27 October 2011

Blackfriars Conference 2011 - Paper Session V

Hi! I'm Julia, I'll be liveblogging Paper Session V from 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Moderator: Miriam Gilbert, University of Iowa

Roman Actors:
Meta-Theatre as Moral Compass in Phillip Massinger's The Roman Actor and Lope de Vega's lo findigo verdadero

Iam Borden, Carson School of Theatre and Film, University of Nebraska

According to Borden, several English plays have counterparts in Lope de Vega's canon. In some of these, the plot, devices, characters, settings, and even performance spaces are all but indistinguishable one from the other. In his comparison of Massinger's play to de Vega's, Borden showed that the breaking of the fourth wall served not only to elicit laughter by reminding the audience and actors that they share the same space, but it also served to demonstrate different approaches to the moral argument of each play. John Basiulis played Paris, Patrick Midgley played Caesar, Natasha Solomon played Inez, and they were joined by Daniel Burrows in playing actors commenting on theater and on each other.

Renaissance Clowns and Early Colonialism
Bob Hornback, Oglethorpe University

Hornback discussed a 1534 play by John Redford (the Play of Wit and Science) in which an character, Ignorance, appears in blackface and speaks in an Africanized pidgin English. Hornback demonstrated a scene in which Idleness, the vice character played by Natasha Solomon, taught Ignorance, played by Daniel Burrows, to speak his own name syllable by syllable. Hornback's purpose was to show that comedic representations of the African character as "other" were already present on the English stage, as they had been in Spanish drama for at least a century before.

The Implications of the Failed Performance of Dekker's The Whore of Babylon
Peter Hyland, Huron University College, University of Western Ontario

Hyland discussed The Whore of Babylon and what Dekker's actions surrounding its failure show about Dekker himself. He pointed out that Dekker apologized for the play in several ways: the prologue that presumably pre-dated the printed version because it discussed the dumb show, the epistle at the beginning of the printed version, and a later protest that the play was actually intended as a dramatic poem. Indeed, Hyland agrees, the play seems to benefit from the format of print in that what is good about it can be perused by a reader rather than missed by an audience.

"A Cynic and a Hater of Humanity":
Distinguishing Modes of Satire through Performance

Rusty Jones, Murray State University

Jones discussed different kinds of cynicism as evinced by characters such as Timon and Apemantus in Timon of Athens. He showed that Juvenalian satire is most like characters such as Apemantus, who hates no man but man's impiety, and exposes vice rather than attacking individuals. Timon, on the other hand, does not truly seek to right society, but only rejects others when he himself is rejected. Brett Sullivan Santry performed as Jaques and Timon, and Bonnie Morrison played Duke Senior and Apomanthis.

Moral Agency in Hamlet
Lars Engle, University of Tulsa

Engle opened with Michael Bristol's work on the evaluation of characters as people. He says that an emotional response to fiction can show the audience's deeply held beliefs about right and wrong. Engle goes on to say that in moral accounts of themselves, people stress their own agency. He discussed such agency and Hamlet, who in dying leaves Denmark with Fortinbras, but his own story with Horatio. Throughout the play, Hamlet is trapped in an unsatisfactory existence, merely reacting to stimuli, but in Act 5 he develops greater agency compelled by his conception of nobleness in himself.

Bell Ringing in Shakespeare
George Walton Williams, Duke University

Williams, currently serving as one of four councilmen this year on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers pointed out that Shakespeare was almost silent on bell ringers, which is surprising because he would have heard bells both at Stratford and London. Shakespeare's only bell ringer is Bullcalf in Henry 4 part 2, who begs off when Falstaff tries to press him into service. He also mentions Ophelia's description of Hamlet's madness "Like sweet bells jangled, out of time and harsh," and he uses that quote and one from Fletcher's The Pilgrim to educate a modern American (and non-bell-ringing) audience in some of the things that English bell ringers have known for centuries and would easily recognize in Early Modern plays.

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