Shakespeare in Performance at UMF

I am pleased to announce “Shakespeare in Performance,” an international conference to be hosted by the University of Maine at Farmington May 4-5, 2012, as part of the spring University Forum Series.  In celebration of the new Emery Community Arts Center, and in cooperation with an international exchange of faculty from the Université du Maine, Le Mans, the two-day conference will include presentations and workshops on previously under-examined Shakespearean performance (musical scores, opera, materiality, hybridization, and so forth) as well as plenary lectures and academic papers presented by scholars from across the United States and France.  This conference is co-organized by Eric Brown, UMF, and Estelle Rivier, Université du Maine, and continues a discussion of similar topics developed for the “Shakespeare and Performance” conference in Le Mans, France, in November 2011, also co-organized by Brown and Rivier.

On Friday, May 4, we will commence the two day conference with paper sessions and a Common Ground lecture by Martin Andrucki, Charles A. Dana Professor of Theater, Bates College, who will speak on the topic of “Shakespeare in Hungary” both before and after the political changes of 1989-90. His paper will take Hungary as an example of a political state in which the playhouse became “a theater of parables, metaphors and allegories: of insinuations through secrecy; a theater of meta-communication, where the message was conveyed through stylistic tricks,” and one in which Shakespeare figured prominently in this art of insinuation.  The remainder of the conference will include papers on diverse topics in performance.

In addition to the conference itself, we have organized a roundtable discussion on Shakespeare, performance, and pedagogy, scheduled for May 2, and several film screenings relevant to the conference topic, all based around Shakespeare’s Othello.  On March 18, the University Film Series will present the famed adaptation by Orson Welles, with a Common Ground discussion to follow on Wednesday, March 21.  On Sunday, April 29, we will screen A Double Life about an actor struggling to separate his real and theatrical lives.  And on Wednesday, May 2, we will screen the classic French film Les enfants du paradis, a work that will also be featured in our plenary lecture on Saturday, May 5, by Douglas Lanier, Professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and author of the book Shakespeare and Modern Popular Culture .

All events in the series are free and open to the public. For the conference proper, events will be housed in the Emery Community Arts Center. With support from the University Culture Committee, Office of the Provost, Office of Rob Lively, Division of Humanities, Division of Sound, Performance and Visual Inquiry, and the Maine Humanities Council.

UMF Organizing committee: Eric Brown, Associate Professor of English; Misty Beck, Lecturer in English, UMF/Writing Specialist and Lecturer, Environmental Studies, Bates College; Linda Britt, Professor of Spanish, UMF; Phil Carlsen, Professor of Music, UMF; Jayne Decker, Instructor of Theater, UMF/Director of Emery Community Arts Center; Misty Krueger, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, UMF; Daniel Salerno, Instructor of English, UMF.

Upcoming Event

A Common Time talk about Environmental Justice and the Penobscot River presented by Barry Dana, Penobscot leader and educator

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 – 11:45am to 1:15pm in the Emery Arts Center


Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action

 Film Screening and Q & A about the Impact of Environmental Policy on the Native American Way of Life and discussion with Barry Dana, Penobscot Leader and Educator

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 7:00pm in Lincoln Auditorium

Barry Dana is former Chief of the Penobscot Nation in Maine. He has spent the last two decades promoting the traditions of Maine’s indigenous nations and helping his people regain control of their culture and ancestral lands. In recent years, Dana has battled powerful paper companies and their allies in state government in an effort to stop toxic dumping in the Penobscot River, on which his people have depended for food and medicinal plants for 10,000 years. Dana is a graduate of the University of Maine at Orono with a bachelor’s degree in education and an associate’s degree in forest management and has taught at the Indian Island schools.


An English Student’s Response to the LD291 Discussion

Wabanaki Culture and History:

Maine’s Commitment to Native American Studies

A conversation about LD291 with Maria Girouard, Past Director of Penobscot Nation Cultural and Historic Preservation, Dr. Donald Soctomah, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and Dr. Lisa Brooks, Libra Scholar

The conversation about LD291 which took place on February 28th focused on the logistics of representing Native histories from an educator’s perspective, but several of the talking points can be directly applied to our department’s ongoing investigation of Native voices. LD291 is a bill which was enacted by Maine’s 120th congressional body and which took effect in September of 2001. This piece of legislation articulates Maine’s commitment to Native studies, and the expectation that our kids will learn about Native histories through academic discourse instead of discursive media. The various difficulties which this law has encountered since its enactment are intimately connected to the problems that we have confronted and discussed while reading the works of William Yellow Robe Jr, Sherman Alexie, Cheryl Savageau, etc.

The investigation of authentic Native narratives is obstructed by the preconceived misconceptions which we as readers, students, and cultural participants carry into the classroom. Native authors struggle with these stereotypes alongside us, often resulting in the conflicted and tragic moods which characterize so many Native texts. As a reader I’ve come to recognize and enjoy the aesthetics of Native storytellers: words like wells that seemingly have no bottom, invigorating metaphors, and that wonderfully dry sense of humor which only a lifetime of strife and frustration can produce. As a student, I’ve benefited from these texts in another way. When we consider that these authors are in the process of reclaiming their heritage after centuries of both explicit and unseen hegemonic attacks, their narratives become inherently political. By voicing their experiences they simultaneously advocate for a new cultural understanding. These authors imbue their subordinate readers with authentic visions of Native life, every word helping to eradicate the offensive myths that have been perpetuated by predominately non-Native media professionals. This educative, dialogic process is exactly what LD291 is all about.

The advantage of LD291 is almost paradoxical. It is only by working with the popular belief that Native Americans are an extinct culture that their stories have made their way into Maine’s history classes. At the same time, it is through this historical exploration that they hope to kill old stereotypes and perpetuate a new awareness and appreciation for Maine’s indigenous tribes. LD291 is all about attacking ignorance. Doctor Donald Soctomah said as much when he explained the reasoning behind introducing LD291. By “starting young” and teaching Wabanaki histories in grade school, we can come closer to controlling whose stories are told and what meanings are circulated. The issue which was discussed in great detail by Dr. Brooks, Dr. Soctomah, and Maria Girouard was not an issue of motivation but of method. How do we teach Wabanaki continuance through histories? How can teachers without prior knowledge of those histories find appropriate texts and emphasize them in the appropriate ways? Implementing a large-scale cultural awareness curriculum on a state largely bereft of cultural perspective presents a problem which is difficult to resolve – echoing one of the prominent themes of Native American literature.

For more information on upcoming events in the Living Language series at UMF, see Mantor Library’s Living Language Webguide.