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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: MND Dumb Show
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2581  Monday, 12 November 2001

[1]     From:   Werner Habicht <
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        Date:   Sunday, 11 Nov 2001 00:19:15 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 12 2565 Re: MND dumb show

[2]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Saturday, 10 Nov 2001 09:56:34 EST
        Subj:   MND Dumb Show

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Nov 2001 18:31:36 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2575 Re: MND Dumb Show

[4]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Nov 2001 15:31:02 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2575 Re: MND Dumb Show

[5]     From:   Edward Pixley <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 Nov 2001 08:51:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2565 Re: MSD in Toronto


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
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Date:           Friday, 09 Nov 2001 08:51:39 -0500
Subject: 12.2565 Re: MSD in Toronto
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2565 Re: MSD in Toronto

"Jadwiga's post reminded me of something I have been meaning to ask the
list. When did it become usual to begin *MND* with a dumb show, usually
showing Theseus and Hippolyta in the battle they soon discuss?"

>Thanks in advance,
>Mike Jensen
>
>Mike,

The first one that I happened to have a chance to see was Liv Ciulei's
production at the Guthrie (actually, I saw it at the Pepsico Center in
Purchase, NY -- on tour), probably about ten years ago. For me, the
effect was extraordinary -- in the segue -- as we saw Hippolyta, a
prisoner, stripped of her war-like leathers by Theseus' female
attendants and draped in a voluminous white silk cloth, forcibly
transforming her from a warrior to a compliant bride-to-be.  More
importantly, as Theseus had to then negotiate a more temperate response
from Egeus, who wanted to have his daughter killed for rejecting a
forced marriage, Hippolyta's forcibly compliant presence provided a
profound commentary on Theseus dilemma.  The opening speeches suggest
tension between Theseus' desires and Hippolya's compliance.  The dumb
show and the segue, for me, brought those tensions into brilliant focus.

You're welcome,
Ed Pixley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Nov 2001 15:31:02 EST
Subject: 12.2575 Re: MND Dumb Show
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2575 Re: MND Dumb Show

I recall reading a few years ago about a production that began with
Hippolyta being brought in wearing battle camouflage under heavy guard,
then being stripped of her soldier gear and forced into a wedding dress.
Any recognize this?

Billy Houck

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Nov 2001 18:31:36 EST
Subject: 12.2575 Re: MND Dumb Show
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2575 Re: MND Dumb Show

The earliest dumb-show opening of MND I know was in a production at the
Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, directed by Liviu Ciulei, during the
1985-1986 season, and in Washington the following year.  It presented
not the battle itself but its aftermath.  Hippolyta entered in
guerilla-style camo outfit, under heavy military guard. As soon as the
audience had time to register the situation, several waiting women
entered carrying a white dress; the guards formed a screen behind which
the women took the guerilla togs off and put the wedding dress on, with
the obvious suggestion that all this was much against her will-a note
carried on through the opening dialogue.  The whole thing took less than
a minute, and made an effective start to a most imaginative revisionist
treatment of the play.

David Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 Nov 2001 09:56:34 EST
Subject:        MND Dumb Show

In 1979, MND was the inaugural production of Bob Brustein's American
Repertory Theatre (ART), the theatre-in-residence at Harvard
University.  The production began with a duel between Hippolyta and
Theseus, played on this occasion by Brustein himself.   The actors were
armored and helmeted, so that they appeared at first to be two male
knights.  When the duel was finished, a pair of attendants removed the
armor and helmets:  only then did the audience discover that one of the
combatants was a woman.  (The effect was probably borrowed from
Spenser's The Faerie Queen, where the female knight Britomart is
constantly removing her helmet and shaking down her long blonde hair,
all to the astonished eyes of adversaries and onlookers.)  The
production was directed by Alvin Epstein, a long-time Brustein cohort.
It was a revival of a production done about a year earlier at the Yale
Repertory Theatre.  I didn't see the earlier production, but I imagine
that it began in the same way.

Footnote:  In 1984 I appeared in a Boston-area production of MND.  The
director began the play with a duel between Theseus and Hippolyta,
cheerfully admitting that he had borrowed the idea from the ART
production.  He did not borrow the game of "hide-the-gender," however.

--Charles Weinstein

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Werner Habicht <
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Date:           Sunday, 11 Nov 2001 00:19:15 +0100
Subject: 2565 Re: MND dumb show
Comment:        SHK 12 2565 Re: MND dumb show

A version of the dumb show before the beginning of MND mentioned by Mike
Jensen was seen in a German production in 1967/68 at the theatre of
Luebeck (dir. G. Immelmann): a swordfight between Theseus and Hippolyta
(though one didn't quite know how 'serious' it was meant to be). A
review in the local paper was quick to blame the director for having
mixed up past and present.

A different kind of initial dumb show, in a MND production in Munich of
1978 (Kammerspiele, dir. Dieter Dorn) was perhaps more convincing in
invoking a (mythical) past: A female figure bandaged like a mummy stood
monumentally at the centre of the stage. A crew of fairies then removed
the bandages with scissors, revealing a fantastically tattooed naked
body, who then donned the gown in which she appeared as Theseus's bride;
later on she changed gowns to double as Titania.

Werner Habicht.

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