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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: November ::
Re: Performance Styles
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0867.  Friday, 3 November 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Suzanne Westfall <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 01 Nov 1995 13:55:12 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0862  Performance Style
 
(2)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 1 Nov 1995 12:18:00 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   performance styles
 
(3)     From:   Scott Crozier <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Nov 1995 08:52:53 +1000
        Subj:   Re: Performance
 
(4)     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Nov 1995 15:29:35 -0500
        Subj:   Performance  Style
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Suzanne Westfall <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Nov 1995 13:55:12 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0862  Performance Style
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0862  Performance Style
 
I'll add my agreement to David Akin's comments about American actors being weak
with text but brawny, British actors being strong on text  (and sometimes
mannered).  And of course Canadians are a wonderful mix of the two traditions
(having trained at the University of Toronto I am, of course, completely
unbiased).
 
But I have spent many years acting and directing in all three countries, and
would venture to say that the notorious American lack of vocal training
severely limits what I can get from American actors when we work with
Shakespearean text.  Many find that playing with pitch, tone, and volume makes
them sound "unnatural" and "mannered," certainly at odds with most American
acting traditions, which rely heavily on Stanislavski-derivitive systems that
promote naturalistic and realistic theatre.  Hence, American actors are more
comfortable doing "realistic" Shakespeare.  Most of them also lack the basic
vocal training that provides a powerful supported voice, capable of reaching
the back of a theatre.  So we tend to relay on other actor tools (like body,
body-mike, and gesture) to get the points across.
 
Brits, on the other hand, spend lots of hours on voice and text analysis,
regardless of what acting school they attend.  So, I often find that their
instincts for the text are keen, but often their approach to text remains
fairly traditional.
 
So, Americans can more easily be on the "cutting edge" of postmodern
interpretation (tho sometimes we go too far in adaptation of text and
mise-en-scene for its own sake).  But Brits will more often give a lucid,
competent hearing.
 
These are, of course, all generalizations; I won't begin to list performances I
have seen on both sides of the Ocean that are exceptions.
 
Regards,
Suzanne Westfall

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 Nov 1995 12:18:00 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        performance styles
 
How interesting that a Canadian should find Americans "innocent," the British
"mysterious," and Canadian actors a perfect mean between the extremes.  Perhaps
he was referring to the riots in Quebec yesterday.
 
Robert Appelbaum
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Crozier <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Nov 1995 08:52:53 +1000
Subject:        Re: Performance
 
Although I do not know about American performances of Shakespeare, I'm not sure
whether the list offered by David Akin achieves much except responses like this
(I suppose that that is what it is about!)
 
I don't know about "BRITISH: Smart, subtle, witty, poetic, cerebral;
mysterious" but their perfromances of Shakepseare (the mainstream companies at
least) are certainly laiden with the baggage of "Shakespeare Inc". Ihave been
recently amazed when I see plays by Shakespeare (deliberately phrased that way)
in English theatre how beautiful they sound but that is it! Recent RSC
productions of MND; MM; H5; TN; Cor; and the National Theatre's MW were
lumbered by their Englishness. Maybe the future of plays by Shakespeare (beyond
Brook) lies further afield; away from the baggage of 400 years of Shakespeare
Inc.
 
Scott Crozier
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Nov 1995 15:29:35 -0500
Subject:        Performance  Style
 
In another incarnation I do research on Canadian television drama. A few years
ago I interviewed R.H.Thomson - one of our best actors in both TV and the
theatre. He spoke about acting onthe same stage or in the same miniseries with
American actors. To paraphrase: - two styles - New York and L.A. . New York -
nervous energy , method preparation, lots of subtext; L.A> lots of good,  clear
bright, primary colours or too often  if a tv star 'all hair and teeth' and 'I
do it this way". About both he said extroverted and individualistic. Of his
style as typically Canadian he pointed to understated,  ensemble work and
subtle character work rather than work  proclaiming 'I am the leading
player/character/star'. He does not see this as half wayt between Britain and
America but as distincitive rising out of the collectives and teh experiments
of the 70s and out of our docudrama tradition.The full interview will be
published in a book I am now proofreading to be published in May. .
 
Mary Jane Miller,
Dept. of Film Studies, Dramatic and Visual Arts,
Brock University,
 

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