The 2015-2016 HWS Theatre season continues on Friday, Feb. 19 with a new Frame/Works series event featuring guest scholar Stephen Wisker. The talk, “Send in the Clowns: Comedy in Zany Illyria!” will take place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Coxe 7. Wisker is a Ph.D. candidate in theatre and performance at University at Buffalo where he’ll be directing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in fall 2016.
Wisker’s Frame/Works talk will look at the role of Feste (and the other clowns) toward an understanding of comedy in “Twelfth Night,” and more generally, as it was acted on the London stage of the period. It will also touch on the role of music and of talking-or singing-to the audience, which was as much a part of clowning and comedy at the time as falling over spectacularly or shocking humor.
Historically, “Twelfth Night” possibly marked the debut for a new actor in Shakespeare’s troupe, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Taking over from the wildly popular but departed English actor Will Kemp, Robert Armin as Feste was a different type of clown from the bawdy dancing Kemp. Armin offered an inexhaustible source not only of wit but also of poetry and music. Shakespeare and his audiences had a new and very sophisticated kind of fun with Armin in place.
The Frame/Works talk coincides with the HWS Theatre production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” the inaugural theatre performance in the new McDonald Theatre in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts. Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Hatch, the “Twelfth Night” performances run on Feb. 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Wisker’s talk is free and open to the public. Frame/Works attendees are encouraged to see “Twelfth Night” that evening. Tickets are available at the HWS College Store and Area Records and Music.
Following the HWS “Twelfth Night” performance on Feb. 19, audience members are invited to participate in a post-show talkback with members of the cast and creative team. Taken together, the pre-show lecture and the post-show talkback, “frame” a “work” of theatrical art.
Wisker is a director and performer with a special interest in direct address, storytelling and group singing. After obtaining an M.F.A. in directing Shakespeare from the University of Essex in his native England, Wisker taught Shakespeare at the Actors Centre in London and directed a number of productions in England. In New York City, he taught and directed Shakespeare at Atlantic Acting School / New York University Tisch School of the Arts, and later worked widely, including for The Theatre Guild and with Judith Malina at The Living Theatre. He recently published a performance review in Theatre Journal and has a book review forthcoming in Theatre Survey.
Frame/Works is a program designed to draw connections between scholarly examination and artistic practice. Scholars are invited to present their research on a play, playwright, historical moment, genre or style in a pre-show lecture prior to a performance.