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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Re: *Pericles*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0971.  Sunday, 4 December 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Kathleen Campbell <
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        Date:   Friday, 02 Dec 94 11:34:13 EST
        Subj:   Re: Pericles
 
(2)     From:   Timothy Dayne Pinnow <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Dec 1994 14:12:56 -0600
        Subj:   Pericles
 
(3)     From:   Matthew Henerson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Dec 1994 12:01:51 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0960  *Pericles*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathleen Campbell <
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Date:           Friday, 02 Dec 94 11:34:13 EST
Subject:        Re: Pericles
 
Robert F. O'Conner asked about productions of *Pericles*
 
I directed the show about five years ago at George Mason University.  There
were several productions at Shakespeare festivals about the same time and there
have been a few other interesting productions.  I know Stratford, Ont. has done
several productions, and there have been several English ones as well. On the
whole it is rarely done, partially, I'm sure becase of the problems with the
script.  But I like the play and enjoyed working on it.  (I'm thinking of doing
*Cymbeline* next.)  We had a cast of 18 playing something close to a hundred
roles (counting every appearance by an actor, speaking or not, as a different
character), most of which are specified in the script.  I'll try to find my
file with more detail on other productions and give you some specific names and
dates.
 
Kathleen Campbell

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Timothy Dayne Pinnow <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Dec 1994 14:12:56 -0600
Subject:        Pericles
 
In reply to Robert O'Connor's query about recent productions of *Pericles*, I
just finished directing it a few weeks ago.  I am including a draft of my
director's notes from the program for any who are interested.  I also have
heard of an Acting Company production of the play which was quite wonderful.
Seems to me the whole problem of the play is the creation of a concept that can
keep the whole story (and it is mighty expansive) in the realm of one
conceptual world. I hope this helps.
 
Director's Notes
 
Since the announcement of the our season last May, I have received two types of
responses to my selection of Pericles  for this season.  First, and most
numerous, is from the non-theatre community.  It goes something likes this,
"Shakespeare wrote it?!? I never heard of it."  The second is from the theatre
community and sounds something like, "Why would you choose that?!? It's awful."
The answer to both questions lies in the questions themselves.  But let me
tell you more of the story. . .
 
Last spring, after it was decided that I would direct Shakespeare this year, I
set about once again leafing through the plays wondering, "which one?"  I was
thinking about finding one with more numerous female roles, so I turned
immediately to the Romances.  The four Romances, The Tempest, Pericles,
Cymbeline,  and The Winter's Tale  are perhaps, as a group, the most difficult
to produce for a modern audience.  I've always felt this somewhat strange
considering they were some of his best ticket sellers during his lifetime.  But
they contain very fantastical events (reincarnations, being eaten by bears,
statues coming alive, etc.) and cover long spans of time and place.  Sort of an
Elizabethan Odyssey. Mythic in its proportions.  Difficult for a modern
audience to accept--we like our stories neat, tidy, and believable.
 
Still, I persisted.  I played Prospero once, so Tempest was out.  A Winter's
Tale  was recently produced at the Guthrie and I don't need that kind of
competition.  That left just two.  As I read this play, I kept being drawn to
three things.  The first is the sort of mythic across-time-and-space kind of
love story that exists between Thaisa and Pericles.  Pericles is an "everyman"
just trying to survive this thing called life.  Thaisa is so devoted that she
becomes a nun when she loses Pericles (actually, he loses her).  Second, there
is the reconciliation of Marina and Pericles.  A reconciliation that takes
place only because SHE is strong and alive enough for the both of them. In
fact, this reconciliation is far more important structurally and thematically
than is Pericles and Thaisa's.  I find her one of the most intriguing
characters Shakespeare ever drew--male or female.  Last, there is the narrator,
John Gower. Rather than just naming him "chorus" as is usual, Shakespeare has
used a real medieval poet to "sing a song of old."
 
So I had a play.  But given the second question from above, the question is,
"How do I make this thing work?"  First, there is the epic, fantastical nature
of the play.  To my mind, it is much like the film "The Princess Bride" of
recent memory.  It was fantastical, but we all believed and enjoyed it.  So I
had one piece to the puzzle and then, as I looked again at Gower's opening, I
saw a sign for Jesse James Days.  There it was.  The epic from "our" past.  My
students jokingly refer to it as ""The Princess Bride" meets "Dr. Quinn,
Medicine Woman."  Actually, maybe that's not too far off.  This show reflects
some of the romanticizing of our own past--the pioneer West.  And so, we find
ourselves back at the beginning--the answer:  BECAUSE you haven't heard of it,
and BECAUSE I want to try to make what most think is a bad play WORK.  Enjoy,
and cross your fingers--I'm out on a conceptual limb.
 
 
                                         Timothy Dayne Pinnow
                                         Dept. of Speech-Theater
                                         St. Olaf College
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Henerson <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Dec 1994 12:01:51 -0800
Subject: 5.0960  *Pericles*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0960  *Pericles*
 
Dear everyone, and Robert O'Connor in particular,
 
I've never heard of the Australian company you mentioned, but I would love to
see them if I can get close enough.  Do you know either their touring schedule
or anybody who might know it?
 
About producions of Pericles, I know of several, although I don't know much
about how they were received.  The earliest that comes to mind in this century
is a 1948 production at the Straford Memorial Theater in 1948 with Paul
Scofield in the title role.  Scofield's performance has been preserved on
Caedemon's recording of the play which was done in the mid-sixties, and which
I've seen in several university libraries.  I also own it myself, and I would
be happy to tape it for you if you would like to hear it.
 
The SMT did the play again in 1959.  Tony Richardson (*Tom Jones*, *Look Back
in Anger*, *Hamlet* with Nicol Williamson) directed, and Richard Johnson played
Pericles.  Richardson had wanted Paul Robeson, who was playing Othello at
Stratford that same season, to play Gower as a Caribbean Sailor/Shantyman.
Robeson couldn't do it (I don't know why), but another black actor/singer did.
 
There was an RSC production in either the late 60's or early 70's starring Ian
Richardson, and another a few years ago with Nigel Terry (King Arthur in
*Excaliber*).  I've seen production photos of both, but I don't know anything
else about them.
 
Tho Old Vic left the play out of Michael Benthal's five-year plan in the 50's
because *Pericles* does not appear in the First Folio.  (I think that was why.)
 And Peter Hall left it out of the sequence of the Romances which he did in
1988 as his final project as Artistic Director of the National Theater of GB.
The National did it last year on the Olivier stage (I think), but I know
nothing about the production.
 
The Prospect Theater Company did the play in 1973 or 1974 with Derek Jacobi as
Pericles and Harold Innocent (Burgundy in Brannagh's *Henry V*) in drag as the
Bawd.  I get the impression from a poster for that production that it was in
modern dress.  There is also the BBC television production with Mike Gwyllim
(sp?) in the title role.
 
The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada did a production as part of a
Romances sequence in 1988.  (They left out *The Tempest*.)  A Stratford
regular, Nicholas Pennell (who payed Antiochus and Boult in '88), lists the
title role as one of his many Festival credits so they must have done the play
sometime in the 70's, but I don't know when. The Seattle Rep. did a production
last year with a black actor, Isaiah Whitlock, as Pericles, and the Oregon
Shakespeare festival at Ashland also used a black Pericles a few years ago.
The only production of the play I have ever seen was at the Colorado
Shakespeare Festival in 1993.  I was a member of that company, but did not
perform in this production.  The production was directed by Joel Fink, the
Festival's casting director.  The text was heavily cut, and it was beautifully
designed along what I guess you would call traditional lines: Grecian rather
than Jacobean.  I don't know what to say of the production as a whole.  The
cast were my friends, and I thought they were wonderful.  As I remember
reviewers tended to applaud the production while not knowing quite what to make
of the play.
 
I'm sorry to include so much, and at the same time say so little of substance.
But perhaps, if you're still curious, this will give you some idea as to where
to look for more in depth information.
 
Sincerely,
Matt Henerson
 

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