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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Re: *AYL* and *Macbeth*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0985. Wednesday, 7 December 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Ron Moyer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Dec 1994 16:36:29 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   RE: AYL and Macbeth production
 
(2)     From:   Melissa Aaron <<
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Dec 1994 17:09:04 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0982 Producing Macbeth*
 
(3)     From:   Craig Bryant <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Dec 1994 00:27:33 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0982  *Macbeth* Qs
 
(4)     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <ANNAL@TEMPLEVM>
        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Dec 94 10:53:19 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0982  *Macbeth* Qs
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Moyer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Dec 1994 16:36:29 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        RE: AYL and Macbeth production
 
Re: Charles Boyle's comment that, in AYL, Oliver's "long tale is another shaggy
dog story . . . put in to unnerve Rosalind.  After all, this material is either
high comedy or bad melodrama [and Shakespeare] doesn't write bad melodrama."
 
Garland Wright's recent Guthrie production provided a context that allowed the
"shaggy dog story" to play naively and gracefully.  The production appeared as
if Wright approached the play as a sort of proto-romance: a darkly harsh,
violent court and wintery, melancholic Arden for the first half (interval after
2.7, plus 3.1), followed by a warm, sunny pastoral comedy in the second half.
In Wright's treatment, emphasizing a Winter's Tale-like structure, the
"magical" transformations of the end seemed innocently possible.  On the whole,
the production melded a bit of high concept, variously sleek/rustic designs,
and some pomo irony, with sound text work and vital humanity into a splendidly
stimulating work. While not shedding new light on Oliver's possible awareness
of Rosalind/ Ganymede's gender, the production proved (to me, at least) that
Oliver's "shaggy dog story" can be movingly believable when played with
conviction within an appropriate context; indeed, it can be seen as an integral
component of the pattern of recognitions, reconciliations, and healing that
conclude the play (certainly no more fantastic than Frederick's conversion).
Oliver's "discovery" of Rosalind can add good fun and more point to gender
confusions in the play--and it can co-exist with Oliver relating a sincere
story; if Oliver's story is not sincere, however, I believe some modern
cynicism is eroding the focused and hopeful structure of the end of the play.
 
 
Re: Daniel L. Colvin's questions regarding Macbeth.
 
1.  Cross-gender casting: I believe cross-gender casting depends a lot
    upon the world conceived for the production.  Set in the late 20th
    century--a grudging maybe.  In a futureworld ("Macbeth Beyond
    Thunderdome") or in a fantastical, sword-and-sorcerer past it might
    work.  If the world-of-the-play approximates what we know of
    Western, Christian-era history, it would be difficult to reconcile
    cross-gender casting with general conceptions of that history.
    Macbeth's concern with heirs (his lack, making war on children, etc.)
    places great emphasis on who holds power and who can plausibly (to
    the audience) be accepted (by the characters) in power-roles.  Would
    have lots of interesting times balancing apparent assumptions of
    domestic roles (the Ladies Macd and Macb) with warrior roles (Banquo,
    Malcolm).  Many text challenges would occur: use "King" generically?
    (Lady) Malcolm says, "your wives, your daughters,/Your matrons, and
    your maids, could not fill up/The cistern of my lust" (Arden, 4.3.61-
    63)?  Macduff to (Lady) Malcolm, "I could play the woman with mine
    eyes" (4.3.230) would sound especially insulting spoken to a woman
    about to lead an invasion force; etcetera.
 
2.  Regarding Macbeth's beheading onstage:
    No problem with beheading him onstage, but do we see the results?
    It was good enough for the Jacobeans.  . . .  But, they didn't have
    cinema, MTV, etc., FX.  If you have great! model-builders and FX
    people so as to astonish the audience--ok.  But, IMO, if the effect is
    *really* good, the audience will be caught up in that and commenting
    on how, like, cool the head is or how gross the blood and guck is; if
    it is not really good, the audience will note that the head really
    doesn't look like the actor--in either case, they will step back from
    the dramatic action.  If you don't mind (and allow time for) audience
    response to the effect-as-an-effect (v-effekt, emblem)(with probable
    titters), it could work for you.
 
$.02
--Ron Moyer, Theatre, Univ. of South Dakota  <
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa Aaron <<
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Dec 1994 17:09:04 +0200
Subject: 5.0982 Producing Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0982 Producing Macbeth
 
My gut sense is that the play *is* very gender-dependent.  The witches, of
course, could probably be  either gender (Macbeth isn't really sure which).
Duncan, Banquo and Malcolm as women present the problem that they're all
hard-wired into the discourse of kingship.  Banquo especially is the progenitor
of the line of royal kings (cf the Polanski movie where they all look exactly
like Banquo).  The problem isn't the cross-gender casting--it's the
implications.  What does the director hope to achieve? What kind of questions
does he/she want the audience to ask?
 
Actually, cross-gender casting Macbeth and Lady Macbeth might really work and
be quite interesting, since she's the one who plays with becoming "masculine."
Good luck.
 
Melissa Aaron
University of Wisconsin-Madison
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Craig Bryant <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Dec 1994 00:27:33 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0982  *Macbeth* Qs
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0982  *Macbeth* Qs
 
Regarding cross-casting in Macbeth:
 
My campus dramatic outfit is also gearing up for a production of _Macbeth_ in
February, and I have been lending my armchair scholarship to anyone that will
be kind enough to pretend to listen. Oddly enough, I have always seen _Macbeth_
as being particularly suited to cross-casting, with only the Macbeths and
Macduffs being gender-cruical roles...although this may just be an extension of
my belief that, in general, the majority of roles in the canon are not of
necessity gender-specific.
 
Audiences, of course, are used to allowing a lot of leeway in terms of setting
and casting in Shakespeare. This is a powerful tool for the
director--sometimes, perhaps, _too_ powerful. If the director becomes more
occupied with the "cute trick" of a Vietnam _Troilus and Cressida_ or a female
Petruchio than with the central goal of realizing a play of Shakespeare's on
the stage, then the production will suffer. If, however, the director keeps the
play itself as the foremost issue, then almost any spice or garnish is
permissible. An example: I was recently involved in a college _Hamlet_ in which
the Big H himself was black, and a number of roles, including Horatio, were
played by females. This may sound like a recipe for disaster--the director is
going to inflict upon his audience a "modern, socially relevant" _Hamlet_,
indulging in questions of race relations, gender stereotyping and other
revisionist blather--an _Invisible Man_ in doublet and hose. I would buy a
ticket just for the pleasure of hating it.
 
But this is not what happened. Showing remarkable restraint for this century,
we all just tried to play the truth of the play. Some of us were surprised when
we received praise for the clever handling of a black Hamlet, and had to take a
moment to recall that the actor was, indeed, black after all. Any "relevant
meaning" of the casting choice came out to the audience quite subtly; they did
not need us to hold them down and batter them with it.
 
So, if presented with a list of "roles for possible cross-casting," in
_Macbeth_ or any other play, my recation is to examine the motive. If Duncan is
to be a woman, he/she will either play the scene "as a man," and the audience
will most likely indulge without comment; play the scene "as a woman," but
still attempt to live within the context of the play, and the audience will
probably be intrigued and entertained by the opportunity to examine the play
from a slightly altered and fresh perspective; or play some wonderful "relevant
meaning" unexpressed in the play that tries to "Gimmick around" Shakespeare and
ends up undercutting the production. Only then, if the audience is composed of
people like me, will your actors have the possibility of skipping the second
act and going home early.
 
Having said this, we have been fairly conservative in terms of gender for our
_Macbeth_: we have not designated any male roles for women going into the
auditions, but only compiled a list of roles that could go either way,
including Ross and the minor Scottish lords, The Porter and Sergeant, Banquo,
and the Princes. I have no notion of how many of these may eventually be
occupied by women, but we have made the choice to keep the setting of the play
as "timeless" as practical, and do not intend to make a "statement" with any
roles that may be cross-cast. As I have said, I believe that at worst, the
audience will not care, and, at best, the odd member may even pick out
something from the production that had been previously unseen.
 
I can not say if my notions will be of any help to you, incoherent as I often
am in a text discussion, but best of luck in your production, and I hope we
shall hear more of it.
 
Craig Bryant
DramaTech Theatre, Georgia Tech
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <ANNAL@TEMPLEVM>
Date:           Wednesday, 07 Dec 94 10:53:19 EST
Subject: 5.0982  *Macbeth* Qs
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0982  *Macbeth* Qs
 
I'm not going to weigh in on the subject of beheading Macbeth on stage; I don't
know what I think of that question either. But an interesting point came up
when I showed *Men of Respect* to a group of friends for a paper I'm writing on
Shakespearean adaptations. MOR is a mafia version of Macbeth, and all my
friends felt that to have gangsters running around talking about being "a man
of woman born" was utterly silly. Several people suggested that it should have
been a woman, rather than a ceserian section man, who killed the Macbeth
character. I don't know what purpose your director sees in cross casting, but
the possibilities for reworking that scene with a woman could be interesting.
 
                                                       Annalisa Castaldo
                                                       Temple University
 

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