The most striking fact about editions of Shakespeare over the past sixty years—and longer too—is that when all is said and done they are, in their core substance, interchangeable.—Martin Spevack (79)
Two decades have passed since Martin Spevack claimed the editorial end was nigh, yet there is no end to new editions in sight. Indeed, the critical conversation about editing Renaissance drama has expanded to include new forms and methods. The collaborative and flexible potentialities of technology, for example, lead conversations about formatting, interactive annotation, and accessibility of previously un- or under-edited plays. Performance archives and worldwide research partnerships alike find new stability online, where conversations continue long after the event of performance, and where performance itself exists past its original production run. The conversation is alive: recent government-sponsored editorial projects, like the AHRC-funded Richard Brome Online, university-funded conferences and symposia, like Reanimating Playbooks (The Shakespeare Institute) and The Edition as Argument, 1550–1750 (Queen Mary University of London), and publications, like In Arden: Editing Shakespeare (Arden, 2002) and Editing, Performance, Texts (Palgrave, 2014), variously interrogate the relationship between performance and editing. [End Page 1]
Strangely absent from many of the published materials concerning these new topics in editing, however, is a focus on the real-time interaction of editing and performance. We suggest that while much has been said about editing and performance, less has been done about it. The essays included here offer concrete examples of ways to prompt the discussion toward practical, recognizable changes to editorial style and vision—not as a Spevackian “mee-tooism” (78), or paying lip service to the existence of performance. While honoring the tradition of critical editing, we believe it is time to open the field actively to editions in practice, for practice. This is what we mean by “reanimating” playbooks: not to resurrect some lost principle, or to suggest that editions somehow restrain productions, but to invigorate the relationship between page and stage from the position of text-producer. In a way, this issue represents a reanimation of the ideals that Horace Howard Furness espoused in his New Variorum editions: democratization of information and sincere valuation of performers as scholars.1 In addition to articles recognizing the insights performance offers to editors, this special issue aims to connect that symbiotic circle by including articles suggesting how editorial treatments can anticipate the needs of performers.
The topics covered in this issue reflect a range of different approaches to the issue at hand. Both Stephen Purcell and José A. Pérez Díez recommend practical experiments that use performance to illuminate and influence editorial and print practices. Abigail Rokison-Woodall interviews directors Gregory Doran, Trevor Nunn, and Lucy Bailey, and actor Simon Russell Beale, about the ways they use critical editions before and during rehearsals. C. K. Ash and Nora Williams separately suggest specific adjustments to make editorial text work more useable to performers. Brett D. Hirsch and Janelle Jenstad call us all to embrace the democratic, versatile, and forward-thinking potential of online editions.
This special issue stems directly from a similarly titled symposium convened at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, in May 2013. Reanimating Playbooks: Editing for Performance, Performance for Editing intended to be a space for exploring how we conceptualize, compose, and use critical editions of Renaissance drama. The one-day event included plenary papers,2 workshops with actors,3 and a number of short presentations we called “provocations.”4 The idea behind these shorter presentations was to encourage posing questions, contesting standard practices, exploring new methodologies, or experimentation with new ideas, which could then be taken up by the entire group in discussion. During those collaborative moments, much like in a rehearsal, the group [End Page 2] began processing ramifications of proposed choices, suggesting next steps, and wondering how further experimentation could yield increasingly actionable choices in our editorial work. We are thrilled that many of these presentations have been reanimated themselves here, and invite you to join us in conversation about editing and performance through this special issue of Shakespeare Bulletin.