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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: October ::
Re: *TN*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0780.  Tuesday, 4 October 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Anthony Haigh <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Oct 1994 13:17:35 -400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0768  Q: *TN*
 
(2)     From:   Dana Spradley <
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        Date:   Monday, 03 Oct 1994 13:44 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0768 Q: *TN*
 
(3)     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Oct 94 17:15:42 -0500
        Subj:   Re: *Twelfth Night*
 
(4)     From:   David Evett <R0870@TAONODE>
        Date:   Tuesday, 04 Oct 1994 12:43 ET
        Subj:   TN
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anthony Haigh <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Oct 1994 13:17:35 -400
Subject: 5.0768  Q: *TN*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0768  Q: *TN*
 
Ref: Dan Mufson and Twelfth Night
 
When I was living in the north of England, twenty years ago, I remember seeing
a touring production of Twelfth Night that was set in the British Raj period in
India.  Feste as an "untouchable"  playing the sitar for Orsino etc.  The Duke
and his court were Indian royalty and Olivia and her household were British.
 
The play took on a very exotic feel - which was exciting for the audience.  The
racial and cultural differences between Olivia and Orsino were interesting, but
a touch problematic.  It was a gloss that I felt uncomfortable with because of
its lack of foundation in the text, but one that was certainly illuminating.
Their racial differences gave a very solid reading for Olivia's refusal of
Orsino. However, the racial issue was interestingly undercut by the complex
mechanics of class.  Orsino might be royalty, but Olivia was British!
 
The comic characters had a field day with this setting.  The audience was very
much at home with the picture of inflated egos and bloated self importance that
this setting offered Sir Andrew and Sir Toby. Chasing native girls (Maria) and
making fun of the Indian servant who was trying to be more British than the
British (Malvolio) was shown to be all in a days sport to these anachronistic,
but familiar figures.
 
The class/race issue was, and still is, an important part of the dynamic of
everyday life in England.  If each production of the play is to speak to its
own audience, then this unique interpretation seems appropriate for that time
and place.
 
When I directed the play myself I was drawn to setting the play in the golden
days of the English Edwardian era.  The "Brideshead Revisited" mania was upon
us at the time.  This period offered me as a director an era that was both
foreign, but familiar.  The gentle politics of the weekend houseparty provided
a fertile background for the play.   The character of Feste took on an
interesting twist in this setting.  We played him as belonging to the same
class as Olivia and Orsino, but because of a family scandal and a war wound he
had an air of iron bitterness about him.  He was of the class, but not part of
the group.  He was tolerated for his breeding and his wit.  The quiet pain of
his final song was really very moving.
 
Another interesting reading in this production revolved around the character of
Olivia.  She rejects Orsino's advances because she is in mourning.  In an era
when women were regarded as the property of either a husband or a father the
only time women had any freedom at all was when they were in mourning.  Society
would demand that the patriarcy be restored and her estate put in the hands of
a man. However, while she is in mourning she is free to reject all suitors and
live a life of her own choosing.  Her freedom of action is expressed by her
flirting with a passing boy - a catalyist that ironically begins the chain of
events that will "restore" Olivia to a man and thus bring (patriarcal) order to
the chaos of comedy.
 
Good luck with your production.  I hope these thought have been of some help.
 
Tony Haigh
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Spradley <
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Date:           Monday, 03 Oct 1994 13:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0768 Q: *TN*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0768 Q: *TN*
 
There was an excellent production of 12N at the ART in Cambridge, MA, in 1990
or 1991, I think, directed by Andrei Belgrader if memory serves.  It ran to 3
1/2 hours, necessary to avoid the pitfall into which too many other productions
descend:  tossing off the wordplay as if the jokes are transparent and require
little thought on the audience's part.  Sir Toby has a mean drunk side that I
don't require seeing in another production, and the conception given to
Sebastian's and Antonio's first meeting was also both apt and novel:  they meet
in the Illyrian equivalent of a gay bar, into which Sebastian has naively
stumbled.
 
One thing I hope you avoid is the conventional emendation of the 1st Folio's "O
Frailty is the cause, not we, / For such as we are made, if such we be" to the
2nd Folio's "Our frailty is the cause, not we, / For such as we are made of,
such we be."  I also hope you spend some time solving the "MOAI doth sway my
life" riddle and let the solution guide your production of Malvolio's gulling
scene (a character for whom, by the way, it might be best to excite as little
undeserved sympathy as possible).  Since I never got around to publishing a
note on this before my search for a tenure-track job came to an end, I might as
well offer the solution I arrived at in grad school: M[alvolio]--Oh [or +
Olivia, the way one writes inside a heart] Ay! [/I, i.e. Malvolio asserting his
subjectivity, /eye, the organ through which Sir Toby imagines he should assert
the same,  but then he'd see his detractors behind him].
 
PS: Whoops!  By Antonio's and Sebastian's first meeting, I meant their first
appearance on stage--and I guess Antonio must have taken the unsuspecting
Sebastian to the bar in question.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Oct 94 17:15:42 -0500
Subject:        Re: *Twelfth Night*
 
For Daniel Mufson (what a delightful task you have!)
 
The *Twelfth Night* I've always wanted to see would cast identical twins
(either male or female) in the roles of Viola and Sebastian; that may not be an
option for your production, but I'm waiting patiently (we actually have twin
sisters who are fine actors in the Twin Cities--how apt--who could do it
beautifully, but at the moment they are members of different companies).
 
This second request from my colleague James Norwood in the Theatre Arts
department: PLEASE, PLEASE, when Viola becomes Cesario, let the actor
demonstrate some familiarity with maleness beyond putting on a cap.
 
The best *Twelfth Night* I've ever seen was at the Children's Theatre Company
in Minneapolis probably 15 years ago: the ending conveyed such a powerful sense
of sadness (with Antonio and someone else, Fabian? Sir Andrew? joining Feste on
stage at the end for the final song) that I found myself in tears. Suddenly the
play took on multiple new dimensions for me.
 
Best of luck with the show.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870@TAONODE>
Date:           Tuesday, 04 Oct 1994 12:43 ET
Subject:        TN
 
This year's <Twelfth Night> at Stratford, Ont., had Lucy Peacock as Viola
personfully and passionately trying to find an authentic way through the social
and emotional maze into which the shipwreck had delivered her, and getting her
assertiveness training on the job, as it were.  David William was wonderful as
a Malvolio as arrogant and stupid as a llama, so armored against the world and
the flesh that he wore white gloves to bed.  In the same role, same theater, 10
years back or thereabouts, Nicholas Pennell drew a huge laugh when, coming in
cross-gartered, the things so constricted his yellow legs that when he sat down
they stuck straight out before him. That show had Edward Atienza (for my money
the best interpreter of the great clown roles of our time) as an unusually
melancholy Feste, underscoring the elegiac improbability of the whole thing by
taking "When and I was" alone, sitting down, accompanying himself on the
guitar, in a thin, tired, and deeply moving voice.  No play, it seems to me,
interrogates the relationship between theater and the rest of life in such a
searching if largely unarticulated way.
 
                                                        David Evett
 

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