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John Douglas Taylor Conference

McMaster University and the Stratford Festival

18-22 September and 24 September, 2018

Casting women in men’s roles may seem like a radical departure of our times; so might portrayals of early modern characters by trans and non-binary actors.  Playing with gender, however, was an exciting feature of early modern theatre practice across Europe. “Engendering the Stage in the Age of Shakespeare and Beyond” is an international research project that explores resonances between the history of gendered performance on the early modern stage and our contemporary drive to achieve gender equity in today’s professional theatre industry.

Our project explores:

  • the influential but largely unacknowledged work of female performers in early modern Italy, Spain, France, and England
  • the effects of such performances by women on the “all-male” early modern English stage
  • traces of trans and queer identities on the early modern stage
  • the impacts of these new insights on contemporary casting and performance practices, and
  • the insights of actors and directors working with innovative cross-casting today.

The Stratford Lab: Performance as Research Workshop, September 18-22

The Stratford Festival is already engaging with how the possibilities of cross-casting  help us explore more complex undertandings of gender. This year’s Taylor Conference begins with a week-long workshop in Stratford’s Theatre Laboratory involving actors from the company, two indigenous artists, a trans actor from England, a local non-binary performance artist and a carefully assembled group of international scholars. Lab events will focus on scenes from lesser known plays that feature sword-wielding women and reveal the largely unacknowledged presence of trans identities in early modern Europe. Our workshop centres on a two-way exchange between actors and scholars: actors will be exposed to little known histories of the early modern stage and scholars will see how this work plays out in the context of a contemporary rehearsal

Events at McMaster University, September 24

Following the workshop, international scholars will come to McMaster with artists and directors from the Stratford company to report on the project, sharing insights and discussing next steps forward. Martha Henry and Seana McKenna who both play roles written for men in this year’s season will close the conference with an open forum talk in the evening. All events will be held in the R.L. Wilson building and are open to the public.

Gender on the Early Modern Stage: What We Learned at the Stratford Lab and Next Steps

10:30am-12pm, Black Box Theatre (next to Wilson Hall)    

How might portrayals of gender on the early modern stage resonate with today’s opening up of gender to a non-binary paradigm? Roundtable participants include Peter Cockett (Theatre and Film Studies, McMaster), Melinda Gough (English and Cultural Studies/GSFR, McMaster), Clare McManus (Roehampton University, London), and Keira Loughran (the Stratford Festival).

Trans, Queer, and Feminist Histories in Early Modern Theatre: Then and Now

1:30-2:20 pm, Black Box Theatre (next to Wilson Hall)

Award-winning UK based theatre maker and director Emma Frankland will speak about her recent work on a large scale outdoor revival of Galatea by John Lyly, one of Shakespeare’s immediate precursors. A love story with a same-sex couple at its centre, Galatea offers positive representations of LGBTQ identities as well as a strong feminist perspective: all of the main protagonists are female identified, but many of them are also at odds with or experimenting with their gender identity. Synthesizing highlights from the Galatea project work with insights gained from the workshop in Stratford, Emma will discuss future possibilities for more inclusive
feminist/LGBTQ inspired work in classical theatre production.

Creating the Gender-Fluid World of The Comedy of Errors, Stratford Festival 2018

1:30-2:20 pm, Wilson Hall

Keira Loughran (Associate Artistic Director, the Stratford Festival), Jessica Hill (actor, the Stratford Festival), and Joanna Yu (costume designer, the Stratford Festival) will speak about their work creating the fun, gender fluid world of Ephesus for the 2018 Comedy of Errors production. Erin Julian (University of Western Ontario) will speak to this production’s significance as a case study for building inclusivity in today’s professional theatre industry.

Gender-Bending Shakespeare

7:00pm, Wilson Hall

Join renowned writer and CBC broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel in conversation with Canadian stage icons Martha Henry and Seana McKenna, who are shifting perceptions of gender and performance as Prospero and Julius Caesar this season at the Stratford Festival.

Sponsored by:

The John Douglas Taylor Family; the Stratford Festival; the Socrates Project; the Gender Studies and Feminist Research Graduate Program; the Department of English and Cultural Studies; the Faculty of Humanities; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada