Rex Davenport - Individual Blog

4 - Presentation Reflection

Did our presentation go well? Yes. Was it a Tarantino level climax to our research and the rest of our project? Perhaps not. But did we do what we set out to do in our twenty minutes? Definitely.

Unfortunately, out of necessity we spent much of our twenty minutes just setting up the absolutely necessary historical, social, and religious context of the Tudor Period. As a result our analysis of the Robin Hood plays themselves were cut down to a brief survey and overview.

Among those things which we didn't get a chance to talk about or go into as much detail as we should have liked:

- Robin Hood's transition into the theatre
- The ways in which the Robin Hood texts have come to us today
- The documented relationship between these plays, the festivals, the parishes, and the Tudors
- More detail of the performance conventions themselves
- More detail on the evolution of the Robin Hood mythos (that part is very interesting and very well illustrates the changing socio-political landscape of England especially during the Tudor Period).
- Non-performance but still "theatrical" Robin Hood elements of the festivals
- How festival relates to the theory of spectacle
- How Protestant use of Robin Hood is actually much like traditional Catholic Iconography!

To be completely honest, the process of this project was by far a very interesting and rewarding one. Though it wasn't until we became aware of the vast diversity of the period's theatre did this project came alive for us. To be fair, when we first realized that there was a chance of making this whole project about Robin Hood (of all things), we ran with it, hoping we were headed down a fruitful road.

In retrospect, one thing that I feel we lacked compared to the other groups was an actual example of our theatre being carried out. Each other group had some sort of representation of their topic (video of dance, stylistic excerpt of period music, or a recording of a high school play) that each in their own right aided the exploration and explanation of the topic. However, I feel that our presentation had a better sense of cohesion. Rather that five individuals who cut and pasted their research into a presentation, we worked together to provide a holistic presentation of our topic. Because we worked together, we were constantly looking for ways to go deeper into both our own and each others' research. As such our group attempted to go beyond what any of our individual thoughts could have been to begin to synthesize a brand new take on a very old story.

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The final week of this project, I obviously spent focused on the presentation itself. By this time, we had our information and our argument assembled and it came down to preparing how to share it with the rest of the class. We went through a couple of different formats before landing on the Power Point we ended up using. The majority of these thoughts were centered around choosing what to share, what to exclude, and the best way in which to put all our elements together.

This portion of the project did play fairly well into what I have been studying this semester in my Scenic Design class. Both in terms of the visual presentation and the balance of information, the aesthetic lessons I've learned in this other class helped tremendously.

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Over the past week, my thoughts as far as this project go have been starting to focus on the presentation itself. The last week, unfortunately, has not been an outstandingly productive week for me as far as this class goes however, as I have been very busy with other, more immediate deadlines. However, in the process of preparing the bibliography and the synthesis questions, I did begin to focus my thoughts pulled from the other research and begin to put these in order and on paper. Soon, these fragments will be very useful in putting together a complete presentation and I'm already beginning to see how all these pieces will start to fit together.

As I stated above, I have not had much time to devote to this project over the last few days, and what research I have done has mostly been going a little deeper into the Robin Hood plays we have, as well as honing the research I've done thus far. The going is not the quickest in this, as the Middle-English text provides several difficulties in the way of ready understanding. Aside from this, I did a cursory survey of some of the other important elements of our argument that were originally researched by other members of the group, especially the Hocktide festivals. This mostly helped me fill in a few gaps around what I had learned from those other members.

Unfortunately, the specifics of the research of this last week are very isolated from the rest of my classes. This is primarily because of my narrow focus over the last week. However, some of the analyses from the annotations I did to our bibliography lent me small insights into how texts are constructed and what the appropriate amount of bias is. Furthermore, in annotating the bibliography, I found myself defending the validity of these sources: the sources that were easiest to defend also have proved the most helpful to our project, which seems to stand as a steady correlation in all work. That same validity is something I can carry into my other classes and projects: the better defense I can make for a choice (whether it be in the blocking I direct, or choices as an actor), the better the choice.

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This week, up until today's class, my mind has centered around an apparent contradiction about the Robin Hood legends. On one side, our research seems to be pointing us towards seeing Robin Hood as an Anti-Catholic hero of the masses. Yet on the other side of the coin, Robin Hood seems to be a devout Catholic servant to the faraway King Richard (an analogy for the Pope?); and most importantly an anti-establishment figure, critical of Henry VIII himself.

Through our discussion today in class, we came to a much clearer understanding of Robin Hood and his relation to the church and to the masses. Instead of being a figure of support for either side of England's religious division at the time, but rather was always just a hero of the commoners and always anti-establishment. Protestant churches would then use Robin Hood in plays and festivals to attempt to win the support of the commoners against Rome, their "oppressor." And in taking control of this heroic figure, the churches expressed control over those commoners and provided a "safe" release and catharsis of the masses' frustrations with the ruling class.

In my own research so far I have found a number of interesting facts about the nature of Robin Hood plays themselves. Because these stories and plays arose out of the folk tales of the lower classes and because the plays were meant for the same people, they were not undertaken by great playwrights, and in fact were hardly ever written down. Occasionally a bard might write up some verses to be used in a play (though this was treated more as a frame of a play to be built upon with improvisations), however it is rare that these writings have been preserved or have surfaced nowadays. Those that do are often on scrap pieces of paper, not written in a dramatic (i.e. character by character dialogue) format, and have large and unresolved plot holes. This presents an interesting challenge to us, to attempt to extrapolate what has been lost and how it was lost through time.

My research and thoughts so far do not relate directly to any of my classes this semester, but do relate to much of the research I did last semester. The idea of these festivals relates heavily to Guy Debord's theory of the Spectacle; a topic I explored in depth during Jesse Dorst's Circus Theory class last semester. These festivals seem to operate very similarly to the way the Modern American Circus did to control popular opinion by presenting the very thing that society wished to prevent.

1 Comment

So, Tarantino is your gold standard for a thrilling climax? Fair enough.

I've appreciated your thorough blogging throughout the process. I'm glad that the process has been as interesting for you as the actual research itself. This is a major lesson about historiography - it's not just about thinking of times long gone, it's about thinking about how interacting with remnants of those times helps us to understand the here-and-now. As Michal Kobialka says (stealing the quote from Michel de Certeau): "It's the ethical encounter with the Other (history) that forces you to confront your own historicity (that you are shaped by historical forces)."

I'm glad you picked up on your group's cohesion in the final presentation. This was, I think, something that made your work stand out, and it was enabled by the clear articulation of a research question early in the process. Similarly, though you weren't able to show an example of your theatre, think about how you coudl have shown pictures or artifacts that would have let us put the pieces together ourselves.

Great work overall!

Bryan

Final blog grade: 100%

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