WAUKESHA, WIS.—An interdisciplinary duo of Carroll University faculty have embraced the digital humanities in an innovative project that will help students of Shakespeare explore the nature of acting.
Philip Krejcarek, professor of art, specializes in the study and practice of fine art photography. John Garrison, assistant professor of English, is a scholar of Renaissance literature. Together they spent summer 2013 visiting theater companies around Wisconsin to document how actors bring Shakespearean characters to life on the outdoor stage.
Krejcarek and Garrison became interested in Wisconsin summer theater because, in many ways, it replicates the basic conditions of theaters in the Elizabethan era. “Performing outdoors and with limited props, these theater companies excite audiences with the immediacy of the theater that might very well have been experienced by audience members in Shakespeare’s time,” Garrison explained. Wisconsin is home to three such companies that focus almost exclusively on Shakespeare – Optimist Theatre in Milwaukee, American Players Theatre in Spring Green and Door Shakespeare in Baileys Harbor.
Krejcarek photographed the actors both in street clothes and in costume, and Garrison interviewed them about how they make the transition from who they are as people into their characters. These images and audio will be combined with texts from Shakespeare’s plays and current scholarship on theatrical performance at www.shakestock.com. This interactive, online application is expected to launch in November 2013 and will be accessible on desktop and mobile devices.
At www.shakestock.com, individuals can explore the interplay between Shakespeare’s references to acting in his plays and the expression of those ideas in contemporary productions of his work. On one level, the project offers a narrative of how Wisconsin summer theater continually reinvents Shakespearean drama for today’s audience. On another level, the multimedia experience allows users to create their own stories by dynamically combining photography and text to experiment with the larger meanings of the plays and of acting itself.
“We seek to encourage students, audience members, actors and directors to make their own connections between Shakespeare’s texts, the world of acting, visual expression and emergent ideas in performance studies,” Krejcarek said. “Ultimately, our project will extend the depth and breadth of participants’ experience of inquiry into the humanities.”
In March 2014, Krejcarek and Garrison will share their experiences at the national gathering for the Society for Photographic Education in Baltimore, Md. The conference theme is Collaborative Exchanges: Photography in Dialogue, with a focus on interconnectedness in a broad array of ideas and media.
Their presentation, “When Photography and Writing Collide,” is part of the conference’s Teaching and Learning Track. It will highlight how Krejcarek and Garrison engaged in team-based creation of the image-driven narrative for their Shakespeare project. It also will share innovative ideas for encouraging photography students to collaborate with writing majors in a team-taught course that includes creation and exhibition of print and digital books.