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'If you have writ your annals true': Shakespeare in the Archives

3rd International Shakespeare and Performance Colloquium

The CAPITAL Centre, University of Warwick, 23-24 April 2009


How do we use the materials and material traces of performance to remember, re-construct and re-perform performance? What constitutes the annals? And what constitutes true writing? How are performance archives currently being constructed and how are the trace materials of performance being used in teaching?


Speakers included:

R.A Foakes (UCLA)
Andrew Hartley (University of North Carolina)
Peter Holland (University of Notre Dame)
Tony Howard (University of Warwick)
Carol Chillington Rutter (University of Warwick)
Robert Shaughnessy (University of Kent)
Paul Prescott (University of Warwick)
Michael Cordner (University of York)
Jonathan Heron (University of Warwick)
Tom Cornford (University of Warwick)
Richard Rowland (University of York)
Bridget Escolme (Queen Mary College, University of London)

How, re-writing performance, do we use writing about performance (theatre reviews, diaries, biographies, theatre publicity) and writing emerging from performance (promptbooks, stage managers’ reports, rehearsal diaries)? At the end of April at the CAPITAL Centre and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, academics and theatre archivists and curators debated these issues as part of business of the 3rd International Shakespeare and Performance Colloquium.


In his welcome to participants, Stanley Wells’ rendition, from memory, of Laurence Olivier’s speaking Coriolanus’ banishment of Rome and its people, delivered at Stratford in 1959, began a thread which ran through the papers and discussions: the importance of the living archive. Peter Holland (University of Notre Dame) speaking on The Lost Workers: Process, Performance and Archive, regretted the voicelessness of theatre workers and audiences and proposed methods of capture; Bridget Escolme (Queen Mary College, London) interrogated actors’ testimonies (Actors’ Testimonies as Archive and the Cultural Construction of Success in Performance) and Tom Cornford (University of Warwick; ‘Find Direction Out’: In the Archives of Hamlet) described, from a director’s standpoint, using the performance archive as a means of new creative engagement with a play-text; Tony Howard (University of Warwick) added to his account of Paul Robeson’s performance of Othello in 1959 the eloquent diary entries by a 14-year old Stratford schoolgirl of her impressions of Robeson and the political context of the time; and Robert Shaughnessy (University of Kent) (And Now: A Choice of Programmes) described a collection documenting one man’s theatre-going experience.


The effect of Web 2.0 technology in co-opting individual interaction with performance records was explored by Christie Carson (Royal Holloway London) and three Warwick speakers (Baz Kershaw (STPCPS) on the Live Archive; Jonathan Heron (CAPITAL Centre) on RePerforming Performance, a new teaching and learning website; and Paul Prescott (English) on reviewing for the Internet Shakespeare Editions). Questions of access, conservation and preservation of two- and three-dimensional archives were debated by curators from the V&A, RSC Collection, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, led by James Bulman (Allegheny College).


Carol Rutter (University of Warwick, ‘Who would be toll’d for Wenches in a shew’: Undoing Desdemona; or, New Materials for Performance Research) and Richard Rowland (University of York, (Un)settling Scores: What the Archives Can tell Us about Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness) demonstrated how performance illuminated and questioned the decisions of editors. Other contributors were R.A. Foakes (UCLA) on Performance and the Playtext; Andrew Hartley (University of North Carolina) Showtime: Temporality and the Video Archive of Julius Caesar at the RSC; Michael Cordner (University of York) Silencing the Players.


The conference was audited by postgraduate students from the universities of Warwick, Oxford, King’s College London, York, Birmingham and Queen Mary College London. Selected papers from the conference will be published in a special issue of Shakespeare Bulletin.


The CAPITAL Centre is grateful for help from North American Travel Fund at the University of Warwick to support the attendance of Professor R.A. Foakes (UCLA), Professor Andrew Hartley (University of North Carolina) and Professor Peter Holland (University of Notre Dame) at the first meeting of the Colloquium in the UK, bringing together Shakespeare performance scholars from both sides of the Atlantic. Funding for the colloquium was also received from the University of Notre Dame and the Humanities Research Centre at Warwick.

For a full programme, please click here.

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Images courtesy of Warwick University Art Soc