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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Re: Elizabethan Staging
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0444  Monday, 11 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Ildiko Solti <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 May 1998 06:08:20 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Elizabethan Staging

[2]     From:   Curt L. Tofteland <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 May 1998 10:35:37 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging

[3]     From:   Alexandra Gerull <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 May 1998 16:52:36 +0000
        Subj:   Re: Elizabethan Staging

[4]     From:   Richard Dutton <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 May 1998 15:54:00 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging

[5]     From:   Steve Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Sunday, 10 May 1998 18:08:17 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ildiko Solti <
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Date:           Friday, 8 May 1998 06:08:20 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Elizabethan Staging

Dear Debaters,

Thank you all for the cue-script idea. We are about to start rehearsals
for the Shrew and I think it's going to make an excellent (initial)
exercise. What I'm most interested in however is the use of space (the
Shakespearean one of being "surrounded" by the audience), and its effect
on the acting, the audience and on interpretation. If you have any
"shrewish" remarks about your own experience, they would be most
welcome.

Thanks
Ildiko Solti

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Curt L. Tofteland <
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Date:           Friday, 8 May 1998 10:35:37 EDT
Subject: 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging

>Tucker's ideas about cue-scripts are interesting. His ideas about the First
>Folio are just plain wrong: he believes that the punctuation and spelling
>reflect spoken emphasis and that all the Folio texts were printed from
>documents representing the final, theatricalized, form of each play.

Mr. Egan's 'just plain wrong' sadly reflects someone who sets himself up
as the --- 'be all and end all' --- expert on all things Folio --- I
doubt that Mr. Egan's research sources are any more valid than Mr.
Tucker's --- since neither Egan or Tucker lived during Shakespeare's
day, it is all open to interpretation --- frankly, I personally put more
stock in Mr. Tucker's instincts, being a practicing, professional man of
the theatre rather than an arm chair quarterback . . .

Regards,
Curt L. Tofteland
Producing Director
Kentucky Shakespeare Festival

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alexandra Gerull <
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Date:           Friday, 8 May 1998 16:52:36 +0000
Subject:        Re: Elizabethan Staging

I would like to know a bit more about the "inside" of these attempts of
reconstructing Elizabethan staging. So far, I think, discussion has
focused on the technical side (whom am I talking to here? where do I
enter from?).  There has been reference to Hamlet in this context but I
still find his statements about theater, actors and life very ambiguous.
And apart from maybe being a comment on contemporary theater these
passages serve a function within the play. Which is to say they might
not be an accurate account of real historic practise. Does Hamlet
consider acting to be basically mimetic? And of what quality is the
"passion" he sees actors capable of producing?  "...for in the very
torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must
acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness." III,ii
l.5-8 That sounds like the paradox of acting that passion has to be
created first but to effect the audience the actor has to be able to
control it. What then is the connection between the text of a play and
the creation of those passions?

Passionately,
Alexandra Gerull

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Dutton <
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Date:           Friday, 8 May 1998 15:54:00 +0100
Subject: 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging

On the question of 'pirating' texts, which Ron Ward raised as a possible
factor in the use of 'parts' for the actors rather than full texts, I
concur with all other respondents that this was not an issue. The
license that the Master of the Revels granted for the performance of a
play limited its use (at least within the London region) to a named
company and, after 1598, to a specific commercial location. It
constituted, in effect, a form of copyright. In the very few instances
where some kind of piracy may have taken place (e.g. the King's Men's
'appropriation' of 'The Malcontent') there seem to have been specific
circumstances which made it possible - in that instance the split in
licensing responsibilities, whereby Samuel Daniel licensed the Children
of the Queen's Revels, while Edmond Tilney continued to have
jurisdiction over all the other 'allowed' companies. Even there I
wouldn't rule out collaboration between the companies rather than
genuine piracy as an explanation of what happened.

The intriguing question remains: if piracy was not, in fact, the threat
it has often been claimed to be, why did some acting companies have
reservations about allowing *some* of their plays into print - 'think it
against their peculiar profit to have them come in print', as Heywood
put it in the Epistle to 'The English Traveller' (1633). I had a stab at
this question in an essay called 'The Birth of the Author' included in
both 'Elizabethan Theater', ed Parker and Zitner (1996) and (somewhat
revised) in 'Texts and Cultural Change in Early Modern England' ed.
Brown and Maiotti (1997). But I'd welcome any further views.

Richard Dutton

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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Date:           Sunday, 10 May 1998 18:08:17 EDT
Subject: 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0441  Re: Elizabethan Staging

Ron Ward suggests imaginatively that players in the playhouses would go
into their first performances without knowing how the play turned out.
Wow!  Fabulous, sort of like at a football game, or one of those fencing
matches.  But Dionysos really only supports the simulacrum of
spontaneity.  In  scripted performances (unlike improvisations or
sports) it's "AS IF for the first time."  And even improvisers rehearse,
have a general shape they work towards.

Actors do indeed take emotional and artistic risks; that's why we love
'em.  But they don't on purpose hurl themselves into an unknown abyss.
At least not in our admittedly circumscribed traditions.

(Indeed, entering into a play without knowing its outcome seems to be a
recurring nightmare common to theatre folk.  There's even a Christopher
Durang one-act around, it's title "The Actor's Nightmare.")

And then there's "piracy."  Peter Blayney buried piracy for printers in
an unimpeachable essay called "Shakespeare's Fight with What Pirates?"
For a beautifully researched and explicated analysis of how acting
companies acquired, sorted through, and scheduled their repertories, see
Roslyn Knutson's essay in  Cox and Kastan, eds, A NEW HISTORY OF EARLY
ENGLISH DRAMA (1997).  Pirates in relation to theatrical enterprises
like acting companies were figmented out of  19th century scholarly
imaginations raised up on Peter Pan and Gilbert and Sullivan.  Like
faeries, pirates served an important purpose in the history of
Shakespearean textual scholarship.  They stood in for those blank areas
on the map where evidence was missing:  "Here be pirates."  They're
pretty much gone, nowadays. Or rather, they should be, however often
they are sighted by those among us unhappy to be constrained by
evidence. (See also L. Maguire, SHAKESPEARE'S SUSPECT TEXTS [1996]).

Oops.  I think I said lots of this before.  Bear with me, I find more
pleasure comes from spinning our tales out of filaments stronger than
fantasy.

Ever fond and foolish,
Steven Piratowitz, of the Fantasy Police.
 

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