Blackfriars Playhouse: “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

The last two days of this little academe that is the Blackfriars Conference has oscillated between reconnecting with warmly familiar faces—friends from Midwest universities or who attended graduate school with me as well as a large Oregon Shakespeare Festival contingent in town for honors—and enjoying hearing a range of arguments and ways of presenting them following the affordances of the indoor playhouse modeled after the early modern period. So, too, did the evening performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost conscript everyday tools for belonging—the music, texts, spaces, faces we share—for a particular kind of meditation on the crafting of nostalgia.

As I have ongoing research on pre- and inter-show performances, I was excited when I realized that this production organized such extratheatricals as part of the event. For the half hour before the performance, we were treated to thoughtfully arranged (for the vocalists as well as to the parts they would play) covers of thematically relavent pop songs. My ears perked up at “You Don’t Know Me,” a Ben Folds/Regina Spector duet I sang along to live only a few weeks ago in a Portland venue for the Paper Airplane Tour. This was followed by TLC’s “No Scrubs,” while intermission included selections from the Spice Girls and N’Sync.

Unable to keep from singing along to the warm three- and five-part harmonies, I became suddenly aware of who wasn’t.

This Stationers account book fragment at the University of Illinois was discovered in 1953 in the binding of a collection of sermons by Thomas Gataker (1637). The creases where it went around the spine of the book are still visible.

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Blackfriars Playhouse: “The Fall of King Henry”

Late last night, my cab from the airport crossed over the recently named Martin Luther King, Jr. bridge in Staunton. I nearly missed it for the dark; my ride-share, a very kind director from California, pointed it out. I have never been to Virginia, but I’m thrilled to be finally attending what many scholars consider to be their favorite academic convening: the biennial Blackfriars Conference at the American Shakespeare Center.

Along with full days of top-notch papers—Tiffany Stern, Paul Menzer, Jim Marino, Claire Bourne, and Christina Dennehy all in one day!—the schedule permits conference-goers the chance to see the full complement of productions running at the re-created indoor Jacobean space. (We also learned that all the innovative thinking about early modern theatre architecture and archeology is happening in New Zealand and Australia.) Tonight, “The Fall of King Henry (3 Henry VI),” tomorrow “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” and for dessert, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Having been dispirited by seeing the “Much Ado” recently concluded at Shakespeare’s Globe in London this past August, it is nice to be back in a performance space still interested in being a site to test ideas about early modern performance.

Greg Brostrom as King Lewis XI and Shunté Lofton as Lady Bona in The Fall of King Henry (Henry VI, Part 3). American Shakespeare Center. Photo by Lindsey Walters.

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