Staging Discoveries – Sara Stamatiades (Leader), Blair Coats, Scott Maisano, Marshall Garrett
In this afternoon’s colloquy session, Sarah Stamatiades led our group in the seminar Staging Discoveries, where we explored both the staging of discoveries, and discoveries made on stage. Opening the conversation with the Act 5 Scene 1 stage direction from The Tempest, “Here Prospero discovers Ferdinand and Miranda, playing at chess”, Sarah notes that a discovery in chess is when an attack is revealed after one piece moves out of the way of another. Similarly, in early modern drama, a discovery is when someone or something is revealed or uncovered. During this session, auditors along with panel participants Blair Coats, Scott Maisano, and Marshall Garrett, investigated these discoveries by reading scenes from Pericles and Scott’s play-in-progress Love’s Labour’s Won, a sequel to Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.
When reading Act 5 Scene 1 of Pericles, the seminar focused on the discoveries that can occur when a character is played by more than one actor, and how the play can both reveal and suggest that as a possibility. Marshall particularly references his experience in staging Pericles where Pericles is played by a younger actor in the beginning of the play, later revealing the older actor playing Pericles after the time jump. This choice can be used to mirror romantic relationships throughout the play, with the young actor playing Pericles becoming Lysimachus and the young actor playing Thasia becoming Marina.
Moving on to our readthrough of Act 5 Scene 3 and Scene 4 of Love’s Labour’s Won, we concentrated on the layers of disguise the characters put on, rather than the possibilities of characters played by multiple actors. Scott has both Rosaline and Berowne in disguise in scene 3, and places Berowne in the discovery space on the stage in scene 4, taking the place of the corpse Chiara, (also intended to be doubled with the actor who plays Berowne). These purposeful uses of the space and costume to frame various reveals allowed us to see new levels of emotional discovery in addition to the physical discovery.
Playing with these more marginal texts, Sarah led us through a fruitful conversation of discovery, exploration, and revels – and fostered a strong desire amongst auditors and participants to see Scott’s play in full someday!
Building a Practice to Build an Audience with Robert Crighton
Robert Crighton began the session with a survey of the room, asking what our favorite plays not written by Shakespeare in the early modern period were. Some titles include The Duchess of Malfi, Gallathea, The Roaring Girl, Endymion, Sir Clyomon and Sir Clamydes, Dr. Faustus, The Witch, Broken Heart, The Spanish Tragedy, The Witch of Edmonton, Iphigenia, The Four P’s and The Tamer Tamed. He then asked what plays we have seen, and those include Edward II, The Sea Voyage, The Duchess of Malfi, Tamburlaine, The White Devil, Dr. Faustus, and Gallathea. He then asked the room what their interests/experiences were with early modern texts. Crighton shared that he has created a list of 918 plays that are early modern and not written by Shakespeare. His goal is to determine if they are producible. With the question “is this a play?” in mind, he had a participant read one page of text out loud. He then had two participants read the play together. He then handed out copies of Robin Hood and The Knight and distributed parts and had seven participants read it out loud. He likened the genre of the show to outdoor larping at medieval faires, renaming the “play” a “fight.” He shared that his main question on his podcast is not “should you do the play?” but rather “how do you do it?” His other question is “how do you build an audience?” He explains that Shakespeare has an audience, but his challenge is selling the plays not written by Shakespeare in their own right, in other words; selling the plays on their own merit, as opposed to a way of understanding a historical period or a different play.
Crighton then introduced the second part of his question. In addition to selling it to audiences, how do we sell these plays to artists? In answer to this question, an alum offered his experience with the weight of playing iconic characters, such as Hamlet, and the freedom that lesser known plays offer to artists to explore and discover. Crighton also drew attention to events where the main focus is not the play itself, but a play is a part of the event, which might be an avenue to bring these plays to people who wouldn’t otherwise seek them out. The group discussed marketability, what communities a play serves, and plays as a vehicle for celebrating identity. The next question Crighton posed was “how do we keep people from being afraid of these texts?” We then read an Induction by Thomas Randolph for a revival of The Hungry Courtier and considered its resonance as an induction about plague and food scarcity and its flexibility as an opening that could preface any play. He closed the colloquy with an epilogue from the 14th century, thanking us for our “laudable listening.”
Untitled Othello – Leaders: Dr. Emily Bryan from Sacred Heart University, Dr. Rachel Bauer from Sacred Heart University, Professor Terrell Donnell Sledge from Sacred Heart University; Participants: Ayasha Cantey, Joseph Dunn, Tendon Gardner, Professor Charles Gillespie
There were 25 observers for the colloquy Untitled Othello lead by Dr. Emily Bryan from Sacred Heart University, Dr. Rachel Bauer from Sacred Heart University, Professor Terrell Donnell Sledge from Sacred Heart University with participants Ayasha Cantey, Joseph Dunn, Tendon Gardner, and Professor Charles Gillespie. Dr. Emily Bryan began by describing that the project began by calling Keith Hamilton Cobb in August 2021 searching for ways to de-colonize Shakespeare’s work, particularly through his work American Moor. Instead, Sacred Heart found that Keith Hamilton Cobb’s vision was to create a home for Othello within the program and Dr. Emily Bryan said “okay”.
Dr. Emily Bryan finished her portion of the colloquy with three pieces of advice for the space: 1. “Say yes before you say no.” Say yes to all the different interpretations, different readings, the discomfort that exists within the text. Say yes to making everything happen, even if you don’t know how. 2. “Make sure we invite everyone to the table.” If we as theatre makers want to create a truly equitable space for everyone make sure that everyone is involved in every part of the process. 3. “Shakespeare’s text is never more important than the people in the room.” Listen and care for those that exist in the space, not the people that existed 400 years ago.
Professor Terrell Sledge evaluated Untitled Othello as both a practitioner and an educator. The reality of Othello is that the play is inherently problematic. The play challenges allyship, frames Othello as a super-predator, and ultimately ends in his death. The freedom to come into a creative space speaks to the truth reflecting a play that we as scholars are still finding language for. Untitled Othello looked to create something other than profitable theatre, and looked beyond the two-dimensionality of these characters. Instead, it brought vulnerability into the room, the humanity of these characters, blazing a trail that reveals you to you. Being in the room was a growth experience and was a truly magic experience that allowed for a more nuanced rehearsal process.
Dr. Rachel Bauer reviewed how all four of the professors’ pedagogical differences allowed for higher creativity in the dramaturgical and table work process. Instead of focusing on the production as a whole, there was a focus upon the rehearsal process itself. A crucial part of the process was the involvement of students from both theatre and outside the theatre department to join in the reading and conversation. The residency allowed for students to reach across the campus network as a whole and inviting their research from classes into the space.
Ayasha Cantey is an English major and argues for the teaching of Othello as it can do more harm to ban the text than to potentially teach the text. By creating a space where students can be in the room throughout the process there is potential for students to learn the truth of the play, whatever it may be for them. Joseph Dunn is an English and Theatre major and seeks to define Untitling. Untitling takes these words from Shakespeare and redefines what we are saying and why we are saying it. Tendon Gardner is a business major and talks about the access to understanding text that the project provided. By being able to watch professional actors tear up text, he changed his plans within the world of business and his approach to text reading and has since interned for theatres and participated in plays. Professor Charles Gillispie is a professor of Catholic studies and found that the students discovered that they mattered as they worked with professionals who reflected their gender identity, racial identity, and sexual identity.
The project has still never gotten through Act 5, even with the staged reading that was done only Acts 1-4 of Untitled Othello were accomplished. Some video of the project was shared during the colloquy of the kinds of discussion that were had about power dynamics and approaching racist characters as a white person. While the process most closely resembles table-work, the 7-weeks that the actors were with the Sacred Heart faculty found movement and staging very organically as actors “rebelled” and moved.
If you’re at an institution that is interested in getting involved in further Untitling projects, Sacred Heart is interested in teleconferencing in other institutions so please contact either Dr. Emily Bryan or Keith Hamilton Cobb to get involved.
Shakespeare Bulletin Publishing Performance / Performing Publication lead by Dr. Peter Kirwan, Mary Baldwin University discusses the journals plans for future and current publications. In the light of the RaceB4Race executive board session, Shakespeare Bulletin as well as other leading journals in the field are attempting to demystify the process of submitting to the journal and others. Dr. Kirwan answered questions about the trend and acquisition process, guidelines when it comes to publishing and the editing process when it comes to publishing for the journal. The journal and its editors aim to support authors in their work both before, during, and after the writing process.