Performance, Playhouse, Practice, and Play

The Blackfriars Conference Returns in partnership with MARY BALDWIN UNIVERSITY!


This November, the American Shakespeare Center and Mary Baldwin University will co-host the 11th Blackfriars Conference at the Blackfriars Playhouse. We will join together each day of the conference to hear papers, celebrate attending the plays in our season, and enjoy other social events and activities. Additionally, for the first time ever, conference registration and submissions are open to undergraduate students. Paper presentations and staging sessions will be in-person only, but we are excited to also offer remote participation for some colloquy sessions.

Registration for this year’s Blackfriars Conference is now CLOSED. Please contact with any questions.

To select your add-on features, including plays to see during your time in Staunton, and certain special events, please contact the Box Office at 1.877.MUCH.ADO.

But wait! Check out the extra events included with all Conference registrations:

Thursday, November 2, 10am at the MBU Wharf Space
The Untitled Othello Project: Untitling Twelfth Night – A Practicum
Facilitated by Jessica Burr, Keith Hamilton Cobb, and ensemble members of the Untitled Othello Project
The process of “Untitling” being developed by The Untitled Othello Project is the removal through open-ended, frank, and supported discussion of all presumption that Shakespeare’s texts over generations have imposed upon us. In this process, nothing is sacred. Ideally, we bring to the table people across myriad disciplines to question the assumptions that we as readers, educators, performers, and theater-makers of the texts perpetually have made and continue to make; people gathered around a shared text, reimagining our complicities, our passions, and our hopes for a different future. For this practicum hosted by ASC and the Blackfriars Conference, and in collaboration with the students of the Shakespeare & Performance Graduate Program at Mary Baldwin University, we depart from our two years of work on Othello, and begin with a new text: Twelfth Night. Let’s sit down together and engage in the creative discomfort of being human. All are welcome.

Friday, November 3, 5:15-6:30pm at the MBU Wharf
S&P Hosted Happy Hour for Alumni and Higher Ed professionals
Come down to MBU at the Wharf to enjoy some refreshments and learn more about the Shakespeare & Performance Graduate Program at Mary Baldwin University. S&P is an interdisciplinary graduate program that equips students with the skills to approach Shakespeare and theatre from all angles: as actors, directors, dramaturgs, educators, scholars, and so much more! Alumni, current students, and faculty will be highlighting the program’s accomplishment through the years. This event is open to all attendees!

Friday, November 3, 10:30pm at the Blackfriars Playhouse

Late Night Event: Lady M’s Christmas
Written by Monica Cross, Directed by TBA
This darkly comic one-act play imagines Shakespeare’s favorite “murder couple” trying to celebrate Christmas in the midst of the events of Shakespeare’s play. Run time is approximately 35 minutes.

Saturday, November 4, 11:00pm at the Blackfriars Playhouse
Late Night Event: What’s In a Name? 
Created by Fawzia M. Istrabadi, Arabic Translation by Adham Sayed, and Directed by Prague Shakespeare Company’s Guy Roberts
The piece is a look into the mind of Juliet Capulet and will explore her many different sides by having 3 actors portray her. It will also specifically explore her relationship to Lady Capulet. Based on the concept of ‘what if the Capulet family was Arab and Muslim?’ the script is partially a mix of Shakespeare’s text and the Arabic language. Run is approximately 20 minutes.

Questions? Contact our Education Team: 

Conference Schedule

Events are subject to change
Thursday November 2
10:00am – 2:00pm Untitling Twelfth Night: A UOP Practicum at the MBU Wharf Studio
2:00pm – 3:00pm Box Office open for check in/registration at the Playhouse
3:00pm Opening Ceremonies and Welcome
3:30pm – 4:45pm Paper Session #1
  • Holly Pickett: Staging Shakespeare’s Caves
  • Elizabeth Dieterich: “So Open and Black a Theater”: Staging Race Indoors and Outdoors in Early Modern Drama
  • Dr. Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy: To Blanch an Ethiop: Motifs of Blackness in The Tempest and Jonson’s Masque of Blackness
  • Dr. Patrick Harris: Eleazar was a white man: Phenomenologies of Race & Performance in Lust’s Dominion
  • Laura DeLuca: Adopting Ancient Royalty: Cleopatra VII in Early Modern Drama
  • Elissa Wolf: Shakespeare’s Asides
5:00pm – 5:30pm Staging Session #1
  • Blaire Baron, arguing for Ana Caro de Mallén’s Valor, Agravio y Mujer, aka Courage, Betrayal, and a Woman Scorned, aka The Courage to Right a Woman’s Wrongs
7:30pm Much Ado About Nothing performance
Friday, November 3
9:00am Opening session / Keynote Introduction
9:30am – 10:15am Patricia Akhimie Keynote: “The Goodness of the Night: Editing Othello
10:45am – 11:45am Paper Session #2
  • Peter Kirwan: 1, 2, 3; or, Wherefore Art Thou Not Rogero?
  • Lars Engle: “Staging a textual crux: performing competing fixes of The Changeling 3.4.68-73″
  • Amanda Rogus: Exit Juliet Pursued by Romeo: Exploring Storytelling Shifts in Explicit Stage Directions
  • Emma-Rose Kraus: Placing the Prick in Dido, Queen of Carthage: Performance Practice as a Tool for Textual Scholarship
12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch Break
1:15pm – 2:30pm Colloquy Breakout Session #1 (various locations)
  • Radical Hospitality/Radical Welcome in Shakespearean Performance ⏐Participants: Jeremy Fiebig (Leader), Kim Carrell, Alexa Alice Joubin [FORMAT: Roundtable]
  • “Teach it but how”: On-Your-Feet Pedagogical Approaches for Shakespeare ⏐Participants: Allison Pajor (Leader), Annette Drew-Bear, Elissa Wolf, Erin Lekavich, Tiffany Waters [FORMAT: Workshop]
  • Place and Space in the Making of American Regional Shakespeare ⏐Participants: Dr. Barbaro Bono (Leader), Chelsea L. Horne (Leader), Maria S. Horne (Leader), Deborah Payne, C.C. Kellogg, Lauren Romagnano [FORMAT: Roundtable]
  • Shakespeare’s White Others Book Signing with Dr. David Sterling Brownplus a virtual-reality art gallery exhibition “Visualizing Race Virtually” [FORMAT: drop in] 
3:00pm – 3:30pm Staging Session #2
  • Dr. Diana Henderson, arguing for Christopher Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris
4:00pm – 5:15pm Paper Session #3
  • Jesse Wood: “Mama Bears in Shakespeare”
  • Kirsten Wimberg: “What is to Love Unpossible?”: Gallathea, Casting, and Queer Joy
  • Mary Ruth Robinson: Doubling Time in The Winter’s Tale
  • Dr. Ian Borden: Waist Not, Want Not: Does Shakespeare have a Waif Problem?
  • James Keegan: Mister Master: A Season of Playing White Supremacy on the Blackfriars Stage
  • Kaitlin Nabors: Two Second-Graders of Verona: Using Shakespeare’s Plays to Activate Social-Emotional Learning Benchmarks
5:15-6:30pm S&P Hosted Happy Hour at the MBU Wharf for Alumni and Higher Ed professionals
7:30pm Coriolanus performance
10:30pm Late Night Event: Lady M’s Christmas (written by Monica Cross and directed by Kara Hankard, run time about 35 minutes)
Saturday, November 4 
9:00am Opening Session / Keynote Introduction
9:30am – 10:15am Keith Hamilton Cobb Keynote: “Untitling Shakespeare: A Brief Biography of an Evolving Practice”
10:45am – 11:45am Paper Session #4
  • Chad Thomas: Beyond the Green World: Queering As You Like It
  • Analise Toone: “Whe, God-a-mercy, Captain!” Using Language to find new Performance Opportunities in Aphra Behn’s The Rover
  • Alexa Alice Joubin: Are There Transgender Characters in Shakespeare?
  • Dylan Mabe: “Fight Call!” A Narrative Writing Intervention Through the Lens of Stage Combat
  • Paige Reynolds: Bereft: Standing Still in The Winter’s Tale
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Lunch Break
1:15pm – 2:30pm Colloquy Breakout Session #2 (various locations)
  • Staging Discoveries⏐Participants: Sara Stamatiades (Leader), Blair Coats, Scott Maisano, Marshall Garrett [FORMAT: seminar]
  • Building a Practice to Build an Audience⏐Participants: Robert Crighton (Leader), and Elizabeth (Liza) Graham [FORMAT: roundtable]
  • The Untitled Othello Project at the University⏐Participants: Emily Bryan (Leader), Rachel Bauer (Leader), Charles Gillespie (Leader), and a panel of their undergraduate students [FORMAT: panel]
  • Shakespeare Bulletin Publishing Workshop with Dr. Peter Kirwan: Come meet the general editor of Shakespeare Bulletin, get updates on contemporary issues in Shakespeare performance publishing, and bring your questions about submitting articles to this and other journals. [FORMAT: drop in]
3:00pm – 3:30pm Staging Session #3
  • Liza Graham, arguing for Robert Greene’s (possibly) George a Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield
4:00pm – 5:15pm Paper Session #5
  • Scott Maisano: “In a Berowne Study: Daydreaming of Love’s Labour’s Won and in Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • Stacey Jocoy: ‘His better tune remembers’: Edgar’s Mad Song, heard but not seen, in King Lear
  • Abraham Joyner-Meyers: Wind and Rain: Shakespearean Music, Oral Transmission, and Contemporary Performance
  • Sid Ray: “[A]voiding rheum”: Stage Spitting in the Intimacy Direction and Pandemic Eras
  • Jack Earlenbaugh: ‘Edgar I nothing am”: Performative Madness and Bedlam in King Lear
7:30pm Hamlet performance
11:00pm Late Night Event: What’s In a Name? (directed by Guy Roberts; written by William Shakespeare; edited by Fawzia Istrabadi; Arabic translation by Adham Sayed, run time 20 minutes)
Sunday, November 5
9:00am Opening Session (and announcement of Staging Session winner)
9:30am – 10:30am Paper Session #6
  • Molly Seremet: “Behold God’s providence and his wonder of wonders” – Anne Greene’s Anatomical Redemption and The Stages of Female Bodily Autonomy
  • Clara Biesel: Real Bodies, Imaginary Print
  • Dr. Kerry Cooke: “I seal, I cancel, I do what I will”: Letters & Dueling Secretariats in Edward II
  • Nicole Sheriko: Talking Heads: Early English Puppetry and Robert Greene’s Brazen Head
  • Claire Kimball: Photographing Shakespeare in Performance: A Visual Dramaturgy
11:00am – 11:45am Sir Trevor Nunn Keynote: “This Wooden O”
12:00pm FAREWELL!
12:30pm – 3:00pm Burbage Award Ceremony and Reception (separate event, admission discounted for conference delegates)
5:00pm Much Ado About Nothing performance


Named both one of the 20 Most Beautiful Main Streets in America by Reader’s Digest and one of the 25 Best Small Town Main Streets in America You Need to Visit ASAP by Oprah Daily, Staunton is the perfect escape. Surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Downtown Staunton is packed with boutique shopping, local award-winning restaurants, and extraordinary hotels—park you car and leave it all weekend! 

Getting to (and around) Staunton

  • Conference Venues are as follows:
    • American Shakespeare Center, 10 S Market Street, Staunton, VA, 24401
    • MBU at the Wharf, 23 W Johnson St, Staunton, VA, 24401
    • RR Smith Center, 20 S New St, Staunton, VA 24401
    • Staunton Innovation Hub, 11 N Central / 32 N Augusta, Staunton, VA 24401
  • By Train: There is an Amtrak station in Staunton that can be accessed by the Cardinal line, but it is an unstaffed station. This means that there is no station crew. The train crew will direct you to the appropriate train car and help you with luggage, but your tickets must be printed before arrival and departure.
  • By Air: Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) is approximately 45.8 miles away from Staunton, Dulles International Airport (IAD) is 144 miles, and Richmond International Airport (RIC) is approximately 115 miles. Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD), just outside of Staunton, is a local airport, but is opening up a wider range of flights; it offers a quick shuttle to town.
  • By Car: Interstates 81 and 64 provide easy access to Staunton, with several exits providing access. U.S. Routes 250 and 11 run basically parallel to the interstates and offer a more scenic drive, with the same ease.
  • Parking in Staunton: Parking is ample within walking distance of the Playhouse. The New Street Parking Garage, the Johnson Street Parking Garage, and metered lot and street parking (at approximately $1/hour) offer spaces for those inclined to drive.  Hotel 24 South provides parking for guests, as does the nearby Frederick House. You will find most other beds and breakfasts and hotels equally accommodating.
  • Trolley system in Staunton: At a very reasonable 25-cent charge per ride, Staunton’s charming trolley system encourages further exploration around down. Be sure to check out the green route as it is a favorite among visitors in Staunton. More information regarding the trolley system can be found at Visit Staunton.


With multiple places to stay downtown, the action is just steps away from your door. Check out our lodging partners for special deals and rates for ticket holders!

Blackburn Inn and Conference Center

Book a discounted ASC rate when you stay at Blackburn and see a show at ASC!

Book Your Discounted Rate Here

Hotel 24 South

Mention the ASC discount when booking your room reservation (540-885-4848) or visit us online and use the promo code ASC4ME. This discount is for overnight accommodations only. Tickets are purchased through ASC.

Frederick House

A charming small hotel right downtown!


Staunton boasts a bustling culinary scene—and multiple wineries, breweries, and cideries. Explore our Dining Guide!


Besides restaurants and hotels, Downtown Staunton is full of local shops featuring antiques, home decor, handmade jewelry, and fair-trade gifts. Woodrow Wilson’s Presidential Library is just one block from the Blackfriars Playhouse, offering tours of the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson alongside their museum exhibits.


Access to Skyline Drive, a 105 miles road along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, is just a short drive from Downtown Staunton and boasts beautiful scenic outlooks and hikes year-round. The Frontier Culture Museum is just down the road, offering glimpses into the lives of early inhabitants of the Shenandoah Valley complete with original homes brought from around the world and living history interpreters.

Learn more about Accessibility and More in our Plan Your Visit Guide

We will notify you after May 15 about the outcome of your submission. We will then begin the process of coordinating with both presenters and actors.


As our attendance has grown over the past few years, we are no longer able to provide transportation from airports.


SHD shuttle offers to and from the airport near Staunton; all airports listed above offer car rentals. We also recommend inquiring with other scholars about car shares.


Up to three actors per presentation; we will request that you specify particular needs for those actors and provide their text no later than 15 September 2023.


It is conference policy not to volunteer props. We ask that presenters provide their own.


For questions regarding the conference, please email


Keith Hamilton Cobb

Keith Hamilton Cobb is a speaker, an actor, and a playwright who has been drawn mostly to the stage in his working life, but has also been recognized for several unique character portrayals he has created for television. He has appeared in classical and contemporary roles on regional stages country-wide. He is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in acting. His award-winning play, American Moor (published by Methuen Drama), which explores the perspective of the African American male through the metaphor of Shakespeare’s Othello, ran off-Broadway at Cherry Lane Theatre in the fall of 2019. It is the recipient of an Elliot Norton Award, an AUDELCO Award, two IRNE Awards (Independent Reviewers of New England), a 2022 Cleveland Critics Circle Award, and is part of the permanent collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Keith is the director of Project Untitled, LLC, a company evolving socially just processes of analysis and inquiry at the intersection of humanities education and theater-making, and of The Untitled Othello Project, currently in residence at Sacred Heart University in collaboration with Blessed Unrest Theatre Company, which operates as an extended “interrogation and rehearsal with artists and educators” of Shakespeare’s play, Othello, disrupting antiquated ideas of its purpose and value, and exploring the human struggles with race, religion and sexuality, and other salient issues that it activates whenever it is performed.
In addition to his work as director and administrator, Keith speaks at academic institutions around the country on the topic of the intersection of race and Shakespeare, particularly as it is reflected in American Moor, and in The Untitled Othello Project. His most recent engagements have been the Arts Transcending Borders Residency at College of the Holy Cross, 2023; the 2022/23 Hurst Artist-in-Residence at Weber State University, Ogden, UT; and Artist in Residence 2021-23 at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT.

The title of his keynote address is “Untitling Shakespeare: A Brief Biography of an Evolving Practice”.

Related links:

Patricia Akhimie

Patricia Akhimie is Director of the Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She is also the Director of the RaceB4Race Mentoring Network and Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches Shakespeare Renaissance drama, and early modern women’s travel writing. She is the author of Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Race: Race and Conduct in the Early Modern World (Routledge 2018), editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Race (2023), and co-editor, with Bernadette Andrea of Travel and Travail: Early Modern Women, English Drama, and the Wider World (University of Nebraska Press 2019). She is currently at work on a new edition of Othello for the Arden Shakespeare 4th series, and a monograph about race, gender, and editing early modern texts. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the John Carter Brown Library, and the Ford Foundation.

The title of her keynote address is “The Goodness of the Night: Editing Othello”.


Sir Trevor Nunn CBE dedicated himself to theater while at Downing College, Cambridge; after graduating in 1962, he worked for the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964. At the age of 25, Nunn was made Associate Director at the RSC and quickly found success with productions that included The Revenger’s Tragedy (1966) and The Taming of the Shrew (1967). In 1968, he was appointed to succeed Peter Hall as Artistic Director. The following year he directed Judi Dench in the roles of both Hermione and Perdita in The Winter’s Tale. Nunn’s decision to harness the style and music of the 1960s made this an influential production. For the RSC’s 1976 production of Macbeth (with Judi Dench and Ian McKellen), Nunn staged the play for an intimate audience of 200. The production was televised and played worldwide.

In 1980 Nunn and John Caird directed the RSC’s innovative eight-and-a-half-hour staging of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens in London, which was given several Olivier Awards, including for Best Direction. This inclusive event opened on Broadway in 1981 and won four Tony Awards, including those for Best Play and Best Director of a Play. In London, his production of Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber and T S Eliot opened in 1981 and ran for 21 years, making it the longest-running British production of a musical, until it was eclipsed by Les Misérables, which he directed for the RSC in 1985 and is still running. Both Cats and Les Misérables were the recipients of numerous Tony Awards in 1983 and 1987, respectively, including those for Best Director of a Musical.

After retiring as RSC Artistic Director after eighteen years, Nunn continued working with the company, directing productions of Othello (1989), Measure for Measure and The Blue Angel (1991) whilst also directing the Lloyd Webber/Hampton/Black musical Sunset Boulevard in London and on Broadway and the operas Porgy and Bess and Katya Kabanova.

From 1997 to 2003, Nunn served as the Artistic Director of the Royal National Theatre, directing many productions, including Oklahoma! (1998) with Hugh Jackman, and the unknown Tennessee Williams play, Not About Nightingales (1998), both of which won him nominations for Tony Awards for Best Director in their Broadway productions. In 2000 he won an Olivier Award for his direction of three RNT productions: Summerfolk, The Merchant of Venice, and Troilus and Cressida. His productions of My Fair Lady and Anything Goes were also award-winning and he was the recipient of the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement.

After leaving the RNT, Nunn directed a ground-breaking Hamlet at the Old Vic, the Lloyd Webber/Zippel/Jones musical The Woman in White (2004), Tom Stoppard’s Rock ’n’ Roll (2006), and Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music (2008). In 2011 he joined the Theatre Royal Haymarket as resident Artistic Director and directed four plays, including the rediscovery of Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path and The Tempest with Ralph Fiennes. In 2019 his revival of Fiddler on the Roof opened in London to huge acclaim.

Trevor Nunn has also directed several movies, including Hedda (1975), Lady Jane with the young Helena Bonham-Carter (1986), Twelfth Night (1996) and, with Judi Dench, Red Joan (2018). In 1978 he was made a CBE and in 2002 he was Knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for Services to the Theatre. Sir Trevor has recently completed a book on William Shakespeare, since he has now directed all 37 of his 37 plays.