Blackfriars Diary: Day 2

The Panels 

My definite favorite paper of the day was presented by Lindsey Snyder, a scholar and ASL interpreter who discussed the possibilities contemporary gestural languages like ASL can present for attempting to revive early modern gestural vocabulary. The part of the paper that really blew my mind was her translation of several speeches by Juliet, to illustrate the dramaturgical power of ASL’s embodied notions of time– the way that time, past, and present are located upon and in relation to the speaker’s body. Not only was this a fascinating intellectual point, her translations of Shakespeare (and her wonderful performances of them!) were immensely moving. I have an ongoing fascination with ASL in general, and translations of Shakespeare in particular, and I loved getting to see the topic approached from such a rigorously scholarly point of view.

There is definitely a propensity for highly theatrical papers– not just those that use actors to demonstrate points, but speakers, like Matthew Kozusko’s discussion of the rhetoric of Coriolanus, who structure the papers themselves in a self-aware and performative way.

An exciting paper on a more practical note was Megan Brown’s presentation on the Folger’s new Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama, a resource that sounds very exciting and that I hadn’t previously known about.

The Play: Peter and the Starcatcher 

Okay, it’s not Shakespeare. But I absolutely adore this play, and saw it more times than I should probably admit during its Broadway and off-Broadway runs (don’t judge me, it was always for free).

Unsurprisingly, the play’s DIY, Nicholas Nickleby-inspired aesthetic works extremely well with the Blackfriars’ shared lighting and lack of sets. The actors were obviously having a huge amount of fun, and so the audience was, too. It was interesting to see how differently and more flexibly this show used the space. Where The Fall of King Henry only had one entrance from the house, here the actors were all over the place, moving through rows, clambering over audience members, and jumping off the stage. There was more use of the trap door and upper gallery, too.

I felt extremely aware of the elaborate language, and the delight the play takes in its own kind of poetry. There really is something so Shakespearean about such awareness of the musicality of words and taking such pleasure in building delightful sounds out of them. I’m not sure if it was the actors’ Shakespearean training that made them handle the language in a Shakespearean fashion, thus raising my awareness of the dialog’s complexity and pleasingness, or if it was the simple fact of the setting that drew my attention. But in either case, it seemed a highly fitting choice for this company.

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