Actor Scholar Council

Mission Statement of the Actor-Scholar Council

Exploration of the intersection of Study and Performance is the driving philosophy behind the Actor Scholar Council.  The purpose of the council meetings is three-fold:

1. Provide participants with the opportunity for discovery related to the process of mounting and performance of Early Modern Plays at the Blackfriars Playhouse.

2. Provide participants the opportunity to explore their overlapping areas of expertise in order to garner avenues for para-professional friendship, and 

3. Create a record of conversation for future study.

Past Discussions

The following research topics came out of a single session of the ASC@ASC in the past Renaissance Season. 

  • The staging of Court Scenes.Walls of bodies onstage in group scenes—the physical (action) supporting the theme of a scene.

  • Foreign character’s use of English in Shakespeare.Comparison of Jack Cade and Gratiano’s inflammatory rhetoric—potential actor research.

  • Early plays technical needs vs later plays.

  • Cues: what kind of direction (action indicators) fall within a few words of a cue?Early vs late: multiple character exits and entrances.

  • Supernatural/special effects: 

  • Body counts for every time a scene would demand every possible troupe member in a 15 person troupe.

  • Soundscape of OP (instruments, sound effects, etc).sharing Latin (or other foreign languages) between shows (as happened for us in Faustus and 2HVI)

  • Off stage cuing—harder fricatives? 

  • Re-mounting—using Henslowe’s diary, consider the similarities in structure and characters between plays we know were frequently re-mounted—or were re-mounted after a long time of not playing.
  • What were the special effects requirements?

  • Doubling: who can/can’t in each play based on changes.

  • Scenes in plays that could be rehearsed simultaneously.
  • Jonson’s intervals as a map to possible doubles.Assignment: Consider outdoor plays moving into the Blackfriars and place 2-4 intervals in acceptable places, assign music to each on an appropriate theme.

Transcripts and recordings of Actor-Scholar Council sessions are kept in the American Shakespeare Center Archives. The public is welcome to review these materials: please contact Sarah Enloe, Director of Education, at or by phone at 540.885.5588 x28 for more information.


In 2005, the American Shakespeare Center decided to try an experiment in modern staging: Shakespeare and his fellow actors didn't have directors, designers, or lengthy rehearsal periods, so what would happen if our resident troupe at the American Shakespeare Center tried producing the works of the Renaissance stage using Renaissance staging practices? The result was our first ever Actor's Renaissance Season, and it was a bigger hit with our audiences than we imagined. In 2006, inspired by Tiffany Stern's Making Shakespeare, our actors got even closer to Renaissance staging conditions by using partial scripts that contained only their lines and a few words of the preceding cue. Actors would, sometimes with the help of individual instruction, develop a sense of character removed from the complete text of the play, and this would serve as their inspiration for making performance, costume, and prop choices. Ultimately, each of the actors in the season came to the first rehearsal with a different interpretation of the play, based on their part, and the result was an even more authentic Renaissance staging experience.What began as a limited experiment in more faithfully re-creating Shakespeare's staging conditions has become a regular offering of the American Shakespeare Center. Some of the rules have changed, but our Ren Season Troupe continues to create Shakespeare's plays without directors or designers, and on limited time frames. Their work adds to our overall understanding of the way these plays worked.