The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0949. Tuesday, 23 September 1997.
Date: Monday, 22 Sep 1997 17:58:43 -0400
Subject: Re: BBC tapes are nice, how about the others?
While the petition is circulating to release some of the BBC treasures
to videotape, there are some American ones I'd like to free as well: The
American Conservatory Theatre production of Taming of the Shrew,
starring Marc Singer; and the New York Shakespeare Festival production
of Much Ado About Nothing, starring Kathleen Widdoes and Sam Waterston,
directed by A.J. Antoon. Both appeared on PBS stations, and Much Ado was
also shown on CBS.
It's been explained to me that current union contracts prevent release
because of compensation agreements, which were scaled for large
broadcast release. Is there anyone working to redraw these contracts to
include narrowcast release, small sales over longer periods of time? We
have the technology to allow collectors to possess every Hamlet of their
generation, but contracts don't reflect the existence of that market.
Is it possible (I've been told it isn't, but I'm asking again) for
regional theatres to eventually at least partially endow themselves with
a library of their past productions (like MGM, for instance) available
on tape? Is it possible for regionals to share their productions with
the nation or the world, through, say, videotape clubs? (Last week, a
friend in Britain saw a regional Measure for Measure I would eat bricks
to have seen.) Is it possible for a New Yorker or a New Zealander to see
a season at the Guthrie without leaving home? Technically, it now is.
So, why can't we?
Authors get small royalties because they expect their books to bring in
money over years and years. Theatrical productions have many people to
compensate immediately at much higher rates because productions are
considered to have short-term appeal. Also, the initial outlay for
physically taping, re-rehearsing, and restaging the production for
quality release is considered prohibitive.
The electric tension between audience and actors can never be equaled or
even approximated by tape. But a performance, a turn of phrase, the
staging of difficult business, can be enjoyed. Right now, only places
like the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts maintain such
tapes, for scholarly viewing.
Isn't something more possible, if we try?