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Polychronic Actants: Modern Promptbooks as Anticipated Acts, Unanticipated Acts, and Ideal Assemblages

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posted on 2023-10-12, 14:34 authored by Mark Kaethler, Toby MaloneToby Malone, Jennifer Roberts-Smith

Modern Shakespeare promptbooks do not fit comfortably into any of the conceptual models current in discourses around the role of text in performance. Promptbooks operate as cue lists; records of unexpected acts; and records of or efforts to approximate ideal enactments. While promptbooks are not necessarily limited to these three temporalities, their encapsulation of all three points to their polychronic resistance to a straightforward and easily codified archival record of performance. This article presents a new theoretical model of promptbooks as temporal actants that are neither text nor performance in the ways currently understood in textual studies. The promptbook is more usefully conceived of as an actant within different theatrical networks at different times in production processes. To make this claim, the authors first revisit previous criticism on as well as misunderstandings of the purposes of Shakespearean promptbooks before theorising how a promptbook operates in relation to the larger event that is a theatrical performance. The article uses the 2005 promptbook of The Tempest from the Canadian Stratford Festival Archives as a case study to illustrate the ways in which promptbooks initiate the three kinds of temporal action the authors theorise: anticipated acts, unanticipated acts, and idealised polychronic assemblages.

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