Lia Wallace (College Prep Programs Manager) counts down the top 17 things you need to know about this week’s conference. 17.
Robin Hood is Dead Right off the bat, we’re kicking things off Tuesday evening with a brand new play written by Dr. Paul Menzer. We encourage attendees arriving in time to join us at Oak Grove Theatre for heavy appetizers, drinks, and mingling before the show begins at 8 PM.

Livestream! Don’t you love technology? For the first time, we’ll be livestreaming a Conference event on our Facebook page, so if you can’t be here in person you can be here virtually. Look for the Livestream during Bill Rauch’s keynote presentation Thursday morning, 10/27 from 10:30-11:15.

The Motley Shakespeare Players Meet members of the current MFA company from Mary Baldwin University’s Shakespeare & Performance graduate program, the Motley Shakespeare Players. Size them up now, before they graduate and steal our jobs.

Lunch & Learns Squeeze every minute of learning you can out of the 2017 Blackfriars Conference by attending our Lunch & Learn sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Pre-order a boxed lunch (or bring your own) to enjoy while learning about Shakespeare and Sign Language Interpretations from Lindsey Snyder, and Theatrical Education from some of our partners in academia.

Staging Sessions The Blackfriars Conference has always been about page meeting stage: a chance for scholars to explore textual discoveries with the practitioners who will put them to use. In 2017, we’re extending that circle beyond the usual academics and actors to include the audience. Join us on Wednesday, 10/25 from 11:00 – 11:30, Friday, 10/27 from 11:30-12:10, and Saturday 10/28 from 11:30-12:10 for three different staging sessions, where audience feedback will help guide actor and academic as we navigate together the possibilities surrounding a specific textual crux.

Late Night Shows No sleep til’ November! We’ve got some good reasons for you to stay up late. Join us at the Playhouse long after the action is supposed to be over to catch three special extra shows:  American Contemporary: Eugene O’Neill on Thursday, 10/26 at 11:00 PM; Henry IV on Friday, 10/26 at 11:00PM, and Sweet are the Uses on Saturday, 10/27 at 9:30PM.

Wake-up Workshops More of an early bird than a night owl? That’s cool, we’ve got you covered. Head to the Playhouse bright and early on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to join members of the Education team demoing some of our favorite workshops from 8:00-8:45. (Yes, there will be coffee.)

Brunch In case you were thinking of leaving early, allow us to introduce one of many reasons why you should stay through at least Sunday morning: mimosas. In the Playhouse. Need we say more?

Truancy cards If your cup overfloweth with Conference events, pour a little out and reset by checking out the locally owned shops, restaurants, and boutiques that comprise Staunton’s beautiful downtown. We’ve even made a game out of it: visit a local business and have them stamp your card. Whoever has the most stamps at the end of the Conference wins the Truancy Award, which comes with bragging rights… and free admission to the 2019 Blackfriars Conference.

Shakespeare in Argentina and Translations Another reason to stay through Sunday is to see this bilingual presentation of a fictional conversation between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Cervantes’ Don Quixote, mediated by Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen.  

ASC performances The offerings in the 2017 Summer/Fall Season at the Blackfriars Playhouse are nothing less than whirlwinds of words and wonder. Our Conference is all about the marriage of scholarship and performance, so what better way to cap off a day of scholarship than with a masterly performance of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, Much Ado about Nothing, and (my personal favorite) The Fall of King Henry, or Henry VI Part 3? If you’re feeling sick of Shakespeare, you’re probably in the wrong place… but you’ll also probably enjoy our delightful production of Peter & The Starcatcher, a play filled with music and magic and memories.

Honorific – Richard Hay At the American Shakespeare Center, we do it with the lights on. We also don’t use much in the way of set pieces or scenery. And yet even we, with our bare stage and universal lighting, recognize the brilliance of Mr. Richard L. Hay, designer of the last 59 seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Despite our relative lack of design, Hay has been to almost every Conference since the inception of our biennial event in 2001, and honoring him is an honor (and a privilege) for us.  

Keynote speakers I would never presume to rank these four Shakespearean giants, so consider these four points to be one point broken into four parts ordered by presentation date and nothing else. These are the heroes that wrote our textbooks, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.​

  • 5.  Lena Cowen Orlin (Wednesday) is the Executive director of the Shakespeare Association of America and a professor of English at Georgetown University. Orlin has been awarded fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  
  • 4.  Bill Rauch (Thursday) has been artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 2007, where he has directed several world premieres. Previously, he collaborated with communities nationwide for 20 years as co-founder and artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company.
  • 3.  Dympna Callaghan (Friday) is William L. Safire Professor of Modern Letters in the Department of English at Syracuse University.  She has published widely on the playwrights and poets of the English Renaissance and was President of the Shakespeare Association of America in 2012-13.
  • 2.  Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, (Saturday) has taught all over the world and is a published author with numerous titles to his name, such as Shakespeare and Amateur Performance: A Cultural History.

The Bear Perhaps the most famous (or at least infamous) component of the Blackfriars Conference is The Bear. You know, the one from that super-famous stage direction in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “Exit, pursued by a bear”? That’s the one. If you’ve never attended the Blackfriars Conference before, but you have attended a conference where a presenter flagrantly ignored the set time limit given for their particular paper, you’re in for a real treat. In our house, when a presenter overstays their 10- or 13-minute welcome, we release The Bear from the wings to chase the offender from the podium (or, if necessary, steal their presentation materials). I have a sneaking suspicion that some presenters exceed the time limit on purpose, simply to tempt The Bear out from its dwelling… trust me, you won’t want to miss it.