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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: 'The Scottish Play
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2226  Thursday, 27 September 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 09:25:40 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 12:59:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[3]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 17:00:52 -0500
        Subj:   The Scottish Play

[4]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 19:09:15 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[5]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 23:17:21 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 09:25:40 -0700
Subject: 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

Andy wrote:

>On the night when the ACTF adjudicator came for the show, a tornado
>touched down in our fair city, at curtain-time.  The show was delayed an
>hour and a half, as all of us stewed in our Georgian-era periwigs.  We
>didn't finish until midnight, by which time said adjudicator was more
>than ready to toss in the towel.  By then, too, we had learned that the
>tornado had touched down in a handful of spots around town -- including
>our director's house.

Are you really suggesting there would have been no tornado if you'd
picked another play?

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 12:59:14 -0500
Subject: 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

I agree with everything Mike Jensen says except the validity of
statistics, and that only because (a) I don't know how you could get
valid statistics, and (b) there may indeed be more accidents in
productions of "Macbeth" simply because the superstitious nincompoops
are expecting them.

In the one production of the play that I have been in, the director was
staunchly anti-superstitious and used the M-word constantly. An actor
fell during rehearsal of a fight scene and injured his back (not
desperately but enough make us worry about how to replace if he couldn't
come back: he did). Proves nothing to me, but Macbeth fanatics (like
triskadekaphobes) will think differently.

On a more Shakespearean note, my guess at the cause is the prominence
given the witches and their rituals. If played well, they can be quite
uncanny.  There isn't anything really like it in the rest of the plays.
The witchcraft scene in 2 Henry VI ends before it gets fairly started,
and the magic in other plays is either benign (Tempest) or neutral
(MSND).

Thus my technical question: is there any other play (Elizabethan or
otherwise) to which such an elaborate superstition has been attached?
Alternatively, is there any other play (ditto) which uses witchcraft to
such an extent?

I do not expect proof one way or the other, but more information might
stimulate some useful searches.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 17:00:52 -0500
Subject:        The Scottish Play

Bad luck on stage is a highly interesting anecdotal subject.  Do I not
remember correctly that John Barrymore once ran a Laertes through in the
sword fight at the end of a performance of *Hamlet*?  Of course J.B. was
a notorious drinker and he may have been drunk as well as
Stanislavski-ed.  Yet no one talks of *Hamlet* as "The Danish Play".

Cheers for good luck,
John

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 19:09:15 -0400
Subject: Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

I second  Mike Jensen:

>The matter of self-fulfilling prophecies aside, how many accidents are there in
> productions of other plays?  A fair share.

In my experience, we had far fewer accidents (only one that I remember:
due to a Macduff who was afraid of weapons) in performances or
rehearsals of _Macbeth_ than in other plays, like, for example,  _Titus
Andronicus_.  During rehearsals of that play, I slipped and almost broke
my tail bone, one actor was cut badly on his lip, the actor playing
Aaron fell from the ceiling to the floor (15-20 feet) when he lost his
grip on a rope (he was, miraculously, not even bruised!), and there were
a number of other minor accidents. It all seems coincidental to me (by
the way, no one I ever worked with seemed to worry about having to say
"The Scottish Play" in the theatre).

Paul E. Doniger

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 23:17:21 EDT
Subject: 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2209 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

May a mere warmint suggest that "The Scottish Play" is the Shakespearean
version of an urban legend, although which urbs started it is a matter
of dispute. I think it was London, and I think actors particularly like
to latch on to this sort of thing and make a very large mountain out of
a small or nonexistent molehill. I've noticed that when actors -- and my
son was one before his Hollywood days, and British trained at that --
speak about "The Scottish Play", there is the sense of a frisson
obscurely rendering them once again part of the guild.

Regarding another post, if the Scottish Play is not any more dangerous
than any other Shakespeare play, which play would potentially have the
most accidents built in? Large or small.  I expect it would be that play
which called -- not necessarily for battles and swords at point -- but
for risky special effects. Could be, in that regard, The Tempest, or Mid
Night Drm. But then again, one has seen virtually every play done with
no special effects or very little, or overdone to death, and that
dangerously -- I recall a Timon where someone drove a motorcycle
onstage; also a Much Ado About Nothing where quite a few of the cast
entered in a Duesenberg, or some such. Motor was running, too.

Best to all. HR Greenberg MD

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