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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Re: Elizabethan Staging
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0419  Tuesday, 5 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Monday, 04 May 1998 07:42:43 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416 Q: Elizabethan Staging

[2]     From:   Peter Holland <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 12:37:50 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

[3]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 04 May 1998 09:03:10 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Elizabethan Underwear

[4]     From:   Ivan Fuller <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 09:25:00 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

[5]     From:   Jerry Bangham <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 10:35:55 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

[6]     From:   Lawrence Manley <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 10:43:33 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

[7]     From:   Curt L. Tofteland <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 11:19:27 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

[8]     From:   Alexandra Gerull <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 18:26:17 +0000
        Subj:   Re: Elizabethan Staging

[9]     From:   Virginia Byrne <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 16:30:53 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

[10]    From:   Diana Price <
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Date:   Monday, 4 May 1998 20:39:18 -0400
Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Monday, 04 May 1998 07:42:43 +0000 (HELP)
Subject: 9.0416 Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416 Q: Elizabethan Staging

I have had the pleasure of two workshops in my Shakespeare class by the
visiting Louis Hancock, one of the partners in London's "Original
Shakespeare Company", a group that rehearses and plays according to this
method of memorizing from *sides only* and meeting the rest of the cast
only at the opening performance. They have trodden the Globe, so to
speak, with their revelatory approach, proving beyond reasonable doubt
that the textual signals make blocking clear and-perhaps most
important-encouraging the utmost focus from the actors. William
Gillette's "illusion of the first time" as one of he goals of
performance becomes less of an illusion, of course, because at the first
show the characters are curious to discover *what happens next* as well
as *who speaks next*.

In a company such as Shakespeare's, when plays were produced in
repertory and the next show announced in accordance with the success of
the last, with sometimes six different plays being done in the one week,
the method was necessary. This, at least, is the theory behind the
practice of The Original Shakespeare Company.

        Harry Hill

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Holland <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 12:37:50 GMT
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

I'm sure I won't be the only one to reply with the same information but
the experiment Ron Ward describes has been tried in England and
elsewhere (US, Germany, Australia) by the Original Shakespeare Company
run by Patrick Tucker. They performed *As You Like It* for one night
only at the Globe last year and will do another night this year.

Incidentally, cue-scripts, which have nothing to do with the threat of
piracy, were standard in British theatre for centuries - indeed, I have
spoken to actors who used them in repertory companies in the early part
of this century. In the days before photocopiers, not writing out the
whole of a scene saves an enormous cost.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 04 May 1998 09:03:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Elizabethan Underwear

Dear Ron Ward,

What do we know about Elizabethan underwear? This subject needs more
public exposure.  Many of us might find it very revealing.

Sincerely,
--Ed Taft

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ivan Fuller <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 09:25:00 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

I have used the rehearsal technique of "sides" or character cue lines
and their own lines only, on four different occasions and it works very
well in achieving the following goal: actors listen much more carefully
to what the other characters are saying because they don't know how much
time they have before their cue.  Now this really only works the first
few times that you rehearse, but the residual effect tends to remain.  I
also think actors tend to be quicker on the uptake, like runners in
their starting blocks, eagerly awaiting their turn to speak, just
waiting for the gun (or their cue line) to go off.

When I use this approach, however, I also provide my cast with a
complete script that they can use at home as they work on their roles.

By the way, computer technology makes the creation of these "actor
scripts" a simple matter of cutting and pasting.

Ivan Fuller, Chair
Communication & Theatre Dept.
Augustana College

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jerry Bangham <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 10:35:55 -0400
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

>Has the new Globe tried this? If
> they have used Elizabethan underwear for authenticity they should try
> out the production methods also.  Perhaps our current methods show too
> much organization and not enough spontaneity. Any comments?

The Globe company hasn't tried this, as far as I know, but The Original
Shakespeare Company follows this method and will be presenting "King
John" at the Globe September 7th.

I really don't get the point, though. I've been making my own "sides" to
help me learn lines for years, but I can't see that has really changed
my approach to the play.

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lawrence Manley <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 10:43:33 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

> I have just been talking to a friend who is a professional actor and
> took part in a recent production of Comedy of Errors at Bats Theatre in
> Wellington New Zealand. He tells me that they used Elizabethan rehearsal
> and production methods. This means that each cast member was given copy
> containing only their own lines and cues from the last few words of the
> previous speaker. Apparently this was done to prevent pirating.

More likely it was done as an economic measure.  How many full copies of
a play could a company afford to have made?

> A prompt
> sheet was pinned up backstage with fuller but by no means complete
> directions, and a prompt to try to sort out any confusion on stage.

This is one theory that was used to explain the handful of documents
known as "plots" or "plats."  It has recently been suggested, and just
as plausibly, I think, that these documents may have been associated
with casting and would have enabled companies to "track" the number of
actors available to play in a given scene.  The problem with the older
theory is similar to the problems raised in connection with the theory
of memorial reconstruction-that we have to believe that actors were not
good at remembering their lines or cues.

> This
> also meant there was no blocking of the action and a great deal was
> expected of the actors in the use of stagecraft.

This is one basis for the theory that acting must have been quite
conventionalized.

>  Perhaps our current methods show too
> much organisation and not enough spontaneity. Any comments?

There are enough contemporary remarks (Hamlet's on the clown come to
mind) on the tensions between authorial text and theatrical performance
to suggest that there was a degree of improvisation.  On the other hand,
it is clear that "spontaneity" of the kind implied above must have been
itself highly codified.  A useful exercise: read a couple of dozen
sixteenth-century commedia dell' arte scenarios and think about the ways
in which they resemble/differ from the Elizabethan "texts" we have.

Lawerence Manley
Yale University

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Curt L. Tofteland <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 11:19:27 EDT
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

Greetings,

In my opinion, Patrick Tucker is the foremost expert and practitioner of
the art of Elizabethan staging using the First Folio; rolls ('here is
your roll') with cue lines and character's lines only; limited to
non-existent rehearsal, etc.

I find Patrick to be a delightful man with enormous enthusiasm and
facility --- he occasionally raises the hackles (which he delights in)
of many editors and scholars because of his flippant and categorical
dismissal their academic approach to Shakespeare . . .

He publishes First Folio editions under the title:  The Shakespeare's
Globe Acting Edition.  he can be reached at:  MH PUBLICATIONS 17, West
Heath Drive London, NW11 7QG  United Kingdom     Tel: 081-455 4640

We, at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival are using the First Folio and
Patrick's  techniques for our summer production of THE TRAGEDY OF
MACBETH

If anyone is interested in the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival's summer
performance schedule you may call 502/583-8738; fax 502/583-8751; or
e-mail 
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  for a brochure.

Thanks,
Curt L. Tofteland
Producing Director
Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
1114 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40203

[8]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alexandra Gerull <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 18:26:17 +0000
Subject:        Re: Elizabethan Staging

In reply to Ron Ward:

That sounds very interesting! Did they also try to do the play in a non
Method, Non Stanislawski way? Because not working from the whole text
should affect each actor's work on his/her role immensely. In general,
what does rehearsing like this do to the status of the text?

Yours,
Alexandra Gerull

[9]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia Byrne <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 16:30:53 EDT
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

This method is used still when renting materials from Tams Witmark in
the us for a current musical..I ...the director only get one full
copy..same reasoning I suppose...prevents pirating...really hard on
actors.....they are called 'sides"

Virginia Byrne

[10]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana Price <
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Date:           Monday, 4 May 1998 20:39:18 -0400
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

Re: Ron Ward's question:

A British director, Patrick Tucker, has directed many productions and
workshops as you have described, with minimal rehearsal. I believe he
distributes only the sides to the actors, and those sides have only the
briefest of cues. He stages only the combat and dance sequences in
advance, and relies on the text itself to inform the actors of stage
business.

When I was living in London some years ago, he produced a benefit for
the Rose Theatre restoration and invited dozens of actors to
participate. Some were celebrities, most were not. But none of the
actors had any idea what lines they'd be saying until the day before,
and without Mr. Tucker serving as the on-stage prompter, many would have
failed miserably. A few did anyway. But there were enough luminous and
spontaneous performances to suggest that this method could have worked.

Diana Price
 

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