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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Re: Elizabethan Staging
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0426  Wednesday, 6 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Pechter <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 May 1998 10:55:50 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0419  Re: Elizabethan Staging

[2]     From:   Steve Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 May 1998 19:46:42 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

[3]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 May 1998 20:52:50 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pechter <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 May 1998 10:55:50 -0800
Subject: 9.0419  Re: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0419  Re: Elizabethan Staging

I'm finding the "Elizn staging" discussion really interesting but (and?)
confusing.  It might be useful to disconnect two threads.  One is the
potential interest for production of changing rehearsal procedures that
HAPPEN to resemble some things we know (or think we know) about
Renaissance production.  The other is the resemblance itself-is this
authentic?

I'm skeptical about the latter.  Even if we could replicate certain
procedures, they'd be in a different context.  Improvisation,
non-choreographed productions etc. wouldn't mean the same thing to us
post-Stanislovski (and Artaud & Brecht) as to Renaissance people even if
they were exactly the same procedures ("exactly the same" could be
scanned).  Years ago Bernard Beckerman in Shakespeare and the Globe said
that the whole debate about Renaissance acting (artificial vs. natural)
was confusing means and ends-it probably still is.

Anecdote:  I spent a day of my diminishing life this winter scribbling
into notebooks to be used in a David Hare play (Skylight).  One of the
characters was a teacher, and her lover or ex lover throws notebooks
across the stage.  It was important (to the director?) that the
scribbles in these notebooks have real meaning-so I found myself copying
school kid exercise about the Romantic poets, provided to me.   But no
one-certainly no one in the audience-was going to see this other than
(maybe) as squiggles.  "Why are we doing this, exactly?" I asked my
wife, more in sorrow than in anger.  "Because we were told to."

There's a moral here about tradition and authenticity, I think, probably
discouraging.  On the other hand, trying to produce plays in ways that
may happen to approximate what we know or think we know about
Renaissance production practice or in a NEW stage setting like the
"Restored" Globe just might lead to interesting theatrical
possibilities.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 May 1998 19:46:42 EDT
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

Small contribution to Elizabethan Staging question:

Yes, from evidence of the few surviving examples, actors received their
parts as "sides" with only their speeches and a few cue words.  No, this
was not to prevent pirating.  Paper (made only from rags, not wood-pulp)
was v-e-r-y expensive, as was the service of copyists.  Traffic on a big
stage gets sorted out easily by folks who play together consistently
over the years.  Watch an experienced ball team adjust to new conditions
moment-by-moment.  And rehearsal time may have been used to work out the
knotty bits such as battles or odd excitements like the moment when
Hastings' head is brought onstage in RICHARD III  (note the Q & F
alternatives for the giddy possibilities in the Monty Python vein).

Also, the British actors were known for their excellence above other
European troupes for the way they worked with playwrights and their own
leading fellows, solving these problems of staging.)

The joys of improvising increase when they can happen within the
disciplined confidence gained from  long experience and common purpose.

Ever,
Steve Dionysowitz

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 May 1998 20:52:50 EDT
Subject: 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0416  Q: Elizabethan Staging

I used sides when we did Much Ado many, many years ago as an
experiment.  I took two paperback copies and just hacked them up and
glued them down.

The actors learned their lines in record time, having to listen closely
as they did for their cue, but one side effect was that none of them
read the entire play.  My Antonio never knew what the rest of the show
was about.   But then he never did that with Neil Simon either.

It was a comfortable experiment, not one that I have repeated as being
vital to interesting work onstage.  We do too much work on thematic
material and such to deprive the cast of the entire script.

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company
 

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