- Bodies on the Early modern stage
A: Disability: How do we explore staging disability? From Othello’s epilepsy to the mental health of King Lear and the physical deformity of Richard III, these plays present a challenge by prompting us to attempt to portray disability on stage. Why does Shakespeare include an epileptic fit during Othello? Is King Lear suffering from dementia? Does Macbeth suffer from PTSD? We invite conversation on the ways in which actors present disability on stage.
B: Body Types: Early modern plays display a variety of bodies in some way altered from the actor’s natural state. How did early modern actors convey pregnancy, dismemberment, insanity, dancing, “monstrosity”, extreme weight, divinity, etc? What options can modern productions employ to achieve those same ends?
C: Gender and Casting: In this seminar, we would like to interrogate the historical practice of single-sex performances and how this impacted the performance of gender. We also welcome papers that explore the effect of cross-gendered casting, such as the so-called “breeches casting” at the turn of the 20th century where women were cast in leading male roles, or modern productions which incorporate cross-gender casting, regendering of characters, or the exploration of the non-binary gender spectrum on stage.
- New Media Tools: Moving into a new digital age, modern media is becoming ever more present in Shakespeare. Utilizing apps within performances and for educational purposes, Shakespeare is being realized for a new audience using innovative approaches. We can now access Shakespeare’s text online and on our mobile devices through Folger Online, Open Source Shakespeare, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology online complete works. Performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe are now being filmed and shown live. How does the integration of media and performance impact the audience’s understanding of the text? Will the future of media and performance be intertwined? We invite papers that investigate the relationship between media and performance.
- Race: What can we discover by studying Shakespeare and race together? Ayanna Thompson, author of Passing Strange, states that in order to truly investigate this topic, we must first shift our view. As a society, we have many different perceptions of both Shakespeare and race, so in order to properly investigate them, we need to identify our meaning. The Tempest, Othello, and Merchant of Venice are arguably Shakespeare’s most prominent pieces with references to race. The aim of this exploration is to interrogate the ways in which race factors into the performance of Shakespeare. How do Othello’s interactions with characters in the play contrast with the societal view of color? Is Merchant of Venice an anti-Semitic text? We welcome papers that explore the topic of race in performance, the notion of non-traditional casting, the historical impact of Shakespeare’s time on his writing, and the role of racial dynamics in modern productions.
- Early Modern Staging Conditions
A: Audience Focus: This colloquy explores the staging of Shakespeare’s plays and audience experience. Performance companies such as the American Shakespeare Center at their Blackfriars Playhouse and, until recently, Shakespeare’s Globe have engaged in what some refer to as “original practice” Shakespeare. What is the essence of these conventions? What drives theatres to take them on and/or to give them up? What measures might be helpful in determining the impact on the audience experience? Of late, reactions to changing conventions have been mixed, with some critics and audience members seeming to prefer that the Globe remains the way it has always been and others insisting that the changes were beneficial to bringing in new audiences. How can the academy and/or practitioners fruitfully convene regarding the impact of such practice on the audiences at these and other theatres?
B: Production Focus: This seminar explores the use of early modern staging conditions when staging Shakespeare’s plays. Performance spaces such as the American Shakespeare Center and The Globe have been performing under these conditions, until more recently when Emma Rice, the current artistic director of the Globe, brought in lighting and amplification. How does staging in original conditions affect the production? What adjustments do actors and crew members make when transitioning from one practice to another?
A: And Education/Literature: Scholars have long examined the use of rhetoric within Shakespeare’s plays. This seminar explores, but is not limited to, the impact of rhetoric throughout Shakespeare’s plays and the impact that his writing has today, how his education impacted his use of rhetoric, and how our modern day literature has been impacted by his use of rhetoric.
B: And Character: Throughout his plays, Shakespeare uses rhetoric to craft characters’ voices and to direct their actions. Rhetoric can illustrate power such as the different types of rhetoric that ultimately affect the plebeian’s decisions in Julius Caesar as Brutus and Antony fight for their allegiance, and it can also create an audible difference between a King Richard, a Toby Belch, and a Beatrice. What rhetorical devices most strongly affect a character’s voice? How does rhetoric affect the audience’s perception of character? We invite papers that investigate the use of rhetoric as a device for shaping character throughout Shakespeare’s works.
- Adaptation: Where does the original play end and the Adaption begin? This colloquy invites discussion around adaptation of early modern plays. Participants may address the considerations behind adapting (historical setting, audience, language) and/or particular adaptations and explorations which engage Shakespeare and other playwrights in new conversations.
- Biography: From Bates to Greenblatt to keynoter Lena Orlin, the biography of Shakespeare seems ever ripe for exploration. The elusive history of the man behind the plays has prompted much supposition, speculation, and invention. This colloquy invites participants to argue the motivations behind the on-going fascination with Shakespeare’s life and to delve into the limitations of such inquiries.
- Bibliography: This pedagogy-focused conversation invites participants to present their methods for bringing textual studies into the undergraduate and/or secondary classroom. We welcome specific experiences that have illuminated the value in this kind of teaching and a discussion of any unexpected challenges or successes.
- Parts: Parts, sides, cue scripts have been part of theatrical practice for centuries. Whether in contemporary summer rep or musical theatre, or in work like the ASC’s Ren Season, modern theatre companies continue to incorporate this “technology” into their working habits for numerous reasons. How have you used the technology of parts in your research, publications, or classroom practice? Share with the group your methods for creating and deploying cue scripts as well as any discoveries you have made in historical use, authorial specifics, or actor preference.
- Extra-Textual: Considering Tiffany Stern’s recent work looking at pre-show/post-show performance, this colloquy invites participants to consider the impact of pre-show, interlude, and post-show activities as practice in theatres both historically and today. How might audience expectation play into the choices that theatres make? What message is a theatre attempting to convey with curtain speeches or musical selections? How do the extra-textual components fit with the themes of the production, if at all?
- Theatrical Architecture: With the opening of Shakespeare’s Globe in 1997, a movement to embrace the architecture of Shakespeare’s “original” theatres was born. As companies from the American Shakespeare Center to Atlanta’s Shakespeare Tavern, from University of California at Irvine’s Swan to Pigeon Creek Shakespeare, and Royal Shakespeare Company explore audience position, background, set and/or room decoration, open air or roofed spaces, what are the discoveries coming to light? This colloquy encourages data driven information, production history, and other avenues for discussing the impact of theatre architecture on company mission and performance.
- Performance history: It’s no surprise that people who go to theatre enjoy talking about the plays they’ve seen. Professors and teachers require students to assess productions in assignments; dramaturgs relay information to designers about past takes on a title; directors and actors may study or recall a particular performance. What are the best practices for relaying information about the ethereal and elusive world of live productions? What information would scholars recommend that theatres archive regarding their productions? How can modern technology help to preserve the theatrical experience, and what limitations does technology still present? Taking your own guidelines into account, this colloquy will explore production history through an analysis of a variety of reviews and materials, and formulate suggestions for student and professional work moving forward in this area.
- Experiential Shakespeare Pedagogy: Teaching Shakespeare through staging is something that happens in few college classrooms, which tend towards the lecture format. Since instructors are likely to teach as they were taught, the hurdles in embracing staging Shakespeare are higher than merely asking students to play through scenes. This colloquy invites participants to share successful methods for staging Shakespeare with English students over a term or just a week.
- Playing Politics: Because theatre’s societal role has so often been to question, to challenge, and to provoke, it has been inextricably tied to politics throughout the centuries. In the early modern period, playwrights were subject to approval and censorship by government authorities. How did some playwrights push those boundaries, and how did others play within them? How can modern productions of early modern plays speak to our own political reality?
- Marlowe: One of the greatest early modern playwrights was also one with a tragically short career. In just a few years, Christopher Marlowe shaped the English stage in ways that would resonate for decades to come, and his plays remain popular in the modern age. This colloquy invites discussion of the master of the mighty line, his influence on Shakespeare and other playwrights, and his enduring legacy, as well as speculation of what-might-have-been had he lived past 1594.
- Collaboration: The role of the early modern playwright was almost never an isolated one. Whether officially co-writing plays, influencing and being influenced by each other, or spinning off of similar themes and source material, Shakespeare and his contemporaries were in frequent conversation with each other. This colloquy invites discussion of collaboration between playwrights, between actors, and in the classroom. How can the study of early modern collaboration enhance classroom experiences? What elements of early modern collaboration are retained by modern production companies?
- Applied Shakespeare: Theory driven modes of studying Shakespeare have been de rigeur for decades, more frequently in recent practice, the tables are turning and Shakespeare has become the vessel for teaching other subjects. From the American Shakespeare Center’s Leadership programs, to Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Bullying, to work in prisons in Kentucky and Indiana, Shakespeare is the tool agencies are using to illuminate their particular aims. What is the impact of this kind of program on Shakespeare studies? How does “using” Shakespeare alter Shakespeare? What is the history of this practice?