The Fordham Medieval Dramatists (FMD) website debuted on May 20, 2015, extending the public life of the undergraduate group’s April 26 performance of the morality play Everyman and inaugurating a digital repository for the group’s activities. Interest in the website has been enthusiastic, with 311 page views and 88 unique visitors in the first three days after going live. FMD’s Facebook and Twitter account have seen similar enthusiastic reception, boding well for New York City’s only theater collective dedicated to dramatic experimentation with and lively performance of the plays of premodern England.
FMD consists of the students of Prof. Andrew Albin’s ENGL 3102: Medieval Drama in Performance, offered biennially as an Interdisciplinary Capstone Core course at FCLC in the spring semester. Students work as a tight-knit collective to read, discuss, adapt, and stage a medieval dramatic work of their choosing, from the ground up. Though productions adopt a variety of dramatic styles and approaches, FMD loosely models its principles for performance on medieval modes of play-making, focusing on non-professional actors, use of public spaces, creative collaboration, and the recruitment of local skills and talents.
The FMD website supplies a wealth of student-generated content and offers a striking demonstration of the potential of the digital humanities to stimulate integrated intellectual work that bridges public, pedagogical, and virtual spheres. The centerpiece of the website is its Performances page, where visitors can watch the April 26 performance of Everyman in an embedded YouTube video filmed, edited, and produced by FMD students. Accompanying the film is a collection of student-generated critical commentary, examining topics as diverse as the temporality of music, costume semiotics, actor-audience interaction, the work of allegory, gender politics, and the deranging play of live performance. Cross-references within each article virtually realize the web of conceptual connections that emerged between students during their semester’s worth of reading, writing, discussion, and performance.
Thanks to its new virtual presence, FMD’s work has already gained wider audiences: at popular request, the film of Everyman was unofficially screened on the opening evening of Poculi Ludique Societas’s fiftieth anniversary Festival of Early Drama in Toronto, ON, to great acclaim. Fortuitously, the Royal National Theater in London also performed Everyman this summer with Chiwetel Ejiofor starring in the title role. (If you happen to be in London right now, it's still on till August 30!). This production was broadcast live to theaters across the world on July 16, accompanied by an #ntEveryman live-tweeting event. Encore screenings are still happening in New York City at the IFC Center (August 30-31) and Symphony Space (September 2).
Though still very young, the Fordham Medieval Dramatists have already made a significant impression with their hard work, critical thinking, and creative practice. With luck, the website will continue to foster the project FMD has undertaken and will act as a vivid home for medieval dramatic productions in NYC for many years to come!