Researching Theatre History (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive. For more information about the Center for Shakespeare Studies, please see the article Center for Shakespeare Studies program archive.

This was a spring 2009 semester seminar led by Russell Jackson.

Sponsored by the Center for Shakespeare Studies, this seminar focused on the theory and practice of research in theatre history, with particular emphasis on recent developments in the field. Although “recreating” past performances continues to play a major role, theatre historians have ceased to regard it as the only goal of their work, and increasing attention has been paid to agendas and methodologies from other disciplines. Participants explored a range of possible paradigms for theatre research, including the interpretation of theatrical biography and autobiography; the evaluation of theatrical reviewers; the use of archival material in interpreting the economic and social dimensions of performance; the archaeology of acting styles; the place of scenic spectacle and music in Shakespearean performance; and the rediscovery and application of early modern staging techniques. In addition to presenting their own research to the seminar, participants developed skills in interpreting visual and audio-visual records of stage performance by working with promptbooks and other production records in manuscript and print drawn from the Folger’s extensive and unique holdings.

Director: Russell Jackson is Allardyce Nicoll Professor of Drama and theatre Arts in the University of Birmingham. His most recent publications are Shakespeare Films in the Making: Vision, Production and Reception (2007) and The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film (second edition, 2007). He co-edited (with Jonathan Bate) The Oxford Illustrated History of Shakespeare on Stage (2001) and (with Robert Smallwood) two volumes in the Cambridge ‘Players of Shakespeare’ series. Other publications include Romeo and Juliet in the “Shakespeare at Stratford” series (2003) and a translation of Theodor Fontane’s Shakespeare in the London, 1855-58 (1999).