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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Malvolio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0996.  Thursday, 2 October 1997.

[1]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 01 Oct 97 19:16:00 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Malvolio

[2]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 01 Oct 97 19:16:00 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Malvolio

[3]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 01 Oct 97 19:16:00 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Malvolio

[4]     From:   Simon Morgan-Russell <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Oct 1997 07:23:01 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Malvolio


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Oct 97 19:16:00 -0400
Subject:        Re: Malvolio

> Has anybody seen any productions where Malvolio's imprisonment was *in
> no way* tragic, and if so, how was it pulled off?

 LCS> If it is otherwise allowable in the character, Malvolio could be
shown
 LCS> to be aware that he is expected to suffer and present that "face"
to
 LCS> his tormentors, while to us he shows his awareness of what they
are
 LCS> trying to do.  This may have the potential for the comic, but I do
not
 LCS> know what that would do to the larger argument of the play.

The problem with this is he would seem to be putting one over on his
tormentors.  It would seem to me to change the whole thing.  Malvolio
is, after all, the one who wants "no more cakes and ale,"  and he
shouldn't be allowed to get away with that.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Oct 97 19:16:00 -0400
Subject:        Re: Malvolio

DL> As I've mentioned before, our Feste lampooned the televangelist
Ernest
DL> Ainsley in that scene, making it extremely raucous.

That worked, eh?  Good.  A couple of years ago, I saw a production in
Central Park that was *totally* silly.  During the party scene, Feste
entered with 3 helium balloons, and he, Toby and Andrew began to *suck
the helium out of the balloons*, and say the dialogue with
helium-induced voices, which was *horribly* funny.  They also fought
with *fish* instead of swords.  And even *they* made you feel sorry for
Malvolio.

 DL> And we laughed
 DL> Malovolio off the stage after Olivia's "out of question" line.  We
 DL> allowed him not a shred of dignity, pesky Puritan.

Yes, he shouldn't have *any* should he?  I mean, he's standing there in
yellow stockings...

Fabian and I started to laugh at that point, but I thought it detracted
from Malvolio's surprise when Feste started with "Some are born
great..."

I was originally going to have Malovolio *chase* Feste and Fabian off
the stage after "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you!" (there is
no stage direction at all in the Folio here), but it was too difficult
to choreograph, so I let it go.

I was also thinking of getting rid of the character of Fabian and having
Feste take his lines (with some editing, particularly in Act V, of
course), but as I was both directing and playing Feste, I thought it
would look really egotistical to beef up my own part like that.  I would
still like to try doing that, though.  Fabian appears out of nowhere and
doesn't seem to quite fit.

I played Feste as a vaudeville comic - checkered pants way too large and
held up by suspenders (Maria: "If one breaks the other will hold or if
both break, your gaskins fall.") and a derby hat, carrying a guitar.
The only extra lines I gave him were Curio's in I.i, where he played for
Orsino as well as exchanging dialogue with him (we had no Curio).

Where is your theatre company located?

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Oct 97 19:16:00 -0400
Subject:        Re: Malvolio

 > Has anybody seen any productions where Malvolio's imprisonment was
*in
 > no way* tragic, and if so, how was it pulled off?

 IM> No, but why were you trying to?

Good question.  Because I'm shallow and have no soul, of course.
Actually, because I get the impression that it was the original
intention - that by the lights of the Elizabethan Theatre, Malvolio was
intended as the butt, and it was impossible to be too cruel to him.
But, also because the first time I read the play, I didn't get any
tragic impression at all.  It wasn't until *I was told* that Malvolio
was somewhat tragic that I saw him that way.

 IM> I think that the cruel way that
 IM> Malvolio is treated is an essential part of the play.  The presence
of
 IM> suffering in  the midst of frivolity is a typical characteristic of
 IM> Shakespearean comedy,

True, but this one seems to be a little different.  In *Much Ado* or *As
You Like It*, there is no danger that the tragic elements will overwhelm
the play.  In *Merchant*, there is no *choice* but to have the tragic
elements overwhelm the play, so you might as well go for it all way.
But in 12th Night, it seems as though the tragedy *should not* overwhelm
the comedy, but there is a real chance that it will.  And I really don't
think that it should.   It's funny play, and in my opinion, it's just a
raucous scream, and it should be played that way.

 IM> After all, the rain it raineth every
 IM> day.

As an actor, I found it tough to balance the two sides of Feste, also.

 IM> Mind you, I liked the bit about the picnic table.

Oh, that worked!  It was fun.  The actor who played Malvolio was
*superb* (his name is David Skigen, just in case he becomes famous
someday).  *All* of the actors were terrific, helping to make up for the
glaring shortcomings of their director (I mean me, of course - my wife
was great).

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Morgan-Russell <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Oct 1997 07:23:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Malvolio

One of my students asked me recently if we have any idea which actor
might have performed Malvolio originally.  Anyone know, or, at least,
know if we know?

Simon.
 

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