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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Teachers or Directors
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1824  Friday, 20 July 2001

[1]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 15:52:56 -0400
        Subj:   Teachers' Influence

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 23:08:30 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 12.1811 Teachers or Directors


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 15:52:56 -0400
Subject:        Teachers' Influence

Susan St. John wrote:

> My high school students (Phoenix, AZ) have read, studied, seen, and
> performed a great deal of Shakespeare's works; I find that they are most
> influenced by a directorial interpretation that they SEE, much more so
> than the ideas TOLD to them by a teacher, or their own interpretations.
> As their drama teacher (not their English teacher), I try to present as
> many options for interpretation as I can give them, reassure them that
> if they are acting they can give input but must ultimately bow to the
> director's concept, and when they are ready to formulate their own
> interpretation they should direct!

After I second these comments (as a fellow drama teacher), I would amend
them to read, "They are most influenced by a directorial interpretation
that they practice [a.k.a Rehearse]." 'Telling' is okay;
'seeing/hearing' is better; 'working with' is best!

Paul E. Doniger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 23:08:30 +0100
Subject: Teachers or Directors (was Macbeth's Witches)
Comment:        SHK 12.1811 Teachers or Directors (was Macbeth's Witches)

I completely endorse Susan St John's notion that very nearly no matter
how radical, vibrant, or technicolor a teacher, what is seen on stage is
more determinant of students' outlooks and the after-images can dominate
to an irritating and sometimes damaging extent. I imagine that I am not
alone among teachers in having had to for years grapple with the
perversity of the Polanski filmed 'Macbeth' - I imagine that a new
generation of 'Lord of the flies' students may have their view of that
novel utterly vandalised by the recent colour version using American
junior cadets, which, like the Polanski, simply changes what is
inconvenient, and then suggests it is an echt-experience for students.
Even a staggeringly poor stage version will rivet students, produce
serious arguments, and even fine writing.

The witches are always a major test case: you can run the very real risk
of losing a student audience in the first thirty seconds of any
production of the Scottish play with inappropriate witches, that are
either so look like refugees from Star Wars cafe scenes and start a
ripple of disbelief in the audience, or so commonplace ( sort of
Rosemanry's Baby's style) that you start a yawn that can last for the
whole show. Directors seem to feel that the witches are the next case
for their credibility, and quite bizarre solutions occur - e.g. male /
females painted in blue woad to complement a 'Dark Ages'/ mid-Viking age
production style, wizened crones but dressed in high heels and wearing
gloves like something out of Roald Dahl - which precipitated the
audience into sniggering uncontrollably for minutes, Aleister Crowley
look-alikes. Ragged bag ladies turned nasty seemed to work, even if
their cauldron was in a supermarket trolley - I found it a hoot, but my
students saw all manner of resonances. One of the best I have ever seen
was in a local College of further Education who had borrowed three
munchkins form the local primary school, dressed them in what looked
like fronds of seaweed, and just let them free to conjure from their own
imagination, cast spells as 11 year olds would, and produce terrible
dripping bits and pieces from pouches at their waists and splat them
with relish and giggles into a filthy saucepan. I know that that is by
no means the only way to do it, but it seemed interesting. Their
innocence was visually powerful, so too their utter glee at being
allowed to be witches on stage - thus what they were doing on stage
completely made a point that maybe the witches are indeed merely
spectators and not participants, chilly, cold-eyed witnesses of adult
human folly, and in no way moral architects of the play. It had the
effect of making Macbeth's own desires and corrupt will much the most
dominant force, and gave shivery dread to Lady Macbeth's lines about
what she would do to children who stood in her way. These witches lurked
like kids in dressing up clothes for the Lady M letter reading and
sleepwalking scenes. They watched with quiet interest, like kids
watching a puzzling but ultimately slightly boring adult drama.

Stuart Manger

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