Report from Utah: Wooden O Symposium at Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University

Wow. What a day (so far–I write this Monday during a not-so-quiet respite at a wood-fired pizza place).

The Wooden O Symposium is in the words of the USF:

The Wooden O Symposium is a cross-disciplinary conference exploring Medieval through Early Modern Studies, through the text and performance of Shakespeare’s plays. Scholars from all disciplines are encouraged to submit papers that offer insights and new ideas springing from the era of William Shakespeare. His plays are replete with the language, thoughts, and arts of the Renaissance and Western culture and represent an inexhaustible source for creative ideas and research.

The symposium is hosted by Southern Utah University and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Scholars attending the conference will have the unique opportunity of immersing themselves in research, text, and performance in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the western United States.

Well, I submitted a paper proposal back in March (if memory serves), and it was accepted, so this week I attended my first conference (yes, I had attended the Shakespeare Association of America conference a few years back, but their format was quite different, and I wasn’t presenting).

So, this was Monday.

Registration: easy. But you know me, always early. With nothing to do, but await the inevitable panic attack. At :15 till, I got back to the room to hang out in the waiting area–no one likes to be the first in. An older professional lady was doing the same thing, hanging back, when one of the organizers asked if anyone needed tech help for their presentation. Or at least I thought they were talking to anyone. We both said no, then she told me that she had planned on doing a video presentation but had decided against it at the last minute. She turned out to be the other presenter in my panel. That was nice.

The undergrad panel was solid. One on the histories–well-presented; villainy in Much Ado–well-presented and well-thought-out; Brutus as Machiavellian–great concept, but it just didn’t grab me. But he got a good response from the crowd (of I’d say between 20 and 30).

The first professional (?) session put two Romeo and Juliet papers together. The first was on Time in the play, so you know I was all over that. After the presentation, I made arrangements to meet with him later in the week, and bounce around ideas. The other presentation was on the final peace in the play. Both solid scholarship.

Then it was my panel. My partner went first. Gender fluidity. Love the concepts, and some of the scholarship I felt was phenomenal–especially the discussion of transvestism as being disdained not for the sexual issues but rather for the class-mobility issues (low-lifes wearing gentlewomen’s garb). Just good stuff. She warned everyone that her paper would end abruptly, but I though it worked fine.

About midway through, however, the anxiety wave hit. Chest tight and pounding. Sweating. The shakes. The only thing missing was the nausea. Thank goodness for the little things.

When I got to the podium, I took a deep breath and launched in, hoping no one knew me well enough to tell my voice was shaking.

I am a stranger here.

And by my second paragraph, I had found my rhythm and started to have fun. It went well. Very well.

Lots of compliments after, and some from some of the conference’s leaders. The editor of the journal that runs parallel but separately from the symposium, both during the Q/A section and privately again later suggested to me to submit it. One even asked if I was the one with “the really good podcast.” I’ve got a podcast (feeling like I was Baptista in Taming: I have a daughter named Katherine.) Seems my submission took a second round of review: being an “independent scholar” meant my proposal needed extra vetting, so they had checked out the blog and podcast. That was nice.

So, yeah, it went well. Compliments not only on the paper, but the delivery, too. Most read their papers, some from behind their papers. Ah, thank goodness for the iPad teleprompter app, which freed up my hands to gesture and look up more than if I was holding the paper in a death grip.

Then the highlight of my day, at least. Finally got to meet Mya Gosling before her presentation. Mya is behind Good Tickle Brain, the Shakespeare stick-figure web comic. She is awesome. I don’t know why, but I expected her to be this tiny little thing: maybe it because all the pictures I’ve seen of her have been on the web and small at that. She’s actually quite tall. And really nice. She gave an awesome presentation. I bought a poster and had her sign it. We made tentative plans to talk later in the week, and I’m going to try to get her to agree to an interview for my (“really good”) podcast.


And now I’m at dinner before a performance of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) by the guys behind The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged).

And now it’s my room afterward. Exhausted. The play, presented in USF’s smaller, black box(-ish) theater, the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, was fun and funny (though I think it’s pretty much a niche thing…I’m not sure if that many people beyond the Bard-nerds would see it… I think they’d love it, but how to get their butts into the seats?). As luck would have it, I was sitting next to my R&J Time expert. And Mya was there, too, even being one of the few audience members who were pulled onstage (and they didn’t even know who she was).

So day one of the Symposium is done. And so am I. Good night. (more) tomorrow.

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