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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Directing *MND*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0657.  Friday, 5 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Arthur Pearson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 4 Aug 1994 10:42:34 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0651  Q: Directing *MND*
 
(2)     From:   David M Richman <
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        Date:   Friday, 5 Aug 1994 10:23:53 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0651 Q: Directing *MND*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Pearson <
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Date:           Thursday, 4 Aug 1994 10:42:34 -0600
Subject: 5.0651  Q: Directing *MND*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0651  Q: Directing *MND*
 
Professor Williams,
 
Not to quibble but no play is director/actor proof, least of all the works
of Shakespeare.  Difficulties in MND:  Much of the languague between Oberon
and Titania is complex and rich in metaphor and allusion.  Uninformed,
non-specific delivery of their scenes can quickly disengage an audience.
The conflict between O and T must be a palpable one of power and a primal,
carnal attraction (difficult at the high school level, raging hormones
notwithstanding) as it is the engine to much of the frivolity in the
forest.  The mechanicals must never become cartoons.  One must be very good
to be very bad.  The four lovers have an easier time of it, but the most
successful productions find the humor and truth of the physical actions
within the language.  Gratuitous layering on of "schtick" detracts from
their appeal.  Puck, perforce, must be an actor (male or female) who can
directly engage an audience.  No small feat.  Finally, many argue that the
play does not start until the lovers enter the forest.  Bringing the
opening scene to life is always a challenge.  Hippolota as a generic
Amazonian is never enough.
 
As with any good play there is never any one way to do it.  Only and ever
pitfalls and challenges of which to be aware.  Please extend my wishes of a
broken leg to Mr. Sebold.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David M Richman <
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Date:           Friday, 5 Aug 1994 10:23:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0651 Q: Directing *MND*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0651 Q: Directing *MND*
 
I have directed MND twice, with professional performers in 1985, and with
students earlier this year.  The play is not quite "director- and actor-proof."
Any delicate thing can be damaged, and this play is a delicate thing indeed.
My advice:  Let the sublime speeches be heard.  Get good performers who speak
beautifully for Oberon, Titania and Puck.  Make sure your lovers have exquisite
comic timing.  III,ii, a complex scene, mixes farce with real passion. Let the
language and imagery guide you, even in the "Pyramus and Thisby" scene.  This
scene can literally have an audience in tears, if the actors don't condescend
to it.  Remember that the rude mechanicals believe they are doing their best.
(Pace, those who rightly argue that one can not know what a fictional construct
"believes".  This is a useful note for performers, and intended as such.)  Many
productions cut or cuten the Oberon-Titania speeches.  One may trim them, but
don't undercut them with stage business that deliberately draws attention to
itself, and away from the words. Many productions, including the otherwise
intriguing ones of Peter Brook and of the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express used
such business.  I wish they hadn't.)  Our production of *MND* played to many
high schools, and the students (mirabile dictu) did indeed listen to the story
of the mermaid on the dolphin's back.
 
Good luck.  I will be glad to respond with more detail if needed.
David Richman
 

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