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UB to host two-and-a half-day Shakespeare workshop exploring race, class and culture


Mon, Apr 17th 2023 10:00 am

By the University at Buffalo

The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with the University at Buffalo, the UB Arts Collaboratory, and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (B&ECPL), will present a unique two-and-a-half-day local workshop exploring Shakespeare’s role in reinforcing and contesting questions of race, class and culture.

“Gilding the Guilt: The Gilded Age, Craft Production, and the Construction of Cultural Capital” will explore both the written and performance Shakespearean traditions as they relate to these questions with two keynotes at the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, on April 27; and a performance demonstration at Ujima Company Inc., 429 Plymouth Ave. (Buffalo Public School 77), on April 28, as part of the Arts Collaboratory’s Working Artists Labs.

All events and performances on both days are free and open to the public. No registration is required.

“Gilding the Guilt” situates itself against a backdrop of Gilded Age Buffalo, a city of great wealth that had matured just as industrialization’s counter-melody was developing with the American Arts and Crafts movement at the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora ─ while at the same time, the Niagara Movement, which would become the NAACP, was holding its first meetings at the home of activist and suffragist Mary Talbert.

This is also the time that Buffalo acquired, through the efforts of Gilded Age book collectors, not one, but two sets − one held by the B&ECPL and the other by UB − of all four of the 17th century Shakespeare folios.

Lauren Belfer, whose novel “City of Light” revolves around the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, the world’s fair at the center of these swirling forces of wealth, nostalgia and social change, opens the workshop at 4 p.m. April 27 at the Central Branch of the B&CPL with a scene-setting presentation on turn-of-the-century Buffalo.

Then at 7 p.m. in the same auditorium, three distinguished scholars will discuss the regional, racial and Indigenous reach of Shakespeare in America:

√ Joyce Green MacDonald, Ph.D., University of Kentucky professor of English, will discuss the impact of Shakespeare on Abraham Lincoln. Green MacDonald’s latest book is “Shakespearean Adaptation, Race, and Memory in the New World.”

√ Kathryn Vomero Santos, Ph.D., Trinity University assistant professor of English, an expert in premodern critical race studies, will explore Shakespeare’s relationship to Spanish-speaking and Indigenous communities, and the dual-language adaptions that have arisen in that context.

√ Scott Manning Stevens, Ph.D. (Akwesasne Mohawk), Syracuse University associate professor of American and Indigenous studies, whose grandfather attended the Thomas Indian School, will discuss colonialism as it impacts educational institutions, and its effect on his family.

A major renovation that has temporarily closed the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has given UB, a Folger Institute Consortium member since 1992, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the workshop, and to make use of the priceless early modern and Shakespearean resources of the B&ECPL and the UB Libraries, according to Barbara Bono, Ph.D., one of the program’s co-organizers and an associate professor emerita of English and global gender and sexuality studies at UB.

“The workshop promises to be an intensive place-based study of Shakespeare in regional America,” Bono said. “The written tradition of Shakespeare will be layered onto performance history, and a broad cultural and physical map, to create a rich, three-dimensional experience for everyone.”

Bono will be joined by co-organizers and UB colleagues Carrie Tirado Bramen, Ph.D., professor of English; Maria S. Horne, MFA, associate professor of theater and dance, and director of the UB Arts Collaboratory (2022-23); and Stacy Carson Hubbard, associate professor of English.

“We will look at how ‘Shakespeare’ – the text, the performances, the reception – has been inflected differently in different parts of the country at different moments, right down to the present day,” Bono said.

Day two of the workshop’s public programming draws in the Arts Collaboratory’s Working Artists Lab, an interdisciplinary group of UB graduate and undergraduate students, under the direction of Horne.

This semester the lab is collaborating with the Beijing National Academy of Dramatic Arts and a number of Buffalo theater companies, including Raices Theatre Company, Ujima Theatre Company, Irish Classical Theatre Company, and Shakespeare in Delaware Park, as well as the Buffalo Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts and The Nichols School, and the after-school program Peace of the City/Theater for All. Together, they are exploring the relevance and applications of Shakespeare’s works in performance today with two events on April 28:

√ A roundtable on “Performing American Shakespeare” from 3:15-4:30 p.m. in the second floor Central Conference Room at the Central Branch of the B&ECPL.

√ An evening demonstration/performance at Ujima, from 7-8:30 p.m., where the Arts Collaboratory and the professional theater companies and educational organizations will present and discuss excerpts of Shakespeare in performance.

Horne’s experiential lab has been conducting research in the archives and in performance all semester on questions of race, class and culture. She said the program is an intellectual preparation to the practical investigation of questions that affect the performance of Shakespeare today, specifically in Buffalo and regional theaters.

“The workshop connects the university with the wider Western New York community in practical and meaningful ways, and is also preparing our students through their research and performance to constructively engage with these questions in ways that practically address the challenges, possibilities and opportunities of collaborative learning,” she said.

The workshop organizers would like to thank the UB College of Arts and Sciences; Buffalo & Erie County Public Library; UB Libraries; Roycroft Campus; UB Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development; UB Arts Collaboratory; UB Center for the Arts; UB Humanities Institute; UB department of English; UB department of theatre and dance; UB Office of Advancement; UB James Agee Chair in American Culture; and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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