The Soul of a Sole
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Thomas Dekker writes in The Shoemaker’s Holiday: “Take all in good worth that is well intended, for nothing is purposed but mirth.” With Dekker’s advice, our goal is to provide a fun, creative, and educational production of his 16th century play. Our main emphasis will be on props, blocking, costumes, music, and stage fights. Please stop by often to share this experience with:

Daniel Baker
Jennifer Croad
Chris Maidona
Jacquie Nicoll
Judy Terry

The name “props” stands for properties. According to Patrick Neilson, props are not only material, movable objects on stage that the actors use to enhance the performance, but can be immaterial properties as well.
Kinds of Props
Kinds of Props
Immaterial properties include wealth, artisanship, and social class. An example would be an actor who is dressed in silk apparel and the immaterial prop would be that he’s wealthy with a high social status. In addition, props add emotion to the performance. Props can be symbolic and hand-held. Also, they can be clothes such as hats if held and not worn. As stated in Bevington’s anthology, the theatres lacked movable scenery and sets in the Elizabethan era. Because of this drawback, they expanded on their use of props. Props were frequently used to signify the times of day or offstage events. Larger props were used more than the smaller props. However, over the years, there was a reduction in using props because theatre was changing as found in David Carnegie’s
Types of Shoes
Types of Shoes

From Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday, some examples of material props are shoes, love tokens, costumes, and money. These props are symbolic or immaterial of poverty, the working class, wealth, and love. All these props and more will be used in our production. Of course, one major prop frequently used was the sword, and actors needed to know how to use this specific prop.-Jennifer Croad

external image c1fee40567e490_large.gifWith the actual performance of any Elizabethan era play, the actors had lines which they would memorize and rehearse to put on a believable performance. With scenes that involved action such as sword fighting, there was an inherent problem. There were no actual descriptions of how fights were to be enacted. The text of the play would not read: "now Richard swings sword in a downward arc", or any other such helpful stage directions.
Sword, Dagger, Glove
It was up to the actors to come up with how fights would be staged and carried out. To do this, the actors would have to obtain some form of familiarity with the weapons used during the time period.

It is no wonder that actors enrolled in battle/fighting schools to acquire the necessary fighting skills. According to Amanda Mabillard in her paper, "Stage Fencing in Shakespeare's Time," in these battle schools, the teacher, a master of arms, would instruct the actors in various weapons and their uses. Swords, rapiers, spears, and others would all be covered with different instruction in each.
Sword Fight Practitioners
After learning the various stances, attacks, counters, and blocking associated with fights, actors could come up with a convincing scene that would be somewhat realistic to actual combat. Acrobatics, however, did not follow the same pattern. Sword fighting was and is considered a learning skill, but not necessarily a career. Acrobatics, on the other hand, was considered a life long career and ability.

The National Education Networks reports that troupes of acrobats toured Britain during this time and theatre companies would take advantage of the current acting troupes in residence. Individual acrobats or
entire troupes would be hired to participate in a theatre production where it was deemed they were necessary. Besides the odd acrobat hired permanently by a theatre company, actors did not necessarily learn acrobatics as they did sword fighting. Sword fighting led to blocking because the actors needed to know where to stand and move on stage. -Daniel Baker

Blocking is when a director determines an actor’s movements and positions on stage. In most plays the stage directions have been indicated by the playwright. The term derives from the practice of 19th Century theatre directors such as Sir W. S. Gilbert who worked out the staging of a scene on a miniature stage using blocks to represent each of the actors (Wikipedia).

In early modern plays it was difficult to know what to do as far as blocking because stage directions where not encoded into the text (Puchner). This means that the director must be dynamically inventive. All of the blocking must come from the director (and whatever the actors are able and encouraged to contribute) this was somethin that can be witnessed in many of Shakespeare's plays (as we have seen). This is why Shakespeare's plays are so invigorating when watched in live theater. According Michael Pollick to The words are hundreds of years old, but the movements, sword fights, and love scenes are all new creations (Pollick). This is what keeps drama alive, being able to modernize it.

During the course of a play rehearsal, each scene is blocked by the director thus providing each actor with choreographed movement (Bradford). This is one of the methods a director employs to convey the meaning of the play to the audience. Each scene in a play is usually "blocked" as a unit, after which the director will move onto the next scene. The positioning of actors on stage in one scene will usually affect the possibilities for subsequent positioning unless the stage is cleared between scenes (Bradford). Once all the blocking is completed a play is said to be "fully blocked" and then the process of 'polishing' or refinement begins (Puchner).

During the blocking rehearsal, usually the assistant director or the stage manager (or both) take notes about where actors are positioned and their movement patterns on stage. However, in the instance of filming, I believe it is important to include the cameras in the blocking process. While the actors learn how to move on stage, and everything is fit into place, the actors also need to learn how to move in their costumes as well. -Chris Maidona

Elizabethan costumes brought a certain element to the plays that were performed in that era. Costumes were not used on a class basis, but on a principle of dramatic effectiveness and necessity. Whatever the play, whatever the time, actors dressed accordingly to their era. And social hierarchy
Representation of Queen Elizabeth I
played a big role in determining what people would wear or wouldn’t wear. Sumptuary Laws were implemented to enforce this, and these laws were strictly followed. Anyone who disobeyed these Sumptuary Laws could be fined, have a loss of property, title or even life!
The higher the rank and class the more choice someone had in terms of clothes, fabrics, colors and styles. Social hierarchy was broken up into 3 classes: the noble (upper) class, middle class, and the peasants (lower class). The upper class men were clothed in luxurious fabrics and rich vibrant colors. Due to the Sumptuary Laws, ordinary Elizabethans were not able to wear the latest fashions. Fashionable clothing would only be seen at a distance, when wealthy nobles or royalty were in view. The middle and lower classes wore basic fabric and were forbidden to wear gold or luxurious fabrics.
Mens' and womens' clothing differed as well. Men were often seen wearing doublets, breeches, cloaks, shoes and hats. While women were seen wearing gowns, ruffs, cloaks, shoes and hats. What someone wore during the Elizabethan era determined his or her rank and class. The meaning of colors worn by the classes was very important because it also indicated a lot about that person. For example, someone seen wearing the color purple would immediately be recognized as a member of royalty. Gold, silver, crimson or scarlet, deep indigo blue, violet colors and even deep black and pure white colors were only worn by the highest nobility in the land. Fabrics also played the same role as colors did. The upper-class wore clothes made of silk, velvet, or satin, while the middle and lower-class men wore clothing generally made of sheepskin, wool, and linen. Of course, everyone dressed up when the festivities began. -Jacquie Nicoll

With the study of music during the Elizabethan theatre, one must examine the differences between the public and the private venues of theatre productions. One major difference between the public and private or professional and amateur was that the music in the amateur venue was handled by choir-boys. The appeal of their music was in the beauty of their voices and the songs they sang. According to a diary kept by Duke Philip Julius of Stettin-Pomerania in 1602,

The Mandolin Popular During the Renaissance
“one listens to a delightful musical entertainment on organs, lutes, pandorins, mandolins, violins and flutes, as on the present occasion, indeed, when a boy cum voce tremolo sang so charmingly to the accompaniment of a bass-viol that unless possibly the nuns at Milan may have excelled him, we had not heard his equal on our journey.”

Music was enjoyed before the play began and during inter-act times. We learn this from reading the stage directions of various Elizabethan plays. In the public or professional venue, men were the source of music.
Inter-act music existed in both the public and private theatres. This has been deduced from a study of different Elizabethan plays and their stage directions. The inter-act music could be compared to the present operatic overtures. The music would sometimes start before the act was over and continue briefly after the next act began. This helped to intensify the emotions of the action. Stage directions could state the term “noise” which was a term to indicate music.

In the public theatre such as the Globe, there was no evidence that music was a part of the beginning of the play. In London, an institution of the Waits was a source of professional musicians for plays. Often the musicians were also used for extras which were called supernumeraries. The location of the musicians was in a room above the tiring room. The music was very mystifying and added an important element to the theatre production. -Judy Terry

Works Cited
Elizabethan Costumes Sources
Lead, Drea. "Elizabethan Costume Page." Elizabethan Costume. 27 Sept. 2008 <>.
Maus, Katherine E., and David Bevington. General Introduction. English Renaissance Drama. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002. Xiii-1vii.
Smith, Hal H. "Some Principles of Elizabethan Stage Costume." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld institutes 25 (July-De., 1962): 240-57.

Props Sources
Bevington, David. “General Introduction.” English Renaissance Drama: A Norton
Anthology. Ed. David Bevington and Katharine Eisaman Maus. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, Inc., 2002. l-lii.
Carnegie, David. “Early Modern Plays and Performance.” The Huntington Library
Quarterly 67.3 (2004). 27 September 2008
Neilson, Patrick. “Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama.” Theatre Journal
57.1 (2005). 27 September 2008

Sword Fighting/Acrobatics
Calore, Michela. "Battle Scenes in the Queen's Men's Repertoire." Notes and Queries. Vol. 50. London: 2003. 394-400.
Mabillard, Amanda. "Stage Fencing in Shakespears Time."
National Education Network. "Elizabethan Festival."

Bradford, Wade. Creating Stage Directions: . 2008. New York Times Company. 10 Oct. 2008
Pollick, Michael. Basic stage blocking techniques for play directors. 2002. 10 Oct. 2008
Puchner, Walter. "Early Modern Greek Drama: From Page to Stage." Project Muse. Vol. 25. (2007): 243-66. 16 Sep. 2008
Wikipedia. 24 Sep. 2008 <>.

Lawrence, W.J. Music in the Elizabethan Theatre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1920. 192-205.

After researching various components that made up Elizabethan productions of The Shoemakers Holiday, individual group members creatively interpreted different ways the play could be produced today. Those individual production plans are summarized below:


The Shoemaker’s Holiday of the 1960s

My production plan will be set in the years of the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The play will be located in the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco with the music reminiscent of the 60s: “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, the "Ballad of the Green Berets” and “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in your Hair)” played by a lone guitar player. -Judy Terry

The Comedy of Trickery

In various parts of Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday, he portrays the theme of trickery and mischief. His use of language, disguises, and plotting emphasizes the characters’ tomfoolery. -Jennifer Croad

A Mall Affair

In an attempt to use shoes as a metaphor and also blend the storyline into modern day society, I have opted to produce this play in what looks to be a modern day mall. All the characters will have jobs associated with their original class structure, and the shoes each will wear will reflect their status within society at large. -Daniel Baker

A Greeks Gone Wild Production
It is a great honor to direct the 2009 San Diego State University stage production of Thomas Dekker's comedy, The Shoemaker's Holiday. In directing this I have changed a few aspects of it. First of all I have redefined the setting, and in loyalty of the setting, costumes and characters have been given a new twist.The actual production will take place in the Greek theater of Epidaurus. The theme will be Greek.-Chris Maidona

Our video is based on A Greeks Gone Wild Production.