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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Re: French/English Scenes
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 733. Thursday, 28 September 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Sep 1995 07:41:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: French scenes
 
(2)     From:   Armstrong Eric <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Sep 1995 11:11:35 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0731 Re: *WT* 4.4; *R3*; Teaching Shakespeare
 
(3)     From:   David Jackson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Sep 95 11:20:49 est
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0731  Re: *WT* 4.4; *R3*; Teaching Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Sep 1995 07:41:58 -0400
Subject:        Re: French scenes
 
Oops, Bill!  French scenes are not merely literary: they are delineated by the
entrance or exit of a character, which precipitates a change of action onstage.
 If you think about it for a moment, you will see why this is perforce true.  I
always divide my Shakespeare scripts into French scenes, for several reasons.
It makes scheduling rehearsal blocks easier; doubling is easier to plan; and
it's my first step in designing costumes.  Also, and I think this is what David
meant, it makes the ebb and flow of a scene easier to conceive and handle.
 
Other than that, you're entirely correct about the bare-stage-to-bare-stage
structure of English stagecraft, a fact which I used to explain to Cleomenes
and Dion why their scene was indeed necessary.
 
Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Armstrong Eric <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Sep 1995 11:11:35 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0731 Re: *WT* 4.4; *R3*; Teaching Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0731 Re: *WT* 4.4; *R3*; Teaching Shakespeare
 
In his post on WT, Bill Godshalk said:
 
> It seems to me that English scenes reflect stage practice, while French
> scenes do not. English scenes are theatrical; French scenes, literary.
 
Well, I feel the opposite to be true, and certainly my experience in the
theatre would support that feeling. When a director takes a script apart for
rehearsal, a fairly standard practice is to cut the scenes up into French
scenes, especially any long section of a play, e.g. *WT* 4.4. The important
thing is to break the play into chunks that are manageable in rehearsal, and so
that you don't have people sitting around doing nothing because they're only in
for the last 30 seconds. I would prefer to call my actors only for what they
are needed and hopefully they would end up much happier.
 
This is not to say that all directors do this. For convenience sake many
directors merely use the scenes as they are broken down in whatever edition
they have selected. But when confronted with a long scene, using French-style
scene breakdowns is often the easiest and most effective way of handling
rehearsal.
 
Is it possible that I have misunderstood your meaning of Theatrical and
Literary? If so, my apologies. I always thought (though I never ever checked to
see whether it holds true) that English scenes were more about location and
time rather than who is on stage with whom.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Jackson <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Sep 95 11:20:49 est
Subject: 6.0731  Re: *WT* 4.4; *R3*; Teaching Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0731  Re: *WT* 4.4; *R3*; Teaching Shakespeare
 
Re: WT(French/English scenes)
 
Bill Godshalk's comment that English scenes begin and end with an empty stage
may be technically accurate, but there are instances of numbered scenes in
Shakespeare in which all of the characters on stage have exited before another
character enters. Given that the generally accepted Shakespeare scene breakdown
arguably depends upon the somewhat arbitrary whim of editors/typesetters, its
only real value lies in the facility of reference to particular lines or
moments. From a performance perspective, I have usually found it helpful when
directing a Shakespeare play to break it down into whatever scene system makes
sense to me, after taking into account such factors of time, place, and
practicality. So I end up with, say, an "Antony and Cleopatra" with 42 scenes.
No "Act 1 Scene 5" "Act 2 scene 4" stuff; just "scene 5", "scene 15", "scene
41", etc.. The intermission occurs between, say, scenes 25 and 26. This way,
the actors lose their preconceptions about the play being divided into five
chunks (Acts) with several subchunks (scenes), thus helping them look at the
text from a fresh perspective, plus they can easily be told when to be called
for rehearsal (No "oh, I thought you meant Act THREE scene four, not Act FIVE
scene four" excuses). Plus, since I edit the script with my scene breakdowns
and my editorial choices, I get consistency (No problems with an actor saying
"solid" instead of "sullied", because his edition's different from yours). This
doesn't help alleviate the overall length of WT, but if any scene (by which I
mean for this limited purpose the duration of a dramatic "arc") seems to be
dragging, get the actors to pick up their cues or reappraise their respective
objectives, emotional trajectories, and throughlines, and cut out anything
that's boring, superfluous, or meaningless to the audience.
 

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