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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Casting *Lear*; Jacobi Hamlet; *Shrew* Productions
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0952.  Friday, 25 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Melissa Aaron <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 23 Nov 1994 18:58:19 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0943 Qs: *Lear* -- Casting
 
(2)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 23 Nov 1994 22:38:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0919  Re: Jacobi's Hamlet
 
(3)     From:   David R. Maier <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 23 Nov 1994 15:08:03 -0800
        Subj:   RE: *Shrew Productions*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa Aaron <
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Date:           Wednesday, 23 Nov 1994 18:58:19 +0200
Subject: 5.0943 Qs: *Lear* -- Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0943 Qs: *Lear* -- Casting
 
I understand that the Mabou Mines Theater company did a *Lear* with the entire
play cross-casted--Lear and Gloucester as older women, the three daughters as
sons and the Fool as a transvestite.  The play was set in Georgia.  Mama Lear's
family was white, Gloucester and Edgar were black (I think Edmund was white?
--or "mixed"?)  When "Edna" went mad, she became Mad Marie Laveau.  And so on.
 
Melissa Aaron
University of Wisconsin-Madison
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Wednesday, 23 Nov 1994 22:38:09 -0500
Subject: 5.0919  Re: Jacobi's Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0919  Re: Jacobi's Hamlet
 
About Jacobi's Hamlet:
 
>By the way, he did not overhear the King and Polonius plotting to set Ophelia
>on him, and the "to be or not to be" speech was delivered directly to the
>audience (or camera).  He suspected Ophelia was up to something when he saw
>she was holding her book upside down--a small liberty with the script, I
>suppose but a neat way of communicating to the audience why he reacted to her
>as he did.
 
Simplify, simplify, simplify. Whether the old upsidedown book gag has worn
itself out or not is a matter of taste I guess, but certainly using it here
does more damage to Ophelia's intelligence than can be justified in the name of
helping the audience along.
 
Does Hamlet's behavior need this extra explication here? People like to think
he knows he's being watched, an idea which Harold Jenkins (in the Arden
edition) blames on the sudden and suspiciously apt question 'Where's your
father?' But in the fishmonger scene with Polonius he bursts out in midsentence
with 'Have you a daughter?', even though Ophelia isn't lurking.
 
In all Shakespearean eavesdroppings the spied-on unwittingly say things perfect
for ironical overhearing by the hiders.
 
This scene, a man confronting his jilter, the returned love-gifts in his hand,
the girl's previous encouragements having suddenly gone cold at the behest
(this we can be pretty sure Hamlet knows) of her father, a man furthermore in
the throes of an only partly feigned antic disposition, whom we have already
seen in other encounters (with Polonius, Ros & Guil) behave with wild and
whirling contempt, this scene will play. Further motivation for the man's
outburst is not required. The Hamlet who detects his secret listeners (without
mentioning it in soliloquy!) is not part of Shakespeare's formula. It is an
interpolation, one which was already reductive when it first appeared and now
after so much usage is as stale and unenlightening as that dumb Oedipal take on
Gertrude. And this upsidedown book is a feeble variation, in detail only, on
the old misperception.
 
As for 'a small liberty with the script', the fault is not in the 'liberty' but
in the 'small'. The choice is too pedagogical, it solves a nonproblem,
substitutes logic for character. Why not create new dramatic complexities
instead of destroying the interesting ones already present? Let Ophelia listen
in on the fishmonger conversation or something, anything, but let it be a
surprise! exciting not expository, yes! a surprise, please! anything but mom
and Hamlet kissing on the bed again...
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David R. Maier <
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Date:           Wednesday, 23 Nov 1994 15:08:03 -0800
Subject:        RE: *Shrew Productions*
 
Shirley Kagan appears to chide the Tygres Heart production of *Shrew*:
 
"Why do we need a sugar coating or a happy, creative ending?  Lets see a
'Shrew' that upsettingly but realistically tells it like it still is for many
women in the world."
 
My response is that hers is exactly the response that was intended from the
prodution.  Isn't it upsetting that the only way to play the text truly and
have a happy ending is to cast it with an all-female cast?  This production
simply would not have worked with the roles played with men and women. This is
because of what we as people, not just men, but both men and women, do when
they see the roles and hear the text performed with men.
 
The issue is the knee-jerk attitudes all people have about men and women when
they see them in particular relationships to each other.  By removing the
sex-role attitudes, and playing the characters with women, both the men and the
women in the audience were suddenly freed of these attitudes and could see
Petruchio as a compasionate human being, and could see Kate as a loving,
passionate, but somewhat undisciplined human being.
 
Isn't it "upsetting" and "realistic" that this could not have been accomplished
with men and women actors?  Isnt' it good that the audience was allowed to
reach this conclusion for themselves rather than to have it beaten into them
with a 2 x 4?  This way, they got the happy, creative ending and a big dose of
reality.  Sounds like getting to have cake and eat it, which makes for
wonderful theatre.
 
--
David Maier

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