This past month, the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Department of English held its first conference in partnership with the Atlanta Shakespeare and Resurgens Theatre companies. The occasion commemorated the 400th anniversary of the 1616 publication of Ben Jonson's monumental "Workes."
As the inaugural effort in a biannual study of early modern verse drama by Shakespeare's contemporaries, the "Ben Jonson First Folio Quadricentennial Conference" brought scholars together from across the country to attend the two-day symposium at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse in Atlanta.
According to Dr. Brent Griffin, assistant professor of English at UNG and artistic director of Resurgens Theatre Company, Jonson's "Workes" provided the focal point of the event because of its inestimable importance to the history and practice of both printing and playmaking during the Renaissance.
UNG has had a strong relationship with both theatre companies since 2014 when a partnership agreement with Resurgens and the Shakespeare Tavern was signed to bring both aesthetic and educational opportunities to UNG students and faculty.
"Much of what makes this collaboration so unique is built upon my current research in versification, which implements newly developed editorial techniques in an attempt to rediscover an early modern player's perception of lineation and accentual phrasing," Griffin said.
English department faculty from both the Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses made up the committee that planned and moderated the conference. The guest speaker, Dr. David Gants, associate professor of English at Florida State University and editor of "The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson," presented his research titled "Remarks on Editing Jonson's First Folio" in his plenary address at the beginning of the second day of the conference.
To complement the conference, the Resurgens Theatre Company performed two plays from "Workes" – "The Alchemist" and "Volpone." Both plays were performed employing original practices, which include elements of audience interaction, judicious editing, minimalist staging, organic music, original pronunciation, Renaissance costuming, thematic doubling, an uninterrupted performance, and universal lighting.
A collection of the papers presented by the scholars at the conference will be published next year courtesy of the University of North Georgia Press.