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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: October ::
Staging Shakespeare's Unstaged Scenes
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 264. Monday, 21 Oct 1991.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Fri, 18 Oct 91 07:52:08 PDT
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	Subj: 	SHK 2.0261  Staging Shakespeare's Unstaged Scenes
 
(2)	Date: 	Thu, 17 Oct 91 17:48:20 PDT
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	Subj: 	SHK 2.0261  Staging Shakespeare's Unstaged Scenes
 
(3)	Date:   Sat, 19 Oct 1991 20:06:52 -0400 (EDT)
	From: 	David Richman <
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	Subj: 	Staging the unstaged scenes
 
 
(1)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Fri, 18 Oct 91 07:52:08 PDT
From: 		
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Subject: Staging Shakespeare's Unstaged Scenes
Comment: 	SHK 2.0261  Staging Shakespeare's Unstaged Scenes
 
I have no objection to replacing language with visual images, if one thinks
that is the only way to convey the play to one's audience. But I don't think
it true that depending on the plays' language renders them non-dramatic,
and I do think that it is preferable to do so when the circumstances make it
possible. Obviously, one uses the language to guide gesture, intonation, and
stage action, but to provide visual scenes instead of verbal images, or to
supplement verbal images with visual can deaden the imagination.
 
(2)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Thu, 17 Oct 91 17:48:20 PDT
From: 		
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Subject: Staging Shakespeare's Unstaged Scenes
Comment: 	SHK 2.0261  Staging Shakespeare's Unstaged Scenes
 
Or maybe Macbeth dresses the porter as the king and it's the porter that
Macduff beheads and Macbeth retires to Hawaii, where his wife, whose death
was only rumored--or faked too--has a closet with a thousand pairs of shoes
in it.
 
(3)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date:    	Sat, 19 Oct 1991 20:06:52 -0400 (EDT)
From: 		David Richman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Subject: 	Staging the unstaged scenes
 
     Let me try to distinguish between the staging of unstaged scenes, and the
general practice of theatrical invention.  All theater artists with whom I have
worked or whose work I know rack their brains to derive the action implicit in
the lines of dialogue.  If several actions seem implicit in a given stretch of
dialogue, we have to find and execute the one that seems right for our
production and our audience.  If we can't find an action, we have to invent,
and take responsibility for our invention.
 
     What, for example, does Isabella do when the Duke proposes to her twice at
the end of *Measure for Measure*?  Does she throw herself into his arms?  Does
she bolt?  Does she stand paralyzed, her face twisted into an expression of
shame and self-loathing?  Does she look at him the way she has previously
looked at Angelo?  Does she kneel?  This list is far from exhaustive.  In the
absence of lines, limitless possibilities are open to the actress.  Whatever
she does, she will be to a certain extent inventing.
 
     The *Antony and Cleopatra* montage, described in a recent posting,
provides another splendid example of such invention.  The highest compliment
I can pay it is that I wish I had thought of it, and indeed I wish I had.
 
     What I tend to shy away from is the staging of important parts of the
story that the playwright chooses to have characters narrate.  The telling of
a story is itself a form of action.  We don't see Hamlet among the pirates--
instead we see Horatio's and Claudius's respective reactions to the events,
and then we hear Hamlet tell the story yet again.  We hear Borachio's drunken
narrative, but we don't see what Margaret is doing, and we don't see Claudio
watching her.  We don't see Leontes discovering that Perdita is his daughter.
We hear about it from courtiers.  My aim is to keep these narratives and the
effects they have on their respective plays.  The respective narrators are
themselves active, and we need to find their internal and external actions.
How does Gertrude react to her own story of Ophelia's drowning?  How do her
hearers react to it?
 
     Having said all this, I also freely confess that I occasionally break my
own rules--and take responsibility for the consequences.  A couple of years
ago, I prepared a traveling production of *Comedy of Errors* for middle
schools and high schools throughout New Hampshire.   The mission was to
convert young people to Shakespeare.  We wanted to make them laugh and laugh;
we wanted to make them want to learn more about this playwright who had given
them so much entertainment.  Scores of them at many schools told us that they
had come in prepared to be bored, and that they had, to their own surprise,
loved it.  We were thrilled.  We wouldn't have gotten such reactions if we
hadn't done something with Aegeon's long, difficult story of the shipwreck.
Most adult audiences have trouble listening to that one straight.  So we
borrowed some story theater techniques.  As Aegeon told the story, we enacted
it in cartoon fashion.  Our hope was to suggest that he was conjuring the
memory out of his head, and that it was taking visible form.  Thus, our
cardboard mast split at its velcroed center, the respective Antipholuses and
Dromios went down, three times, holding their noses and spraying.  The
distraught parents clutched air.  The rest of the cast made thunder and wind
noises.  All this happened while Aegeon spoke.  When the noise stopped and
the figures left the stage, Aegeon was alone, quietly telling the duke and
the audience about his loss and his grief.  In most cases, there was a hush
in the audience at that point, and we knew we had them.
 
     I don't do this sort of thing often, but I will do it if circumstances
seem to warrant.  The point is, I think carefully about it, as I expect every
other theater artist does.
 
Cheers, and thanks for putting up with a longish posting.
 
David Richman
University of New Hampshire
 

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