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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 seven three-hour sessions on Monday 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:



The first three sessions are scheduled for

October 16th, November 20th, and December 4th 

6:00 PM -9:00 PM



October 16th: Alchemical Studios

November 20th: Manhattan Theatre Club Creative Center

December 4th: ART/New York, Aibel Studio



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 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 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 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

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