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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: October ::
Re: Historical Clarification
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1041  Saturday, 24 October 1998.

[1]     From:   Rosalind C. King <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Oct 1998 17:34:06 +0
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1027  Historical Clarification

[2]     From:   Joe Conlon <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Oct 1998 18:28:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1027  Historical Clarification


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rosalind C. King <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Oct 1998 17:34:06 +0000
Subject: 9.1027  Historical Clarification
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1027  Historical Clarification

Your student is reporting the ethos and practice informing Patrick
Tucker's Original Shakespeare Co productions, except that even Patrick
allows his actors time to learn their parts in advance! However, as
reported they tend not to meet as a company until the morning of the
performance. They have an on-stage book-keeper/prompter which reflects a
practice recorded in Cornwall by Richard Carew in 1602 (see Philip
Butterworth 'Book-carriers: Medieval and Tudor Staging Conventions'
Theatre Notebook Vol. XLVI no. 1). Patrick is a member of the Globe
Artistic directorate and a member of the board. His company performed
King John at the Globe this season.

Whether he is absolutely and historically right is another question.  My
reading of Henslowe's diary is that a company might have ten days or so
between receiving a new play from an author and performing it for the
first time although during this time they would also be performing a
succession of plays from the existing repertory. This seems to me to
leave time in both mornings and evenings for adequate rehearsal given
that they would not have had to tech.  sets costumes and lighting, and
would not have been given to lengthy discussion of the psychological
motivation of their characters,  both of which take up an enormous
amount of time in modern rehearsals. And of course  they were not
restricted by Equity rules with regard to breaks and hours worked. On
the other side of the equation, conventional staging practices, and
(perhaps) better developed memories would  be time-savers. No doubt
actors then, as now, rehearsed their lines and gestures on their own.
Fights and other set pieces however, need to be blocked. So, of course
they rehearsed, although the nature of those rehearsals was undoubtedly
different - Patrick actually goes through lines with actors on a one to
one basis in advance - and I cannot believe that sixteenth century
actors didn't also have at least a pre-performance run-through. Maybe it
would be helpful to look for analogies with modern orchestral concert
practice - rehearsal perhaps once on the day of performance, for
standard works - or the now out-moded practice in opera, where the star
knew his or her part and how he or she (always) did it whether in Rome,
London or New York.

Best wishes
Ros

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joe Conlon <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Oct 1998 18:28:58 -0500
Subject: 9.1027  Historical Clarification
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1027  Historical Clarification

Re: Barrett Fisher's request for historical clarification.

It is my understanding that the professional acting companies would
generally have 2 to 3 weeks to prepare a "new play" for performance.
They generally performed six days a week with Sunday off and each day of
the week would be a different play.  Most actors doubled (or tripled)
parts and even the most popular plays would seldom be performed more
than 4 or 5 times per month and the company would rotate 12 to 30 plays
in their repertory.  It is true that the "parts" they received would
contain only their own lines and cues and that the "bookkeeper" had the
only "fair copy" of the entire script.  Obviously these actors must have
had prodigious memories.  This being said, it was also a common practice
for the sharers in a company to hire out-of- work actors as "hired men"
for a particular play or series when needed to fill out the cast.  It
would have been quite possible that a "hired-man" hired for a single
performance might only receive his part on that morning.

There was a good article on "How Shakespeare Spent His Day" in the
Saturday Review back in 1964 during the 400th birthday celebrations
which discussed the business side of the theaters.  There are also
several pertinent chapters in _Shakespeare Alive_ by Joseph Papp and
Elizabeth Kirkland.  Both of these sources were for general audiences.
Hope this is helpful.

Joe Conlon, Warsaw, IN, USA
 

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