(Richard Schoch’s article appeared in Folger Shakespeare Library, 9/28; via Pam Green.)
Part of what makes the Folger Shakespeare Library special is that while scholars are busy creating new knowledge in the reading rooms, actors and musicians in the adjacent theater are busy creating world-class performances. Amazing things result when scholars and artists break down the wall that traditionally separates them and start collaborating.
That’s what happened in November 2014, when Folger Institute, Folger Theatre, and Folger Consort joined forces to explore Restoration Shakespeare: the adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays that were popular with audiences from 1660 to about 1710. As spectators like Samuel Pepys noted, what made these performances so appealing was their winning combination of acting, music, and dance.
The performance of Restoration Shakespeare—how it lived on the stage—was the focus of the workshop that I jointly directed with the musicologist Amanda Winkler from Syracuse University. Over three days, we brought together theatre and music scholars, actors, singers, and musicians—including Folger Consort’s Bob Eisenstein—to explore Charles Gildon’s adaptation of Measure for Measure (1700), which includes Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas (c. 1689) presented as three separate musical interludes—that is, entertainment for both the audience and the characters within the play.