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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: December ::
Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2331  Thursday, 14 December 2000

[1]     From:   Alexander Houck <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Dec 2000 14:04:48 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   J. K. Campbell <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Dec 2000 14:10:28 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Susan Neill <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 06:25:41 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alexander Houck <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Dec 2000 14:04:48 -0800
Subject: 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

My English classes in high school taught me several different ways to
engage a text analytically; one of those ways was to consider the
authorial intent.  According to this maxim, a play should be analyzed,
even in a literary scene, with the understanding that the play was
written with the intent to be performed.  Analyzing structure, meter,
diction, and plot twists bring a deeper understanding of the play.  But
no matter how much we analyze it, the play is still a play.  We may
analyze and interpret the idiosyncrasies of Wagner's Operas, but they're
still operas that are meant to be performed and appreciated by
audiences.  So, while Shakespeare's plays may be full of literary gems,
they are literary gems that are meant to be performed.

Alex Houck
Santa Clara University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           J. K. Campbell <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Dec 2000 14:10:28 -0800
Subject: 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

As an "amateur" in the academic arena (I have no degree), I sometimes
feel that some of those who choose the pursuit of BA-MA-Phd's after
their names, often after finding they did not wish to be tarnished by
the real world, have developed a condescending tone towards those of us
who are forced to explore our ideas before a paying public, who expects
to be entertained as well as educated.  Present company excluded of
course.  Please understand I have a bias.  I determined early in my life
that acting was what I "had to do" to derive any happiness what-so-ever
from life.  Realizing too, that I was a coward and would most likely
flee to any (something-to-fall-back-on) refuge when times got really
bad, I decided that full commitment as an artist or craftsmen demanded
that I strip myself of all other marketable skills.

My soul has certainly not emerged unscathed.  My movie and TV career
cries out a residual recrimination to the whoring I have done to keep a
roof over my family's heads.

What never fails to comfort me in the validity of that sometimes
regrettable decision are the memories of those times when Shakespeare,
through the music of his writing, using me as an instrument, transported
me in the company of my fellows to a common revelation we never
understood before, and the hope of returning to that place again and
again.

To address Paul's Question.  Is Shakespeare more literature than
theatre, more theatre than literature, or some undetermined mixture of
the two?

I would have to respond that Shakespeare's plays are not literature at
all.  His poetry, his sonnets are, meant to be read rather then
performed but his plays are experiential creations.  I would venture to
assert from experience that Shakespeare's writing is most likely only
70% Shakespeare's.

What most scholars fail to realize is that the plays were composed with
actors during rehearsals.  Having worked many times with authors present
at rehearsals on original works I have found that the actor, the
director, the producer, and most of all the audience during try-outs and
previews exert a very strong influence over the way a scene is finally
rendered.

Theater is not a democracy but it is a cooperative endeavor.

Is it not the purpose of art to explore man's commonality?

Writer-director-actor-managers like Shakespeare had an immediate and
most informative response from an audience who guide them.  Shakespeare
was first and foremost an actor.  The contention of those who are
convinced that Shakespeare could not have written Shakespeare because he
did not have the scholarly credentials, proves to me, that he could only
have written such great theater because he was not a scholar.

Did Shakespeare re-write to please as much of his audience as possible?
Daa!  I have wished many times he were at my rehearsals so I could have
reworked a few scenes with him.  However I would never presume to try on
my own.

Performing his works, one is led by a very distinct influence from the
company members who played certain roles.  To me it is indisputable that
they helped write the scenes.  Repetitive comedy routines from play to
play reflect the performing styles of company players in all aspects of
scene construction.

I am not sure I understand Paul's second Question.

>Can literary and dramatic criticism find any common ground with
>performance theory?

Performance is not a theory to me.  It is an on-going exploratory
process.  When Isaac Stern was asked if it were difficult for him, as a
perfectionist to continue performing after a mistake, his response was
"I could never be a performer if I was a perfectionist. To give one's
self over to the music, requires one to stay in the moment of the music,
mistakes often lead to the most glorious musical moments."  Performance
to me is a re-hear-sal of the piece with the guidance of the of an
audience.

If the question is, do I derive great insight from critical review.
Yes! I read all the opinion I can find.

I am most indebted as a performer to historical scholars and usually
have the luxury of picking the rendition of history that most justifies
my intuition.  But seriously folks!

Would much of Elizabethan history have survived were it not for
Shakespearean Scholars? Probably not.

We, both of us scholars and performers, have much to teach each other
about the language. Scholars contributing from the standpoint of usage
and construction and performers from the standpoint of the plays
imaginary circumstances.  The verse is most of all stage directions for
the performer.

I enjoy the process of my independent research as much as any other
aspect required to prepare for a role.  I join alumni associations so I
have access to several University library's.  I have traveled many times
to England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece,
Cyprus, Malta, Slovenia, Denmark and Bermuda, for the express purpose of
research.  The best tax deduction ever.

There is no question both scholar's as well as performers contribute to
each other and thus to our audience's appreciation of Shakespeare's
genius, as long as we all remember," The play is the thing."

J. Kenneth Campbell
Actor

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan Neill <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 06:25:41 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2314 Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

I believe it's both. I love reading the play before attending a
performance. I invariably get more out of the performance if I have. At
the same time, the performances often disappoint me. They rarely live up
to the passion of WS's language.

WS wrote for the stage, and his stories are naturally demand
performance. The intelligence, timelessness and mystery of his ideas and
language also compel us to study, critique, argue and wonder.

I'm stating the obvious...

Susan Neill
 

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