Friday, April 18th, 2014


The Bare Bard Series of Experiments!

The Bare Bards are one of the key expressions of Maryland Shakespeare Festival’s commitment to exploring historical and textual clues about the original practices of William Shakespeare’s company of players and the audiences they performed for. The Bare Bards are not an attempt to replicate Elizabethan performances for scholarly purposes, but rather an effort to bring new vitality to the performing of Shakespeare’s plays and to live theatre at large today. The Bare Bard format allows the professional ensemble to perform Shakespeare’s texts with minimal interference from sources outside of the text.  By emphasizing text over subtext, actor impulse over rehearsal and directorial vision, and audience interaction over production design, Shakespeare’s texts are illuminated in an immediate and historically relevant context.


Our first Bare Bard Experiment, Coriolanus

Our first Bare Bard Experiment, Coriolanus

What are Original Practices?

Original Practices is a term used as short-hand for the recreation of one or more aspects of Elizabethan staging techniques by modern day theatre practitioners, based on the discoveries and deductions of historians and textual scholars.

It basically means doing theatre like Shakespeare and his fellows did, at least in some ways.

What Ways?

Some of the Elizabethan staging conventions practitioners and scholars recreate include:

  • Audience Contact
  • A Sense of Play
    (Shakespeare was a playwright who wrote plays played by players in a playhouse!)
  • Driving Pace
    (Two hours traffic of the stage)
  • Universal Lighting or Visible Audience
  • Minimal Set
    (The actors and action is what is important)
  • Doubling
    (Twelve masterful actors creating a world of characters)
  • Live Music and Sound Effects
  • Elizabethan Actors
    (Integrated emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Highly skilled at poetry, music, fight, and clown–GREAT ENTERTAINERS)
  • Interludes
    (No stuffy intermissions, but rather pauses in the action filled with music, dancing, and fun!)
  • Text-Driven Theater Informed by 16TH Century Texts
  • Elizabethan Rehersal Techniques
  • 3/4 Thrust or In The Round

Is that it?

The individual staging conventions open for re-creation are numerous, and many have yet to be explored. Perhaps the most basic requirement lies not in any of these individual components, but rather in the desire for discovery. The single factor uniting scholars and practitioners under the heading of the modern original practice movement is an understanding that there is much left to discover. Whether a company decides to explore one component or many; to produce Shakespeare, Marlowe, or to write new works for the original practice playhouse; the desire for discovery and the thirst for greater understanding unites them all in a growing and innovative movement, changing the way theatre is made.

How does MSF Fit into the Original Practice Movement?

The Maryland Shakespeare Festival is dedicated to exploring the landscape of the intersection of research, theory, and practice. We believe that Shakespeare and his compatriots created fun, engaging, and brilliant theatre – arguably some of the best theatre ever created – and if we can discover as much as we can about how they did it, we can bring the best theatre to our audiences. If we start from the idea that Shakespeare knew how to put on a good show, then we can’t go wrong doing it his way!

Long term goals of MSF include hosting an Original Practices Performance laboratory (an international theater consortium) workshop in Frederick that focuses on the use of original texts in rehearsal.

Who else is doing Original Practice Shakespeare?

Like any exciting movement, original practices is spreading far and wide – many companies don’t even know they’ve been doing it for years! Some of the companies at the forefront of the movement (aside from MSF, of course) are:

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