Syncopated Time: Staging the Restoration Tempest

Prof. Amanda Eubanks Winkler

What is the relationship between documents (scores, texts) and historically-informed performance? Performance studies scholar Rebecca Schneider has identified a temporal telescoping that occurs when 21st-century people seek to replay the past, arguing that these performances engage with what Gertrude Stein called syncopated time—a space in which past and present are thrown together via temporal disruption, where “then and now punctuate each other.” When musicologists analyze printed and manuscript materials, what theatre historian Tiffany Stern in another context calls the documents of performance, we also engage with syncopated time, as present-day eyes interpret traces of past performance.

In July 2017, I had the opportunity to explore the relationship between the archival remains of the past (a 1674 wordbook and period score) and onstage action in the present, as I served as musical director and choreographer for a staged workshop of Thomas Shadwell’s 1674 operatic revision of Davenant and Dryden’s The Tempest at the Wanamaker Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe. My paper focuses on two scenes, “The Masque of Devils” and “The Masque of Neptune” which particularly illuminate the tensions between historical knowledge, practical realities, and modern expectations. The experience of the performers, scholars, and paying members of the public who attended the workshop was framed by the Globe brand and its engagement with “original practices,” a staging approach that purports to recover an “authentic” early modern performance style. The space of the Wanamaker itself and the bodies of our singers and actors also shaped our performance in practical ways, as we sought to replicate precisely stage directions from Shadwell’s 1674 wordbook and sometimes experienced aesthetic failure. Finally, I analyze the performance archive we created—what was lost and what was preserved when participants transformed their theatrical experience into pictures and tweets and audience feedback forms. Our revivification of the Restoration Tempest thus revealed the ways in which the present must always punctuate the past, how spaces, bodies, and modern expectations and conventions shape performance, and what our archive—what our documentary remains—occluded and revealed.

You can watch the recording of the plenary lecture here

Amanda Eubanks Winkler is Professor of Music History and Cultures at Syracuse University. Her publications include O Let Us Howle Some Heavy Note: Music for Witches, the Melancholic, and the Mad on the Seventeenth-Century English Stage (Indiana UP, 2006); Music, Dance, and Drama in Early Modern English Schools (Cambridge UP, 2020); two editions of Restoration-era theatre music; and, with Linda Austern and Candace Bailey, an essay collection Beyond Boundaries: Rethinking Music Circulation in Early Modern England (Indiana UP, 2017). Since 2017, she has been the Co-Investigator with Richard Schoch on Performing Restoration Shakespeare, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, UK.


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