Kristen McDermott is a professor of English drama and literature at Central Michigan University, with strong additional
interests in theater performance and history, musical performance and history, and, well, history. She defines her teaching method as
"interdisciplinary," reflecting a fascination with arts that not only use different methods, but actually explore the boundaries between
different levels of consciousness. More specifically, she explores the liminal spaces created between artist and audience in the moment
of performing a play, singing a song, telling a story.
She has published several articles on mythic elements in the dramatic arts in Realms of Fantasy magazine's "Folkroots" column (reprinted
at Terri Windling's online Mythic Journal of the Arts), giving special attention to how those elements cross over into the genres of literary
fantasy and illustration. Her current academic project is an edition of 17th century court masques by Ben Jonson, an art form that combines
music, drama, dance, costume, and mythical allegory to address the concerns of the royal court of King James. These entertainments existed
for a single evening, and their record survives only in the published texts of the masques and the comments of a few contemporaries who
happened to see them performed. But they were important enough for the King and his courtiers to spend the equivalent of millions of
dollars and weeks of time for each production. Why? Some scholars claim that these entertainments created a kind of secular ritual that enabled
the King and courtiers to define their unique place in the vast sweep of mythic history. Professor McDermott is interested in recreating, as
far as possible, the dreamlike moment of the masque from the fragments of music, costume drawings, and texts that remain to us.
In the same way, she tries to help her students recreate the experiences of Shakespeare's audience and actors as they read the texts
of his plays. Using video, music, performance, and art, she encourages them to explore Shakespeare's plays as living documents, and to create
moments in which they are not merely students sitting in a classroom, but participants in a cultural legacy — a shared dream —
created by a group of theatrical artists who lived 400 years earlier.
Visit Kristen McDermott at the Endicott Studios website
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