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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0499.  Sunday, 6 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Lonnie J Durham <
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        Date:   Saturday, 04 Jun 1994 20:53:42 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Film, Video
 
(2)     From:   Robert O'Connor <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 Jun 1994 15:58:50 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0492  Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
(3)     From:   J F Knight <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 Jun 1994 20:36:41 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0490 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
(4)     From:   Vinton G. Cerf <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 Jun 94 13:22 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0490 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
(5)     From:   Balz Engler <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 Jun 1994 20:57:10 +0200
        Subj:   SHK 5.0492 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
(6)     From:   Pete Guither <
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        Date:   Sunday, 05 Jun 1994 15:14:13 CDT
        Subj:   Re- Nudity in Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lonnie J Durham <
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Date:           Saturday, 04 Jun 1994 20:53:42 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Film, Video
 
While some of us are on the subject of film and video productions, back in the
seventies sometime I saw in London a film version of *The Tempest* directed by
Derek Jarman.  Miranda was "topless" as they say and wore (I think) a grass
skirt.  She was constantly teasing Caliban and then dancing away as he tried to
embrace her. As I recall, the closing and opening credits were accompanied by
Cleo Laine singing "Stormy Weather."  I had heard that the British Film Board,
who financed the project, refused to allow it to be exported once they viewed
the finished work. Has anyone out there news about the fate of this poor
orphan?  I'd really like to hear.  Cheers all,
 
Lonnie Durham
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert O'Connor <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 Jun 1994 15:58:50 +1000
Subject: 5.0492  Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0492  Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
Dear Douglas Lanier,
 
Apart from the infamous Polanski *Macbeth*, I have seen several productions of
'The Scottish Play" which featured full or partial nudity.  One performed in
Perth, at the University of Western Australia in 1985 (which, it was claimed,
was based on a similar interpretation at the Edinbirgh Fringe a few years
before, but I don't know about that) had all three witches appear nude to
Macbeth at their initial meeting, and later during their summoning of the
apparitions, and Lady Macbeth likewise appeared nude in the sleepwalking scene.
There was some attempt, using makeup and _very_ small scraps of material, to
make the witches appear sexLESS, but nonetheless it caused quite a stir.  The
production tried to represent the witches as the old maiden-mother-crone trio,
with some success; interestingly enough, when they cast off their cloaks the
more obvious differences between them disappeared, and I was lead to believe at
the time that this was intentional. It was the stage debut of the girl playing
the 'maiden' witch.  She had not informed her first-night attending parents of
the scope of her role.  It made the after-opening party interesting!
 
Robert O'Connor
Australian National University
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           J F Knight <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 Jun 1994 20:36:41 +1000 (EST)
Subject: 5.0490 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0490 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
The Bell Shakespeare M of V had the opening dialogue between the male venetians
set in a gay bathhouse.  They wore towels, sort of.  It was neat because it
makes sense of Antonio's loan "for love" to Bassanio in the first place.
 
There was a strange Sydney production of Macbeth I remember seeing in 1971 or
1972 where all the cast wore transparent gauze gowns and nothing else;
performed at the Students Union at Macquarie University.  The whole thing
played, I seem to recall, as a ritual black mass.
 
The recent Sydney Theatre Company Titus featured a huge amount of male flesh.
There are probably several others - the theatre scene in Sydney is very big on
nakedness.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Vinton G. Cerf <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 Jun 94 13:22 EST
Subject: 5.0490 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0490 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
About two years ago, the Shakespeare Theatre here in DC carried out a
performance of Othello. The opening scene showed Avery Brooks as a very
compelling and powerful Othello in bed with his very blond Desdemona. She is
sitting upright, facing towards the back of the stage and in a relatively
darkened scene, he disrobes her (only her back is visible) and as they merge
the bed is pulled stage back and disappears.
 
It was a powerful scene although I recall thinking that it seemed somewhat
gratuituous.
 
Vint Cerf
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Balz Engler <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 Jun 1994 20:57:10 +0200
Subject: Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
Comment:        SHK 5.0492 Re: Nudity in Shakespearean Performance
 
I remember a production of *King Lear* by Peter Zadek, one of the great
directors of German theatre, at the Bochum Schauspielhaus in (?1974) in which
Lear carried in the dead Cordelia naked. It was a stunning moment. Nakedness
worked perfectly as a metaphor for innocence.
 
Balz Engler

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From:           Pete Guither <
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Date:           Sunday, 05 Jun 1994 15:14:13 CDT
Subject:        Re- Nudity in Shakespeare
 
At Illinois State Theatre this past Spring, we did an experimental production
based on Macbeth which contained some brief nudity.
 
I should emphasize that this wasn't truly Macbeth, but a production based on
Macbeth.  The cast and director spent close to a year working together and
exploring the text, the issues, and the images and relating them to issues that
they wished to follow further.  The production used Shakespeare's lines
(although only a small portion of them) and was heavily based on imagery.  It
was an ensemble approach with each of the actors playing Macbeth in various
stages of his state of mind and the actresses playing Lady Macbeth in the same
way (using masks to show who was currently Macbeth/Lady Macbeth).  It focused
heavily on issues of violence in society, personal responsibility, and evil.
The ending was much more ambiquous than Shakespeare's ending, the witches
looked like batty, frumpy, maiden aunts and acted as amused observers rather
than driving any actions, and the use of multiple actors in roles gave a
different perspective to the characters.
 
Back to nudity.  Lady Macbeth (hoisted up by the other actors dressed in black
and lit by the candles they're holding) rips off her top in the speech (Come,
you spirits...Unsex me here...Come to my woman's breasts...etc.)  Also, there
was a rain curtain upstage, and at one point Macbeth is dimly seen nude
standing in the rain curtain, which is lit deep red, washing the blood from
himself.
 
I think the production succeeded in some areas and failed in others, but the
audience seemed to appreciate it (heavily student audience and the show had an
almost MTV-like pace - ran 1 and one half hours). To me a big part of the
excitement was in doing it at all.  There's a luxury available to Universities
to try new things and explore texts in a different way that I think is
important.
 
Pete Guither, General Manager
Illinois State Theatre
Illinois Shakespeare Festival
 

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