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!
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:
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.
First things first: Professor Katherine Duncan-Jones will join us as a plenary speaker.
Professor Duncan-Jones (BLitt, MA Oxf, FRSL) is a Senior Research Fellow in English at Somerville College, University of Oxford. Her research interests include Elizabethan literature, history and biography, especially with reference to original sources and early texts. Current work focuses on Shakespeare’s reputation from 1592-1623, and to that end we refer you to her 2011 monograph, Shakespeare: Upstart Crow to Sweet Swan 1592-1623. Other publications include Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from His Life, and Shakespeare’s Poems (ed. with H. R. Woudhuysen).
[If you’re keeping track, Professor Duncan-Jones makes four. Which means we still have a couple plenary panels to fill – so remember to check back often for further plenary related news as well as some upcoming guest blogs.]
Secondly: Registration is now open and the Call for Papers is posted. Take a look at both under the Registration 2012 tab above. We can’t wait to start reading abstracts!
We have our first confirmed plenary speaker, and couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Tiffany Stern to this year’s conference.
Professor Stern will present a paper titled ‘Such Place, such Men, such Language & such Ware’: The Theatre of London’s Fairs.
Prof Stern is the Beaverbrook and Bouverie Fellow and Tutor in English, University College, Oxford, and Lecturer (CUF) in English, Oxford University. Her research specialises in Shakespeare, theatre history (16-18th centuries), book history, and editing. Two of her monographs have won the David Bevington Award for Best New Book in Early Drama Studies. If you’d like a longer list of her publications, qualifications, and academic interests, take a look at her staff profile here.