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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Re: *Hamlet*: Doubling and Jacobi
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0906. Wednesday, 9 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Arthur Pearson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Nov 1994 09:39:36 -0600
        Subj:   Hamlet/Merchant
 
(2)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 Nov 1994 08:57:37 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0886  Qs: Doubling in *Ham.*
 
(3)     From:   Edna Boris <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 08 Nov 94 17:07:02 EST
        Subj:   Jacobi's Hamlet
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Pearson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Nov 1994 09:39:36 -0600
Subject:        Hamlet/Merchant
 
Dave Kathman,
 
Bob Falls's HAMLET at Wisdom Bridge (Chicago) several years ago double cast
Byrne Piven as the Ghost and Player King.  It was a touching scene when Hamlet
welcomed his old friend to Court.  The relationship (to those who knew) effused
an additional level in that Aidan Quinn, who played Hamlet, had been a long
time student in Byrne Piven's young people's Theatre Workshop in Evanston, IL.
 
Now that I am reminded of it, a recent query centered on the use of video
monitors in a production.  If memory serves, there were a few video monitors
used in this Wisdom Bridge HAMLET.  They were used sparingly (again if memory
serves), only during the scene in which Claudius, in modern garb, his
photogenic wife clinging to his side, delivers his opening speech as if to calm
a nation lately rattled by national disaster (death of a king and threats from
a foreign power).  The Wisdom Bridge space is (now was) a small, maybe 200 seat
black box, and the monitors were situated so that both live actors and their
image could be taken in at once.  The effect was quite stunning as the audience
was privy both to the live, edgy nervousness of a usurping leader and the
amazingly officious, reassurance emanating from the monitor that all would yet
be well.
 
On the subject of video monitors, to Richard Jones, I must somewhat sheepishly
confess that as I am currently in a production of Odets' ROCKET TO THE MOON, I
have not been able to see Sellars' THE MERCHANT OF VENICE myself.  I called the
Goodman Theatre this morning only to learn that MERCHANT closed this past
Saturday.
 
My recent comments regarding MERCHANT stem from second hand accounts: the
extensive critical coverage and from fellow actors and directors who had seen
the piece.  Not always the most reliable sources (critics will be critics and
actors/directors too often "could have done much better"). However, almost to a
person, I was informed that the de-construction of and imposition upon the
play, coupled with a laborious delivery of the text served not the play, the
actors nor the audience.  (To cite one press observation, seventy five percent
of the audience left at intermission, the remaining twenty five percent, at the
end, looked as if they had witnessed a train wreck.)
 
In particular, regarding the use of video monitors, you mention perhaps that
the theatrical potential was never realized in MERCHANT.  I allow this as
entirely possible.  Whereas, I much enjoyed the use of the monitors in HAMLET,
that space was small and watching a monitor was not unlike watching one in
one's own home.  In contrast, the Goodman house is relatively vast. I do not
know what size the monitors were in MERCHANT, however, I am sure that same
sense of intimacy (if one may be intimate with a tv screen) was not possible.
Furthermore, there was no possiblity of watching both actor and monitor,
neither was there the option to watch one or the other, as the actor turned and
delivered entire speeches upstage.  In a live theatrical venue, one was left
with no choice but a transmitted image.
 
To accentuate the perhaps limiting effectiveness of monitors in such a large
venue, I remember the Goodman produced SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (which I
did see) and used a series of movable video monitors in the second act, the
medium of George's technical, contemporary art.  Compared to the use of lasers
in the origial Broadway production of SUNDAY at The Winter Garden, which
literally filled the entire theatre, the Goodman's video monitors were small
and uninspiring.
 
In the final analysis, in our hyper-media age in which theatre is a waning if
not, arguably, a dying art form, great care and thought must be exercised when
introducing such technical elements as tv monitors into a theatrical space.
Does the presence of such enhance the content and/or form of theatre or, like
ivy to a brick wall, does it temporarily dazzle while it insidiously extends
its shoots between the bricks, ultimately undermining the host building itself?
 
Arthur Pearson

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 Nov 1994 08:57:37 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0886  Qs: Doubling in *Ham.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0886  Qs: Doubling in *Ham.*
 
On doubling in _Hamlet_: Thanks to David Kathman for his kind remarks about
SHAXICON.  As it happens, however, a few of my projections as reported in the
SN series are not fully borne out by the completed database.  It is clear from
the SHAXICON data that Shakespeare studied and remembered the Ghost role, but
less clear that he studied and remembered the Player King.  This is because the
lexical pool for the Player King is too small to generate a pattern of lexical
recall that is statistically significant.  This is not to say that Sh. didn't
play the Player King, only that the rare-word lexicon for this role is too
small to supply convincing figures. When SHAXICON is published (I'm shooting
for '96), the commentary will include a statistical summary that weights the
relative confidence with which designated roles can be ascribed to Shakespeare.
 This is a laborious process, one involving hundreds of "Shakespeare" and
"non-Shakespeare" roles.  Yet, while some of the minor role cited in the SN
series remain "iffy," the general pattern is clear: the person that the Oxford
cult calls "the Stratfordian" studied and remembered particular roles in
Shakespeare's plays, including plays written later than 1604.  For example:
after the initial production of LR in autumn 1605, the rare-word lexicon of
Albany registers a 104.5% increase in its rate of lexical contacts with
Shakespeare's subsequent dramatic works.  The next highest increase is Goneril,
at 9.8%, with whom most of Albany's on-stage exchanges are conducted.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edna Boris <
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Date:           Tuesday, 08 Nov 94 17:07:02 EST
Subject:        Jacobi's Hamlet
 
My recollection of seeing a videotape of Jacobi's Hamlet several years ago is
that he is shown to be overhearing Polonius and Claudius's setting Ophelia up
as a decoy so that the "To be or not to be" speech is then a calculated
performance knowing that it's being overheard and not a soliloquy, an
interpretation that I agree with.  My students were enthralled with the
performance until the scene in Gertrude's closet which made them laugh because
they found Jacobi's treatment of his mother to be excessive.
 

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