Actors were given a ‘part’ – only the text that he himself was going to say. The other parts were not in his script but only the few words that were immediately preceeding his. He doesn’t know if he is in dialogue with other actors, how long he has before the next time he is speaking and so on. He knows his part, but not the whole narrative.
Tiffany explained how early modern performances were similar to an orchestral performance where each player has access to their part only but the whole piece is conducted by a leader who indicates when each player comes in. We were shown illustrations of what this meant for playwrights and actors of the time. We could also see how we, reading a play today, benefit from knowing about how the play was written, reheased, and performed.
At the Be Inspired! event on December 14, 2011, a group of Oxford academics presented a series of short inspirational talks around various writers that inspire. The talks were all recorded and will be published as podcasts as part of the Great Writers Inspire project.