Brudermord and an Award!

Yesterday, we completed DAY ONE of BritGrad’s 2015 conference. A write-up of Thursday’s events will appear soon. For now, I’d like to summarize what happened on Wednesday:

As you know, Professor Tiffany Stern from Oxford University gave a talk on Wednesday afternoon about the play Der Bestrafte Brudermord (Fratricide Punished) a German adaptation of Hamlet from the 18th century. She discussed her journey into the world of early modern puppetry, noting that plays in Shakespeare’s day were often adapted into puppet shows. For example, Julius Caesar‘s stabbing scene could be turned into humorous, cartoon-like violence. Many of these shows were mishmashes of characters, plays, and settings.

Commedia dell’Arte thrived in England’s puppet performances. Due to the high level of improvisation, puppeteers had leeway to push the limits of censorship. We know that English theatre traveled abroad, and sometimes companies with dwindling numbers of employees conflated people and puppet shows or converted entirely to puppetry. Stern decided that, though she had known Fratricide Punished as a play for actors, evidence supports the possibility that it was also a puppet show. Its stage directions and cast, including extra violence and unnecessary characters, suggests puppet shenanigans.

Her talk was followed by a fantastic, high-octane, hilarious production of Der Bestrafte Brudermord by Hidden Room Theatre and a talk-back with its performers. They discussed how they composed the music, crafted the puppets, and collaborated on comedic bits and more emotional moments. Because it worked so well, director Beth Burns was quite convinced that the play was designed to be a puppet show.

After that, we walked across the street to The Windmill to catch up with attendees at the pub!

I’d also like to announce that last year’s BritGrad won the Second Annual Bardie Award for Best Conference of the Year. The Shakespeare Standard called it “a brilliant opportunity and friendly atmosphere for postgraduate and early career researchers to discuss Shakespeare and early modern theater.” Read more about the award here. Congratulations BritGrad 2014, and here’s to BritGrad 2015!

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Schedule for June 3rd and Possible Rail Strike

BritGrad technically starts on Thursday, June 4th, but, as our previous post demonstrated, we will still be around on Wednesday!

15.30-16.30- Pre-show talk by Oxford Professor Tiffany Stern

17.30-18.45- Performance of Der Bestrafte Brudermord (Fratricide Punished), a Hamlet puppet show

20.00- Join us at the Windmill, a pub just across the street from the Shakespeare Institute.

Also, please note that there might be a National Rail strike from 17.00 on Thursday, June 4th until 16.59 Friday, June 5th. Visit National Rail’s page on service alterations for more details.

A Hamlet Puppet Show: Der Bestrafte Brudermord (Fratricide Punished)

If you are in Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday June 3rd, please join us at the Shakespeare Institute at 3:30 p.m. for a pre-show talk and at 5:30 to watch an English performance of Der Bestrafte Brudermord (Fratricide Punished), an early adaptation of Hamlet. This puppet show, presented by Hidden Room Theatre, runs just over an hour.

The company’s academic adviser Professor Tiffany Stern (Oxford University) will give the pre-show talk from 3:30-4:30 on how Shakespeare’s plays were adapted for puppet performance in Europe during the seventeenth century.

In 1710, this mysterious, thirteen-page, hilariously slapstick German Hamlet — its script partly derived from the first, ‘bad’ quarto — was found in the depths of a monastery. This play is one of the most vivid traces we have of the work of the English Players, companies who took English plays on tour around northern Europe in Shakespeare’s time.

In keeping with the marionette show traditions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Brudermord employs onstage narrators (Judd Farris and Jason Newman) who perform all voices, music, and sound effects for the puppet cast — beautiful Sicilian rod marionettes made by Los Angeles’ Mystery Bird Puppet Show, styled and costumed by Jennifer Davis. This Hamlet varies from its English predecessor by incorporating additional comic characters and scenes.

The Hidden Room is an internationally acclaimed theatre company from Austin, Texas, which specializes in linking the past and the future of performance through early modern classics, and technologically forward thinking new works. Brudermord won Best Production of a Comedy, Best Ensemble, and Best Director at the B. Iden Payne Awards.

Admission to the play is £5 at the door.  Spaces are limited, and will be allocated on a first come basis, please therefore arrive in good time to avoid disappointment! No need to RSVP.

Watch the trailer here: