Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 176. Wednesday, 17 March 1993.
Date: Wednesday, 17 Mar 93 16:22 EST
Subject: College Productions of *TGV*
Thanks to Steve Schrum for the plug for our recent performances of *TGV* and
for the prod to finally reply to Jeff Nyhoff on the question of college
productions of the play.
I agree that *TGV* is an excellent choice for college students because the
concerns of the play are closely related to their own lives and interests.
Among our cast, nearly all could remember a time when the demands of friendship
and love had come into conflict, usually with disastrous results, and this
thematic accesibility helped break down many of the barriers represented by the
unfamiliar language of the play. Our director, Joan Robbins, found the play
relatively easy to rehearse because in only a few scenes are more than 2 or 3
actors required on stage at the same time.
After much discussion, we decided to set the play in a 50's prep school
atmosphere, using song lyrics of the era as an analogue to the Petrarchan love
conventions followed so scrupulously by Valentine and Proteus ("Well, I wonder,
wonder who bee-do-do-do, who wrote the Book of Love?"). The gagging of Silvia
grew out of our desire both to draw attention to her silence in the final scene
and yet to make our feminist statement a comic one. I'll be presenting a paper
on this topic at the West Virginia Shakespeare and Renaissance Association
Conference in April, so if anyone's interested in more details, you can come
hear me speak.
I think the complications of the final scene are the primary reason why the
play is not performed more often. No one can take it as a believable human
action when it is played seriously, and farcical action tends to gloss over the
gender issues that figure so prominently in the text. Feminist productions can
bring these issues to the foreground very effectively, but they also tend to
emphasize the brutality of the attempted rape and Silvia's powerlessness in
her own disposition, which makes the ending something other than comic (not
necessarily a negative thing, but not one calculated to inspire delight).
Personally, having played Launce, I also think that the fact that the play
calls for a dog actor might scare off a few prospective directors. My own pet,
Troy (actually Troilus, named for Petruchio's spaniel) played Crab opposite me,
and let me tell you, you never know what a dog will do once he gets in the
spotlight (yawn, scratch, lick private parts, try to sniff the audience), but
of course, that's the fun of having him out there. He reinvented his role
freshly every night, and forced me to do so as well.