Academic papers on Shakespeare by day and live performances every night. It’s not a bad way for a theatre professor to spend a week, and IWU’s own Drs. Greg Fiebig and Katie Wampler recently got to share this experience at the Sixth Annual Blackfriar’s Conference at the American Shakespeare Company in Staunton, Virginia.
Fiebig presented the paper, “Shakespeare, the Designer”, co-authored with his son Jeremy, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. The paper explores the question of how Shakespeare and his company would have adopted contemporary staging technologies in subsequent plays and presentations of those plays. The Fiebigs suggested Shakespeare and his troupe were early adopters of co-opted staging practices. For example, it has been demonstrated that the Kingsmen (of which Shakespeare was a shareholder), purchased a magical device from a local fair vendor that sounds remarkably similar to the device called for in the stage directions for the banquet scene in The Tempest.
Fiebig said he enjoyed the interaction of theatre scholars as they presented some new ideas. “I thought we might meet with opposition by introducing Innovation Theory to Original Staging Practices in our paper, but we met with heartfelt enthusiasm and appreciation for the integration of these two concepts,” he said.
The conference participants were treated to a a wide variety of early-modern plays throughout the week including Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Henry V, and Hamlet. The American Shakespeare Comapny is known for interacting with the audience by eby delivering lines to them or having them participate in the action. Lights stay on over the audience so actors can see those in the seats The conference has a combination of academic literary and performance topics that are complemented with the professional productions at night.
The IWU Theatre Professors were joined by Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, Dr. Craig Edwards, who is also a Professor of English. The IWU Theatre Guild features Shakespeare productions in its main stage productions about every other year and conferences such as this directly impact classes and the interpretations brought to those productions.