Early Modern Theatre and Conversion

Early Modern Theatre and Conversion

A Folger Symposium

How did the crisis of conversion in the early modern world open up a space for dramatists and others to play with one of the key questions of their time? How, that is, did early modern theatre and other kinds of theatrical practice adopt, repurpose, transform, and multiply forms of religious conversion? Offered in partnership with the SSHRC-funded project, “Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies,” this symposium will convene members of that project with others, bringing together historians of theatre and historians of religious and political culture with theatrical practitioners, whose work will open other ways of understanding how theatre is able to “convert” conversion. Through discussion and workshop sessions, symposium participants will work across differences of discipline and archive in order to reach toward a greater understanding of the social creativity of theatre in an age of political and religious upheaval.


Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday, November 17 – 19, 2016.

The symposium opens with an evening performance workshop, “Playing Conversion,” during which professional actors will stage themes that will resonate throughout the rest of the symposium. On Friday and Saturday, invited speakers will initiate discussion on a number of relevant topics.

Organizers: Professor Paul Yachnin and Dr. Stephen Wittek of McGill University represent the “Early Modern Conversions” project. They have developed this symposium in collaboration with Drs. Kathleen Lynch and Owen Williams of the Folger Institute.

Most sessions take place in the Folger Board Room

Thursday evening, 17 November 2016 (Paster Reading Room)

6:00 pm

Kathleen Lynch, Folger Institute, and Paul Yachnin, McGill University
Performance Workshop: “Playing Conversion”
Amanda Kellock, Repercussion Theatre, Montreal
Antoine Yared, Stratford Festival
Shirine Babb
Louis Butelli


Opening Reception (Founders Room)

Friday, 18 November 2016

9:30 am

Coffee and pastries (Tea Room, which is adjacent to the Board Room)


Call to Order
Owen Williams, Folger Institute


Culture and Religion
Chair: Christopher Hodgkins, English, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Jeffrey Shoulson, Judaic Studies, University of Connecticut
Steven Mullaney, English, University of Michigan


Lunch (provided in the Foulke Conference Room, 301 East Capitol Street, SE)


Sexuality and Gender
Chair: Kathryn Santos, English, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi
Mario DiGangi, English, The City University of New York
Ulrike Strasser, History, University of California, San Diego


Tea Break


Cultural Exchange & Cognitive Transformation
Chair: Stephanie Cavanaugh, Conversions Project, McGill University
Jean Feerick, English, John Carroll University
Coll Thrush, History, University of British Columbia

Saturday, 19 November 2016

9:30 am

Coffee and Pastries (Folger Tea Room)


Call to Order
Stephen Wittek, McGill University


Conversion & Islam
Chair: Holly Pickett, English, Washington & Lee University
Jane Hwang Degenhardt, English, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Bernadette Andrea, English, University of Texas, San Antonio

11:45 am

Lunch on your own (suggestions provided in folders)


Reformation & Conversion
Chair: Torrance Kirby, Religious Studies, McGill University
Peter Lake, History, Vanderbilt University
David Kastan, English, Yale University


Tea Break (Tea Room)


Theatre & the Conversions of Things
Chair: Bronwen Wilson, Art History, UCLA
Helen Smith, English, University of York
Julian Yates, English, University of Delaware



Chair: Paul Yachnin

Peter Lake
Holly Pickett
Jeffrey Shoulson
Helen Smith


Closing Reception (Paster Reading Room)

This reception is offered in conjunction with the Homecoming of the First Folios programming.