“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Spring 2024 Tour: Entry #5

By Sam Hill

Off-we-go to Os-we-go, sorry, terrible joke, you can blame Lucy for that one… Oswego is a city in upstate New York. It sits on Lake Ontario, and for the most part, has been covered in pristine snow. Although it is COLD, the town is beautiful and the snow, newly laid upon the ground, makes a soft, crunching sound, providing a satisfying ASMR to every walk.

We performed two shows here and enjoyed them both. As any actor would, we balked at the idea of performing at 9:30 am to a group of high schoolers. To be clear, we were more than happy to perform to high schoolers; it was the idea of performing so early we struggled with. However, we were met by a warm group of young people in the auditorium and ended up thoroughly enjoying ourselves. That’s actors for you. We love to complain but, when we get going, always end up enjoying ourselves.

Did you know what the collective noun for a group of actors is? A whinge (just kidding).

A real highlight of the stay here was getting tickets to a local ice hockey game. There was a local championship in which an Oswego team had reached the final. Hockey is %$£$-ing brutal. Actions that would get you sent off in any other sport seem to be totally acceptable. These include smashing into each other, hitting each other with sticks, tripping each other up and shoving the other player into the side-barrier, which thankfully separates competitors and fans. I felt particularly sorry for the keeper, whose job is to wear a comical amount of padding, so much so that they look like Michelin men. They stand in front of the goal as a hard puck is fired towards their head, chest or groin. It is so physical that you can see the young players getting more heated as the game went on. With increasing frequency, players ended up in the sin bin to cool down and by the end three players had been sent off during the game. They must have been black and blue by the end of the game and need to be hosed down with deep heat. Oswego won 5 goals to 2 and at the end of the match every Oswego player threw their helmet and stick in the air and left them strewn upon the ice. So fair and foul a day I have not seen.

I am going to add a section now called ‘Wing of the Week’. Anna and I are both fans of wings and have been sampling local wing stops throughout the tour. As we have travelled, we have developed a subtle and complex rating system: ‘clucks’. The highest award is 5 Clucks; the minimum is 1 Cluck. We are yet to have a wing worth of 5 Clucks, but here are our ratings so far.

Week 1 and 2: O’Rourke’s, South Bend, Indiana. A solid, dependable buffalo wing here, but its not going to change your life. 3 Clucks
Week 3: Harry’s, West Lafayette, Indiana. A good dependable wing, but has a slight edge on
O’Rourke’s. 3.5 Clucks.
Week 4: Domino’s Buffalo Wings. Oswego, New York. A terrible wing experience. Soggy, lacking in flavour, not enough Buffalo sauce. 1 Cluck.
Week 4: Southern Fare. Oswego, New York. Good quality chicken for sure. A flavourful dry rub however, we wanted a little more. The chicken itself, although good quality, a tiny bit dry. 3.8 Clucks.

Talking of wings, we gotta fly! We travel to Syracuse airport to fly into La Guardia, New York from where we catch a connecting flight to Burlington, Vermont. Burlington is the home of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and our last cold stop of the tour. From there we go South…

The Journey Begins


by Wela Mbusi

An epic journey is underway for five actors creating a magical piece of theatre from scratch; using nothing but our skills, imagination, and the love of theatre. Did I also mention without the all seeing eye of a director?


The first two weeks of rehearsals have been about shelling out the play for its meaning, not only for clarity of storytelling, but for us to really grasp such a complex and rich play as Measure for Measure. After the initial shock of being left alone in the room with nothing but the text and our collective training, we managed to slowly, but surely, decipher the scenes one unit at a time. It has been a tremendous learning curve for all of us in the company so far as we’re coming to terms with different ways of working. On top of that, there’s the added responsibility of being all of the other figureheads responsible for the creation of a piece of theatre. However, not having the constant objective eye of a director, it has also meant enjoying the freedom of playing with the text in many ways that a ‘normal’ rehearsal wouldn’t allow us to. We’ve been paraphrasing our lines together and that has helped us not only understand our own lines but the other actors as well.

The breadth and depth of understanding that the process has given us has and hopefully will continue to enrich the play. Foursquare seems to be a regular pre-rehearsal pressure reliever and we are constantly enthused by the epic journey that we’re about to take in the States.

Shakespeare at Notre Dame to host First Folio in 2016

First Folio Title Page

The title page of Shakespeare’s First Folio published in 1623 and coming to Notre Dame in January 2016.

One of the world’s rarest and most treasured books, the First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It will be displayed in the Hesburgh Libraries at Notre Dame January 4 through January 29 during a nationwide traveling exhibition entitled “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare,” sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library in partnership with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association and hosted by Shakespeare at Notre Dame.

The exhibition, announced by the Folger Shakespeare Library on Thursday (April 23), Shakespeare’s 451st birthday, is one of numerous events planned worldwide for 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

“We are honored to partner with the Hesburgh Library’s Rare Books Collection and the Folger Shakespeare Library in serving as the sole Indiana venue for the First Folio exhibition,” said Scott Jackson, executive director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame. “Our mission is to directly engage our audiences with the works of Shakespeare both on the page and on the stage. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the First Folio in a venue as iconic as Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library will provide the wider Michiana community with an entirely new way to experience one of the world’s greatest dramatists.”

When it was published in 1623, the First Folio could be purchased for 20 shillings, roughly $200 today. Since then it has become one of the most valuable printed books in the world; a First Folio sold for $6.2 million in 2001 at Christie’s and another one for $5.2 million in 2006 in London.

ToBe_FirstFolio_smallIn the Notre Dame exhibition of the First Folio, the book’s pages will be opened to the most familiar of all Shakespearean lines; “To be or not to be” from Hamlet’s soliloquy. The exhibition will include digital and interactive features on Shakespeare’s life, times and work, and several public events presented by Shakespeare at Notre Dame.

Yesterday’s Peter Holland Keynote at the 2013 Blackfriars Conference

The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, hosts a biennial conference at their Blackfriars Playhouse.  This year, the opening keynote was given by none other than our own Peter Holland, the McMeel Chair of Shakespeare Studies at Notre Dame.  His talk was entitled “A Critic and a Gentleman: Publishing Performance,” and here’s the liveblog version thanks to Sarah Martin, of ASC’s terrific Education Department.  You also can follow the conference on Twitter or Facebook by searching the hashtag #BFC13: 

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Keynote: Peter Holland’s A Critic and a Gentleman: Publishing Performance

Hi again! Sarah Martin here to liveblog the first Keynote Address of the Seventh Blackfriars Conference: Peter Holland’s A Critic and a Gentleman: Publishing Performance.

Peter Holland, Associate Dean for the Arts and McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame is, as Dr. Cohen said in his introduction, “a great get” in terms of a Keynote speaker. Professor Holland began his presentation with the images of the title pages of two different editions of Hamlet: one the early modern title page with a record of the first performance and the second, an edition inspired by the Michael Grandage production of Hamlet at the Donmar Warehouse which starred actor Jude Law. Professor Holland explained that the reader of the 1676 edition thought he was getting “all of Hamlet“–the play as written and the play as performed, but the edition neglects to state that it is also heavily revised while the Grandage edition has been significantly shortened.

Professor Holland pointed out that, for the type of souvenir playtext exemplified by Grandage’s edition to be published in time for audience members to buy it, the text must be fixed in print well before the production actually begins performances. While an audience may believe that they are buying a true “performance text”, there is inevitable variation between the text in codex and the words spoken onstage.

Professor Holland discussed the role of what he called, “the theatrical edition” and asked what the intended use of such an edition is.  He explained that theatres always produce several editions–rehearsals scripts and so on that are not necessarily intended for publication, but are the material products of the theatre itself.

Professor Holland the discussed the role of the actor as critic and the censor as author. The “gentleman” in Professor Holland’s address is Francis Gentleman, who chose which moments of Shakespeare’s plays he thought ought to be included in editions and which should be omitted. Gentleman, Professor Holland argues, provides the “first performance commentary” on Shakespeare’s plays.  Professor Holland argues that such performance commentary is a “companion to the theatre” and no more. The Bell’s Editions (influenced by Gentleman and actor David Garrick) sold better than other scholarly editions in the eighteenth century. This, Professor Holland, argues has set the precedent for subsequent editions which include illustrations of performance and other theatrical or actor-centric images.  These images, however, are not necessarily representative of the plays in performance, but are of actors placed in suggested settings (such as an actress portrayed standing in the countryside) that are the product of editors rather than the actual performance history of the plays.

Professor Holland  argues that extensive performance commentary can actually be a hindrance to performance as it, “implies a right way of performing the play, not a range of possibilities”. Professor Holland argues that, while such extensive performance commentary shows impressive scholarship, it does not provide meaning. Professor Holland’s discussion of the Samuel French Acting Editions was particularly interesting and amusing to the audience as he compared the staging diagrams present in the editions to “IKEA self-assembly”. Such editions, Professor Holland argued, make the play no longer Shakespeare’s, but rather the product of the publishing house. Professor Holland’s Keynote Address, which explored the relationship between performance and the printed text, presented in a theatre that seeks to do just that, was the perfect start to the Blackfriars Conference.


Reduced Shakespeare podcast with Peter Holland

Austin Tichenor of the Reduced Shakespeare Company stopped by the Shakespeare at Notre Dame offices the other day and had a conversation with Peter Holland. We think you’ll enjoy the resulting podcast:podcast-logo-170x170