The Imitation Game: Race and Theater in Shakespeare’s Time

Ian Smith, professor of English at Lafayette College and this year’s Los Angeles Times Distinguished Fellow, explores the racial significance of cloth and textiles for the theater and argues their relevance for modern audiences.

Over 30 years ago, clothing became a subject of absorbing interest among early modern scholars who asked a range of provocative questions concerning the changing consumption patterns among Europeans and, relatedly, the construction of social identity. The resulting literature, however, has not fully exploited its findings relative to premodern ideas and fabrications of blackness and race in theaters with no Black actors. Smith leads this conversation going back to Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.