By Kyle Smith
It’s been a long day everyone, but I think we can all agree that it has been well worthwhile. We’ve had the privilege of hearing some fantastic papers today, and I for one can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow!
After a slight actor scheduling hiccup, Heidi Cephus of the University of North Texas began the third session with Staging Mamillius and Confronting Prejudice, a paper concerned with the minimization of Mamillius’ tragic end in The Winter’s Tale. Cephus notes that after his death, Mamillius is only referred to in abstract terms by his parents. Cephus posits that portraying Mamillius as disabled aids the audience in sympathizing with his death, heightening the tragedy and encouraging the audience to confront their notions of disability. Performances from ASC actors David Anthony Lewis, Benjamin Reed, and Lauren Ballard highlighted these possibilities, as well as Leontes’ rejection of Mamillius due to a perceived lack of similarities.
Genevieve Love of Colorado College raised the question of why Richard III‘s textual complexities had been ignored in favor of Hamlet and King Lear‘s. Degree of Difference Cubed: Shakespeare’s_Richard III_ | Shakespeare’s Richard III | Richard III’s Spine examined the tangled relationship between Q1 and F of Richard III. Love noted the circular conversations that have arisen about about whether the two texts are remarkably similar or remarkably different, and drew a link from these conversations to the question: How different is Richard’s spine from Shakespeare’s imagination? Love noted that after Richard’s body was exhumed in 2012, uncannily similar conversations ensued falling on a spectrum of claiming that Richard’s disability was either accurate or exaggerated.
Donald Hedrick of Kansas State University began at the end, stating the overall position of the paper Bad Acting/Real Acting that bad acting was in fact one of Shakespeare’s original staging conditions. Hedrick put forth bad acting as complementary to good acting rather than oppositional. Hedrick highlighted the gestural representational nature of bad acting, noting that bad acting can be imitated far easier than good acting. Benjamin Reed briefly became bad actor extraordinaire, delivering the “To be, or not to be” speech doing just about everything Hamlet tells the players not to do. Hendrick also had Ben, David, and Lauren highlight some of the extremes of bad acting, coming to the conclusion that what had been decried as bad acting in Shakespeare’s time may simply have been a generational conflict over a difference in style.
Brett Gamboa of Dartmouth College highlighted doubling difficulties in The Fair Maid of the Exchange with his paper Maids of Exchange: Heywood and the “Man-Woman Monster.” Gamboa noted the number of difficult doublings present in the play, especially concerning the character Bernard in the final scene. Gamboa challenged idea that only boys played women instead of adult men, arguing that the difficulty of so many quick changes in the final scene made this unlikely. The unlikely effectiveness of these disguises, as well as the seeming impossibility of performing the transitions in practice are the sort of anomalies of representation that Gamboa concerned himself with.
Randolph-Macon College’s Marisa Cull broached a subject that is familiar to many of us at the American Shakespeare Center and Mary Baldwin: embedded stage directions. The Public Body and Face in King John explored the use of bodies as vessels for public roles in King John, noting several places where the text indicates what a body is doing, such as the infamously long hand-holding scene, which was enacted by Ben, Lauren, David, and Catie Osborn.
Scott Maisano of University of Massachusetts Boston presented Spray It, Don’t Say It: Performing I.2 of Richard III, an analysis of Richard’s wooing of Anne and the subsequent spit-take. Maisano argues that the spitting actually helps explain why Anne is won over by a man who killed not only her husband, but also her father, and explored the various possible reactions that Richard has to the spit as a catalyst for the shift in Anne’s attitude toward him. Catie and Lauren acted a few of these possibilities, while others were portrayed from film versions of the play starring Laurence Olivier, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ian McKellen.
Our final paper of the session (and of the day) came from Grace “Sid” Ray of Pace University. Her paper “I cannot tell vat is baiser en Anglish”: Shakespeare’s Kissing naturally focused on stage kisses. Namely the fact that there’s so many of them. And given that there are so many, they can connote a lot of different things: love, affection, duty, death, etc. Ray noted that a stage kiss can be doubly performative and can even threaten suspension of disbelief. She demonstrated this by exploring different possibilities in the kiss between Cassio and Emilia in Othello, relating to Emilia’s power and how an early-modern audience might have received her (with Lauren playing Emilia, Ben playing Cassio, and Catie playing Iago), and the dynamics of power present in the kiss between Henry and Catherine in Henry V (with Lauren playing Catherine, Ben playing Henry, and Catie playing Alice).
That’s all we’ve got for today, but we’ll be back bright and early in the morning with a rundown on the verse workshop led by Sarah Enloe!