but notes that such a production encourages white audiences still to sympathize with the white man, experiencing only the fear of losing their own privilege. She notes that, for the remainder of the presentation, she will focus on Harlem Duet by Djanet Sears.

Harlem Duet is an Americanized prelude to Othello, set in Harlem during the 1990s, with flashbacks linking different moments of black experience in American history. She foregrounds four questions: 1) What is the relationship between non-white theatre practitioners and the Shakespeare canon? 2) Given lack of roles for non-white characters, how can modern companies approach these plays? 3) Where do actors of colours reside within the realm of Shakespeare performance? 4) Given Harlem Duet‘s critique, what is the legacy of Othello?

Fauzer presents a monologue from Harlem Duet by Billie, Othello’s first wife, where she discusses her decision to poison his handkerchief. Through this story, Sears gives the handkerchief a tangible history, positioning it as an heirloom that “holds the ancestry of generations” through slavery and emancipation, rather than as a magical object of ambiguous origin. Fauzer also presents a statement from Sears on the need to integrate the black narrative into the theatrical world. Bolis concludes with the thought that, “Adaptation has allowed for a different dream of Othello,” one that allows for a shifting of the play’s legacy.

David Ashton: “Staging the Censored Text”

Ashton’s presentation explores the question of “How do you stage a censored text?”, focusing on the most obviously altered sections of George Chapman’s 1608 The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles Duke of Byron. Actors Amanda Noel Allen and Brian Falbo present an altered scene, where characters report on a conversation involving Queen Elizabeth and French politics. The alternations make the scene noticeably awkward. Ashton suggests that, while theories exist as to the reason for the alteration, none seem plausible. He looked to production history for possible illumination.

Ashton relates his methodology to that of Genevieve Love, exploring the theatrical impact of absences and voids for those early modern plays which have no strong performance record. He posits the notion of “fantasy performances” suggested by those absences, which may be a means of recovering the pre-censored version. Ashton claims that Act Four allows for at least three “fantasy performances” using the extant text as sole source, a fourth informed by historical context, and a fifth from textual criticism. Actors Maxim Overton, Melissa Tolner, Allen, and Falbo present Ashton’s various possibilities.

The fourth version draws from the historical context of the play’s censorship, which Ashton details; Chapman apparently wanted his plays printed and fought for their restoration. Chapman’s history suggests that he was likely involved in the printing of the plays, often overlooking proofs before they went to print, and that he thus authorized leaving the 1625 reprint unchanged from the 1608. Moreover, Ashton posits that statements from Chapman suggest that he believed readers could fill in the gaps on their own, that “a reader’s mind is capable of imagining moments of theatrical effect.” This fourth version of the scene, then, is a conflation of the extant texts with what Chapman assumed his readers could fill in, the shade of an original performance. Ashton’s suggested fifth version takes critical context into account, a methodology he believes most likely as a way to “stage the censored text”, an exercise both in edition and creation.

Elizabeth Lodato: “From Alehouse to Household: Women in Service in Early Modern Drama”

Lodato begins by having the audience close their eyes and imagine being in a 16th-century alehouse; she suggests that we, as she would have months earlier, probably conjured a romanticized vision of a warm, happy tavern populated with cheerful folk. The reality, she notes, was somewhat darker, as alehouses were often dens of criminal behavior, including prostitution, money-lending, thievery, and fugitive-harboring. She then posits that alewives suffered more complaints and condemnation because of the economic threat they posed to working men, suggesting considerably anxiety about a female-dominated trade.

Lodato’s presentation examines depictions of alewives in both dramatic and non-dramatic literature, with the aid of actors Stephanie Tschetter, Angelina LaBarre, and Elizabeth Rentfro. The popular depictions, Lodato argues, grossly dominated over the actual faults of the trade, often along themes of uncleanliness. She notes the odd juxtaposition of positive statements on an alewife’s congeniality and sociability with the insults regarding unsanitary brewing conditions and dishonesty of practice. She then moves to noting the difference in depiction of alewives in early modern plays, where the women are less often gross caricatures of slovenliness, and more amiable comedic characters, “full of malaprops and earnest”. She suggests that the plays present male hosts as far more dishonest characters than their female counterparts. Lodato pulls examples from the anonymous Every Woman in Her Humour and Heywood’s Fair Maid of the West. The latter particularly displays a virtuous woman defending her reputation against bullies and cheats. Lodato finished by summarizing the sexist depiction of alewives in popular literature and its connection to male anxiety over female independence, and her desire to further investigate the evolved role those characters hold in early modern theatre.

Kimberly Lenz: “‘What’s in a Name?’: Proper Name as Performance Clue”

Lenz opens by commenting on the attraction of the idea of demonic possession in the entertainment industry. She relates the idea of the power of a proper name to expel a demon to the notion of characters in a play using a proper name to exercise power over another character. She uses The Maid’s Tragedy as her example, noticing the frequency with which other characters use Amintor’s name, particularly by those characters who are manipulating his fate. Lenz notes that there seemed to be an epidemic of demonic possession and exorcism in England in the 16th and 17th century. Some men won great fame as exorcists, though often fell from grace and were exposed as frauds; popular awareness of the phenomenon found its way into plays such as The Devil is an Ass (scenes presented by James Byers, Mel Johnson, Joshua Brown, and Justine Mackey).

Lenz describes that her project aims to explore the applicability of the idea of the power exercised through use of proper names. She admits that the results are in no way quantifiable, but that they are nonetheless valuable. Her actors present an exploration of a scene from King Lear. Lenz notes that she is developing rehearsal techniques based around this idea and intends to explore the idea further.

AJ Sclafani: “Distancing Techniques in Modern Early Modern Playhouses”

The presentation opens with the inimitable Dane Leasure giving a version of the traditional pre-show Playhouse-opening speech, Maria Hart giving out tickets for a raffle, and Dan Stott giving the actor’s pre-show speech on our staging conditions. Jessica Schiermeister then enters in an approximation of Sclafani’s sartorial style and takes the podium. Sclafani eventually reclaims the stage and notes that his project looks at the paratextual material of the Blackfriars Playhouse.

He discusses how some of the paratextual material, such as the posters for the shows, emphasizes to the audience that they are about to see actors in a play. He suggests that posters containing the actors’ faces, actors’ names, photographer’s name, and title of the play, but not the name of character portrayed, leads the audience to focus on matters other than the actor’s representation of the role. He moves on to the pre-show speech, which he states positions the audience as an observer of the customs of the Playhouse. He notes that some aspects of the pre-show have become vestigial, while others (asking for donations and asking audience members to turn off cell phones) has reversed the effect of the speech, originally designed to integrate unfamiliar audiences into the unique conditions of ASC productions. He argues that, especially in the context of “problem” plays, distancing techniques transfer the creation of synthesis onto the audience.

Monica Cross: “Modern Adaptations of ‘Hamlet'”

Cross begins by noting the proliferation of adaptations in the MLitt/MFA program within the past few years, and declares her intent to examine how adaptations comment on their source material. She looks at several adaptations of Hamlet from the 1990s and 2000s: Fortinbras, by Lee Blessing (1992), Claudius, by Ken Gass (1993), Something’s Rotten, by Michael Burdick (2003), and 12 Ophelias (a play with brokensongs), by Caridad Svich (2004). She focuses in this presentation on Fortinbras and Something’s Rotten (with scenes presented by Clara Giebel, Linden Kueck, Celi Oliveto, Stephan Pietrowski, and Shane Sczepankowski), the latter of which was presented in a one-act version at the 2011 Blackfriars Conference.

Something’s Rotten follows the reactions of the the gravediggers to the play and its aftermath, taking fragments from Hamlet‘s language. Shifting the focus from court life to commoners “breaks the Aristotelian model”, particularly with such prominent speeches as “To be or not to be”. Burdick’s reimagining breaks the concept down into ideas of being an aggressor or being a victim, as represented by the two gravediggers’ divergent opinions. It also examines the concept of different kinds of death. Fortinbras, by contrast, features the titular character trying “to manipulate the story of Hamlet to suit his own purposes”. This play breaks traditional modes and the fourth wall equally, having characters comment on their own situations. One character actually gets a hold of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and becomes engrossed, suggesting, as Cross notes, that even the characters in the play find the original superior to the adaptation. Cross positions her interest in these plays in particular for what they have to say about the role of adaptation as a form of commentary.

And that’s it for tonight — We’re back at 9:30am tomorrow (Monday, February 6th) for a full day of presentations.

For the rest of the Festival, see further posts:
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4

Blackfriars Conference 2011- Plenary Session VI

Hi, Deb Streusand here. This morning I’ll be liveblogging Plenary Session VI from 9 am to 10:15 am.

“Some by Stenography Drew the Plot”: An Experiment
William Proctor Williams, University of Akron

Williams begins by having A.J. Sclafani, Brian Falbo, Kim Maurice, and Michael Wagoner read two passages from Thomas Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody. This play was performed before August 1605, probably by Queen Anne’s Men. It was thereafter published in 5 editions in 8 years. Heywood’s later prologue, in the Eighth Quarto, recounts the play’s popularity and how some recorded it in by stenography, so that he now wishes to put it forth in correct form himself. The Eighth Quarto can therefore serve as a control text for comparison to the earlier Quartos, which reflect stenographic recording of performance. The actors read the corrected version of the same scenes they read earlier. Williams asks us to imagine that people are recording the two versions of the scene right now, to be published later.

[Edit: Apparently I misheard what Williams said about people recording the scene as it was performed during his presentation. In fact, two students from the Mary Baldwin MLitt/MFA program did record the scene at his request, and later in the day, Williams provided a handout with the original text, the transcription, and a collation of the differences.]

Did Hamlet Mean Country Matters?

Zachary Lesser, University of Pennsylvania

Lesser recounts several editors’ glosses on Hamlet’s joke about “country matters.” He asks whether, when Early Modern audiences heard these words, they actually perceived the pun we now hear in it. No major editor noted an obscene pun at this exact point in the text until Malone in 1790; previous editors had glossed the statement as a reference to the idea of country folk as crudely sexual. The exchange was cut from productions in the 18th and 19th century, but primarily because of the later punning on “nothing.” The Restoration Smock Alley Promptbook cut “nothing,” but not “country matters.” In the First Quarto, Hamlet says “contrary” rather than “country matters.” Lesser argues that scholars have wrenched their arguments to include the pun, but this distortion falsifies the history of the text and the experience of this moment. Looking at the texts in order of probable composition, Lesser argues that the Folio text expands this moment to clarify it, with Hamlet explaining the innocence of his question–“I mean, my head upon your lap.” In the First Quarto, Hamlet says “my head in your lap,” instead heightening the suggestion by specifying the body part. If there had been a sexual pun in “country matters,” such a process of clarification would not have been necessary. There is no indication of Shakespeare’s audience understanding those words to imply such a pun, and we should, therefore, “forget what our glosses have been assuring us.”

Speaking the Speeches: Speech Order and the Early Modern Performances of Hamlet
Matthew Vadnais, Ohio State University

Vadnais describes the division among scholars about whether
the longer texts of Hamlet could have been staged at full length. He draws attention to the question of whether the Second Quarto and Folio text would have been too hard to play at full length, particularly because of the use of cue scripts and the necessary speed of performance. He demonstrates that many lines end in the same or almost the same cues. He proposes, however, that like their First Quarto counterpart, the other texts were created to make performance easy. A.J. Sclafani, Brian Falbo, and Michael Wagoner perform the Second Quarto version of the conversation between Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern about Gertrude using cue scripts without actual cues, demonstrating that the speech order that gave clues to when the actors should speak. Another way of making things easier is to create two-player scenes or scenes with only two speakers. Vadnais uses the metaphor of a “speech stem” for situations in which several characters respond to a primary character, who knows that every speech will contain his next cue. Shakespeare’s plays provided the company with assistance in knowing when to speak. All three texts of Hamlet equally anticipate how they would have been performed on the Early Modern stage.

“Nor wink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign…”
Lezlie Cross, University of Washington

Cross describes her conversations with Howie Seago, a deaf Shakespearean actor. She wants to reframe the term “Original Practices” to refer to a new practice, that is, Seago’s translation of Shakespeare’s plays into movements, a kinetic language. She cites Artaud referring to a language of movement that transcends the speech on stage. When playing the ghost in 2010 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seago could obscure his statements to his son even from the audience, so that they heard was what Hamlet chose to share. Seago’s script notes where he will voice the lines, as in “I am thy father’s spirit,” using his own “imperfect” voice to show the ghost’s difficulty in being present in this world. The audience saw Hamlet take possession of the knowledge and of his revenge. Seago transformed “list, list, o list” into signs meaning “look at me, look at me, look at me.” Both Shakespeare’s language and Seago’s sign language have similar metaphorical underpinnings, in opposition to common language. For “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown,” Seago transformed his sign language into a kinetic signification of the image. His method begins with a “translated” English text and finds ways to communicate the ideas through signs, making modifications according to factors such as the length of time that it takes to sign a line. “Seago’s work in translating Shakespeare’s text goes beyond mere translation,” transforming the text from one medium to another. Cross refers to this phenomenon as “kinetic textuality,” a term typically applied to digital artistic creations. Seago’s translations are still more kinetic, being no longer simply textual, but having instead become “meaning in motion.”

Jonson’s Breaches and the Typography of Action
Claire Bourne, University of Pennsylvania

Bourne argues that theatrical innovation prompted a textual innovation that allowed printed plays to develop into their own dramatic experience. Textual evidence suggests that these texts attempted to use punctuation in a way that allowed the reader to experience the dramatic in the printed text. Jonson described such punctuation, as used in his humor plays, as “breaches,” that is, markers of gaps in the dialogue. Bourne proposes that Jonson’s breaches not only allowed replication of the action, but made it possible to read the printed text in a way that makes dramatic sense on the page. In order to put the different theatrical and textual signs into the same visual field for her audience, Bourne has Wagoner, Sclafani, Maurice, and Falbo perform a portion from Cynthia’s Revels that is especially characterized by experimentation with punctuation, with dashes signaling non-verbal interruptions. They next perform a scene from Every Man Out of His Humour that uses dashes to signify self-interruptions, in this case by puffing on a pipe. The breaches signal moments that are vital to personation. Jonson’s Folio collection of his plays retains these experiments in using typography to convey non-verbal elements of the scene. Maurice and Sclafani perform a scene from Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, in which a character replies to conversation in non-verbal signs because of another character’s requirement that he do so, performing marginal text that states that the breaches refer to signs that responded to the dialogue. Bourne suggests that the breaches did not replace the action of performance, but preserved it for the page. The punctuation grew to symbolize all kinds of action, functioning as a recognizable invitation to notice non-verbal elements of the play.

Keeping Shakespeare Real by Using iPhones: or, Original Practices Shakespeare (There’s an app for that)
Joseph F. Stephenson, Amy Simpson Grubbs, and Adam Hester, Abilene Christian University

Stephenson states that they will discuss the 2010 Abilene Shakespeare Festival’s production of Othello, which was not actually intended to be Original Practices, but grew into some original practices as it formed. Hester, as director, wanted to find a way to engage with Bard-shy audience members, and decided to use technology to reach “beyond the proscenium,” by creating a blog that they updated throughout the show, including scene synopses, definitions, or comments about the action on stage. Audience members were able to post and read comments themselves, and the blog was flooded with them. Performers were also able to receive audience’s responses, and were heard walking offstage saying “what does the blog say?” By creating this intimacy, they argue that they were able to approach the closeness to the audience that is crucial to original practice, as well as a sense of play, and lighting (that of mobile devices) that made the audience visible. Stephenson quotes two piece of evidence about early modern performance and discusses their ambiguities and the complicated audience responses. He then cites some quotes from audience members responding to their production, including discussion of the play’s ambiguities. The blog also provides a permanent archive of audience responses, which would be useful for future research into audience response to Othello.

Question Time:

A questioner asks Cross about how American Sign Language deals with puns such as “country matters.” She talks about how Seago would probably try various movements to see how they landed with the audience.

Another questioner suggests that Cross do some work with Tommaso Salvini, who spoke only Italian but performed with an English-speaking company. Cross replies that she has not yet worked on Salvini, but she is working on Helena Madjeska, a 19th-century Polish actress who worked with American actors, including Edwin Booth, speaking Polish in response to their English on stage.

Another questioner asks about when “cunt” appears in the OED in the form we know it. Lesser cites a 13th century reference. The questioner asks if there is a possibility that this meaning of the word was active in the scene. Lesser says that what interests him is our absolute assurance that that meaning is in play at the moment he discusses.

Another questioner comments about Vadnais’ presentation, talking about cultural cues and discussing scribal adjustments to a text and to cues specifically.

Another questioner asks Cross about the difference between ASL and the sign language used in Britain, and what impact that would have on kinetic representation. Cross clarifies that Seago does not really use ASL, but mostly discovers movements that work to communicate, creating a new language for each production, which is very much keyed into the character that he is creating.

Another questioner asks Stephenson and Hester about how they dealt with the possibility of distraction from the technology. Hester describes the placement of technology users behind those who were watching without using technology. A different questioner wonders about what might have been lost with the technology users during the show. Hester describes the audience eagerness to see the next blog, and actors walking back to check the blog, which he did not always find useful. Stephenson argues that visual focus on the technology actually brought back the Early Modern tradition of “hearing” a play.

Another questioner asks Stephenson and Hester about the possibility of acquiring greater connection to young students through the use of technology. Hester describes the demographics of technology use, stating that the blog users were mostly under 30. He discusses how the technological elements gained greater acceptance from all age groups over the course of the run.

Kate O’Connell of Mary Baldwin College moderates this session.

Blackfriars Conference 2011 – Plenary Session IV

Hello from the beautiful Blackfriars Playhouse, nestled in a Staunton resplendent with Autumn colors. I am Christina Sayer Grey, Marketing Associate for the American Shakespeare Center, and I will be your live-blogging tour guide for Plenary Session IV from 1:00pm – 2:15pm on Thursday, October 27.

Moderator: Catherine Loomis, University of New Orleans

Staging Anatomy in The Athiest’s Tragedy
Caroline Lamb, The University of Western Ontario

The Athiest’s Tragedy features an unintentional self-execution – D’amville, the play’s athiest, grabs an executioner’s axe and accidentally applies it to his own head “In lifing up the axe has knocked his brains out.” D’amville then continues to talk for 17 lines after the stage direction. No staging directions nor any staging history from 1611 on.

Discuss two related questions. 1. Might we infer that early modern spectators may have seen D’amville’s brain onstage? 2. What effect would this staging have on audience’s understanding of D’amville’s body and brain onstage?

The playwright Tourneur’s preoccupation with “brains” throughout the play, using it many times during the play, turns that body part into a fetish object. The play eventually gives the audience what they want – a visible human brain in vivisection. Evidence implies that the scene could have potentially been shown in a realistic way onstage. Animal viscera and blood could be employed to give the illusion of human innards. Spectators would have anticipated and possibly expected a display similar to what they might have seen in an anatomy theater.

1994 production – director Anthony Clark. “The dying D’amville dissects himself, wrenching out a chunk of bleeding brain and displaying it to the audience.” Reveals to the audience that D’amville’s brains needed inspection, anatomizing.

Eviscerated grey matter can serve as a corporeal correlative to the personal information that D’amville is making public for the first time. His 17 lines are used to reveal his plot and labels himself a murderer. He “spills his guts,” if you will. Intellectual, moral belief, and identity are revealed in full physicality. D’amville’s brain is exposed and so are his psychological innards. Early Moderns thought of the brain as the physical repository of knowledge as well as the center of intellect.

D’amville’s blunder fulfills two conditions that anatomists wanted to realize in their practices – performed on a live subject and with minimal surgical interference. The play caters to a fantasy of vivisection – the viewing of the brain of a live human subject.

The Theatre and Its Cripple
Genevieve Love, Colorado College

How do disabilities function on the Early Modern stage? Reliance of the representation of loss.

‘Larum for London (1602) a graphically violent play about the Siege of Antwerp. A series of violent episodes – onstage military killings, stabbing of a citizen, torture of an Englishman, a hanging, shooting of a woman, stoning to death, and the killing of young children (who beg for their lives for 60+ lines). Scene after scene of bloodshed.

At just over 1,100 lines, the play is quite short and a “grueling exhibition.” The play’s excesses are seen to mark its artistic shortcomings. The show, however, filled the need of the contemporary audience as topically apt, as Londoners feared a Spanish invasion.

Lame soldier, Stump, is a valorous soldier, but his prosthetic limb is described as “rotten.” Stump’s saving of a fat burgher links their two bodies as a corporeal representation of the relationship between too much and too little that runs throughout the play. The two-legged actor playing Stump has too much body (three legs total when Stump’s stump is added) and the actor playing the fat burgher has too little (augmented by padding).

Playing with Paper
(A Love Letter to Tiffany Stern)
Carter Hailey, The College of William and Mary

Pre-performance, paper was required for all the documents of performance.
During performance, plots, props, and other ephemera were required. Believe as You List, for example, calls for 9 paper properties. Paper properties on the EME stage as quasi-corporeal representatives for an absent character – “paper players.”

  • ASC actors Blythe Coons and Rene Thornton, Jr. perform a scene from The Merchant of Venice. “The paper as the body of my friend…”
  • Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy calls specifically red ink to represent Bel-Imperia having written her letter in blood.

Henry VI, part 1 – Hotspur reads a letter aloud and interjects non-letter lines into the reading. (ASC Actor Chris Johnston reads the example)

Tearing a scroll onstage – the power of destroying a missive. The letters that are torn are blanks. No tearing of “reading” scroll examples have been found by Hailey. An example of a pre-torn scroll where it is a “reading” scroll, but the elements on the “reading” half are cut-off at a specific point (scene performed by ASC Actors Jeremy West and Blythe Coons).

The unification of page and stage.

How Many Children Had Banquo?
Brett Gamboa, Dartmouth College

Doubling – absences of characters like Mercutio and Lear’s Fool during large chunks of their plays. Other characters, however, go missing without much attention (Lady Montague, for example). Lady Montague’s death doesn’t necessarily add to the weight of the tragedy. Romeo’s mother dies of theatrical necessity, she does not appear onstage because she is already there as another character. Her absence must be explained away by another character because she is expected to be there. Maria in Twelfth Night, the Queen in Cymbeline, and many other examples of the disappearing character exist. These examples all happen in their play’s “limiting scene” – the scene that has the most number of speaking character (i.e. minimum number of actors required for the play). Suggestive absences are common in Shakespeare, but they appear to be practical considerations.

Macbeth 4.1 calls for more than 12 actors. “A show of 8 kings and Banquo”(plus Macbeth and witches) – the play calls for 8, but that is not enough for the purpose of the scene. The 8th king carries a mirror to show the future kings to Macbeth – Kings that cannot be embodied onstage. Representing abundance with an abundance of actors and then represents more abundance without any actors at all with the mirror.

Or, is Banquo the 8th king, the one with the mirror. This solution makes the limiting number 12 instead of 13 – the number of actors for which the company had a patent at the time. Using the actors playing the Thanes in the lines of future kings rather than journeymen, since Malcolm makes them Earls in the play, is a nice link, as well.

Why are there no blowjob jokes in Shakespeare?
Matt Kozusko, Ursinus College

Pyramus and Thisbe (“plausible although a stretch, perhaps”) – Rene Thornton, Jr. plays the Wall, standing on a block; John Harrell plays Bottom/Pyramus; and Jeremy West as Flute/Thisbe. The Wall is genitally assaulted, causing the chink (the space between two fingers) to cover that area. Pyramus and Thisbe then kiss through the chink (Pyramus in front and Thisbe at the back). “I kissed the wall’s hole and not your lips at all” “my part discharge”

The Winter’s Tale – Hermione: “come on then, and give it to me in mine ear” as a mis-entrendre. The meanings have shifted over time and so we experience the phrase differently than E.M.E. audiences would have.

Sex acts are a dynamically social thing. There are no blowjob jokes in E.M. writings that we can identify because E.M. people either did not talk about these things publicly or not in ways that we can recognize. The promising candidates are not defensible because they require misreadings.

Distinctions, for example, between irrumare and fellare disappear when translated from Latin into another language and over the course of time.

Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale – Absalom’s kissing of Alison’s arse “savorly” – what is being talked about – cunnilingus or analingus? An involuntary oral sex act of some sort is indicated.

A discourse on the parts of the body, especially when it requires circumspection, are not fixable and are easily movable. Williams’s book “Dictionary of Sex Acts.”

Sound Trumpet
Alisha Huber, independent scholar

O.P.’s focus on sight – we think about going to see a play. The focus in O.P. is related mostly to sight. What about hearing? Shakespeare and his contemporaries frequently use auditory signals in their stage directions. More than 250 calls for trumpets in E.M. stage directions – information conveyed by military signals served both for verisimilitude and a narrative purpose.

Alarum, appeal, parley, advance, and retreat were the basic ones used for E.M. plays.

Julius Caesar – a scene where the characters respond to offstage trumpet signals. The signals are part of the conversation. (Blythe Coons and Rene Thornton, Jr. perform the scene)

Rare in Shakespeare’s plays for the stage directions to just generally call for “Sound Trumpets.” The plays call for specific, indicative, and informational musical signals. Characters explain military signals, in fact, less than characters explain the tolling of a clock. Audience members would very likely have recognized all the military signals and those that didn’t would have been quickly conditioned to recognize the consistent indications.

Unfortunately, because the signals were so familiar, players and real military members did not write them down. They were learned by rote by both groups. Therefore, no records remain of specific musical patterns.

Diverse country’s signals would have recognizable by different groups, but there were distinct differences. The French, perhaps, marched more slowly than the English, for example.

Tucket – a heraldric badge of sound – an aural logo for a character. The Imperial March accompanying the entrance of Darth Vader – the aural logo plays before his entrance every time. The tucket, once learned, prepares the audience for that character’s entrance.

All of these sound signals, when used consistently, conditions the audience to expect certain things along with certain sounds.

Q for Matt Kozusko: Henry V – Fluellen’s forcing Pistol to eat a leek. “Eat this leek or I’ve got another leek in my pocket…”
A: Chewing of a leek, not particularly erotic. The leek already stands for Welsh honor and many other things.

Q for Alisha Huber: Are you arguing that soundtracks can be used to create an auditory experience?
A: Soundtracks create an emotional response and music underscoring text makes the text hard to understand. The signalling intends to create an intellectual response.

Q for Alisha Huber: Does the sound make the meaning?
A: Overly specific examples, like Darth Vader, have a dangerous potential to distract or create a parody of itself.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Study Guide Now Available

The ASC Study Guide for A Midsummer Night’s Dream is now available on our website. And, I promise you, this one’s a lot of fun. Midsummer has so much potential for playing, and I think we’ve found some ways to really bring that to life in classrooms.

Here is a ten-page preview. The Study Guide contains the following activities:

  • The Basics: Getting your students on their feet, working with iambic pentameter, paraphrasing, exploring rhetoric, and turning your classroom into an early modern stage. These sections include, for your benefit, the first 100 lines of text, already marked-up, to use as a model in the classroom.
  • Line Assignments: A way to give your students ownership over a small section of text, which they will use in further language-based activities and staging explorations.
  • Metrical Magic: Examines the performance clues provided by the shifts between normal iambic pentameter and the unusual trochaic tetrameter, the rhythm of spellcasting. The moments when a speaker transitions from one form to the other provide the basis for performance choices. Does the unusual meter call for music? A different physicality? How can actors emphasize the mysticism of what’s going on in those moments?
  • Staging Challenges: Titania’s Bower explores the opportunities presented by the early modern stage. When Titania falls asleep on stage, where can she be placed? She can’t be too much in the way of what’s going on, but she also needs to be close enough for Oberon to ensorcel her and for Bottom to wake her. Students will experiment with different options and determine which they think is most effective.
  • Perspectives: Courtship Rituals examines the social context of the romantic troubles in the play. How would Shakespeare’s audience have perceived Egeus’s ruthless inflexibility and Hermia’s defiance? What implications of pre-contracted betrothals are in the play?
  • Staging Challenges: Actors Playing Actors. The well-meant shenanigans of the Mechanicals can illuminate some potential clues about Shakespeare’s own theatrical world. In this activity, your students will first explore the rehearsal process that Quince, Bottom, and the rest display, and then will prepare their own production of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’. We expect the result to be far more mirthful than tragical.
  • Perspectives: Fairies explores the changing nature of the fae in literature, from its darker origins in English folklore to the benign transformation effected by the Victorians and Disney. Students will choose a source as inspiration for costume design in their vision of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Textual Variants: Examines a curious difference in speech prefixes between the Quarto and Folio versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which I discussed in my last post).
  • Creative writing exercises based on the play, involving imitating Pyramus’s questionable poetry or giving relationship advice to one of the lovers
  • A guide to producing a 1-hour version of the play in your classroom

If you would like to purchase a downloadable copy of the study guide for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or any of our other available titles, please visit our website. Next up on the slate: Henry V.