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CfP: NeMLA "Early Modern Theater and Conversion"

Thursday, July 28, 2016   (0 Comments)

Transformation has long been discussed in studies of early modern English drama. From an interest in Ovidian transformation to the way cross-dressed actors were feared to be “transformed” into effeminate men by performing the roles of women, scholars have looked at specific ways in which transformation incited fear, awe, and excitement in the playhouse.

Next Fall, the Folger Shakespeare Library is presenting a symposium, “Early Modern Theatre and Conversion,” that explores issues of how religious “transformation” is represented on stage, as well as how theatre is able to “convert” religious conversion. Encouraged by the Folger’s new take on theatrical transformation, this panel seeks to explore the multiple ways early modern playwrights and performance practices presented transformation on stage, and how the restaging of early modern drama—through edits, setting the play in a new place or time period, choices made by actors, directors, and designers, as well as the physical location of the performance itself (from the outdoor reconstructed Globe to a black box)—“transforms” the play into something new. Some questions this panel wants to raise are:

  • How did early modern theater designers (from Inigo Jones to the nameless designers of popular drama) transform a bare stage through set, lighting, sound, and costumes?
  • How did early modern drama “transform” the Greek and Roman drama, or other source texts from which it was inspired, into new plays?
  • What did it mean for an early modern spectator to see a boy actor “transform” into a woman, or an actor into demon, or an actor into a king, or an actor into a god?
  • How was the actor seen as “transforming” into his role, and how easy was it to “transform” back into himself when the play ended?
  • How are transformations presented culturally, socially, politically, or theatrically, both in early modern England and in later productions?
This session is as interested in a production of Titus Andronicus set during the Iraq War as it is the early modern presentation of Richard II staged to echo the failed wars in Ireland in an effort to incite a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I, and hopes that new ways of interpreting “transformation” in early modern drama will open the door for more nuanced, complex, and challenging ways to understand the power and significance of theater’s perceived power. Abstracts must be submitted through the NeMLA website. Find more information at the website of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Thank you!


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