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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: February ::
Re: The Impossibility of Performance Criticism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 64.  Saturday, 6 February 1993.
 
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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Date:           Friday, 05 Feb 93 22:39:36 EST
Subject: 4.0062  Re: Impossibility of Performance Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0062  Re: Impossibility of Performance Criticism
 
Ah, John Drakakis.  It's Friday night, a little drunk, brimming with good wine
and roast chicken and baked winter squash, and I do carry the guilt of the
starving graduate students in China anyway, and I have a lot of trouble
believing in the essential sinfulness of essentialism or in the impossibility
of using my years of working with performers and with audiences to say wise or
clever or even silly things about Shakespeaare's plays as performed events,
events designed  for performance, etc.  Yes, we know that all audiences aren't
the same.  Nor are all critics.  But we don't (or at least I don't, especially
chicken-stuffed and wined) have to be afraid of speculating that the surprising
detonation of a  cannon in a theatre will make all but the brain-dead take
notice that something has happened.  And we can look at patterns of stage
action that are scripted repeatedly and make reasonable guesses at their
effects on any number of audiences.  Eyes wide open at lots of performances,
maybe one can make predictions. Maybe.
 
Sure, the ascription of "meaning" may be troubling.  But, hey, ain't that why
Shakespeare spent all that time writing plays rather than philosophical tracts?
As bearers of meaning, plays rank right up there with hockey games, fine
cooking, and tulips.  Surprise, surprise.
 
Maybe we all choose our own areas to mystify and our own areas to debunk.  I
grew up in a dense union neighborhood singing IWW songs on the way to nursery
school.  Loved 'em, still do.  But I'm not all that impressed or moved by folks
claiming that those shibboleths will solve the worlds ills.  But I am swept up
by the experience of plays, the EXPERIENCE of plays, and I write trying to
"express" that experience, however mysterious, however indeed impossible.
Sorry, Jack.  That's what I do.  I also teach people to cook.  Same ethos.  Go
know.
                                 G'night, Gracie.
 
                                                 Steve Urkowitz SURCC@CUNYVM
 

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