LIU Post Theatre Professor Takes a “Globe-al” Approach to Shakespeare
For LIU Post Theatre Professor Valerie Clayman Pye, the story of her latest book, Unearthing Shakespeare: Embodied Performance and the Globe, starts in 1998.
That’s when Pye, then a student at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, first visited Shakespeare’s Globe, the 1997 reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre that sits less than a thousand feet from where the Lord Chamberlain’s Men originally performed Shakespeare’s plays.
“It’s completely unlike what we think of as a theater today,” Pye recalls. “We might think about a space that’s very blank and empty that each individual production puts a set into, and it’s always being transformed into something else, but in the Elizabethan theatre, the theater itself was very ornate, and there were certain things about it that are very different from what we’re accustomed to.”
Those differences are central to Pye’s book, the first to consider what the reconstructed Globe can contribute to our understanding of Shakespeare’s plays.
“I felt that the theater was unlike anything I had ever experienced before,” Pye said, “and I felt almost as thought it was a character within the performance. It was so alive, and so unlike anything I had ever experienced, that it ignited in me this question of, ‘Shakespeare here is so different; how do we learn from this space and figure out how to ignite and inspire dynamic performances in any theatre?”
That question led Pye to her doctoral dissertation at the University of Exeter – “I essentially devised an actor training methodology, based on the conditions at the Globe, for training actors to perform Shakespeare anywhere” – and the methodology Pye devised is at the heart of Unearthing Shakespeare.
While Pye’s book is primarily intended for those involved with bringing Shakespeare’s words to life on stage, there’s plenty to interest those who are more likely to be in the audience.
“The primary audience is theatre-makers,” Pye said, “but the secondary audience is definitely people who appreciate Shakespeare performance. There’s a good portion of it that is practical advice for how to speak it and perform it and direct it, but on the other hand, there’s probably 30 percent of the book that really just has to do with all of the different dynamics of performance – how space functions, what would have been different in Shakespeare’s day, how it’s come to chance – and I think that that’s applicable for anyone who’s interested in Shakespeare and performance.”
Of course for the aspiring theatre professionals who study with Pye in LIU Post’s acclaimed School of Performing Arts, their education will benefit from their professor’s “Globe-al” perspective.
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