BritGrad 2015: Thursday’s Delightful Plenaries

richard
Richard O’Brien, our hero

This past weekend was a fabulous blur of dynamic plenaries, informative panels, and lovely weather. Shakespeare Institute Director Michael Dobson gave the opening remarks with his usual wit, expressing wry confidence in the lineup and emphasizing his lack of involvement in this student-run conference. BritGrad Chair Richard O’Brien did accept responsibility for the proceedings and welcomed everyone to the first day of BritGrad.

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Shakespeare Institute Director, Professor, and glittering wit Michael Dobson

The Shakespeare Institute’s Dr Erin Sullivan spoke first on ‘Shakespeare, Sadness, and the History of Emotions.’ A former BritGrad Chair, Sullivan shared memories and reflected on the number of lasting academic relationships she made at the conference. She went on to discuss the history of emotions, an inherently interdisciplinary field which has faced challenges over the years due to its perceived subjectivity. From Roland Barthes to historian Barbara Rosenwein, scholars have posed theories about how to study the history of emotions.

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Plenary Dr Erin Sullivan on the Renaissance blues

Sullivan’s particular interest lies in Renaissance sadness in its manifold forms. There was an ambiguity about sadness; for example, sadness over the world’s sins could be salutary, while other kinds of melancholy could be unhealthy and even dangerous. She used Antonio from The Merchant of Venice as an example of a character whose identity seems intertwined with melancholy and noted that she was drawn to Shakespearean characters whose emotions differed from the norm.

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Plenary Ben Naylor, breaking it down

Ben Naylor with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama was the second plenary of the day. He emphasized the importance of fostering a relationship between academics and theatre and directed an interactive analysis of Hamlet, act 1, scene 1, from a performance perspective. This close reading involved questioning what every line could tell audience members who were completely unfamiliar with the play. The scene is full of what Stephen Greenblatt called “strategic opacity.” Even the first lines, “Who’s there?” and “Nay answer me,” create immediate conflict and keep the audience at the edge of their seats.

Naylor pointed out the significance of Italian (Bernardo) and Roman (Marcellus) names, Wittenberg and its chief association with Protestantism, and possible stage directions found in the text. Shakespeare expertly alters the mood throughout the scene, particularly when Horatio and company sit down to hear a story about the ghost. Seeing actors sit, the audience begins to relax and let their guards down. The ghost suddenly interrupts story time and the audience’s complacency. This back and forth analysis between Naylor and his students normally goes on for four hours, which, based on his talk, surely fly by.

Paul² and Sylvester James Jr, Mayor of Kansas City

Our final plenaries Dr Paul Edmondson with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Dr Paul Prescott with the University of Warwick discussed their project Shakespeare on the Road. Prescott was fascinated with the number of Shakespeare festivals in the United States which made very little if any profit, performing Shakespeare on the cheap tickets or for free. He and Edmondson celebrated the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth by visiting 14 of these 200 or so festivals and seeing 44 performances and 22 plays, beginning and ending with The Winter’s Tale. They also conducted 150 interviews.

This massive, illuminating, and exhausting trip from coast to coast included a foray into Stratford, Canada, as well as the Harlem Shakespeare Festival, the Amerindian Shakespeare Initiative, and Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, which required the cast to set up and take down sets for every performance. The Pauls found that the American festivals tended to be conscientious about diverse casting. This decision was not to be confused with “non-traditional casting,” a term which bothered some due to its suggestion that actors of colour hadn’t been involved with Shakespeare in the past.

After a wonderful day of plenaries and panels (stay tuned for more information about student papers), delegates had the option to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Othello, featuring Hugh Quarshie as Othello and Lucian Msamati as the company’s first black Iago.

Thank you for joining us for Day 1 of BritGrad 2015! More summaries are coming soon.

Plenary #9 & #10: Ending with a Roar

With just a week left until the initial meet-and-greet, we’re delighted to announce the final pair of speakers for BritGrad 2014. On Saturday June 7th, 10:45-11:45, we will be welcoming Anna Marsland and David Rintoul to discuss The RSC’s Roaring Girls season, in a question-and-answer session chaired by Hannah Hickman and Charlotte Horobin. Hopefully you already have a number of burning questions for these two major players in a programme of productions showing examples of Jacobean drama which put complex, interesting female characters centre-stage – a return to the original remit of the Swan Theatre, to explore the wider Renaissance repertoire – but if you’d like some pointers about our speakers, the following will clue you in…

Anna Marsland (centre) and company working on The Roaring Girl

Anna Marsland is Assistant Director for The Roaring Girl, currently playing at the RSC, and The White Devil, which premieres on 30th July as part of The Roaring Girls Season. She graduated with an MFA in Theatre Directing from Birkbeck College, and was a Resident Trainee Director at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. She was also a finalist for the 2013 JMK Award for Young Directors. Her work as a director includes Twelfth Night at the Victoria Baths, Manchester and What the Butler Saw and Two, both at the ADC Theatre. As an Assistant Director, she has worked on Hope Light and Nowhere at the Underbelly, A Christmas Carol at the Young Vic, Miss Julie at the Royal Exchange Theatre, and Othello at The Rose Theatre, Bankside. Elsewhere in the Renaissance, Anna has also done text work for The Malcontent at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and for Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3 at Shakespeare’s Globe.

David Rintoul
David Rintoul

David Rintoul is currently playing Sir Alex Wengrave in The Roaring Girl, and Monticelso in The White Devil as part of The Roaring Girls Season. He will later be part of the company for The Witch of Edmonton alongside Eileen Atkins. David studied at Edinburgh University and trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and has since worked extensively on stage and screen, with a career taking in productions at The National Theatre and the Theatre Royal, Bath, not to mention Dirty Dancing. His previous RSC appearances include, among others, The Taming of the Shrew (also staring Lisa Dillon), Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and Edward III. In television he was notably Doctor Finlay in the television series of the same name, and in 1980 played the role of Mr Darcy in the BBC television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Anna and David complete this year’s BritGrad programme – we hope you’re as excited to meet them as we are, and as we are to meet you. By now you should have received an email about abstracts and hats – keep your eyes peeled on this very blog (peeled to? peeled at?) for further information to follow.

Getting to Know Your Plenary Speakers #3

Getting to Know Your Plenary Speakers #3: Jonathan Slinger

We hope you are all as excited as we are to hear that Jonathan Slinger is one of our plenary speakers for BritGrad 2013.

Slinger graduated from RADA in 1994 and since then has made a big name for himself on TV, radio, and the stage. His first RSC role was Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Gregory Doran. Other notable RSC performances include the eponymous characters of Richard II and Richard III in Michael Boyd’s Histories Cycles, and, of course, Macbeth.

More recently, Slinger played a major role in the RSC’s ‘Shipwreck Trilogy’ as part of the World Shakespeare Festival, where he played Prospero in The Tempest, Doctor Pinch in The Comedy of Errors, and Malvolio in Twelfth Night. He is also an associate artist of the RSC, and currently appears as Hamlet in David Farr’s production, which we will be seeing on the Thursday of this year’s conference.  

How kind of the Guardian to offer an amuse-bouche of Slinger’s take on playing Hamlet! Check it out.

Registration is open!

Friends, postgrads, countrymen…lend us your abstracts!
 
We come to open BritGrad registration.
 
The research that men do lives after them,
 
The best is often entered in their papers,
 
So let it be with BritGrad.
 
 
(What are you waiting for? Get registering now! See the CFP and poster for more details.)

Q: To be or not to be with BritGrad 2013 at the RSC?

Jonathan Slinger as Hamlet, in rehearsal. Photo by Keith Pattinson.

Now, for the announcement you have all been waiting for…it’s time for some theatre! 

We are delighted to announce that we have secured tickets for BritGrad 2013’s much-anticipated RSC production–the Thursday, June 6th performance of Hamlet starring Jonathan Slinger, directed by David Farr.  More information on the production can be found at the following link: http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/hamlet/ 

Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to order yours early!  (We have one wheelchair/companion duo available.)  We hope to see you there!

A: To be, obviously.

Deborah Shaw confirmed for plenary!

It is our pleasure to announce that Deborah Shaw, Director of the World Shakespeare Festival and RSC Associate Director, will give a plenary session at this year’s conference.

Shaw joined the RSC in 2006 to direct the Complete Works Festival. Before that she served as Director of the Bath Shakespeare Festival, Artistic Director of Chester Gateway Theatre, and Associate Director of Watford Palace Theatre. She is a founding member of the Iraqi Theatre Company (Baghdad), and has produced shows internationally as well as producing many international shows here in the UK. She holds an MA from Cambridge and an honorary doctorate from Oxford Brookes. [You can read about more of Shaw’s impressive career on her RSC page.]

 

FURTHER READING:

Check out Ms Shaw’s Festival Director Blog for the WSF.

Stay connected to the Festival through the Year of Shakespeare site, launching Monday 23 April.

Richard III at the RSC

BritGrad is pleased to announce this year’s play offering is Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Roxana Silbert (Birmingham Rep (designate) Artistic Director, RSC Associate Director) directs, Ti Green designs. Specific casting not yet announced, but we do know that the actors will also perform in A Soldier in Every Son – An Aztec Trilogy, a Compañía Nacional de Teatro de México/RSC co-production, also directed by Silbert.

This production is part of the World Shakespeare Festival 

[Each year the conference secures a number of tickets to one show at the RSC, offered to attendees at a reduced rate.  Information about ticket purchase included in registration materials.]