Shakespeare studies at Warwick is defined by the premise that Shakespeare’s plays make their meanings in performance. Performance speaks an international language. Performance gives immediate, embodied access to 400-year-old texts and a physical route into Shakespeare’s astonishingly rich but (increasingly) remote writing. But performance is ephemeral. So how do we capture performance? How do we hold it in an archive, and how do we animate archived theatre records to re-perform performance for research, teaching and learning? Working with actors and directors, designers and musicians at The Royal Shakespeare Company, Footsbarn Theatre Company, Northern Broadsides, Cheek by Jowl, the National Theatre and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, we at the CAPITAL Centre are creating ‘The Live Archive’.
Beginning with materials deposited with us by Northern Broadsides, we are making a digital archive of promptbooks, production photographs, costume bibles, set designs, programmes, posters. Working with Footsbarn during their recent visit to Warwick with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a student research team documented the performances and associated events. This material is now being used by our students as part of this unique web-site Re-Performing Performance: Shakespeare archives in teaching and learning. We imagine this unique e-learning resource in two ways: as record and as challenge.
Firstly, this web-site is a record or guide of our own pedagogic work with archival material. Using Shakespeare’s most ephemeral roles as a starting point, we re-construct his witches and faires using the archive as creative stimulus. We offer a range of possibilities for using theatre records in a range of performance-based learning experiences. We encourage our students to engage practically with the complexities surrounding performance and memory. We offer downloadable introductions to specific collections and critical analysis. Secondly, we challenge you – the user of this website and the participant in this project - to generate your own content by browsing our resources and re-performing performance in your own teaching and learning spaces.