Plenary Profiles: Ben Naylor

BritGrad is thrilled to introduce plenary Ben Naylor, the Course Leader of MA Acting (Classical) at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama .

Naylor studied at Durham University, Magdalen College Oxford, and Royal Central School, where he began teaching in 2006. He also trained by acting at Drama Centre London and directing under John Caird at the Caird Company and Sir Peter Hall at the National Theatre. Naylor has taught acting in Israel, Germany, Greece, and the United States, and at Cambridge University, LAMDA, Shakespeare’s Globe, and numerous other institutions.

Naylor specializes in Renaissance theatre and contemporary acting techniques. He headed a research project on gestural codifications at Shakespeare’s Globe Gesture Lab and is interested in European expressionism, Stanislavski, the American Method, and modern movement psychology. He currently directs at Royal Central School. A few of his many directing credits include Julius Caesar (Menier Chocolate Factory), Tamburlaine (Rose Theatre, Southwark), and Macbeth (Cambridge Arts Theatre). Naylor also appeared in the Ian Curtis biopic Control.

In 2003, Naylor spoke on Marlovian performance at the International Marlowe Conference at Cambridge University. He has contributed a chapter on Greg Hicks to The Routledge Companion to Actors’ Shakespeare (2012), directed workshops and readings at Salon des Arts, Gatehouse, King’s Head, and the Old Vic, and helped found the Caird Company and the Young Vic Genesis programme.

On Thursday, Naylor will engage in a close reading of Hamlet, delving into acting choices by breaking down certain passages word by word.

Plenary Profiles: Paul Prescott and Paul Edmondson

We are pleased to introduce another dynamic duo: Dr Paul Prescott, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, and Dr Paul Edmondson, Head of Research and Knowledge at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Dr Prescott received his MA and PhD from the Shakespeare Institute. He is a Trustee of the British Shakespeare Association and the Associate Director of the postgraduate program Global Shakespeare. He has taught and acted across the globe, and, in 2010, Warwick awarded him a Commendation for Teaching Excellence. Prescott has edited for the Shakespeare Bulletin and Internet Shakespeare Editions, served as Academic Associate on Teaching Shakespeare: Online Professional Development, and co-organised ‘Acting Against the Grain: Non-Traditional Shakespeare’ in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Prescott has written numerous reviews, essays, and books, including Reviewing Shakespeare: Journalism and Performance from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Cambridge, 2013). He and plenaries Erin Sullivan and Paul Edmondson spearheaded A Year of Shakespeare: Reliving the World Shakespeare Festival (Bloomsbury, 2013), and he wrote a chapter for the forthcoming Shakespeare on the Global Stage: Performance and Festivity in the Olympic Year (Bloomsbury/Arden, 2015), which he also edited with Sullivan.

Dr Edmondson earned his MA and PhD at the University of Birmingham and is currently an Honorary Fellow at both the Shakespeare Institute and the Society for Teachers of Speech and Drama. He co-edits Penguin Shakespeare and Palgrave Macmillan’s Shakespeare Handbooks. On top of directing the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival, Edmondson is Chair of the Hosking Houses Trust, a Trustee of the Rose Theatre Trust, and an Associate Minister in the Church of England. He has given lectures on Shakespeare around the world.

Edmondson has written on a variety of topics, such as Christopher Marlowe and the Brontës. His books on Shakespeare include Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy (edited with Stanley Wells, Cambridge, 2013), Twelfth Night: A Guide to the Text and Its Theatrical Life (Palgrave, 2005), and Shakespeare’s Sonnets (with Wells, Oxford, 2004). Shakespeare (Profile Books, 2015), The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2016), and several poetic commissions are forthcoming.

Paul and Paul will be discussing their epic project Shakespeare on the Road. They celebrated Shakespeare’s 450th birthday by visiting more than a dozen Shakespeare festivals across the United States and Canada.

Plenary Profiles: Andy Kesson

Meet Dr Andy Kesson, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Roehampton and a former BritGrad chair!

Dr Kesson received his MA from Manchester and his PhD from Kent. He has organized conferences and collaborative workshops about language, acting, and the definition of ‘early modern’. He reviews theatre and literature for journals such as The Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies, Early Theatre, The Journal of British Studies, and Cahiers Élisabéthains.

Kesson’s piece ‘”They that treat in a maze”: movement as emotion in the work of John Lyly’ will be published in The Renaissance of Emotion (Manchester, June 2015), an essay collection edited by Richard Meek and BritGrad plenary Erin Sullivan. Kesson wrote the book John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship (Manchester, 2014) and co-edited The Elizabethan Top Ten: Defining Print Popularity in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2013), which examines early modern ‘bestsellers’.

Check out an interview with Kesson for Shakespeare London Theatres about Elizabethan writer John Lyly, the Earl of Oxford, elite boy companies, and more:

Kesson’s research interests include book history, the literary canon, and educational practices, as well as gender, queer, and disability studies.

Plenary Profiles: Farah Karim-Cooper

And now for yet another fabulous plenary: we are thrilled to announce that Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, Head of Higher Education and Research at Shakespeare’s Globe, will be speaking at this year’s BritGrad.

Dr Karim-Cooper received her MA and PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she taught for several years as a Visiting Lecturer. She designed an MA module for Contemporary Performance at Birkbeck College, and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London. As leader of scholarship and research at Shakespeare’s Globe, she spearheads the Globe and King’s joint Shakespeare Studies MA programme and has developed the Globe’s higher education programme to include doctoral studies.

Karim-Cooper also serves as Chair of the Globe Architecture Research Group. Listen to her discuss some of the work that was done on the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse below (she begins speaking at around 1:40):

(You can watch the rest of the series Building of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Shakespeare’s Globe’s YouTube channel.)

Karim-Cooper has written and edited several books, including Moving Shakespeare Indoors (Cambridge, 2014), Shakespeare’s Theatres and the Effects of Performance (Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2013), Shakespeare’s Globe: A Theatrical Experiment (Cambridge, 2008), and Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama (Edinburgh, 2006). Her monograph Shakespeare and the Hand will be published later this year.

She advocates a broader view of life in academia, which involves collaborations between universities and the art organisations, accessible scholarship, and participation in the community.

Fun fact: Karim-Cooper cites her favourite Shakespeare play as Titus Andronicus, which she calls “exciting, horrible and deeply moving.”

Plenary Profiles: Laurie Maguire and Felix Budelmann

Oxford professors Laurie Maguire and Felix Budelmann will bring their joint expertise to BritGrad on Saturday, 6 June. Professor Maguire earned her Master’s from the Shakespeare Institute and her doctorate from London University, King’s College. Before teaching at Oxford, she held a post-doctorate position at the University of Toronto and taught at the University of Ottawa. Maguire is interested in Shakespearean interiority, early modern medicine, Elizabethan performance, and the influence of the classics on Renaissance writing. She also hosts a fortnightly seminar on Literature and Medicine.

Maguire has published numerous articles and books, including Othello: Language and Writing (Arden/Bloomsbury, 2014) and Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood (Oxford, 2009). She co-authored Thirty Great Myths About Shakespeare (Oxford, 2013) with Emma Smith, with whom she also wrote “What is a source? Or, how Shakespeare read his Marlowe” (Shakespeare Survey, forthcoming 2015). The essay won the Hoffman Prize for a Distinguished Publication on Christopher Marlowe.

Classics scholar Professor Felix Budelmann received his doctorate from Cambridge and taught at the Open University and the University of Manchester before joining the faculty at Magdalen College, Oxford. He specializes in tragic and lyric Greek literature. Budelmann is also intrigued by cognitive science and its relationship to literature, which led him and Maguire to embark on an interdisciplinary collaboration with evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar.

Budelmann recently co-edited Choruses, Ancient and Modern (Oxford, 2013) and co-wrote “Timotheus’ poetics of blending: a cognitive approach to the language of the New Music” in the journal Classical Philology (2014). Check out a video of him discussing the enduring influence of Oedipus Rex:

Maguire and Budelmann will present on audience responses to ambiguity in Othello, The Winter’s Tale, and two Greek tragedies.

Plenary Profiles: Erin Sullivan

We recently saw Dr Erin Sullivan on BBC’s Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman, which is still available to watch on iPlayer.

Sullivan completed her MA at the Shakespeare Institute, where she currently serves as lecturer and fellow, and received her PhD from University College London. Her expertise as a literary scholar and cultural historian includes the history of medicine, particularly psychology and emotion. She contributes to and advises medical-themed journals and arts groups and edits the journal Cultural History.

Always interested in fostering public participation in academia, Sullivan has made advances in integrating media and distance learning into teaching. She also spearheaded ‘A Year of Shakespeare’ in 2012, a project which examined the relationship between Shakespeare and the London Olympics. Yearofshakespeare.com covered more than 80 events across the world, including the World Shakespeare Festival and the Globe to Globe Festival.

Sullivan has written and edited dozens of articles and books, such as A Year of Shakespeare: Re-living the World Shakespeare Festival, edited with BritGrad plenaries Paul Prescott and Paul Edmondson, and Shakespeare on the Global Stage: Performance and Festivity in the Olympic Year (ed. with Prescott, 2015).

Forthcoming works include The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Early Modern Literature and Culture (ed. with Richard Meek, 2015) and Beyond Melancholy: Sadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England, in which Sullivan delves into intertwining issues of identity, religion, medicine, and sadness in contemporary literary writings.

Sullivan has twice appeared on Melvyn Bragg’s program ‘In Our Time.’ Listen to this fascinating discussion on The Tempest here and to her talk about Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy here.

Speaker Erin Sullivan on BBC Four

Yet another plenary appeared on television last week. Historian Michael Wood consulted Dr Erin Sullivan, a lecturer and fellow with the Shakespeare Institute, for her expertise on BBC Four’s documentary Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman. The program follows William Shakespeare’s mother Mary Arden through personal and financial loss during an era of religious upheaval and the rise of a new kind of middle class.

The program is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for three more weeks. Go to 32:13 to hear Dr Sullivan discuss how Mary Arden might have dealt with grief after the deaths of her oldest children. Also check out the episode to see shots of the lovely Stratford-upon-Avon, where the BritGrad Conference will be held.

Speaker Chris Laoutaris on The One Show

Last month, we profiled BritGrad plenary Chris Laoutaris, a lecturer and fellow at the Shakespeare Institute. Last week, he appeared on BBC’s The One Show in a segment about Lady Elizabeth Russell, the subject of his book Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe. Gyles Brandreth interviewed Dr Laoutaris in Playhouse Yard, a location central to the struggle between the “bard and the battle-axe.”

Russell, a strict Puritan, raised a petition against building a theatre in the upscale neighborhood of Blackfriars, London. Early modern NIMBYs who signed the petition included Lord Hunston, William Shakespeare’s patron, and Richard Field, his former publisher and boyhood friend.

Russell succeeded in pushing Shakespeare across the river where he wrote plays for the world-renowned Globe, only to return to Blackfriars after her death. Laoutaris actually suggests Shakespeare’s grudging admiration for his nemesis is evidenced by his creation of the Countess of Rousillon in All’s Well That End’s Well.

Shakespeare and the Countess (Penguin) will be available on paperback on 5 March.


 

This episode aired on 12 February. If still available, Laoutaris’s segment begins at 23:35.

 

Plenary Profiles: Chris Laoutaris

Get to know the fantastic plenaries of BritGrad 2015! Dr Chris Laoutaris, a lecturer and Birmingham Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute, will be featured as the first in a series of brief speaker profiles.

Laoutaris received his undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate from University College London, where he taught and served as Renaissance Literature Course Convenor. He has lectured at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and is currently teaching at the Shakespeare Institute.

He relishes archival adventures and interdisciplinary explorations of early modern literature. His wide range of interests includes poetry (it’s in his blood, having descended from a line of poets), women’s history, translation, and Renaissance studies of anatomy. Other research areas involve early modern superstition and witchcraft, satire, death-ritual, Puritanism, monstrosity, and natural history.

You might have heard of Laoutaris’s book Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe (Penguin 2014), which has received numerous accolades. The Telegraph and Observer listed it as one of the best books of 2014, and it made the shortlist for the Tony Lothian Prize for Biography. The Countess follows the formidable Elizabeth Russell, a lady who successfully opposed the creation of a Blackfriars playhouse in 1596, forcing William Shakespeare to adapt his writing for the Globe Theatre.

Laoutaris has also written Shakespearean Maternities: Crises of Conception in Early Modern England (Edinburgh University Press 2008) and is now working on the Birmingham Fellowship Project Team Shakespeare: The First Folio and the Men who Created the Shakespeare Legacy.

As expected from someone with such diverse expertise, Dr Laoutaris will speak on the fascinating topic of early modern robotics in Shakespeare and Spencer. Prepare for old-school cyborgs!

Day 3: Strange Plays, Here We Come

By all accounts, Day 3 of BritGrad started with an incredible panel by Alex Whiteley and Rebecca Fensome, taking the comparative study of Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes and Despicable Me 1 and 2 to unparalleled heights of academic excellence. I wouldn’t know first-hand, because unfortunately despite the best of intentions I didn’t wake up until 9:05. The mention of these two papers is a testament to how much, despite the ravages of the BritGrad party, I was still hoping to see them.

Just two bros, united by a love of Renaissance dramaturgy

The first plenary of the day saw Anna Marsland and David Rintoul discussing The Roaring Girl and The White Devil, two RSC productions on which they respectively worked as assistant director and actor. Much of the initial question-and-answer section drew attention to the questions of gender surrounding the plays and the Roaring Girls season itself – while Rintoul was surprised to realise that he may have only worked with six female directors over the course of his career (and up to fifty men), Marsland was confident that the theatrical landscape was beginning to change. She spoke about the unbelievable life of the real Moll Cutpurse, who escaped unwanted emigration on a boat to Virginia by swimming back to shore, and responded to comments on the more conventionally-feminine attire of Lisa Dillon’s Moll at the end of the play by emphasising how the character’s costume aesthetic has by this point spread across the whole sweep of the stuffy Victorian society in which Jo Davies had set the production. There was a genuine excitement to her comment that the upcoming White Devil cast featured eight female parts, one of which (Flaminia) has been cross-gendered; a decision which seems increasingly timely in the wake of performers who deconstruct traditional understandings of gender, from Lady Gaga to Conchita Wurst. The play is only just about to go into rehearsal, so it wasn’t only the audience who were keen to discover what effect this would have on the sexual politics of Webster’s tragedy.

The Roaring Girl, temporarily not roaring
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Middleton’s verse is quite hard to remember

Rintoul, meanwhile, displayed all the charm and grace one might expect from TV’s former Mr Darcy. Asked about the particularities of memorising and performing non-Shakespearean verse, he proposed a sustained and remarkably accurate analogy to jazz – from the steady beat underlying Marlowe, to the development of syncopation/less forcefully iambic lines, to the Charlie Parker-style improvisation of the Jacobean era. He also considered the play in relation to the RST run of Henry IV, pointing out parallels in the split between a rule-bound, conservative group of characters and the free play of London street-life, while emphasising the specifically Jacobean focus of The Roaring Girl on contemporary society. Both discussed the production’s relation to last year’s A Mad World, My Masters, and the Swan’s position as a space designed for non-Shakespearean drama: would Middleton sell in the main house. Surely it’s worth finding out?

Sadly it doesn’t seem as if the Swan will be staging Heywood’s Age plays any time soon, so it’ll be a while before we can find out exactly what’s meant in stage terms by the ‘strange fiery-workes’ which accompany the appearance of Medea in The Brazen Age. This was the subject of Callan Davies‘s fascinating paper, exploring the links between strangeness, spectacle, scepticism and intellectual uncertainty in early modern England. What use would a stage direction including the abstract term ‘strange’ be to a stage-hand trying to produce a visual image? asked Davies, before taking us on a tour of Renaissance oddity including ‘Strange News out of Kent’, a phenomenon represented today by this Daily Mirror article about massive rats. Far from mere tawdry shows, then, ocular wonder required intellectual engagement from an audience, and reflected a wider uncertainty over translating the material world into moral terms. Davies linked these occurences of strangeness to Montaigne’s doubts over the stability of perception, and the ethical stability this entailed, as explored in his essay ‘Of Massive Rats’.

Callan Davies (L) in intense discussion (as far as I can tell from my own position of intellectual uncertainty)

Fans of Heywood should, at this point, be reminded of the Lizz Ketterer Trust Heywood Marathon, which began today at the Shakespeare Institute with the intention of reading and recording all 37 of the plays attributed to him. Regardless of what Heywood’s spectacles ‘meant’ to their original audience, the role of the visual and ephemeral on the Renaissance stage has been consistently ignored by scholars looking for the sources of Shakespeare, argued Kim Gilchrist in a thought-provoking, original speculation about the ‘imbecilic’ works encountered by early modern playgoers. Gilchrist made the case for what has been in the dry transcription of Queen’s Men plays such as The Famous Victories of Henry V, presenting the complex, metatheatrical improvisation of clown-actors like Richard Tarlton as a tradition which has, by its very nature, disappeared from literary history. Nonetheless, the work of this first acting celebrity – known for his playing extempore – must have been assimilated and transformed by Shakespeare, just as much as that of literary forebears such as Marlowe. While the Prologue to Tamburlaine was a direct challenge to the rhyming and jigging of this kind of theatre, its echoes survived even as they could not be written down. Gilchrist’s own acting was able to give us a speculative flavour of what Tarlton and his fellows might have been doing; the mechanical dolphin which Greenblatt suggests might have provided Shakespeare’s introduction to theatrical spectacle sadly remained unreconstructed.

Somewhere, Henry V is feeling threatened

These issues were picked up (dolphin notwithstanding) in the final plenary session of the day, and of BritGrad 2014. Dr Will Sharpe and Dr Peter Kirwan demonstrated considerable powers of off-the-cuff discussion as they introduced us to the theory and practice behind their recent co-authored project on the collaborative plays attributed to Shakespeare. Their volume takes in not only Arden of Faversham, Double Falsehood and Sir Thomas More, in which Shakespeare’s hand has regularly been suspected, but also The London Prodigal and Thomas Lord Cromwell, two plays in which they found no evidence of Shakespeare’s own writing, but historical attributions which made it clear that they were first received in a Shakespearean context, perhaps due to the influence of the King’s Men’s house dramatist on the company’s wider output – collaboration is never just a case of sharing billing. Even the first Folio fudges the issue of collaboration, implying that authorship in the period didn’t mean exactly the same thing as ‘who wrote what’.

Sharpe and Kirwan expressed their hope for the demise of the circular argument that goes: Shakespeare could never have written this; this can’t be by Shakespeare, because it isn’t good enough. They also explained the logic behind presenting the whole of each play, rather than excerpting the potentially Shakespearean passages: not only are many of these collaborative works worth reading in their own right, but the mechanical aspect of stylometrics makes it difficult to declare  with 100% certainty which author wrote a single scene. Given the amount of French in Henry V, most computer systems would confidently assert that Shakespeare had never laid eyes on it. Despite the quality of some of these plays, however, Sharpe wearily noted the tendency of media coverage to focus on the novelty of new Shakespearean attributions, rather than the actual contents of the work – an awareness of which had to underlie the presentation of the book itself, to make it a viable commercial proposition. Kirwan argues that the desire to ‘own it all’ – everything Shakespeare ever wrote – is part of a modern consumerist mentality, but also speculated on the Internet as a factor contributing to a resurgence of interest in anonymity. As questions from the audience made clear, however, the value of the volume lies not least in its making available, in clear, clean and lucid texts, plays which might now be used by actors and theatre companies, extending the relatively narrow scope of the early modern drama which is staged today – and in discussing those works, as Sharpe wryly commented, in ‘essays that people can read.’

And perhaps it’s fitting to conclude with a comment on accessibility, in a conference which we the BritGrad team hope serves as an entry point to conference attendance for a generation of postgraduate students.

‘Books in the running brooks, and good in everything.’ – Delegates, chillin’
Bearded debate
Your humble author
Two teas? Or not two teas.

More photos, courtesy of Ronan Hatfull, can be found at the BritGrad Facebook page. We look forward to seeing you all next year!