EDC ANNUAL LECTURE for 2021
Rehearsals, Performance Problems and Audience Reaction in Renaissance Spectacles
Speaker: Dr Jennifer Nevile
Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales and esteemed author of many books on Renaissance dance, including The Eloquent Body: Dance and Humanist Culture in Fifteenth-Century Italy (2004) and Dance, Spectacle and the Body Politick, 1250-1750 (2008) and very much else.
In Renaissance Europe theatrical spectacles performed in front of the monarch and court carried serious political messages regarding the relationship – both real and hoped for – between the monarch and the state. Contemporary accounts of these events often offer fulsome praise for the costumes, dancing, scenery, stage machines and songs. A successful performance greatly enhanced a country’s reputation on the international stage. Much more was at stake than an evening’s entertainment.
Yet then, as now, such multi-media events encountered problems, in rehearsal and performance. These form the focus of this paper, followed by an examination of the response of the spectators to such disasters. Did performance problems change the dynamics between performers and spectators? This is especially interesting when the king, queen or members of the ruling family were involved, either directly as dancers, or indirectly as the audience member to whom the spectacle was addressed.
The paper outlines the desire in European courts for great success, and what efforts went into achieving this, before recounting some of the disasters -- noise and over-crowding, stage-fright, properties too big to fit into the hall, and even fire. Finally, audience reactions are examined to such disasters, and the effects felt on the dynamics between audience and performers.
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