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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: High School Productions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2681  Wednesday, 28 November 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Nov 2001 08:15:23 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2678 Re: High School Productions

[2]     From:   Jay Johnson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Nov 2001 14:55:14 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2657 Re: High School Productions (Was Survey)

[3]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 28 Nov 2001 00:58:37 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2678 Re: High School Productions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Nov 2001 08:15:23 -0800
Subject: 12.2678 Re: High School Productions
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2678 Re: High School Productions

>I wonder if that final line from both quarto and folio about stopping
>Beatrice's mouth would sound better coming from a woman than a man.

Possibly, Sean, I don't know.  I do know it would be better coming from
Leonato than Benedick, since Beatrice hates a jade's trick, and both Q
and F agree with her.

Sort of.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Johnson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Nov 2001 14:55:14 -0700
Subject: 12.2657 Re: High School Productions (Was Survey)
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2657 Re: High School Productions (Was Survey)

Good day all,

I agree with Mari Bonomi, Paul Swanson, and others about the importance
of performance in the classroom.  There is no better way to make the
crucial point to students that these texts are working scripts written
to be performed before a live audience rather than documents intended to
be read at leisure.

I teach "Introduction to Dramatic Literature" and "Introduction to
Shakespeare" to undergraduates in a small two-year transfer college that
has no Drama program or drama club.  Every semester I include
performance requirements in my syllabi, but in different semesters,
students fulfill this requirement in different ways.  Sometimes I allow
students to choose small scenes to work up and present before the class,
and occasionally I choose a larger scene, such as the trial scene in
MoV, to present in in a Readers' Theater format.  These solutions have
merit but they are fragmentary, and they fail to give students the sense
of collaborative energy that preparing a real production often
generates.

The idea of producing a full-length Shakespearian play is intriguing,
but, especially in a 14-week semester, far beyond our capacities.  To
get around this challenge of not being able to do a full five-act play,
but yet not being satisfied to do fragmentary scenes or soliloquies, I
have developed a solution that works quite well for me.  I have taken
several plays and created what I call "condensed or concise acting
scripts"--essentially one-act versions of the plays that can be
performed in forty-five minutes or an hour instead of the normal two to
three hour length.  The process of creating these shortened versions is
one of cutting scenes, cutting characters, cutting sub-plots, and
cutting long speeches, but the result still contains a sense of unity
and completeness, and the words are all Shakespeare's.  There is no
thought of modifying or updating the language. These shortened versions
can be rehearsed and prepared in six or seven weeks, and all students in
class can be involved together either in on-stage or back stage
activities.  Near the end of the semester we do two or three
performances for mums and dads and grannies and cousins, and the sense
of collaborative creation is achieved.

There is never an intention on my part to replace the original play with
my shortened version.  Whichever play we produce in a particular
semester, that play in its full version is on the reading list, and
there is always an assignment to analyze the differences between the two
versions focusing on the themes, ideas, character relationships, etc.
that have been diminished or lost through the process of condensation.

To date, I have developed one-act versions of six plays including
"Twelfth Night," "Love's Labour's Lost," and "Julius Caesar."  Though
some SHAKSPER list-members might find occasion for ridicule in the
concept of Shakespearean "Reader's Digest Condensed Books," I would be
most interested in getting feedback from teachers in environments
similar to mine.  Do you, high school and college teachers, think there
may be some merit in this idea?  Could you imaging yourselves using
texts such as I have described here for purposes of mounting student
productions?  Has anyone else done (or heard of) anything similar?

I look forward to reading your comments, and I thank you for your
attention to this over-long post.

Cheers,
Jay Johnson
Medicine Hat College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 28 Nov 2001 00:58:37 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2678 Re: High School Productions
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2678 Re: High School Productions

> I wonder if that final line from both quarto and
> folio about stopping
> Beatrice's mouth would sound better coming from a
> woman than a man.

Funny that you should mention that...Pamela Mason has pointed out to me
at the Shakespeare Institute that NOWHERE in the early printed editions
of Much Ado is that line, "Peace, I will stop your mouth" EVER
attributed to Benedick. In both quarto and folio, the line is attributed
to Leonato. As in, "my elder authority is shutting you up and ordering
you to marry Benedick". Editors have always assumed that it is a part of
the banter between B+B and attributed it to Benedick. Either the early
texts are misprints or the editors are wrong.

It seems curious that a compositor would make the error of interposing a
Leonato speech prefix when the previous lines have alternated between
B+B. Food for thought...

Brian Willis

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