On odd numbered years since the first October the Blackfriars Playhouse opened, scholars from around the world have gathered in Staunton, during the height of the Shenandoah Valley’s Fall colors, to hear lectures, see plays, and explore early modern theatre. In 2015, the American Shakespeare Center’s Education and Research Department will once again host Shakespeareans, scholars and practitioners, to share ideas about Shakespeare in the study and Shakespeare on the stage and to find ways that these two worlds – sometime in collision – can collaborate.
The majority of events – papers, plays, workshops – take place in the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, the Blackfriars Playhouse. This conference distinguishes itself from saner conferences in a variety of other ways. First, to model the kind of collaboration we think possible we encourage presenters to feature actors as partners in the demonstration of their theses. For instance, in 2009, Gary Taylor’s keynote presentation “Lyrical Middleton” featured ASC actors singing and dancing to the songs in Middleton’s plays. Second, we limit each paper session to six short papers (10 minutes for solo presentations, 13 minutes for presentations with actors). Third, we enforce this rule by ursine fiat – a bear chases from the stage those speakers who go over their allotted time.
Delegates also attend all of the plays in the ASC 2015 Fall Season – Antony & Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Henry VI, Part I – and, for the past several conferences, bonus plays written by Shakespearean colleagues and performed by actors in the Mary Baldwin College MFA in Shakespeare in Performance program. The spirit of fun that imbues the conference manifests itself in the annual Truancy Award, for the sensible conferee who – visiting the Shenandoah Valley at the height of Fall – has the good sense to miss the most sessions.
The 2015 gathering will honor Barbara Mowat and will include keynote addresses from Ayanna Thompson, Tim Carroll, Gina Bloom, and Paul Prescott.
Official Conference Hashtag: #BFConf15
Ayanna Thompson joined George Washington University in 2013 as Professor of English. Previously she worked at Arizona State University as Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of English. Professor Thompson specializes in Renaissance drama and focuses on issues of race in/as performance. She is the author of Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (Routledge, 2008), and she is the editor of Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (Routledge, 2006). Professor Thompson’s essays have been published in numerous influential journals, and her research has influenced both scholars and theatre/film practitioners. Because of her stature in Shakespeare studies, she was elected Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America.
Tim Carroll was Associate Director of Shakespeare’s Globe from 1999-2005, where he directed Augustine’s Oak, Macbeth, The Golden Ass, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Storm, Dido Queen of Carthage, Twelfth Night and The Tempest. In 2002 his Globe production of Twelfth Night won Evening Standard, Time Out, Critics’ Circle and Olivier Awards, and toured the United States. In 2005 his staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment playing Mendelssohn’s score, performed at the Lincoln Centre, New York, and the Royal Festival Hall in London. Tim has directed several productions in Spain, including Cabaret Classico at the Gran Teatre de Liceu, Barcelona and The Turn of the Screw for Oviedo Opera, and in Portugal (The Tempest at the Teatro Sao Luiz, Lisbon). He is also a popular director in Hungary, where his many productions include The Duchess of Malfi and Hamlet. He is Artistic Director of Kent Opera, for whom he has staged Benjamin Britten’s The Prodigal Son, Purcell in the Theatre, Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Britten’s Albert Herring and Mozart’s il re pastore. Tim recently directed Peter Pan at the Stratford Festival, Peer Gynt at the Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, and The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tim is a founding member of The Factory (London), for whom he has directed two theatre experiments: Hamlet and The Seagull. www.factorymember.com.
Gina Bloom is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Davis, where she serves on the executive committee for the Performance Studies doctoral program. She is the author of Voice in Motion: Staging Gender, Shaping Sound in Early Modern England (U Penn Press, Material Texts series), which received the Best Book of the Year award in 2008 from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. She has published numerous articles on early modern drama, theater history, and performance studies and was recently elected to serve on the executive committee for the Shakespeare Division at the Modern Language Association. Her current book projects include a monograph on games and spectatorship in the early modern theater and a co-edited collection (with Tom Bishop and Erika Lin) on games and early modern drama. She is also the Project Director for Play the Knave, a 3D motion-capture video game about Shakespeare performance currently being developed at the ModLab at UC Davis.
Dr Paul Prescott is Associate Professor (Reader) and teaches on the English and Comparative Literary Studies program at the University of Warwick. He joined the department in September 2005 as the CAPITAL Centre Lecturer in English and has taught and acted Shakespeare in the UK, Japan, China, Australia and North America. He was an Academic Associate on Teaching Shakespeare, a collaboration between Warwick and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is currently Associate Director of Global Shakespeare, a new postgraduate programme run jointly by Warwick and Queen Mary University of London. With Roberta Barker, he is co-Editor of theatre reviews for Shakespeare Bulletin and co-General Editor of the website ReviewingShakespeare.com.
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