Bringing Back Shakespeare: An Experiment in Challenging Modern Audiences Using Original Staging Techniques

VanBennekom, Angel
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University of Delaware
In recent years, the “original staging” movement has gained momentum as a surprisingly effective technique to Shakespearean performance. Recently, at least a half-dozen theatres in the United States and the UK have devoted their repertories to replicating the techniques with which Shakespeare’s plays were actually staged in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. They theorize that performing Shakespeare the way Shakespeare might have done it creates more enriching and enjoyable productions for modern audiences. In the following work I will describe my attempt at creating a new original staging production using a small, modestly funded student company on a university campus, including the month of preparation and the ultimate success of 6 total performances of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which were performed at UD in late March. The overwhelming prevalence of positive feedback that was received about the production (from audience members and company members alike) backs up the findings of the other “original staging” companies around the world – that this type of performance is entertaining, appealing, and highly effective in reaching modern audiences. Uniquely, however, we also proved that smaller, less-funded companies can find routes into the original practices movement, and we could perhaps expect to see dozens more original practice productions – if not, devoted companies – in the theatrical world over the next few years.