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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: September ::
Productions: *Romeo and Juliet*; *All's Well*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0689.  Tuesday, 24 September 1996.

(1)     From:   Kate Thompson <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Sep 96 17:47:57 UT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0676  Re: Just Like R&J

(2)     From:   David Skeele <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Sep 1996 15:28:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0642  Q: *All's Well


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kate Thompson <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Sep 96 17:47:57 UT
Subject: 7.0676  Re: Just Like R&J
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0676  Re: Just Like R&J

Re:  the casting of Romeo and Juliet

Looks like they've done a pretty good job.  Both Danes and DiCaprio are bright
young people.  They've shown on many occasions that they are able to handle
complex characters and difficult language.  I'm quite curious to see how they
handle verse.  (Or will they cut "Gallop apace..." as was done in the
Zeffirelli R&J?)

Any cast including such skilled stage actors as Brian Dennehy and Diane Venora
is likely to have some "good bits" to make it worth the admission price.
Whether it will be a useful educational tool is an entirely different question.

IMO, since it's not another Zeffirelli extravaganza (all looks, no
content...not even the original Shakespeare sometimes), it's worth giving a
chance.  It's not fair to condemn a performer because you haven't seen them do
something before.  Many actors on soap operas have a classical background --
just because they've decided to do work that pays doesn't mean that they should
be looked down upon or thought of as less skilled.

My .02....

Kate Thompson
Toronto

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Sep 1996 15:28:08 -0500
Subject: 7.0642  Q: *All's Well
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0642  Q: *All's Well

> My University is kicking off the season with a production of All's Well
>That Ends Well.  I plan to audition for the part of the Countess of
>Rousillon.  I'm a playwright/actor.  It is my feeling that the plot of this
>play is one of Shakespeare weakest especially in the Diana/Helena switch
>(and they thought they developed the scheming look alike on Dallas.)  It
>seems to, I don't know, contrived.  What are your thoughts?  It also bothers
>me the way the title is said two or three times towards the end of the play.
>Again, any thoughts?  Anyone seem any interesting productions of this play?

I directed *All's Well* a couple of years ago, and found (as is often the case
with "problem" plays) that some of its apparent difficulties turn out to be its
virtues.  One example is the artificiality of much of the play.  I feel that
Shakespeare is consciously, theatrically manipulating and twisting the
traditional fairy-tale formula in order to show its inadequacy as a "mirror of
the times."  The play seems to me to enact a hard collision between fairy-tale
magic and gritty reality, so the contrived, artificial portions are an
important part of the mix.  Incidentally, I chose to see the play as an aging
Shakespeare's cynical attack on the callowness and self-centredness of Jacobean
youth (which probably can translate as "an aging David Skeele's cynical attack
on the callowness and self-centredness of Slippery Rock frat boys").  The
visual style of the production stressed generational battle, with a beautifully
marbled set that had crude graffiti spray-painted onto it, and stainless steel
platforms incongruously grafted on.  The costumes featured a sort of glittery,
elegant version of pre-Raphaelite for the older generation and a sort of
romanticized contemporary soldier/biker for the young'uns (for instance, the
soldiers wore black jeans and Doc Martens.  Shirtless, they wore black satin
vests and camouflage cummerbunds).

At any rate, I found that the problem with the "bed trick" was not that it was
too contrived, but that it might be easy for an audience to miss--it is a vital
plot point, and it merely gets talked about a couple of times before it
happens.  My "solution" was to substitute a dumb-show (replacing about half of
the Dumaine's dialogue about the subject) in which the audience actually gets
to see the event taking place (well, more or less).  Bertram's soldier buddies
escort him Diana's door, hooting and hollering their encouragement and blasting
loud electric guitar.  Diana appears, makes him don a blindfold (to the
derision of his buddies), and escorts him inside.  While the soldiers cavort,
Diana is seen to slip away. Bertram reemerges, with "Diana's" panties in hand.
After much male celebration, the guys all leave, and Helena, apparently naked
under a blanket, emerges.  Diana reenters, and Helena proudly brandishes the
ring as the music ends.  This made the plot point crystal-clear, and went a
long way toward establishing my point about the aggression and crudity of the
crowd from whom Bertram is eventually saved.

The single biggest problem I had (considering the inexperience of most of my
actors) was the sort of gnomic sing-song of much of the verse--particularly in
the King/Helena scenes.  It took a long time for the two actors to bring
urgency and meaning to lines that initially sound like the recitation of
nursery-rhymes.

Well, a long-winded response to a simple question.  The Countess is a fairly
delicious role, and I wish you a lot of luck in getting it, Cindy.

                                                Best Wishes,
                                                David Skeele
                                                Slippery Rock University
 

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