Blackfriars Playhouse: “Much Ado About Nothing”

On the boards this last night of the Blackfriars Conference was “Much Ado About Nothing.” Going in I had to remind myself that I had “Much Ado” saturation. It happened a few years ago with “Hamlet,” too. You see so many versions of the same play in a short period of time—on campus in March, multiple OPS Fest performances in July, in Montreal and in London as recently as August—that it is hard to both not get a bit bored and a bit critical. And yet.

Sometimes simple is best. A brilliant view helps.

The pertinent seat assignment on my conference name tag.

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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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