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What can actors and scholars teach each other about theater? The Early Modern Scene Work Collaborative invites theater practitioners and theater historians to explore scripts by Shakespeare and his contemporaries together in a shared research/rehearsal room. This ongoing workshop series investigates questions from archival research through the discovery process of rehearsal. Practitioners and academics will learn each other’s working languages and interpretive practices, seeking to better bridge the gap between those who make through thinking and those who think through making.



This Pilot program will consist of six multi-hour sessions on Monday and Saturday evenings spread out across the 23/24 season. These sessions will each have a specific subject and will consist of scholars and practitioners collaborating together in the spirit of discovery. There is no requirement to attend every session.



This group is open to all classical theater practitioners, as well as to students and scholars of early modern drama. For more information please email:



Upcoming events will be announced soon!



To sign up, please click THE BUTTONS BELOW which will take you to sign up for the specific event chosen. You can sign up for as many events as you like! If you would like to bring in groups of students, please email



While this pilot program is partially supported this year we appreciate donations of any amount, with a suggested donation of $200 for tenure-track faculty. You can make a donation HEREIf your institution requires any additional documentation for reimbursement for this research expense please reach out to




Scenes from Thomas Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness 

October 16, 2023 | 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Location: Alchemical Studios, Studio 4 | 50 West 17th street, 12th floor

Lead Scholar: Laura Kolb

Actors Confirmed: Lisa Birnbaum, Rebecca S’manga Frank, Steve Jones, Derek Smith, and Josh Tyson

Anne Frankford, title character of the domestic tragedy A Woman Killed with Kindness, speaks relatively little, and never speaks alone onstage – that is, she never soliloquizes, though the men in her life do so with regularity, allowing the audience a relatively secure sense of their motives and desires. As a result, critics argue about everything to do with Anne: does she love her husband? Why does she commit adultery with his best friend? How does she feel at her wedding? What does she think about—well, anything? For readers, these textual gaps can produce a kind of tantalizing opacity. Literary critics revel in these ambiguities, but could learn much from how actors handle them; how they embody figures who withhold, rather than disclose, their inner worlds. Together we will ask: how do we stage actively what, on the page, reads as passivity? How do we create a female character with interiority and agency from the “speaking silences” in the script? This workshop explores three crucial scenes: the first, near the opening of the play, in which Anne is appraised by the men in her community, as though she were a jewel or a coat; the second, in which her husband’s friend Wendoll declares his attraction; the third, in which she and her husband have a very awkward dinner with Wendoll and another guest.

Scenes from The Fair Maid of the Exchange 

December 4, 2023 | 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Space: ART/New York, Aibel Studio

Lead Scholar: Katherine Schaap Williams

This workshop will explore disability aesthetics in performance in an unattributed and little-known early modern play, The Fair Maid of the Exchange (1607). Critical analysis in disability studies has shown how the play foregrounds a disabled central character, Cripple (never identified by any other name)—but there is no performance history of the play, and scholarly work treats disability at the level of text. This workshop asks: how does disability signify in performance? Pairing a scholar who specializes in early modern disability studies with an actor who identifies as disabled, this workshop will consider how disability, in performance, inflects theatrical embodiment. Examining the choices available to an actor who brings their disability experience to characterization—and focusing especially on the end of the play in 5.1—the workshop will explore how performance offers a resource for thinking about disability in the past. 

Scenes from Thomas Middleton, The Roaring Girl

November 20, 2023 | 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Location: Manhattan Theatre Club Creative Center | 311 West 43rd street

Lead Scholar: Sawyer Kemp

This workshop seeks to bring the text of Middleton & Dekker’s 1611 city comedy, The Roaring Girl into a laboratory space to interrogate the play’s ethos of gender through the lens of early modern trans studies. The play’s bawdy and sensational titular character is based on the real Moll Frith, a pick-pocket and unabashed ‘crossdresser,’ who lived a public life of gender non-conformity and was embraced as a street celebrity in early modern London. Drawing on the embodied social knowledge of practitioners, our workshop explores the characterization of this nonbinary historical person through the performance of a nonbinary actor. Dekker and Middleton’s play presents Moll in context as part of the so-called “roaring boy” youth culture of early 17th Century England–a generationally “queer” phenomenon that saw a large population of young men move to London where they (to the pearl-clutching horror of the clergy, nobles, and self-respecting merchant class) shirked the traditional values of work, marriage, faith, and reproductivity. This workshop focuses on the youth culture elements of the play vividly realized in Act II Scene 1, an establishing street scene cutting between three neighboring shops. In this scene, the audience sees the gang of roaring boys carousing, smoking, shopping, and flirting with various Shopkeeper’s wives. We see Moll moving between shops, being greeted with friendliness and disdain in turns. The aura is of conspicuous consumption and display: fashion, smoking, window shopping that borders on loitering. The year is 1611, but it might well be 1995: these are teens hanging out at the food court, and we are closer to Mallrats than As You Like It


March 9, 2024 | 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Location: The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, Studio C | 18 Bleecker Street

Instructor: Zuzanna Szadkowski

Learn the interpretive skills of actors in this participatory class. How do actors extract playable information from scripts? How do they translate insights about language into embodied choices?  What techniques do they use to “lift a scene off the page”? What questions do they ask of plays? Working on our feet, scholars will learn a range of foundational acting practices, drawn from the language focused tradition popularized by John Barton, as well as the work of Stanislavsky, his various students, and others. These techniques can deepen our understanding of our dramatic archive, enrich our scholarly reading practices, and are transportable to the classroom. Scholars who wish to participate should choose a short speech from any early modern play that resonates with them and come ready to experiment with different ways of playing it. No previous acting experience is necessary. There is no need to fully memorize your speech, but please familiarize yourself with the text. If possible, please bring two hard copies of your speech. At the end of the session we’ll have time to ask Zuzanna general questions about her craft. While this class is particularly oriented toward scholars, actors and directors who have joined us in previous sessions are also welcome to participate.


Zuzanna Szadkowski is known for playing “Dorota” on Gossip Girl. She can be seen as “Mabel Ainsley” on HBO’s The Gilded Age and in the Starz series Three Women. Other television and film credits include Worth, Bull, Search Party, The Knick, The Good Wife and Girls. Theater credits include queens at LCT3, Love, Loss and What I Wore, Arcadia and Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet (WSJ Performance of the Year 2018) with Bedlam, The Comedy of Errors at the Public Theater, King Philip’s Head… with Clubbed Thumb and regional work at Bristol Riverside Theatre, The Actors Theater of Louisville, Two River Theater and at the Bucks County Playhouse. B.A. from Barnard College and M.F.A. from A.R.T./MXAT Institute at Harvard.


April 20, 2024 | 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Location: Manhattan Theatre Club Creative Center, Studio 1 | 311 West 43rd street

Lead Scholar: Lauren Robertson

In the fall of 1611, Thomas Middleton sold the King’s Men a play, called The Second Maiden’s Tragedy, about a deranged Tyrant’s attempt to resurrect a dead woman. The Tyrant exhumes the Lady’s decaying corpse from her tomb, dresses it in rich apparel and jewels, and claims to see signs of its liveliness. But the Lady refuses to revive, and when the unsuspecting Tyrant kisses the corpse, its lips having been secretly daubed with poison, her body finally serves as the weapon that kills him. The Second Maiden’s Tragedy seems to suggest that earthly resurrection is impossible, yet the play’s onstage enactment seems frequently to contest the play text’s emphasis on the inert materiality of death. In its final scene, for instance, the Lady’s ghost appears onstage alongside her corpse. There is no clear indication of how the King’s Men staged this spectacle: was the Lady’s ghost played by an actor and her corpse by a dummy? Or were both parts played by actors, and if so, what role did the actor who played the Lady while she was alive take on? This workshop will explore the possibilities for staging this scene, asking how actorly embodiment comes to constitute spectral immateriality, as well as how actorly liveliness contributes to the Lady’s interiority and agency even in her death.


May 18, 2024 | 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Location: The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, Studio C | 18 Bleecker Street

Lead Scholar: Miles Grier

Othello is a problem. Before the play was a century old, the critic Thomas Rymer blasted the play as a bundle of improbabilities: a Black general, a dishonest soldier, and a marriage undone by a misplaced handkerchief. In our own time, some audience members laugh at Othello's gullibility despite the best efforts of Black actors to imbue the character with their own dignity and intelligence. One could argue that casting choices in Othello have evolved to make the play more "realistic" and thereby to avoid responses that seem to exceed the decorum appropriate for interacting with one of Shakespeare's "four great tragedies." But the burden of making Othello plausibly real has fallen on the Black actors and white women who are now routinely cast as the doomed couple at the play's center. Abraham Popoola counseled actors playing Othello not to undertake the alienating part unless they have "someone close" to return to at home. 

But what if we were to give this problem (back) to white men by experimenting with original conditions? What might we learn about what actors and audiences saw and responded to if elements of gender and racial impersonation were restored to the play? In particular, what might restoring the potential of color transfer do to our understanding of Desdemona's guilt, Iago's motive, and Othello's nature? Director Sheila Rose Bland once proposed an all-white-male Othello framed as fraternity hazing gone wrong. While we won't restrict ourselves to that conceit, we do look forward to the different nuances of tone, genre, and character motivation that may surface when Othello can, again, "dye upon a kiss" (as the line is rendered in the Second Quarto).

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