April 1989. I sent my big paper on theatrical perspective to my former professor, Jeff Merrick, an early-modern historian who was then at Barnard but moved the next year to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. (It’s disconcerting but not surprising to read that he’s now professor emeritus.) Jeff was good enough to read and respond to the paper.
Oh, I was all about perspective in those days, I loved writing this paper and still think about the ideas I came across then. Just the other day in this odd little theater at the Queens Museum, where the projection “booth” takes up the whole center spine of the auditorium, so there are no central seats at all, I recalled the story of James I’s rejection of a new style of seating putting the King’s box down in the front of the hall, cited in the paper from Orgel and Strong’s book on Inigo Jones.
I used to email Jeff once a year or so, often with a mention of Baroque opera. Back in my day he headed a short-lived interdisciplinary program called History, the Arts, and Letters, and it was for the class he led on “The Baroque and the Enlightenment” that we came to New York for Handel’s Giulio Cesare at the City Opera. That production was antiquated by the time we saw it, which I guess was just at the edge of the contemporary explosion in Baroque opera production, and we enjoyed it but laughed at the attempts at Baroque gesture. Jeff drove us in his little red car, Robespierre. I should drop him a note now.