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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: Modern Dress Query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0481  Friday, 10 March 2000.

[1]     From:   Virginia Byrne <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Mar 2000 17:11:54 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0447 Modern Dress Query

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Mar 2000 17:41:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0476 Re: Modern Dress Query


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia Byrne <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Mar 2000 17:11:54 EST
Subject: 11.0447 Modern Dress Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0447 Modern Dress Query

The use of Elizabethan costumes in the original productions had nothing
to do with the characters. Frequently they were not even contemporary
(to 16th century) characters. They simply were what the actors wore.
Hence NOT using them doesn't seem to me to any way detract from the
message nor does USING Elizabethan dress necessarily enhance the
productions. Hence I feel its a wide open arena and have used that
freedom with great joy. (I await the purists bombardment)

Virginia Byrne

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Mar 2000 17:41:12 -0500
Subject: 11.0476 Re: Modern Dress Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0476 Re: Modern Dress Query

Having just re-watched the Luhrmann R&J, I remain convinced that
updating is very dangerous in terms of preserving much of the
significant content of the work in question.

What struck me and my young "apprentice" ( a dear young friend who just
read the play for the first time since high school) was that in updating
the play to contemporary times, Luhrmann butchered several key elements
of the THEMATIC content.

First, by making the Capulets crass substance-abusing Latinos (in
contrast to the refined black-tie Anglo Montagues), he has destroyed the
balance in the feud: "Two households, both **alike** in **dignity**"
become two household in diametrically opposed cultural positions.

Second, and far worse, is the crisis of the drama.  In Shakespeare,
Romeo stands stunned where Mercutio has died, then sees the "furious
Tybalt" come "back again" and confronts him, telling him to "take that
villain back again that late thou gavest me" and the two fight.  In
Luhrmann, Romeo searches the streets of Verona Beach, hunting Tybalt
down like a housewife going after cockroaches.  In so doing, Luhrmann
seriously distorts Romeo's essential character and in so doing does
violence to Shakespeare's thematic elements in creating him.

Did I like the cleverness of such things as calling the guns "Sword" and
"Rapier"?  Absolutely!  Did I like the touch that the errors of getting
information to Romeo in Mantua became pure coincidence as the Post Haste
Delivery guy missed Romeo twice?  Not at all.  Friar Lawrence's
complicity in Romeo's tragic end is essential.  In Luhrmann, that fault
is ignored.

I've mentioned in this list on previous occasions the abortion that was
the Yale Rep Twelfth Night set in decadent 1960's somewhereorother.
There also was a Garibaldi Italy R&J MANY years ago at the Stratford CT
Shakespeare Theatre (which btw is reopening, though I have no details)
starring David Birney as a more than passable Romeo.  Otherwise the
setting/staging did not seem to make much difference.  The Long Wharf
Theatre Harlem Renaissance Much Ado did not seem to wrench so many
thematic elements out of place as other updatings I have seen.

Sorry to be revisiting these old topics yet again...  but it's
interesting discussion!

Marilyn Bonomi
 

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