Category: Research in Action

Staging Race and Diversity workshop summary.

In our Staging Race and Diversity in Shakespearean Theatre workshop on Monday, a small, racially diverse company of actors performed scenes from Titus Andronicus, Richard II and Macbeth in the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Each scene was presented multiple times with actors swapping parts and instructions to change the staging given by facilitators Dr Farah Karim-Cooper (Head of Higher Education and Research, Shakespeare’s Globe) and Dr Erika Lin (The
Graduate Center, City University of New York) with Will Tosh. 

The discussion, led by symposium panellists Professor Kim F. Hall, Arthur L.Little and Professor Ayanna Thompson opened up questions on how the staging, language and cultural conditioning disadvantaged the actors of colour performing Shakespeare on stage, and in particular, in the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Some of the main points of the evening were captured by audience member Dr Ambereen Dadabhoy. You can read her tweets here.

How we stage race, how race is staged, how we cast, comission, and stage actors of colour is an ongoing conversation both on and off stage and one that we encourage you to join. Tweet your thoughts using #ShakespeareAndRace.

Shakespeare & Race, 11-18 August, is a festival of events dedicated to the topic of Shakespeare and Race, which includes performances, workshops, public lectures, panels and an international conference. Curated to draw attention to and provide a platform for scholars, practitioners and educators of colour in the teaching, study and performance of Shakespeare, this festival will highlight the importance of race to the consideration of Shakespeare not only in his time, but more urgently, in our own.

Staging Race and Diversity in Shakespearean Theatre was part of our ongoing Research in Action series. 

Photography: Pete Le May 

Staging Race and Diversity.To what extent do choices about…


Akiya Henry


Leo Wan


Jonathan Christie


Stefan Adegbola


Suzanne Ahmet

Staging Race and Diversity.

To what extent do choices about costume, set and lighting either privilege white actors or place actors of colour at a disadvantage? Does staging Shakespeare in historical dress present a challenge to directors and designers when it comes to racial diversity? What are the implicit biases that exist in the casting, directing and staging of Shakespeare’s plays?

This summer Shakespeare’s Globe is hosting a festival dedicated to the topic of Shakespeare & Race. As part of this festival and our ongoing Research in Action programme we are running a workshop entitled Staging Race and Diversity in the Shakespearean Theatre in the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Using extracts from Macbeth, Richard II and Titus Andronicus Dr Farah Karim-Cooper (Head of Higher Education and Research, Shakespeare’s Globe) and Professor Erika T. Lin (The City University of New York) will be joined by seven actors to examine the relationship between staging practices and racial diversity.

We hope you can join us to unearth, challenge and debate long-held assumptions and to ask questions about how to change practices. We are hoping to have a robust, at times, difficult conversation and we hope those attending will bring their own experiences to bear upon what we discover.

Cast includes:
Stefan Adegbola
Suzanne Ahmet
Jonathan Christie
Akiya Henry
Leo Wan

Games and Sport in Children’s Indoor Performance. The first two…

Games and Sport in Children’s Indoor Performance. 

The first two decades of the seventeenth century was an exciting time for a London playgoer. For the first time in as long as ten years, a discerning theatre fan’s choices were no longer limited to the daily offerings at the large open-air playhouses occupied by companies like Shakespeare’s. From 1599 onward, children’s companies, for a time thought to be a thing of the past, began to re-emerge in smaller, indoor, candlelit venues, springing up in the cloisters of Paul’s Cathedral (the Children of Paul’s, 1599-1606); the Blackfriars (the Children of the [Queen’s] Revels, 1600-1608); and the Whitefriars (the Children of the King’s Revels, 1607-09; the Children of the Queen’s Revels, 1609-13).

           The drama offered by these companies was nothing if not innovative. Now, anyone with the cash to attend one of these more expensive theatres could bear witness to a more intimate mode of performance, replete with masque-like entertainments, musical and choral interludes, and spectacular effects. Perhaps because of this more intimate setting, the companies and their dramatists frequently went out of their way to make audiences imagine that they were part of an exclusive coterie, enjoying the same sort of entertainments long performed in private aristocratic houses.

           Those entertainments were not restricted to scenes of masquing and dance, however. Paradoxically, given the obvious spatial limitations of the indoor playhouses, the children’s company indoor repertories routinely staged scenes involving large-scale sporting activity—doubtless drawing on the intensive physical education received by grammar-school boys (the sort of youngsters selected for the acting troupes). In John Marston’s What You Will (Paul’s, 1600), for instance, two—or maybe three—courtly ladies play a game of ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ (what we would come to call badminton) while discussing the merits and shortcomings of their suitors (who the women scarcely treat better than the feathered implement they volley back and forth in the scene). A few years later, at the larger Blackfriars playhouse, John Day demands that four of the actors in his Isle of Gulls (1606) perform a full-scale boules match, the pretext being that each of the erotically frustrated characters can woo another; a year later, writing for the slightly smaller Whitefriars, Day had his actors run riot in staging a game of blind man’s buff in Humour out of Breath.

           Taken together, these scenes offer a fascinating snapshot of the kind of skills boy actors were expected to have in their toolkit. As well as all the usual suspects (dancing, singing, stage combat, ‘dying’), actors among all three acting troupes needed to demonstrate an aptitude for games—games of which, as humble, if highly skilled, actors, they may not have direct experience (boules, in particular, was strictly an aristocratic pastime, with proclamations from the beginning of the sixteenth century outlawing any matches among the common sort).

           How, then, does one stage badminton, boules, and blind-man’s buff in an intimate, candlelit space? When subsequent action depends on seemingly unpredictably sporting moves, how can an actor ensure that the right thing happens at the right time? And what on earth does it all look like for an audience? With the Globe’s Will Tosh, I’ll be exploring these questions in a Research in Action workshop featuring Globe actors Emily Barber, Mathew Foster, Ellora Torchia, and James Wallace on Monday 9 July in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – hope to see you there!

Harry R. McCarthy is a South, West, and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership-funded PhD student at the Universities of Exeter and Bristol, exploring boy actors in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

Research in Action: Laughter and madness in Commedia dell’Arte…


King Lear


Hamlet


As You Like It


Macbeth

Research in Action: Laughter and madness in Commedia dell’Arte and English stage comedy

Do you know me my lord?
Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.

Hamlet 

How do you react when you watch scenes from early modern dramatic works containing comic portrayals of frenzied, distracted or apparently ‘mad’ figures?

We are undertaking a research project aimed at investigating the relationship between laughter and power. We want to know more about the way laughter in the early modern theatre reflected and produced dynamics of power in early modern culture. What are the dramatic consequences of those dynamics? And how do the dynamics differ today?

On Monday 11 June at 6pm join us for a Research in Action workshop that explores present-day audience responses to scenes from early modern dramatic works containing comic portrayals of frenzied, distracted or apparently ‘mad’ figures.

We’ll be looking at extracts from the Commedia dell’Arte scenario ‘The madness of Isabella’ by Flaminio Scala, and The Honest Whore Part 1, by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton. We’re interested in investigating how different styles of performance influence an audience’s emotional attitude to these ‘mad’ characters. When, for instance, do audiences laugh? When do they feel uncomfortable – perhaps about their own laughter?

We’ll unpick different interpretations of the symptoms of madness that these two works present: from tragic expression of despair, to comic physical awkwardness, and verbal nonsense.

Cast includes: Jamie Askill, Beth Park, Ruth Siller, Tok Stephen and James Wallace.

Exploring audience response to representation of madness on the early modern stage with Dr Bridget Escolme, Dr Maria Turri and Dr Will Tosh on 11 June. 

Research in Action: Laughter and madness in Commedia dell’Arte…


King Lear


Hamlet


As You Like It


Macbeth

Research in Action: Laughter and madness in Commedia dell’Arte and English stage comedy

Do you know me my lord?
Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.

Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2) 

How do you react when you watch scenes from early modern dramatic works containing comic portrayals of frenzied, distracted or apparently ‘mad’ figures?

We are undertaking a research project aimed at investigating the relationship between laughter and power. We want to know more about the way laughter in the early modern theatre reflected and produced dynamics of power in early modern culture. What are the dramatic consequences of those dynamics? And how do the dynamics differ today?

On Monday 11 June at 6pm join us for a Research in Action workshop that explores present-day audience responses to scenes from early modern dramatic works containing comic portrayals of frenzied, distracted or apparently ‘mad’ figures.

We’ll be looking at extracts from the Commedia dell’Arte scenario ‘The madness of Isabella’ by Flaminio Scala, and The Honest Whore Part 1, by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton. We’re interested in investigating how different styles of performance influence an audience’s emotional attitude to these ‘mad’ characters. When, for instance, do audiences laugh? When do they feel uncomfortable – perhaps about their own laughter?

We’ll unpick different interpretations of the symptoms of madness that these two works present: from tragic expression of despair, to comic physical awkwardness, and verbal nonsense.

Cast includes: Jamie Askill, Beth Park, Ruth Siller, Tok Stephen and James Wallace.

Exploring audience response to representation of madness on the early modern stage with Dr Bridget Escolme, Dr Maria Turri and Dr Will Tosh on 11 June. 

Casting for Paradise Lost, staged reading “For Man to tell how…


Oliver Bennett – Satan


Oliver Bennett – Satan and Hilary Tones – Sin


Rachel Winters – Narrator 1 and Beth Eyre – Narrator 2


Beth Eyre – Narrator 2 (left) and Rachel Winters – Narrator 1


Tok Stephen – Adam and Aruhan Galieva – Eve

Casting for Paradise Lost, staged reading 

“For Man to tell how human life began is hard; for who himself beginning knew?”

John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost demands to be performed. Through a tactile and rich language dictated by the blind poet to his daughters, Milton details the Fall of humankind.

image

Through our Research in Action staged reading we will test the performance value of this poem. Research in Action is a kind of workshop forum that takes research questions about Early Modern drama and sets it on its feet in front of a public audience. For academics and interested readers, this kind of exercise can lead to all sorts of revelations. When you add voices and bodies and space a text can reveal itself in new ways. 

Get a sneak peek into the rehearsal and hear from our academics in this video.

On 14 May Dr Eric Langley’s adaptation is directed by Dr Farah Karim-Cooper and Dr Emma Whipday. In the “creative, playful and dangerous” practice of actors performing the poem we hope to learn a thing or two. If you are joining us on that date expect to be asked for your opinion.

Find out more about Research in Action: Staging Milton’s Paradise Lost.