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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Merry Wives Appeal
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0364  Thursday 4 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Brad Berens <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Mar 1999 06:28:24 -0800
        Subj:   Merry Wives Appeal

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Mar 1999 10:54:43 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0356 Merry Wives Appeal

[3]     From:   Kristine Batey <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Mar 1999 10:17:59 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Merry Wives Appeal


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brad Berens <
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Date:           Wednesday, 03 Mar 1999 06:28:24 -0800
Subject:        Merry Wives Appeal

Dear Friends,

This is for Mike Field, regarding his wife's question about the
potential market appeal of a truncated Merry Wives Of Windsor.

>                                We are wondering if list members
>with a sense of general audiences would care to rate the possible appeal
>of Merry Wives-attract, neutral or repel?

My purely subjective sense is "neutral" for a general audience because
the title is not greatly familiar.  The comedy always does immensely
well at Shakespeare festivals, where the audiences know that it is the
Shakespearean version of a THREE'S COMPANY episode.  A PR campaign
actively deploying the name "Falstaff" and saying something like, "if
you liked SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, then get a load of this one!" would
probably help.

        Best,
        Brad Berens,
        Late of Berkeley, and now rusticated to Los Angeles

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Mar 1999 10:54:43 EST
Subject: 10.0356 Merry Wives Appeal
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0356 Merry Wives Appeal

>My wife is in the process of selecting a Shakespeare play to adapt (that
>is, shorten) for this year's Maryland Renaissance Festival. This is a
>diverse audience with many other simultaneous entertainment choices at
>the festival, so audience appeal is very important. In the past, certain
>plays were excellent draws-R&J, Macbeth; while certain others drew
>poorly-Love's Labour's Lost, Tempest. We are wondering if list members
>with a sense of general audiences would care to rate the possible appeal
>of Merry Wives-attract, neutral or repel? While we're at it, if anyone
>would like to suggest his/her own subjective list of Shakespeare's
>top-ten draws we'd love to see it.

>If this seems inappropriate please feel free to reply off-list to me:
>
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>
>Thanks,
>Mike

I've attended the festival for several years now, Mike, and thoroughly
enjoy it.  I think the "fractured" versions of the plays (10-minute
Hamlet, etc.) work best in that amphitheatre environment: it's hard to
get seating for most of the performances, the outward rim acoustics are
not the best, and it's frequently much too hot out during the Festival's
season for people to sit for a  "real version"  2-3 hour play.  (Besides
which, having no porta-potties near the stage area makes that a test of
one's bladder endurance.)  Perhaps you could ask entrants at this year's
gate what play(s) they'd like to see staged: one would almost have to
know the particulars (and challenges) of the setting to make a good
judgment on that.

Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristine Batey <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 03 Mar 1999 10:17:59 -0600
Subject:        Re: Merry Wives Appeal

Mike Field wrote:

It sounds like your best draws are the more popular plays. Merry Wives
doesn't fall into that category. On the other hand, while the play
itself won't be familiar to most people, the name will sound familiar,
and it's an extremely Renaissance festivalish name, if you get my drift.
My guess is that the average renaissance fairgoer will know enough
Shakespeare to peg the play as a Shakespeare play, but not enough to be
familiar with it, except to have a vague idea that it's bawdy and
comical-and therefore worth a sit-down.

I'd say that in general, fairgoers are going to be looking for one of
the more familiar plays, but one with either a lot of broad comedy or a
lot of swordplay or a whole mess of witches. Midsummer Night's Dream is
probably a really good bet. Much Ado is a possibility, particularly
since a lot of people will have had a brush with the movie. As You Like
It is a solid maybe-many people will have read it in school, for good or
ill. Hamlet's probably a good bet. Not Othello or Lear-those are Serious
Downers.  (Hamlet's not a downer, not with all those poisoned swords and
cups and stuff; audiences eat that up.) Not Merchant of Venice or any of
the dark comedies; not Timon of Athens, unless you anticipate a crowd
made up entirely of doctoral students, who would go just so they could
brag about it. Comedy of Errors could work, because the name sounds like
it's funny; Twelfth Night probably won't, following that same reasoning.
Richard III is a big maybe; a lot of Richard III fans hang out at the
pubs at Renaissance fairs looking for someone to listen to their side of
the story. They're right there next to the Oxfordians. I'd forget about
any of the other "numbered" plays. Most people can't remember which
Henry was which, and history plays seem too much like school. That's why
Shakespeare didn't use the title  "Henry IV, Part III" (or Henry IV Part
II, II.) Although if he'd known what a hit he would be as a
screenwriter, he might have called it "Henry IV, III: The Merry Wives of
Windsor," with "Henry IV" in eensy-beensy type, and "The Merry Wives of
Windsor" wrapping itself cheerfully around a humongous yellow "III."
Henry would have made a very brief cameo at the beginning of the play;
Falstaff would have reprised his original role. Most of the rest of the
cast would have been bit players killing time for four hundred years
while they waited for TV commercials and bad sitcoms to be invented.
 

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