1998

Southern *Twelfth Night*

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0191  Thursday, 5 March 1998.

From:           Harry Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 10:32:06 +0000 (HELP)
Subject: 9.0187 Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0187 Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Things)

THERE'S NOTHING EITHER GOOD OR ILL: Southern *Twelfth Night* in Canada

THEATRE CENSORS PRESS, blasted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
last week in response to the Artistic Director of Montreal's Centaur
Theatre who banned a local newspaper from the lobby and its theatre
critic from future complimentary opening night tickets because of his
review of *Twelfth Night*.

The review, titled *Dixie Blues: What are the people at the Centaur
(not) thinking?*, said in part, " An hour in, I fled the theatre because
I thought I might scream...As soon as you enter you're confronted by a
Confederate flag (an emblem that in terms of the he visceral effect it
has on me is only slightly less than that of a swastika)...Consider
these moments: In one scene a woman of colour [Maria] is mauled by two
white men. In another a black man [Feste] is given a coin and asked to
dance and sing a song. He sings to the tune of "Dixie", the anthem of
the Southern warriors as they fought the North in the bloodiest war
America would ever endure...What I was seeing was artistic director
Gordon McCall's monumental trivialization of history.  Why did he do it?
Well, because, it seems, the Southern dialect is similar to the way
Shakespeare actually talked. Have you ever heard of a smaller raison
d'etre for an entire production's look and period?....I kept
choking....So what happened here? ...Is it that everyone in this
production forgot that to put a play into an historical period that
still resonates loudly pastes dark meanings on the material?" Gaetan
Charlebois.

The director wrote in part, "[Gaetan Charlebois] so projected his views
of the U.S. Civil War, and his associations with the War, onto the
production that he completely abandoned any semblance of objectivity in
his opinions... His rant and purposeful attempt to harm the reputations
of those involved with the production was the furthest thing form
ethical journalism we have witnessed in years...Anyone is entitled to
disagree with what they see on stage but to misrepresent facts to the
reader and declare that there was something racist about this
presentation, which clearly portrays characters in historical context
and which refused to bow to the reverse racism that revises history for
current political agendas...is the height of megalomania.  ...No paper
or person assigned the task of reviewing art in this community has the
right to malign the intentions, goodwill or character of a company of
artists nor to misrepresent the work clearly before them." Gordon
McCall.

I just thought I'd pass this on, as Shakespeare has passed on but these
actors, critic and director haven't yet.

        Harry Hill

Re: Racism, Sexism, etc.

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0190  Thursday, 5 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Chris J. Fassler <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 15:46:27 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Portia's Racism?

[2]     From:   Chantal Schutz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 10:45:30 -0500
        Subj:   Shylock and Kate

[3]     From:   Kristine Batey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 14:10:49 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0175  Re: Postings Related to MV

[4]     From:   Mary Christina McLaren <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 12:50:28 -0400 (AST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Sexism in Shrew

[5]     From:   David Skeele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 14:18:43 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc.

[6]     From:   Chris J. Fassler <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 13:55:13 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: Is Shakespeare sexist?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris J. Fassler <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 15:46:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Portia's Racism?

Colleagues,

I teach in South Carolina, where they're still trying to decide whether
to repeal the anti-miscegenation clause from the state constitution and
where it is not difficult to get students (black and white) to
articulate their deep-seated hostility to interracial marriage.  These
same students (most of them) deny that these are racist attitudes.

Jesus Cora asks us to consider whether Portia's remarks about Morocco
express her will to independence of choice rather than as expressions of
bigotry.  Bill Godshalk's questions articulate skepticism about whether
preferences (bigotries?) based on skin color indicate racism when they
are not joined with preferences based on religion, culture, and other
factors.  Larry Weiss points out that our view of racism depends in part
on what we find "perfectly natural" in discriminating inferior from
superior.

Here's my response:  Portia's appeal to a racist attitude is a
"perfectly natural" way for her to express delight at getting her own
way and avoiding an unwanted match.  Furthermore, even if racism in
people were usually (psycho)logically consistent and equal opportunity,
Portia is not a *person* whose apparent acceptance of Jessica need be
squared with her racist rejection of Morocco.  (Saved Hawkes some work
there.  Make payment in US dollars, Terry.)

Here are some questions of my own:  Does the play's success depend on
its audience's acceptance of Portia's choices.  To what extent does that
success rely on our concurence with or at least toleration of the
rationale articulated for those preferences?

(If you think this post was disjointed and ill-tempered, you should read
the comments I'm writing on my students' papers this week.)

Cordially (because something here ought to be cordial),
--Chris Fassler

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chantal Schutz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 10:45:30 -0500
Subject:        Shylock and Kate

David Skeele wrote about Kate :

> Is there any textual evidence that she is pretending?  I know that this
> is a choice made in many modern productions (i.e., having her wink
> knowingly at the audience during her last speech), but it always seems
> to me to be a colossal cop-out.  Or are you simply saying that it is a
> conceivable option?  Of course, by the same token, one could argue that
> Shylock could simply pretend to be a happy Christian while practicing
> his religion in secret-not much of a life.

It may not seem much of a life to you, but that is how thousands of Jews
lived during the dark years of the Spanish Inquisition. They were called
Marranos, and many died for continuing to be Jewish while pretending to
be Christian, including Queen Elizabeth I's Portuguese doctor Lopez, who
was accused of attempting to poison her, burned at the stake and who was
laughed at when he claimed that he loved the queen as much as Jesus.
Which makes me think that Shakespeare probably expected audience members
to think that Shylock, who does not give in so easily, and Kate, who
does not either, may well choose to pretend rather than completely lose
their identity, however negatively it comes over in the first part of
the play.

(But then, of course, one could believe the same of many characters who
make unexpected amends, like Oliver in As You Like It...)

All the best
Chantal

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristine Batey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 14:10:49 -0600
Subject: 9.0175  Re: Postings Related to MV
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0175  Re: Postings Related to MV

>Jesus Cora writes:

>>I'm currently discussing _MoV_ with my fourth-year students and we have
>>focused on Portia's words on the Prince of Morocco: "if he have the
>>condition of a saint, and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he
>>should shrive me than wive me." (1. 2. 123-4). Some students interpret
>this remark as downright racist.

Yes, of course, by the standards of the 1990s-and let's hear it for
those standards! Forty years ago, this discussion wouldn't have come up.
There would have been no question that a dark complexion was
undesirable. During my childhood, polite people, people who would not
have characterized themselves as prejudiced-who would not have been
characterized by society as large as prejudiced-held that to call
attention to the unfortunate fact of African ancestry was rather like
pointing out an unsightly birthmark. My brother and his friend used to
insult each other with "black skin" jokes.  (This is the Chicago suburbs
in the 1950s we're talking about here.) I don't think most people in my
parents' generation-let alone Shakespeare's-would have had questioned
the premise that dark skin was ugly. "Negroid" features were inherently
undesirable-in the early 60's Mick Jagger's lips were considered
shocking and repulsive by our parents because they looked, shall we say,
"Negro" (not the term I heard used); women used foundation makeup to
make their lips look thinner. It took the "Black Is Beautiful" movement
in the late 1960's, with the intentional rejection of European standards
of beauty, to change and enlarge the popular standards of beauty.

Was this attitude continuous from Shakespeare's time? Going back a
hundred years, we have Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Wild Swans,"
where the heroine is rejected by her father after her wicked stepmother
stains her skin with walnut juice. Eighteenth century stories often
featured burlesque "nubian" figures. And the Grimm tales frequently
involve maidens proven to be ugly-and therefore, in some cases,
murdered-because their true skin color is black.

Yes, this attitude would be racist now. Yes, this attitude was racist
back then-even if nobody thought about it that way, even if everybody
felt that way. And yes, Portia's remark indicates an offhand, entrenched
racism that would have been entirely unremarkable at that time, and even
within my own lifetime. Maybe we're getting somewhere.

Kristine Batey

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Christina McLaren <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 12:50:28 -0400 (AST)
Subject: 9.0187  Re: Sexism in Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Sexism in Shrew

On Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998, J. Kenneth Campbell wrote:

"Examine the text. If during the "subjugation" speech Kate suits the
action to the word and sits Petruchio down on a "joint stool"...  Kate,
it seems to me, negates the entire speech by lifting up on that foot,
sending Petruchio tail over teacups to the floor."

Forgive me, but I _have_ `examined the text', and I see nothing of the
sort implied in any stage direction.  Although I do not like the term
`sexist' being applied to Shakespeare either (especially since I
consider it to be more of a 20th C. construct, than an Elizabethan one),
I refuse to make such speculations about what Shakespeare `really'
intended us to see.  Why would he not be more specific in his
directions, if this is what he meant?

What I do see in the text, is a speech that can be read as disturbingly
misogynistic.  Arguments can be and have been made, that Kate is being
ironic, or even sharing a tongue-in-cheek joke with Petruchio, to defend
Shakespeare's intentions-but at least they tend to be based on real
textual evidence, and not non-existent stage direction. Even if Kate is
being serious here, and Shakespeare is actually `sexist', does this
change the fact that _Taming of the Shrew_ is a great piece of drama?

Mary McLaren
Dalhousie University

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 14:18:43 -0500
Subject: 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc.

>I see the play as a progression from honesty into deceit, where
>Katherine finally learns how to survive in (and enjoy, see 4.5.37-49)
>this world so full of lying.

>How can anyone call The Taming of the Shrew a sexist play.
>Examine the text.
>If during the "subjugation" speech Kate suits the action to the word and
>sits Petruchio down on a "joint stool", by the time she arrives at the lines.
>Then vail your stomachs for it is no boot.
>And place your hands below your husband's foot
>In token of which duty, if he please
>My hand is ready: may it do him ease.
>       Kate, it seems to me, negates the entire speech by lifting up on that
>foot, sending Petruchio tail over teacups to the floor.  Petruchio responds
with. Why, there's a wench come on and kiss me Kate.
>The only other time in the text Petruchio refers to Kate as a wench is
>right after she's brained Hortensio with a lute.
>From that common ground they can both ascend to their marital bed. Wiser
>and richer then any they leave behind at the wedding banquet.

I'm not convinced by any of the above examples.  The first speech (4.5
37-49) expressing her "happiness" occurs as she embraces Vincentio upon
the command of Petruchio.  She has spent almost the entire scene
enthusiastically confirming everything she thinks Petruchio wants to
hear; if we accept that her enthusiasm in these lines is an accurate
reflection of her true happiness then we must also accept that Vicentio
is in fact a young maid and that the sun and moon rapidly changed places
several lines earlier.  As for the second example, I hardly think that
your imagined stage direction constitutes very strong evidence that
everything comes up roses for Kate (even after "examining the text").  I
have seen the play performed just as you envision it, and it seemed
utterly false, apologetic and tacked-on.  What is there in Petruchio's
previous behavior to suggest that, after such an affront as toppling him
over in front of his friends, there wouldn't be fresh tortures-more food
and sleep deprivation, perhaps?--awaiting Kate at home?

Of course, we are talking about directorial choices, and I would be the
last person to want to restrict them.  It just strikes me that so many
people begin their consideration of TAMING by assuming that Shakespeare
couldn't possibly have created a play in which a woman is REALLY treated
so badly, so they come up with extravagant rationales for defending
Petruchio's actions that simply do not seem supported by the text.  The
most powerful production I have ever seen assumed that Kate, after
having suffered the horrific treatment that is now recognized as the
modus operandi of cults and other brainwashers, literally means every
word of her final speech (though such belief, in this actress'
interpretation, clearly came at great psychic cost).  It was a startling
and chilling interpretation, but the resonance of that final speech,
taken at face value, has never left me.

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris J. Fassler <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 13:55:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        RE: Is Shakespeare sexist?

I return from a few days away to discover that my name and e-mail
address has inadvertently been attached to comments written by Curtis
Perry.  While I certainly don't dispute anything written by him, I take
neither credit nor responsibility for his post re "Is Shakespeare
sexist?"

My own comment appeared at the end of that digest, and I thank Helen
Ostovich for clarifying her reason for the post.

--Chris

SHAKSPER Over the Next Few Weeks

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0188  Wednesday, 5 March 1998.

From:           Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Date:           Thursday, March 5, 1998
Subject:        SHAKSPER Over the Next Few Weeks

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

Because of an extremely heavy workload, computer problems (four at
once), and my need to prepare for upcoming SAA meeting, SHAKSPER
mailings will most likely be arriving irregularly over the next few
weeks. This means that my attempting to resolve several issues regarding
some past postings will also have to be postponed until the last week in
March.

Re: Casting

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0189  Thursday, 5 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Richard Nathan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 16:10:02 +0000
        Subj:   Re: Gender Blind Casting

[2]     From:   Mary Ellen Zurko <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 12:05:06 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0187 Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Things)

[3]     From:   Matthew Gretzinger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 17:10:29 -0500
        Subj:   P. S. Othello

[4]     From:   Kristine Batey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 14:24:00 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Racism/Casting

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 17:13:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Things)

[6]     From:   Karen Elizabeth Berrigan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Mar 1998 12:04:18 -0400 (AST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Things)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Nathan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 16:10:02 +0000
Subject:        Re: Gender Blind Casting

One of the worst things I have ever seen was a production of "HENRY IV"
- (Parts I & II combined and abridged), in which Falstaff was played by
a woman AS A WOMAN.

The woman in question was Gwenda Deacon, who played the mother of the
murder victim in the film "L.A. CONFIDENTIAL."  She was good in that
film, but in "HENRY IV" she  was dreadful.  Although the play was set in
some future post-apocalyptic time, when gender stereotypes had broken
down, it still didn't make sense for one of Hal's father figures to be a
woman.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Ellen Zurko <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 12:05:06 -0500
Subject: 9.0187 Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0187 Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Things)

>I think a more interesting question would be whether it is racist to
>cast Shakespeare's plays to type, or is it necessary to treat minority
>actors as equally eligible to play white characters.

I saw the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the first time last year.  I
went on purpose to see Timon of Athens. OSF seems to have a strong
tradition of untraditional casting. Apemantus was a black woman in this
production. Is Apemantus a "white character"? In this production, it
absolutely did not seem to matter what Apemantus' color or gender was
(perhaps the cross casting would have been more dissonent in a
production placed in a more specific time and place).

        Mez

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Gretzinger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 17:10:29 -0500
Subject:        P. S. Othello

In response to Larry Weiss' posting of March 2:

I personally would love to see an Ossie Davis Death of a Salesman, with
Matt Damon as Biff.

To say that the Patrick Stewart Othello raises "interesting issues" is
surely the truth.  To say that it puts "things in a different light" is
to damn it with faint praise.  But to say that "it is not Othello any
more than the Boys From Syracuse is the Comedy of Errors," is
ridiculous.  Weiss seems to be implying that the casting of a white man
in a traditionally black role renders that production irrelevant.

The example of a Davis/Damon DOS illustrates not only Mr. Weiss' point,
but also his viewpoint.  For him this casting would "detract" from what
Miller gave us.  For me it wouldn't.  It all depends on what you see
when you look at that stage.  Do you see a father with a son?  A black
father with a white son? Or a black actor in a white role?

Mr. Weiss suggests that such a production would "add dimensions to the
play that Miller did not put there," and that in the case of the Stewart
Othello,  "converting a white character to black, or vice versa, might
make a social point, but it alters the drama."  He calls the result
"less a Shakespearean play than an exercise."

I disagree.  Actors and directors interpret text, and give it
dimension.  To the mixture of the words they add the ingredient of
themselves.  This is what they do, and it is what the authors expect
them to do.  No dramatic text is complete until it is interpreted and
performed, and there is no such thing as a dimension that the author
"did not put there."

One production of Othello is not any other production of Othello any
more than my reading of Othello is your reading of Othello.  Othello is
a text.  It is there, like the mountain, and we are all free to climb
it, to find our own version of the "heart" Mr. Weiss refers to.
Differences of this kind can be revealing, illuminating, and are, in my
experience, never limiting.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristine Batey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 14:24:00 -0600
Subject:        Re: Racism/Casting

>I think the following modern instance can illustrate my point:  It is
>possible to play Death of a Salesman with a black cast.  There is not
>much about that play that defines it as a *white* middle-class tragedy.
>I would love to see Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee play Willie Loman et ux.
>But if they did, Matt Damon could not be Biff.  Or, contrariwise, if
>Dustin Hoffman and Jean Stapleton were Willie and his wife, Denzel
>Washington could not play Biff.

The Goodman Theater in Chicago has practiced "color-blind" casting for
many years, and quite effectively. It was halfway through a performance
of "Enemy of the People" several years ago that I noticed, just
incidentally, that the lead character, Dr. Stockman, was black and his
daughter was pale and blonde. This might be harder to do on film, which
is so literal; but on stage, it works quite nicely. The play takes over.

Kristine Batey

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 03 Mar 1998 17:13:39 -0500
Subject: 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Things)

Shaula Evans wrote:

>  My personal opinion is that, so long as
> unconventional casting choices do not detract from the play; i.e.,
> they
> are not "gimicky," and neither add nor subtract from the original
> play-they are worth consideration.

I quite agree, but this begs my question, it doesn't answer it.  When
does an unconventional casting choice become "gimmicky"?  When does such
a choice "add ... or subtract from the original play"?  Or, more
precisely, at what point are we prepared in this most politically
correct of eras to acknowledge that it does?  (And what does Ms. Evans
mean by "worth consideration.")

For example, would it be "gimmicky" to cast a willowy woman as
Falstaff?  What about a rotund black woman?  Ok, what about a rotund
black man?  If you rejected the second choice but not the third, have
you admitted sexism in order to deny racism?

As for Ms. Evans' observation that WS himself cast against type (because
he had no choice), again I agree.  Shakespeare in fact adjusted his text
(and composed it in the first instance) to accommodate the limitations
of his acting pool.  But this, too, makes the point for me:
Shakespeare's "female" actors did not perform in beards and codpieces
(except perhaps in the transvestite portions of the comedic roles).
Presumably, they dressed, made up, spoke and moved as women. They may
have been as believable as latter-day female impersonators.   Wouldn't
RuPaul make a totally credible Iris or Charmian?  So, too, when women
have played men's roles.  I believe that Sarah Bernhardt's Hamlet was in
character-short hair, doublet & hose, etc.

All of this is a different species of thing from the in-your-face
idiosyncratic casting we see these days.  A few years ago, Papp produced
a Cymbeline in which a salt and pepper team played Guiderius and
Arviragus (and neither could have been hired for his acting talents) --
Brothers!  What does this tell us of the virtue of Cymbeline's queen.
More recently, of course, Papp's successors have treated us to a spate
of African kings of England, all perfectly good actors (and probably
quite pricey), but none particularly adept at classical acting, or even
legitimate theatre.  Was this casting the "best available" or was the
producer using Shakespeare to make some sort a vague cultural or
political point?

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Elizabeth Berrigan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 4 Mar 1998 12:04:18 -0400 (AST)
Subject: 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0187  Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other
Things)

Although it has been argued that Denzel Washington as Biff would add a
confusing element to a white cast of _Death of a Salesman_, I found that
casting Mr. Washington as the Prince in Branagh's _Much Ado About
Nothing_ was not confusing at all.  His brother was played by a white
actor and yet these issues were not raised because they were irrelevent.
In fact, I thought Denzel Washington, in contrast to the monotone Keanu
Reeves and the unintelligible Michael Keaton, was the most convincing of
the American actors.

Re: Racism, Sexism, etc. (Was a Lot of Other Things)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0187  Tuesday, 3 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Drew Whitehead <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 10:08:07 +1000 (GMT+1000)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0175  Re: Postings Related to MV

[2]     From:   J. Kenneth Campbell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 02 Mar 1998 19:57:54 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0168  Re: Is Shakespeare sexist?

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 02 Mar 1998 19:37:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Sexism, racism, etc

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 02 Mar 1998 19:03:13 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0183  Re: MV and Shr.

[5]     From:   Shaula Evans <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 2 Mar 1998 20:16:22 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Racism/Casting (was:  Is Portia Racist?)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Drew Whitehead <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 3 Mar 1998 10:08:07 +1000 (GMT+1000)
Subject: 9.0175  Re: Postings Related to MV
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0175  Re: Postings Related to MV

> On the subject of Kate, David Skeele wrote:
> Is there any textual evidence that she is pretending?  I know that this
> is a choice made in many modern productions (i.e., having her wink
> knowingly at the audience during her last speech), but it always seems
> to me to be a colossal cop-out.  Or are you simply saying that it is a
> conceivable option?

In recent thoughts about The Shrew I have come to consider that the play
almost deserves an alternate title as in Twelfth Night.  I have begun to
think of it as The Corruption of Katherina.  It seems to me that in this
play, with the possible exception of the two (real) fathers, everybody
in this play practices deceit.  Katherine alone stands out as a
character who is true and honest to both herself and others, and this is
something that the other characters cannot adjust to, even her father!
I see the play as a progression from honesty into deceit, where
Katherine finally learns how to survive in (and enjoy, see 4.5.37-49)
this world so full of lying.

Drew Whitehead

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           J. Kenneth Campbell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 02 Mar 1998 19:57:54 -0800
Subject: 9.0168  Re: Is Shakespeare sexist?
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0168  Re: Is Shakespeare sexist?

I also attended but did not graduate from the U of A.  The Wildcat
certainly knows little of the wild Kate. The Sun Devils of Tempe would
also do well to take another look at this comedy.

How can anyone call The Taming of the Shrew a sexist play.  Shakespeare
would never have gotten away with it in London during Elizabeth's reign.

The ending of the play is a triumph of Kate's dignity and a crafty way
of winning a huge amount of money as well as balance the power in her
marital relationship.

Examine the text.

If during the "subjugation" speech Kate suits the action to the word and
sits Petruchio down on a "joint stool", by the time she arrives at the
lines.

Then vail your stomachs for it is no boot.
And place your hands below your husband's foot
In token of which duty, if he please
My hand is ready: may it do him ease.
Kate, it seems to me, negates the entire speech by lifting up on that
foot, sending Petruchio tail over teacups to the floor.
Petruchio responds with
Why, there's a wench come on and kiss me Kate.

The only other time in the text Petruchio refers to Kate as a wench is
right after she's brained Hortensio with a lute.

From that common ground they can both ascend to their marital bed. Wiser
and richer then any they leave behind at the wedding banquet.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 02 Mar 1998 19:37:12 -0500
Subject:        Re: Sexism, racism, etc

Stevie Simkin wrote:

>  the whole point of reassessing a
> DWEM-dominated canon is to interrogate the criteria by which said canon
> is constructed, and what qualifies a work (or author) for inclusion or
> exclusion.  Saying [as I did] "We celebrate Shakespeare and his works
> because of
> their brilliance" merely reinforces the need to re-examine those
> criteria: one would hope there is something more to them than we might
> be led to fear, given the vague terms in which Larry Weiss's argument
> has been framed.

Shakespeare's works have undergone continual re-examination (more
intently than anyone else's) since at least Nicholas Rowe, and they have
stood up pretty well.  I feel no need to define "brilliance."   Can
Simkin suggest a more precise term to describe a body of work which has
resonated throughout the world for 400 years?

In any event, Simkin's dialectic does not respond to my point.  I did
*not* argue that (a) the quality of Shakespeare's works should not be
reevaluated on a regular basis by any criteria anyone would like to
apply, including cultural ones; or (b) the fact that WS is dead, white,
European or male should play any role in the re-examination.  On the
contrary, I made the opposite point:  The enumerated factors are
neutral.  An author's culture and sex do, of course, influence his or
her products, but it is the results we evaluate.  My thesis is only that
we should not give extra credit for race, ethnicity, sex or ability to
breathe.  Does Simkin think we should?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 02 Mar 1998 19:03:13 -0500
Subject: 9.0183  Re: MV and Shr.
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0183  Re: MV and Shr.

Stevie Simkin wrote:

> Since in the history of UK establishment theatre  it has been only in
> exceptional circumstances that a black actor has been chosen (allowed?)
> to play the role of Othello, while every "great" white actor from
> Olivier to Anthony Hopkins (for goodness sake) has been given the
> opportunity to impersonate a black character, one would hope the latter.

Olivier played Othello in black makeup which was very convincing, down
to the palms of his hands.  Hopkins played the Moor made up as a
Berber.  Is Simkin arguing that blacks who can be and are willing to be
made up to appear Caucasian should be eligible for equal consideration
in casting white characters?  If so, he'll find no objection here.  I
believe that there was a very fine black American Shakespearean actor
(whose name unfortunately escapes me) who toured Europe during the last
century playing leading Shakespearean roles in white makeup.  To argue
that a black actor should be disqualified from doing so is repugnant.

BUT that is not the same thing as portraying a white character as black
or, as in the Patrick Stewart Othello, a black character as white.  The
postings we have seen about that production confirm that this
idiosyncratic casting may "raise interesting issues" and "put things in
a different light," but to do so it had to alter the heart of the play.
That might be a legitimate thing to do, and since the Bard's works are
in the public domain no one can stop it.  But it is not Othello any more
than the Boys From Syracuse is the Comedy of Errors.

I think the following modern instance can illustrate my point:  It is
possible to play Death of a Salesman with a black cast.  There is not
much about that play that defines it as a *white* middle-class tragedy.
I would love to see Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee play Willie Loman et ux.
But if they did, Matt Damon could not be Biff.  Or, contrariwise, if
Dustin Hoffman and Jean Stapleton were Willie and his wife, Denzel
Washington could not play Biff.  Or, more precisely, if he did it would
add dimensions to the play that Miller did not put there and detract
from what he did give us.

In short, converting a white character to black, or vice versa, might
make a social point, but it alters the drama.  The result is less a
Shakespearean play than an exercise.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Shaula Evans <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 2 Mar 1998 20:16:22 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Racism/Casting (was:  Is Portia Racist?)

>From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

>I think a more interesting question would be whether it is racist to
>cast Shakespeare's plays to type, or is it necessary to treat minority
>actors as equally eligible to play white characters.

1. Gender-, Race- and Age-blind casting: I have been party to some
interesting discussions on various lists recently with
actors/directors/producers involved in productions including gender-,
race- and age-blind casting.  Shakespeare himself was certainly no
stranger to gender-blind casting (due to the conventions of theatre in
his day, of course).  My personal opinion is that, so long as
unconventional casting choices do not detract from the play; i.e., they
are not "gimicky," and neither add nor subtract from the original
play-they are worth consideration.  Of course, broadening the casting
criteria also frees a production to draw from a larger pool of
talent-and creates an opportunity for talented actors who normally have
little or no contact with Shakespeare to play some wonderful roles.

So, to answer the questions posed by Mr. Weiss:  is it racist to cast
Shakespeare's plays to type?  Well, it is certainly conservative, and it
is easy to hide racism behind the curtain of "tradition."  However, did
Shakespeare cast "to type?"  No, he cast based on the actors he had at
hand-in his case, all men.  If willing suspension of disbelief about
gender was good enough for the Elizabethans, I don't see why  we can not
ask audiences to suspend disbelief about race.

The second question:  is it "necessary" to treat minority actors as
"equally eligible" to play white characters?  I am not certain of what
Mr.  Weis meant by "necessary."   I may only personally reply that it is
a great shame to deny a production the talent of a potentially great
Lear, or Hamlet, or Lady M, or Cleopatra...based on the colour of his or
her skin.

2.  The talent pool: Where I act, the question of race-blind casting is
a bit moot.  Kelowna is
demographically a predominantly white city, with some older
Japanese-Canadians, some second and third generation Chinese-Canadians,
and a small but growing number of fairly recent East Indian immigrants
not all of whom are assimilated and most of whom work in agriculture.
Our acting community, on the other hand, is composed mainly of
middle-class, semi-professionals and professionals-people with the money
and leisure time to indulge in acting as a hobby.  These people are,
unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly white.   I imagine the situation may be
different for people acting in larger centers and in professional
theatre.  If anything, our challenge is to attract and include a greater
variety of people into our group.  (Has anyone had success diversifying
the composition of their Shakespeare companies?)

3.  The Big O: And finally, the Othello question; which is really for
Othello, Shylock,
the Prince of Morroco, etc.  How do people cast these roles today,
especially Othello?  (Yes, I am aware of the recent production with
Patrick Stewart-not really a casting option for us, I'm afraid.)

Shaula Evans
Shakepeare Kelowna
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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