Each Friday at 5 PM

An Exploration of Race and Shakespeare

“Then Must You Speak” will bring together scholars and artists for probing conversations about race and Shakespeare on the page and on the stage both in theory and in practice in order to grow our understanding of the many ways in which “classical” theatre and how we pursue it in America exposes and intersects with issues of social justice, systemic racism, equity, and the perpetuation of White supremacy culture while simultaneously offering a lens through which to imagine and embody positive change.

Presented LIVE via Zoom broadcast to our ASC Facebook page for free, every week this summer!

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SEPTEMBER 25 - Practice and Pedagogy
Dr. Brian Granger, multi-hyphenate theater artist and Assistant Professor of Theatre at Mary Baldwin University, speaks about his professional and academic career, the impact of race on his teaching practices, and the prevalence of Shakespeare in both the field and the academy.
  • Dr. Brian Granger is a musical theater bookwriter, playwright, theatre scholar, songwriter, and actor/director, whose works are an ongoing exploration of how we treat one another across lines of race, gender, and class. His academic research interests include North American ethnic playwrights and Africana musicals on Broadway. He holds degrees from Kenyon College (B.A.), The Ohio State University (M.F.A.), and the University of California – Santa Barbara (PhD). He remains particularly proud of his second M.F.A. in musical theatre writing from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied under some of the nation’s greatest living (and Tony Award-winning) musical creators. Some of his works for the stage include: Dierdre, an a cappella rock opera; Medicine Show (with composer Robert Nafarrete), a musical satire of American racial stereotypes that premiered at Dixon Place in New York City as part of their “Not For Broadway: Festival of New Musicals”; Baby Wolf (with composer Christian Imboden), an urban re-telling of the epic of Beowulf; and Rebel Moon, a story of two Puerto Rican American sisters navigating urban life (and urban men) that was staged as a part of UC Santa Barbara’s “New Plays Festival.” A scene from Rebel Moon is currently available in print in Duo: the Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century (Applause Books, 2009).
SEPTEMBER 18 - Women Playing Othello

Join ASC actor Jessika Williams and Harlem Shakespeare Festival Founder Debra Ann Byrd as they swap stories of playing the titular role in Shakespeare’s Othello, discuss playing gender-swapped characters, explore Shakespeare’s text, and more.

  • DEBRA ANN BYRD is an award winning classically trained actress and producer who recently was named Writer-in-Residence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Artist-in-Residence Fellow at the Folger Institute, a Community Scholar Arts Fellow at Columbia University, and Artist-in-Residence at Southwest Shakespeare, where she recently reprised the role Othello, winning her the 2019 Broadway World Phoenix Award for Best Lead Actress. Debra Ann Byrd is the founder and Producing Artistic Director of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival and an emerging playwright, who recently completed her new solo show BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey, which she performed at the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
SEPTEMBER 11 - Then Must You Speak

Due to unforeseen circumstances, this week’s Then Must You Speak event is postponed to a later date. We’ll be back live at 5 PM next Friday, but, this week, in lieu of a live conversation, we encourage you to continue engaging on your own. Below, we offer you a few resources with which to do so. Please feel free to share resources, responses, or reflections in the comments.

SEPTEMBER 4 - Shakespeare's Sonnets in the 21st Century

Join ASC actor Brandon Carter and “Sonnet Man” Devon Glover for an exploration of their work with Shakespeare’s sonnets, their uses of modern innovation (hip-hop, social media, and more) in performance, and their perspectives on the educational potential of the sonnets.

AUGUST 28 - Shakespeare the System

An expert on both Shakespeare and decolonizing, Madeline Sayet joins us for a frank conversation about the ways in which Shakespeare and his work have been used as tools to support unjust and inequitable systems.

  • Madeline Sayet is a citizen of the Mohegan nation and the Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP). For her work as a director, writer, and performer she has been honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, National Directing Fellow, Drama League Director-In-Residence, NCAIED Native American 40 Under 40, and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama. She is known throughout the field for her work promoting indigenous voices and decolonizing systems. She premiered her solo performance piece Where We Belong(about her relationship with Shakespeare and Colonialism) at Shakespeare’s Globe, and it will have its US Premiere in DC as part of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s coming season in partnership with The Folger Theatre. Recent directing work includes:, Midsummer Night’s Dream (South Dakota Shakespeare), Henry IV (Connecticut Repertory Theatre), Whale Song (Perseverance Theatre), She Kills Monsters (Connecticut Repertory Theatre), As You Like It (Delaware Shakespeare), The Winter’s Tale (Amerinda/HERE Arts), Poppea (Krannert Center, Illinois), The Magic Flute (Glimmerglass), Macbeth (NYC Parks), Miss Lead (59e59).  www.madelinesayet.com
AUGUST 21 - Learning from the past to move toward the future

Tiffany Stern, an expert on early modern theatre making, joins us for an exploration of how we might consider Shakespeare’s staging conditions with both an emphasis on what we can learn from early modern research and performance and an understanding that society has come a long way in the last 400 years and still has a ways to go. [This talk will be pre-recorded.]

  • Tiffany Stern is Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham; she has previously held professorships at Royal Holloway, University of London; and Oxford (University College). Her work combines literary criticism, theatre history and book history from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. She specialises in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, particularly Jonson, Brome, Middleton and Nashe, and also writes on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century playwrights and editors, including Wycherley, Farquhar, Sheridan, Theobald and Johnson. The theatrical contexts that bring plays about – by Shakespeare and others – is her particular focus. Having researched the theatrical documents put together by authors and others in the process of writing and learning a play, she is repeatedly drawn back to actors’ parts, the documents consisting of cues and speeches from which actors learned their roles. She also writes on prologues, epilogues, songs, letters, arguments, plots and other stage documents; acting methods; theatre props, music, marketing and architecture. General editor of New Mermaids, and the flagship Shakespeare series Arden Shakespeare 4, she is also on the editorial boards of the journals SEDERI, Shakespeare Bulletin, and The Hare. Her scholarship is widely used by theatre companies interested in historically inflected performances.
AUGUST 14 - A Conversation with Director Desdemona Chiang

Director Desdemona Chiang (ASC’s 2018-19 Comedy of Errors) joins us for a discussion that will explore her experiences in and approaches to engaging with Shakespeare’s texts, directing diverse ensembles of actors, and more.

  • Desdemona Chiang is a stage director based in Seattle, WA and Ashland, OR. Co-Founder of Azeotrope (Seattle). Click above to read her full bio!
AUGUST 7 - Race and Disability in Shakespeare's Othello

Building off his article “Rub Him About The Temples: Othello, Disability, and the Failures of Care” (Early Theatre 22.2), scholar Justin P. Shaw joins us for a conversation about race and disability in Othello, networks of care, early modern medical practice, the symbolic and material web of the handkerchief, and more.

  • Justin P. Shaw, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of English at Clark University in Massachusetts . His research focuses on the intersections of race, emotions, and medicine in early modern literature around which he is currently developing a book manuscript. His article on disability and race appears in the journal Early Theatre, while others are forthcoming, including in the volume White People in Shakespeare. He has helped to curate exhibits for the Michael C. Carlos Museum such as, Desire & Consumption: The New World in the Age of Shakespeare and has developed the digital humanities project, Shakespeare and the Players.
JULY 31 - Artistic Directors of Color on Shakespeare, Race, and Running a Classical Theatre

A wide-ranging conversation with three leaders of the field on challenging the canon, racism in Shakespeare’s texts, collaborating in a predominantly white field, and much more.

JULY 24 - Twelfth Night Today

Join ASC Founder Ralph Alan Cohen and Literary Manager Anne G. Morgan for an exploration of the themes of Twelfth Night and their contemporary resonances.

Our fast-paced take on “Twelfth Night” begins performances out-of-doors on July 25! Get tickets now >>

JULY 17 - Actresses of Color and ASC's Twelfth Night
On July 3rd, a panel of ASC actors and alums of color discussed playing canonically white characters, approaching production concepts, and collaborating within predominantly white institutions. (Watch it here.) This week’s panel will continue that conversation with a particular focus on our upcoming production of Twelfth Night featuring a panel of women of color from our acting company.
JULY 10 - False Memories of Timeless Whiteness

Dr. Matthieu Chapman, an educator, scholar, theorist, director, and dramaturg joins us for a conversation about “how our current understandings of the world influence how we remember and misremember white history and whiteness in history.”

  • Matthieu Chapman is a professor of Theatre Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is the author of “Antiblack Racism in Early Modern English Drama: The Other “Other” (Routledge Press: Hardcover 2017, Paperback 2019) as well as numerous academic articles that have appeared in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, Theatre Topics, TheatreForum, Theatre History Studies, and Early Theatre. He is a teacher, scholar, theorist, director, dramaturg, and playwright, whose plays have received readings at The Landing Theatre in Houston, The Mid-American Theatre Conference, and numerous colleges across America. His upcoming book, Shattered: The Lived Experience of Black Social Death, interweaves his own narrative with complex theories of black social death to articulate the whys, hows, and whats of black dispossession and inhumanity in modern America.
JULY 3 - Collaboration, Concepts, and Canonically White Characters

Featuring ASC company members and alums, this conversation will explore actors of color’s craft in playing canonically white characters, approaching production concepts, and collaborating within predominantly white institutions.

JUNE 26 - Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen

In the midst of a national awakening about systemic racism in our culture, Dr. Ralph looks at the good, the bad, and the ugly in the depiction of race and otherness in the works of Shakespeare.




From week to week, we’ll collect and share recommended resources from our guest speakers, our commenting viewers, and the ASC community.

Other Resources