In odd-numbered years since the first October that the Blackfriars Playhouse was open, scholars from around the world have gathered in Staunton, during the height of the Shenandoah Valley’s famed fall colors, to hear lectures, see plays, and learn about early modern theatre. In 2019, the American Shakespeare Center will once again host Shakespeareans, scholars and practitioners alike, to explore Shakespeare in the study and Shakespeare on the stage and to find ways that these two worlds – sometimes in collision – can collaborate.

Register for the 2019 Blackfriars Conference
Register by OCTOBER 1, 2019 to guarantee your selected show tickets


Past conferences have included such notable scholars as Andrew Gurr, the “godfather” of the Blackfriars Playhouse, Bill Rauch, Dympna Callaghan, Russ McDonald, Ayanna Thompson, Gary Taylor, Gina Bloom, Stephen Greenblatt, Ann Thompson, Roz Knutson, Abigail Rokison, Tina Packer, Scott Kaiser, Gail Kern Paster, Stephen Booth, Tiffany Stern, and George T. Wright

Each year we also honor a scholar who has made great impacts in the theatre field. Previous honorees have included C. Walter Hodges (2005), Alan Dessen (2007), Andrew Gurr (2009), Stephen Booth (2011), George Walton Williams (2013), Barbara Mowat (2015), and Richard Hay (2017).

This conference distinguishes itself from saner conferences in a variety of other ways. First, to model the kind of collaboration we think possible, we encourage presenters to feature actors as partners in the demonstration of their theses. For instance, in 2009, Gary Taylor’s keynote presentation “Lyrical Middleton” featured ASC actors singing and dancing to the songs in Middleton’s plays; in 2015, Tina Packer and James Loehlin worked with ASC actors on scenes from Antony and Cleopatra with Blackfriars Conference participants witnessing rehearsal room challenges. Second, we limit each paper session to six short papers (10 minutes for solo presentations, 13 minutes for presentations with actors). Third, we enforce this rule by ursine fiat – presenters who go over time must exit, pursued by a bear.

One to four short paper sessions are held daily during the conference, with approximately four to six papers each. Each session lasts 60 to 75 minutes. Each day of the conference will also include roundtable discussions, chaired by MBU faculty or ASC research staff, with up to 10 participants discussing specific areas of interest, which could include cross-gendered casting, race, staging disability, new media tools and the interaction with performance, original practice/staging, and rhetoric. Early risers can also take advantage of our one hour Wake Up workshops prior to the start of the day offered by the education staff.

Dates to Note:

October 1, 2019: Deadline for Conference Registration with tickets guaranteed

Register for the 2019 Blackfriars Conference

October 22-27, 2019: Tenth Biennial Blackfriars Conference


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7:00-9:00 PM
Early Arrival Event: Screening of Remembering Shakespeare at the Staunton Visulite Cinema

Remembering Shakespeare directed by Cecilia Rubino — a film which explores new ways of thinking about memory and Shakespeare’s words in our digital age where memory itself is at risk.

10:00-10:45 AM
Welcome Statements
10:45-11:30 AM
Keynote: David Sterling Brown
1:00-2:30 PM
Paper Session: Geography

with Joseph Stephenson, Robin Bates, Michael Wagoner, Elizabeth Sharrett, Deneen Senasi, Kathryn Moncrief & Brendon Fox, and Stephen Wittek

2:45-4:00 PM

Staging Sessions:

Bonduca Staging Session

led by Tina Romanelli of Meredith College

Down in Smoke – Nero and the Ego of the Pathetic: The Tragedy of Nero Staging Session

led by Melinda Marks, Alumni of Mary Baldwin University


Fandom and Early Modern Theatre Colloquy

led by Louise Geddes

Leadership Pedagogy and Early Modern Drama Colloquy

led by Rhonda Knight

Staging Eavesdropping in Shakespeare Colloquy

led by Emma Atwood

4:15-5:30 PM
Paper Session: Props & Bodies

with Michael Hirrel, Grace Tiffany, Matteo Pangallo, Lauren Robertson, Genevieve Love, Gretchen York, and Sarah Neville

8:00-10:30 PM
ASC Performance: Caesar and Cleopatra
10:30-10:45 PM
8:00-9:00 AM
Wake-Up Workshop with ASC Education
9:00-10:30 AM
Paper Session: Night

with Mary Finch, Claire Kimball, Jane Wells, Robert Miola, Ian Borden & Wesley Broulik, Barbara Bono, and Brian Chalk

10:45-11:30 AM
Keynote: Irina Brook
1:00-1:30 PM
Honorific: Roslyn Knutson
1:45-3:00 PM
Paper Session: Sound & Music

with Sae Kitamura, David Landon, Jennifer Linhart Wood & Emily Russell, James Loehlin, Catherine Loomis, and Dawen Tucker

3:15-4:30 PM
Staging Sessions:

The Spanish Tragedy Staging Session

led by Annalisa Castaldo of Widener University

A Fair Quarrel: An “Honorable” Dilemma Staging Session

led by Bill Gelber of Texas Tech University


The Power of the Blackfriars – Finding the Human and Three-Dimensional in Jacobean Staging Colloquy

led by Christopher Marino

Hearing in Shakespeare Colloquy

led by Walter Cannon and Laury Magnus

Scholarship on Original Practices Colloquy

led by Dr. Casey Caldwell

4:45-6:00 PM
Paper Session: Sensuality

with Celia Madeoy & Stephanie Shirilian, Kate McPherson, Eric Brinkman, Clara Biesel, Stacey Jocoy, and Hailey Bachrach

8:00-10:15 PM
ASC Performance: Julius Caesar
10:15-10:30 PM
8:00-9:00 AM
Wake-Up Workshop with ASC Education
9:00-10:30 AM
Paper Session: Character

with Caroline Latta, Holly Pickett, Emily MacLeod, Matthew Davis, Donovan Sherman, and Chelsea Phillips

10:45-11:30 AM
Keynote: Ethan McSweeny
1:00-2:30 PM
Paper Session: Audiences

with Deb Streusand, Richard Preiss, Elizabeth Tavares, Casey Caldwell, Lia Wallace, and Sid Ray

2:45-4:00 PM
Staging Sessions:

Bears, Pair of Freres, or Fair? Staging Session

led by Garry Walton of Meredith College

Murderous Lucretia in The Devil’s Charter Staging Session

led by Roslyn Knutson, Professor Emerita of University of Arkansas –  Little Rock and Evelyn Tribble of University of Connecticut


“Them’s Fightin’ Words”: The Language of Violence in Shakespeare’s Works Colloquy

led by Danielle Rosvally

Accessing Shakespeare Beyond Text: Concept, Vision, Age, Gender, Race, and Identities Colloquy

led by Jeremy Fiebig

Embedded Performance Studies Scholars Colloquy

led by Regina Buccola

The Tent Scene: Process & Playscape Colloquy

led by Theo Black

4:15-5:30 PM
Paper Session: Stage History

with Jeremy Lopez, Paul Menzer, Darren Freebury-Jones, Pamela Macfie, Tiffany Stern, Matthew Davies

8:00-10:30 PM
ASC Performance: Antony and Cleopatra
10:30-10:45 PM 
9:00-10:30 AM
Paper Session: Textual Violence

with Alice Dailey, Eric Johnson, Cassidy Cash, Steven Urkowitz, Bob Jones, Matthew Kozusko

10:45-11:30 AM
Keynote: Katherine Rowe
1:00-1:45 PM
Tentative Final Staging Session
2:00-3:15 PM
Paper Session: Women

with Janna Segal, Kerry Cooke, Christina Romanelli, Kimberly West, Caroline Lion, Caroline Bicks

5:00-7:00 PM
ASC Performance: The Willard Suitcases
7:30-9:00 PM
9:00-11:00 PM
Special Staged Reading:
Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Winner
Keene by playwright Anchuli Felicia KingInspired by Othello and set at a conference of Shakespeare scholars, Anchuli Felicia King’s Keene tells the story of a lone African-American PhD candidate named Tyler and his thesis on Ira Aldridge, the first black man to play Othello.  Into the mix comes Kai, a Japanese musicologist with an obscure paper, who falls in love at first sight with Tyler. At night, Tyler dreams of Ira and Kai dreams of Tyler, and neither of them see coming the betrayal of a close ally.  A heartfelt ode to the experience of always being the second-class genius of color, Keene is an incredible cocktail of early career academia, Shakespeare’s Othello, and the power of American pop.
9:00-10:30 AM
Paper Session: Pedagogy

with Molly Harper, Ann Pleiss Morris, Thomas Sellari, Garry Walton, Stephen Buhler, Sarah Martin, Zach Brown

10:30-11:15 AM
11:15 AM – 12:00 PM
Emerging Scholar Keynote: Katherine Walker