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Blackfriars x Southwest Conference and Early Modern Playhouse Reconstructions

With another Pigeon Creek performance at the Rose Theater coming up this weekend, I wanted to report on our ongoing research into the effect of theatre architecture on performance. As I have previously discussed on this blog, the Rose, which was built in 2010 at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan, is one of very few reconstructions of early modern playhouses in the world. The Rose is not a replica of any one single theatre from the early modern period, but instead uses an amalgam of architectural features from the typical theatres in London during Shakespeare’s time period.

In mid-April, I, along with Pigeon Creek actors Kathleen Bode and Chaz Bratton, had the opportunity to visit another of the early modern playhouse reconstructions in the US, the Curtain in Austin, Texas, which is home to theatre companies the Baron’s Men and Austin Shakespeare. We attended the Blackfriars x Southwest conference at the Curtain, where we got to see a production of Richard III performed by the Baron’s Men, and participated in a round table discussion about performance in early modern theatre reconstructions. Our actors, along with actors from the Baron’s Men and the American Shakespeare Center, talked at length about the effect that the architecture of these theatres has on the relationship between actors and audience.

Included below is a photo of the Curtain. Our audience members who have been to the Rose will likely notice some similarities between the spaces. The audience surrounds the stage on three sides. The stage architecture contains a frons scenae with three doors at the stage level, as well as a balcony level for entrances above. The Curtain also has some significant differences from our Rose. For example, the stage extends at least 6 feet downstage of the the columns, and those columns are much thinner than those at the Rose. While the Rose has a faceted frons scenae, with angles between the doors, the Curtain’s frons is flat across.

The audiences of these regional theatres in Michigan and Texas have the extremely rare opportunity to see performances in these wonderful spaces without having to travel to the Globe in London. We hope that we will see you at this year’s performances at the Rose on June 4 and August 27. For tickets to the June 4 performance of As You Like It, please visit Eventbrite

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