2017 Shakespeare Colloquium focuses on Shakespeare’s women

The topic for the 2017 annual Shakespeare Colloquium at the Florham campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University is “Shakespeare’s Women.” The event will take place on Saturday, October 21 from 9:30-3:30 in Room S-11 (Sturchio Hall) in the Science Building. Sturchio Hall is handicap-accessible.

This will be the 25th year of these day-long Shakespeare gathering, which are free and open to the public. New Jersey teachers are eligible for professional development hours for participating. The Colloquium coordinator is Dr. Harry Keyishian, professor emeritus at Fairleigh Dickinson University. For further information, he may be contacted at Shakespeare@fdu.edu. The program is supported by the Columbia University Seminar on Shakespeare.

At 9:30, Dr. Iska Alter, professor emerita from Hofstra University, will discuss “Shakespeare’s Historical Queens,” focusing on the powerful and eloquent women in the early history plays and Richard III. Dr. Alter’s writings on Shakespeare, the Yiddish theater, American drama and ethnic American literature have been published in such journals as Theatre History Studies, Shakespeare Survey, Modern Drama and Shakespeare Bulletin as well as a number of edited collections.

At 10:45 Dr. Denise A. Walen of Vassar College discusses “Shakespeare’s Disappearing Women,” focusing on how important female roles have been cut in production over the years, including Juliet, Queen Margaret, Desdemona and Princess Kate, among others. Dr. Walen has directed many stage productions, including Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Her research and teaching focuses on dramatic literature and theory, theater history and women’s studies. She is the author of Constructions of Female Homoeroticism in Early Modern Drama and has published in Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Survey, and Theatre Journal, among other journals and edited collections.

After a lunch break from Noon–1 p.m., Dr. Phyllis Rackin, professor emerita at the University of Pennsylvania, will speak about “Cleopatras: What They Mean and Why They Matter.” Dr. Rackin discusses Shakespeare’s Cleopatra as well as other versions, ranging from ancient historians to modern films. A former president of the Shakespeare Association of America, Dr. Rackin is author of four books on Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s Tragedies, Stages of History: Shakespeare’s English Chronicles, Shakespeare and Women, and, with Dr. Jean E. Howard, Engendering a Nation: A Feminist Account of Shakespeare’s English Histories. She has published more than 30 articles on Shakespeare and related subjects. She was voted one of the 25 Master Teachers of Shakespeare in the last 125 years in a survey of Shakespeare scholars conducted at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

At 2:15–3:30 p.m., veteran actress Ellen Barry will perform and discuss some of her favorite Shakespearean women, including those she has performed, such as Lady Percy, Queens Constance and Hermione, and Helena, among others. Ellen Barry has played more than 100 classic and contemporary roles in New York and regional theaters, including Tennessee Williams’ Blanche, Stella and Hannah; Shakespeare’s Kate Percy, Hermione and Constance; Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Maude in Bakersfield Mist and Nat in Rabbit Hole; and both Lorraine and Meg in Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind. As Ella in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman she won an Off-Off Broadway Award, and for Vivian Bearing in Wit she received a Michigan Best Leading Actress award from the Detroit Free Press. Her one-woman show, Lizzie Borden at Eight O’Clock, has played at venues in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She and her late husband, Paul Barry, founded the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival (now Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey).