A trio of early English drama documentaries by Maria Cecire
Professor Maria Cecire’s recent media projects include a trio of web-based documentaries about staging medieval drama in the 21st century. Magnyfycence: Staging Medieval Drama (2011), Three Laws in Oxford (2013), and Performing Dido (currently in postproduction).
This documentary follows Elisabeth Dutton’s staging of John Skelton’s Magnyfycence in Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. Skelton was Henry’s former tutor, and the play seems to critique the king’s extravagant lifestyle. Co-directed with Mike LaRocco, the film plays with the ways in which live theatre and cinema can each allow for unique forms of access to this allegorical morality play. The film features footage from rehearsals, performances, and scenes staged especially for the camera, as well as interviews with medieval drama scholars and conversations with the actors and director. This film was funded in part by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council. For film stills and more information on this project, see the Staging the Henrician Court page.
In this film, student actor Alex Mills moves around the city of Oxford, England, talking with experts and taking part in scenes from John Bale’s 16th-c. Protestant play Three Laws. These scenes situate Catholic vices in contemporary city spaces that speak to the religious tensions of Bale’s time. Three Laws in Oxford considers the connections and disjunctions between the historicized past and the lived present, between archaic texts and contemporary experience. It can be watched as a single 20-min film, or in four shorter sections that address 1) the play as a whole, then specific Reformation-era concerns with 2) sodomy and “clean marriage,” 3) the authority of the word over images, and 4) martyrdom.
This film was shot in September 2013 around the Performing Dido conference and performances in the UK, and is currently in postproduction. It will include footage from productions of two sixteenth-century plays about the tragic queen, including an all-male version of William Gager’s Dido (newly translated from Latin by Elizabeth Sandis and directed by Elisabeth Dutton) and Edward’s Boys’ performance of Marlowe’s work (directed by Perry Mills), both staged in Christ Church hall. The documentary will engage with taboos around the feminization of boys and discuss the potential for ambiguous readings of pre-modern plays to arise during new stagings in historic sites.