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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: February ::
Re: High School Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0314  Wednesday, 25 February 1999.

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 09:11:19 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: High School Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 09:13:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0310 Re: HS Sh.

[3]     From:   Mark Perew <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 06:55:50 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0310 High School Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 11:27:23 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0310 Re: Hotstaff and High School Theatre


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 09:11:19 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: High School Shakespeare

I have recently seen and enjoyed a staging of Hamlet in which our
protagonist was a heroin addict (performed at Actors Theater in
Louisville, Kentucky). So I won't say that I'm against some updating in
the staging of Shakespeare's plays. But I find the idea of staging
Othello as a basketball drama or Macbeth as a football drama to be sad,
even for the audiences these might intend to target. The idea reminds me
of the freshman composition subject I now forbid: "The Big Game." I
can't help thinking that Othello and Macbeth involve conflicts more
consequential than the "big" game. And I can't help thinking that many
high school and young college students would find the attitude behind
these stagings condescending.

Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 09:13:40 -0500
Subject: 10.0310 Re: HS Sh.
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0310 Re: HS Sh.

>From:           Hugh Howard Davis <
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>I read the recent Entertainment Weekly article about upcoming
>Shakespearean films, and this is the obvious trend.  We are soon to have
>high school/mall versions of Shrew, Macbeth (on a football field), and
>Othello (taking place with a prep school basketball team).  The article
>also talked about the "Gen X casting" for Branagh's LLL (incl. Alicia
>Silverstone) and the upcoming modern day/original text Hamlet, with
>Ethan Hawke.  The article was of course discussing the trend to bring
>youth to Shakespeare, a concept helped by Baz Luhrmann's success, and
>the trend can also be seen with the upcoming Cruel Intentions, which is
>Dangerous Liaisons in high school.
>
>My question is do list members think this will work?  The apparent idea
>is to get both the highly coveted youth audience and the art
>house/scholarly set to both go see the film (I might question how large
>this audience truly is as well). But will they manage?  It seems to me
>that many academics balk at Shakespearean films which merely appropriate
>plot, so could this all backfire?

One hates to fall back on the formulaic "It all depends," but it does.
I went to see "Clueless," and thought it was in many ways a better
adaptation of "Emma" than the actual film of "Emma" which came out that
same year.  I can say with authority that the potential audience is
huge.  The screening of Romeo and Juliet I went to see was packed (and
boisterous-I got hit on the head with a hunk of licorice).

The problem isn't so much that Shakespeare is being adapted-one could
argue it's always adapted, there's never a simon-pure "faithful"
Shakespeare production, and especially not in film, a medium for which
the plays were obviously not intended.  It's that it's all being adapted
the same way.  In order to reach the youth audience, a lot of the
complexities are simply weeded out.  Baz Luhrmann's R & J reduced the
adult characters, Paris, and Mercutio to caricatures in order to reserve
the audience's sympathy for Romeo and Juliet.  I suspect much the same
thing will happen with a lot of these adaptations.

I'm also a bit concerned, because a lot of my students indicate that
it's common not to read the text at all, but simply to watch the video
(they never do this themselves, of course).  Do you think these new
movies might exacerbate the problem?--or will they be so different that
students will be forced to read the plays?

Melissa D. Aaron
University of Michigan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Perew <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 06:55:50 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 10.0310 High School Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0310 High School Shakespeare

>My question is do list members think this will work?  The apparent idea
>is to get both the highly coveted youth audience and the art
>house/scholarly set to both go see the film (I might question how large
>this audience truly is as well). But will they manage?

All I can report is that my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was so intrigued
by the Leonardo DeCaprio/Claire Danes "Romeo+Juliet" that she went out
and bought a book that had both the movie script and the play text.  She
was then exposed to A Midsummer Night's Dream in sophomore English and
was rather enamored with the story.  The following year her younger
sister was cast as Snug in a High School production of the same play.
The director of that production decided to make rather extensive cuts to
the text. I cherish the memory of Elizabeth and I laying on the floor,
side by side, with the rather mangled text in front of us; going over it
scene by scene and discussing how the various cuts affected the story.
I was rather proud of her when she discovered that all mention of the
"little changling boy" and the "distemperature" caused by the rift
between Oberon and Titania had been excised, she proclaimed, "You can't
cut that!"  She then went on to explain, in impressive detail, exactly
why the reason and effect of the "forgeries of jealousy" were important
to the story.  (As a divorced non-custodial father, my opportunities for
such moments are limited.  Therefore, I hold dear the memory of each and
every one.)

While I was underwhelmed with the "Romeo+Juliet" film-it's nothing more
than eye candy-it was the vehicle which sparked my daughter's interest
in Shakespeare.  She hasn't caught the bug nearly as bad as I have, but
not only does she no longer wrinkle her nose at the mention of
Shakespeare, but she eagerly looks for more opportunities to see
Shakespeare performed.  So, I no longer cast stones (at least not
boulders) at such "interpretations" as "Romeo+Juliet".  They can be the
gateway to a greater understanding and appreciation for The Bard.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 11:27:23 EST
Subject: 10.0310 Re: Hotstaff and High School Theatre
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0310 Re: Hotstaff and High School Theatre

Anyone on the Central Coast of California is invited to be my guest at
our production of Henry IV Part One March 12, 13 & 14 at 7:30 pm.  Just
identify yourself as a list member at the box office.

Billy Houck
Arroyo Grande High School
Eagle Theatre
Arroyo Grande, Claifornia
(where The Grapes of Wrath ends)
(805) 473-4250
 

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