Working With Actors

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30 March 2023: “Sonic Violence: Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi,” Echoes of Violence Seminar, Shakespeare Association of America, Minneapolis, MN


Actio! Actio! Actio! | Posted 27 December 2022

OverActing Festival, Leiden, Netherlands

Earlier this month I presented my research on the dramatick opera Psyche at the University of Leiden. The organizer Jed Wentz had originally asked me to participate in a symposium on historical acting in 2020; sadly, that proved impossible because of the COVID pandemic. After several additional delays, the symposium finally happened, and it was everything I’d hoped for. For those of us who could arrive early, our intellectual appetites were whetted by the “OverActing” theatre festival, which considered the benefits of revivifying historical acting techniques in the modern theatre. Because of end-of-term obligations, I had to miss one of the key performances, a theatrical extravaganza on the first evening featuring 100-year-old painted scenery (you can find an image of the event above, and a YouTube trailer here), but I did attend a range of other activities, including performances of a cantata, a melodrama, and a series of silent films with live accompaniment. I also participated in a historical acting workshop led by Kat Carson.

The Actio! symposium followed close on the heels of the theatre festival; indeed, the scholarly symposium was a continuation of the performances we’d enjoyed over the weekend, as we reflected on the relationship between theory and practice. The symposium was one of my favorite kinds of scholarly activity: a small gathering of people exploring a topic together from a range of perspectives. The speakers came from theatre studies, musicology, and performance, but most of us had research interests that effaced the boundaries between these fields. Beyond the vibrant intellectual work we did at the festival and conference, on a personal level Actio! afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen for three years and also to form new friendships. At the symposium banquet I discovered that one participant had familial connections to the small English village where my mother was born and another grew up 20 minutes away from my hometown in the US. It’s a small world, indeed.

My paper on Psyche drew on my historical research on dramatick opera, my experience staging similar works as part of the AHRC research project, “Performing Restoration Shakespeare” (2017–2020), and interviews with Sébastien Daucé, who recently recorded Psyche with his Ensemble Correspondances, and Katherina Lindekens, who served as a dramaturg for Daucé’s production of Cupid and Death. The post-paper Q&A session provided some intriguing research leads, which I hope to explore in a future conference paper or publication.

Summer Travels | Posted 1 August 2022

Cook Hall, Illinois State University

This summer has felt like that Johnny Cash song: “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man!” I had a lovely vacation hiking in multiple national parks in the US and the Lake District in the UK. Following the Lake District jaunt I relocated to London and started work on a whole new archive for the Andrew Lloyd Webber book. I found some fascinating items having to do with the concept album rollout of Jesus Christ Superstar and the original Broadway production directed by Tom O’Horgan. I also discovered intriguing tidbits associated with Evita, Starlight Express, and Aspects of Love. I spent many happy hours in the manuscript and music and rare books reading rooms at the British Library, but instead of carefully parsing seventeenth-century manuscripts, I was looking at much more recent theatrical history! I also had teas/dinners/drinks with many friends. Click here to read more.

Back to the Archives | Posted 25 March 2022

Sunny London (Globe in the left-hand corner)

I spent last week in the UK. This was my first time seeing my family for two years and it was also my first trip back to the archives. It felt so good to be there, although my enthusiasm was tempered by the ongoing disruptions of COVID. The UK is grasping for a “new normal” in which COVID is a mere nuisance, but we really aren’t there yet. Despite the stresses, there were many pleasures. I connected with friends and collaborators and made a trip to the archive at Shakespeare’s Globe.

I’ve worked at the Globe several times on practice-based research projects (workshop of the Restoration Tempest, showcase presentation of our Folger Macbeth production), but it was the first time visiting their archives, which houses material from productions at the Globe and at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Click here to read more.

Happy New Year | Posted 7 January 2022

Sometimes you finish a thing in a global pandemic and wonder if, given the dire state of the world, anyone has read it or found it useful. Most of us are barely keeping our heads above water. In November my pandemic-spawned book, Music, Dance, and Drama in Early Modern English Schools (CUP, 2020) received an Honorable Mention for the Diana McVeagh Prize from the North American British Music Studies Association. Click here to read more.