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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: September ::
Re: Bianca
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0742. Monday, 19 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Tom Loughlin <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 00:41:05 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(2)     From:   Bernice W. Kliman <KLIMANB@SNYFARVA.BITNET>
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Sep 1994 22:28 EDT
        Subj:   Bianca and Zefirelli
 
(3)     From:   Ronald Dwelle <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 94 08:56:38 EST
        Subj:   Bianca as Bitch
 
(4)     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 94 16:09:00 BST
        Subj:   SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(5)     From:   Daniel M Larner <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 14:24:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Loughlin <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 00:41:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
> Yes, of course, Shakespeare above all wrote PLAYS for ACTORS to perform.  But
> he WROTE them, and the actor and director who would interpret them must know
> how to READ the action and relations Shakespeare encoded in his text.  It is
> ABSOLUTELY WRONG, if anything in this sublunary world is wrong, to say that
> Bianca or any other character -- in Shakespeare, in Strindberg, in August
> Wilson's plays, in ANY play -- can be whatever an actor or a director wants.
> If they wish to invent their own plots and characters and motivations, by all
> means, they are welcome to do so, but let them bill themselves as playwrights
> performing their own works, not as interpreters of other's imaginative
> creations.
>
> Jim Schaefer
> 
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I may be a bit too tired to be doing this right at the moment, but I get the
feeling from the above that my artistic freedom is being squashed and that I
should respond.  Language is such a tricky and imprecise tool for understanding
that I hope the day will come when we find another tool to make ourselves
better understood amongst each other.
 
As a practitioner of the art of theatre for better than 20 years of my adult
life, I will defend to the death that I CAN, in fact, make any character what I
want that character to be.  I have the freedom to do this; I make the choices,
I execute the action on stage.  If you can't understand this concept, then the
true nature of theatre from the point of view of the practitioner is lost upon
you.
 
HOWEVER, I will also defend to the death YOUR right, as an audience member, to
disagree completely, vociferously, and heatedly, with my choices.  They don't
work for you, you think they violate the text, you think the character
shouldn't be interpreted that way, etc. etc.  OK.  But the hell of playwriting
- and it is indeed a hell - is that it requires, nay, demands that actors be
the vehicles through which the play is interpreted and its meaning is conveyed.
 If a writer has trouble with this concept, then they shouldn't write plays;
they should write novels or screenplays, where the action is far more under
their control in terms of interpretation.  Shakespeare indeed WROTE his plays,
but he WROTE THEM TO BE ACTED BY ACTORS in the theatre, and we just can't
separate the words in that phrase, because then only a partial reality of the
theatre is being discussed.  This idea implies a whole lot more than simply
that he "wrote" them.  Rather than suggesting to me that I should write
different plays if you disagree with my artistic choices, I would respectfully
suggest back that, if you want Shakespeare done "absolutely right," then you
become the actor/director/producer and mount your interpretations of the works
in the open artistic market as you see fit.  It's a large sublunary world.
 
Lest I be thought to be some kind of raving interpretive maniac,  let me point
out that I am a strong believer in the strength of the text as the primary
source of an actor's inspiration in playing WS.  But again, language is a
tricky thing, even language as wonderful and rich as Shakespeare's, and I
simply cannot close the artistic door to new possibilities by stating so boldly
the "absolute" of anything in the theatre.  My choices are mine, and I'll take
responsibility for them, but I am loathe to let anyone tell me I can't make
those choices.
 
   And while I'm at it:
 
 (stuff deleted)
 
> After pausing for a moment, the actress replied something to the effect, "I
> really don't know.  It is not my job to decided WHO she is.  My task is simply
> to play the scene.  I leave who she is to the audience to decide."  Words to
> live (and act) by.
 
This answer is clever, but disingenuous and misleading (despite the fact that a
member of the RSC said it).  Anyone who knows anything about the craft will
tell you that actors are always making decisions about who the characters they
play are.  You simply can't get on the stage unless you've done that.  There is
no such thing as "simply playing the scene" (what the hell does that mean,
anyway?).  There's no such thing as intellectually disengaged, neutral acting.
We're not robots; we're people, human beings who are constantly making choices,
regardless of whether those choices are conscious or unconscious.  An actor's
choices reveal who they think the character is (unless they're complete hacks).
It's a good way to get out of fighting with the audience, however.  ;-)
 
OK - I'll go to bed now.  Sorry to be so long.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bernice W. Kliman <KLIMANB@SNYFARVA.BITNET>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Sep 1994 22:28 EDT
Subject:        Bianca and Zefirelli
 
How do BG and LZ KNOW that what they read in a text is exactly what is there?
Words on a page are not much without what we bring to them: it's a corollary of
the actor's work with a text. I know from my work on *Hamlet* how frequently
scholars writing after Olivier show that they were influenced by the film: they
READ in the text what the performance persuaded them to believe. As for LZ's
claim that she discovered the meaning of Bianca BEFORE seeing any production,
can she claim that she came to it without any preconceptions about woman's role
as ...whatever?
 
I agree with John Drakakis and think that a production that would show Bianca
as taking the role of underminer and subverter could be a pleasnt antidote to
the poison of Kate's actual or ironic acceptance of her place at her husband's
fool.
 
I'd like to say a good word about Zefirelli's film. which does a fine job
throughout, it seems to me.  Bianca is not a goody-goody.  She is quite capable
of a spiteful look at Kate (from the safety of her father's arms); then she
amusingly is chagrined to think that she has been caught with that look on her
face by Lucentio. Kate "abdication" to Petruchio Zefirelli explains well: it's
the children. Kate and Pet. have not yet become reconciled at the wedding
banquet.  He's in quite a pet, in fact.  Then she looks at the children and her
face softens. Well, there's no help for it; if a woman wants a child she has to
go to bed with a man, and so she soothes him and takes him off to bed. I am
making this sound unsubtle, but Z doesn't.
 
Where does the desire for children come from?  Not from the text.  Nevertheless
Z uses that sub-subtextual desire to come to a satisfying conclusion.
 
Thanks to all who responded,
 
Cheers to all,
Bernice
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ronald Dwelle <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 94 08:56:38 EST
Subject:        Bianca as Bitch
 
It seems a little off to call Bianca a shrew. The animalistic term "shrew"
implies a certain physicalness--perhaps even viciousness--which seems suitable
for Kate but not for Bianca. Bianca's "shrewishness" is much more cunning and
cerebral. The contemporary term "bitch" seems much more appropriate for Bianca
by the end of the play (though I can imagine an actress playing her somewhat
more favorably nowadays).
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 94 16:09:00 BST
Subject: Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
Bianca doesn't HAVE a "personality"
 
John Drakakis
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel M Larner <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 14:24:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
Of course, the text is important, and of course we need to work hard, as we
analyze, to be sensitive to what happens to the text in the playing.  Mr.
Pearson's Shakespearean actress who says it's not her job to know "who the
character is" is being disingenuous.  Of course it's her job.  But it's far
more important for her, as an actor, to be able to embody her understanding in
her performance than to articulate it afterward in response to a question.  We
shouldn't forget that both readers ("playing" the scene in our heads) and
actors do discover characters in the process of playing, and that process of
discovery is dynamic, and may not aways come out the same way in every
"performance."  In fact, the bedrock of the existence of any dramatic character
is the tissue of the play's action, as it happens.  Analysis breaks down or
dries up when it's not obvious that it arises from the living movement of the
play. Questions like Bianca's proposed "shrewishness" need to be referred to
the action of the whole to find out what their meaning might be.  Those
comments have been most interesting and useful which suggest to us what effect
her behavior has on our understanding not just of her, or of Kate, but of the
whole experience of the play, and what it might make us think and feel.
 
Daniel Larner
Fairhaven College
Western Washingon University

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