In an exploration of early modern drama, Assistant Professor of English Dr. Margo Kolenda-Mason traveled with rising seniors Bri Graggs, Logan Ingram, Alex Lueken, and rising junior Patty Logan to the United Kingdom to study the performances and texts of John Lyly’s 1588 play Galatea and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream and Cymbeline.
The group began their trip in the seaside city of Brighton and Hove, where they attended the annual multi-arts Brighton Festival. There they watched staged performances throughout the day, including Lyly’s Galatea directed by Emma Frankland.
“The opportunity to view a performance of this play is very rare, as it has only been staged a handful of times in the past century,” Dr. Kolenda-Mason said. Galatea is a play that engages with issues of gender and sexuality. By viewing these sets of plays at the festival, the students were able to consider the richness with which early modern drama conceptualized gender, sexuality, social responsibility, and other social issues. They also had the chance to meet with the team who adapted the play—Emma Frankland, Subira Joy, and Andy Kesson—to discuss the process of putting on Galatea in 2023.
Back in London, the group grabbed their Reader’s Cards from the British Library to view manuscripts of Lyly’s plays and other archival texts. From this experience, students were able to learn experientially about the material, theatrical, and literary histories that inform the text as well as the process of early modern publication and printing practices. The group conducted comparative research between Galatea and Shakespeare, deepening their understanding of Lyly’s influence in early modern drama.
“This trip broadened the way I see literature,” Logan Ingram ’24 said. “I met a lady in a pub who said, ‘if we can read Shakespeare as a bicon, why shouldn't we?’ That ‘why shouldn't we’ really moved me and encouraged me to pursue the work I want to do with literature.”
Students made their way down the Thames River to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where they watched a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream before traveling to the Bard’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. There, they attended the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of Cymbeline.
“It is crucial for students to understand the ways in which their ways of being in the world are a part of a deep history, and that it is not only a history of oppression, but one of nuance, complication, and longevity,” Dr. Kolenda-Mason said. “Queer desire and gender fluidity are not at all modern concepts, even though societal norms, legal ramifications, and the language we use to describe and theorize these ideas are distinct at this moment in time.”
Be on the lookout for more Hendrix-Murphy Foundation projects this summer. To learn more about the Murphy Scholars Program and study travel opportunities, click here. Photos provided by Dr. Margo Kolenda-Mason