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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: January ::
Responses: Revision in Rehearsal
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 30. Wednesday, 30 Jan 1991.
(1)   Date:   Wed, 30 Jan 91 01:15:00 EST                    (51 lines)
      From:   "J. JEFFERSON CARTER" <CARTERJJ@whitman>
      Subject: Re: SHK 2.0026  Query: Revision in Rehearsal?
(2)   Date: Wed, 30 Jan 91 09:11:56 PST                      (17 lines)
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  (Ray Lischner)
      Subject: SHK 2.0026  Query: Revision in Rehearsal?
(3)   Date:    Wed, 30 Jan 91 18:55 EST                      (34 lines)
      From:    "Joe Pellegrino"                            <JOEP@UNC>
      Subject: Rehearsal Redos
(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:   Wed, 30 Jan 91 01:15:00 EST
Subject: 2.0026  Query: Revision in Rehearsal?
Comment: Re: SHK 2.0026  Query: Revision in Rehearsal?
        Actually, I've found that some of the beauty of Shakespeare
onstage lies in how well it works *without* revision.  I'm in my second year
of undergrad work, and have only acted in four of Shakespeare's works
(Othello, Cymbeline, R&J, M-Venice), so I certainly don't have an
extensive working relationship with the material, but I have always been
impressed, during the "rehearsal process" as you put it, at the
flexibility that the text provides.
        One of the first things I thought when working on my first
Shakespeare play was that I didn't see how I could gain direction from
stage directions that were so ambiguous (or frequently just non-existent).
But it soon became very clear that that was to be an *advantage* for the
actor and the director, not a failing.  To clarify, I'd like to point
out a main difference between Shakespeare's texts and most of the modern
plays I've worked with.
        Modern plays tend to exist in a single setting,
with very little room for modification (at least not without getting
yourself in hot water with both the playwright and the Theatre Guild!).
A good example would be some of Mamet's work.  Mamet gives you almost
*everything*-- mood, lighting, the set, even physical descriptions of
the main characters.  While that may not seem outlandish, it takes away
a lot of the imagination and creativity of a director and/or his actors.
        Shakespeare, however, is almost absolutely unbounded.  He gives
little else besides the dialogue and who's onstage at a given point in
time.  Whereas Stoppard or Mamet, for instance, leave very little
ambiguity in their characters' speech, I've found that I can almost
always find at least two radically different interpretations for a line
(and often do, to my director's chagrin) simply by altering to whom I
say it.
        I don't have any directing experience at all, but I'm sure that
the openness of Shakespeare is even more of a playground for the
director than it is for the actor.  That is the whole reason so many
different productions exist for Will's work-- it is entirely possible to
retain all of the emotion and motivation that comes out of his texts,
and still move the play to wherever/whenever you want, and all the
freshness a strange context gives the play.  While I've been in a
Silicon Valley R&J, and a Cymbeline from the 1920's, it would be very
difficult to do Ayckborne's (sp) HenceForward in Elizabethan England!
(Sorry I talked so long.)
                                        -- J. Jefferson Carter
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------54----
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 91 09:11:56 PST
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  (Ray Lischner)
Subject: Query: Revision in Rehearsal?
Comment: SHK 2.0026  Query: Revision in Rehearsal?
Most revisions, in my experience acting and directing in college,
were to clarify passages.  The one that sticks in my memory is from
Two Gentlemen of Verona: Launce is talking with his shoes, and the line
reads as "would woman", with much discussion by editors as to meaning:
whether it should be "wood woman" or "old woman"; our director changed
it to "woman would", with much success.
In general, I try to avoid revising the text, going on the assumption
that Shakespeare was a better playwright than I.  Certainly, based on
performances I have seen, he was a better playwright than some
well known film directors.
Ray Lischner        UUCP: {uunet,apollo,decwrl}!mntgfx!lisch
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------46----
Date:    Wed, 30 Jan 91 18:55 EST
From:    "Joe Pellegrino"                            <JOEP@UNC>
Subject: Rehearsal Redos
A few years back I played Duke Orsino in a production of 12N.  We did
the show with the audience on two sides, back and front.  This caused
innumerable problems for stage design and blocking, but the director
wanted to try this "football stadium" style.  We had a very difficult
time projecting the situational humor, let alone the wit of the lines.
All subtlety was lost.  Our Malvolio, in particular, was praised by the
other members of the troupe for his fine performance, but was panned by
the critics because they missed half of his very nuanced performance.
The rest of us, being just average hacks, got the sentiments over the
footlights without losing too much intensity.
It has always seemed to me that the production of a Shakespeare play
needs a kind of intimacy, a closeness between actors and audience, in
order to escape a quick descent into bombastic proclamation of the
lines.  I've been witness to one production of 1H4 where Hotspur was
portrayed as a stutterer.  Whenever he would get angry, the words just
wouldn't come.  All I can recall is acute embarassment for the actor,
for he did nothing but stand there and screw up his face when he was to
declaim a line in a fit of passion.  The pauses were unbearable, for you
could feel the audience wondering what was going on and being embarassed
for the man, whom they thought had gone up on his lines.  It wasn't
until the next day, when I discussed the matter with a member of the
company, that I found out that Hotspur was supposed to stutter.
Although it made for a great last line, either the directorial
decision was incorrect or the actor should have done more with his
body to show his infirmity.
Joe Pellegrino
UNC-Chapel Hill

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