Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Little Bit of Background

When you go to grad school to focus on Shakespeare and are immediately presented with the opportunity to take a class with an eminent theatre-historian, you take it. Even if it is your first semester, and thus I met Dr. Roslyn Knutson in Shakespeare's Theatre last semester, and she in turn introduced me to Merry Devil. The purpose of the class was to expose us to the sorts of things that were going on in London in the 1580s, 90s, and early 1600s, and as she promised, we read a lot of very bad plays. Also a few good ones.

The problem with many of these plays is that they don't exist in the most friendly of editions. Many of them haven't been given a modern treatment of any kind, and some haven't been touched by editorial pen in nearly a century. Merry Devil was one of those that seemed to cry out for a new edition, and me being a huge nerd who actively struggles against having anything that might even possibly be mistaken for a social life, I decided that I would jump headfirst into this. Also, I had to pick something as a capstone project, and the narrative outline of what would be required towards the creation of a new critical edition seemed perfect.

Here's the catch: I'm really not much of a scholar. I come to this game from a background in theatre: you know, actually making plays happen. So what would be the point of putting together a new edition of a work if you're not going to perform it?

A parallel train of thought involved getting some of my friends together from various waypoints in my travels through life and somehow taking a play to Philly for their fringe festival. Late one night, awash in a mixture of burnt coffee, those two circuits crossed, and the Merry/Fringe project was born.

Thus, I have spent a couple weeks transcribing Merry Devil from the 1608 quarto (the first one), and am also working on planning out the logistics of the production. Somewhere in between, the scholarship and stagecraft are going to meet, but hey! That's what my program is all about.

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