By: Molly Harper
Chair: Maria Hart
Participants: Arthur Fergenson, Louis Martin, Katherine Clifford
People mispronounce Arthur’s name often. It’s Yiddish.
The papers for this colloquy ended up focusing on specific characters and their portrayal in productions over time.
First Paper: Love’s Midsummer Battlefield by Louis Martin
1982 production Theseus and Hippolyta have a developing relationship from the onset of the play. They are gentle with one another and cautious.
Hippolyta’s sympathy for Hermia that changes his opinion through the play.
1966 film Hippolyta wears a low cut gown and is laughing and smiling.
Theseus apologizes to Hippolyta for wooing with a sword.
Angry Hippolyta slaps Theusus for his decision on Hermia dispute.
Doubled Hippolyta with Titania. Both women’s strength is reinforced in the play.
Traditional feminine Hippolyta seems detached from the quarrel, she seems disappointed in Theseus’s decision.
At the hunt scene, the two reconcile. She pulls him aside and changes in Theseus’s decision. She quietly subverts male oppression.
Recent RSC play: Theseus defeats Hippolyta in the opening of the play. Hippolyta is a force to be reckoned with. She shares a tender moment with Hermia before exiting. Again, the production doubled Titania with Hippolyta, she seems superior to Oberon. In the hunt scene, Theusus and Hippolyta walk out as equals.
Ending argument: Women’s roles can be reimagined.
Second paper: A/sexual Feste? Towards Performative Asexuality in Shakespeare’s Clowns By Catherine Clifford
Nunn’s 1966 production of Twelfth Night has a Feste that is aloof and disconnected from the sexual mayhem. He sees Viola in her woman’s weeds. He passively maintains power as an objective witness.
Feste is an unmasker and only engages to unmask other. Feste never serves as an object of desire, operates outside sexual ecosystem in play. Nunn effectively positions him as asexual within the text. Asexual is, according to AVIN, orientation of someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction, but can still seek romantic connections with others. Within spectrum of asexualism, Demisexual or gray sexual, it can be a passive lack of sexual attraction. Asexuality is very rarely discussed and very little research in Shakespearean text.
Another portrayal of an “asexual” character was in a production of Merry Wives (sorry I didn’t hear the year or company), where the Falstaff was infertile. Falstafs can never succeed because inability to perform, decayed in lust. While this is the wrong view of asexuality, it does help start a conversation.
Asexuality remains the same throughout their lives. Action of celibacy. AVIN is developing a truth archive and vernacular archive of asexual experience. History, cultural performance, finding bridges between asexual of today and asexual contact past and present. Asexuals are often denied as a sexual identity throughout society troupes. Normalize asexual in spaces it hasn’t been named. What about Shakespearean text? Feste is notable as having a lack of sexual desire for anyone in the play. Harmonic structure is dependent on future marriages of the play. Only Feste and Antonio only ones not to attach to other characters, but Feste has no one in his desires. Feste doesn’t wear livery, he drifts between spaces as he pleases. He refuses to expose himself. Nun argues that Feste is a truth teller. He is unadorned, he acts in an asexual gaze, so what? 2012 study found asexuals are targets for bias and treated worse than other sexual orientations. Asexuals are stigmatized as . However, reading Feste as a asexual, neither the object or subject of desire, provide compelling asexual character to start conversation.
Third Paper: Unsafe theater by Fergenson
What is unsafe theater? What is it in classical theater? It is not smothering ourselves in self congratulations, no challenge for the audience. Jesse Greens reviewing in Building the Wall, prejudice of the audiences, result is smugness, a void. Most frighteningly, it is in Lear. Performance never lives up to the text.
Great production showed What is common in all of us: we will disappear. Old man loses everything in the face of death.
Most productions have Midlife crisis Lear. One production had Lear at the end marches with the army, Cordelia on his arms. Most productions have a Mad Lear. If Lear is mad, it’s not universal. Then you have Hudson valley shakespeare festival did Lear with cut out the guts, cut the pc problems, when father and daughter reunited, they ballroom dance.
Chicago shakespeare theater, Brecht’a alienation with no feeling, urinals onstage. Like mother courage with no death of daughter. The tell is count to five. Almost every Lear he has seen the line “never,never,never, never” they cut the fifth never. Failure of the professional actor who runs from the fear.
Michael Kahn volunteered to say unsafe theater is Jacobean tragedies. Happy murder of innocents, Lear should break your heart and often productions do not. Don’t use excuses, don’t cop out. I want a Lear that embodies Robert Frost’s “Trial by Exsistence”. Make me feel unsafe. It is human, it is the end. Acknowledge my life and fullness of my life.
Fourth Paper: Thomas Moore by Hart
The beginning of this paper is a useful amount of dramaturgical information on Thomas Moore, the collaboration of the writers, people’s opinions on Thomas Moore, and a small performance history since it is rarely performed.
Diverse source materials, balanced subversive divert attention away from relioigous and political dealings
Playwrights sanitized religious affiliation and thereby, emphasizes character and his actions to emphasis to martyrdom. Death of hero enigmatic. Moore hides behind his jokes. Resigns as lord chancellor, but never states his reason or his religious affiliations. The writers omitted his catholic ties. Adaptation process focus effort to prepare audience for Thomas’ execution speech. Wisdom is reemphasized leading to execution, to dissuade audience from seeing him as possessed or crazy or dim witted. Moore’s jokes increase as he gets closer to his execution. Using the jokes and wit to make Moore more relatable and martyr like, underplay his humor, enigmatic mask, actor must balance wit and seriousness, so not to alienate the audiences. Despite Thomas Moore is a powerhouse character, there were no early modern performances to note. 1964 was first performance with Sir Ian McKellen.
How would you stage Isabella at the end? Asexual shakespeare character. Staging her as an outsider, she has to be repulsed by offer.
Agreed. Worse and most effective staging was a Mussolini duke extending his power using a microphone and addressing as if in front of army.
Representation of asexual or androgynous? Androgyny has to be gender expression, the terms are not inter exchangeable.
How do we talk about Thomas Moore in different fictional portrayals? Tudors, Wolf hall, etc. promotes Moore as a certain serious character. You have to have an actor the nuisance of authority and humor balance, cautious with the dryness
Arthur asked if anyone has seen a powerful and moving Lear.
One person: McKellen’s production of Lear moved an audience member to fear his humanity.