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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Colorblind
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1311  Friday, 1 June 2001

[1]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 May 2001 08:30:45 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblind

[2]     From:   Gerda Grice <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 May 2001 11:44:26 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness

[3]     From:   Susan St. John <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 May 2001 19:09:14 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblin

[4]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Jun 2001 21:28:29 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 08:30:45 -0700
Subject: 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness

David Lindley wrote:

>So, if anyone has lasted this long - I wonder if anyone has seen a
>performance of Twelfth Night in which Sebastian was played by a female
>actor - if not, why not?

I have see a production of Twelfth Night by the Los Angeles Women's
Shakespeare Company in which *all* the roles were played by female
actors.  Lisa Wolpe, the director of the company, was cast as Viola, and
she remarked that it was the first female Shakespeare role she'd essayed
in years.  This meant that the actor playing Sebastian had somehow to
emphasize masculine gender markers while looking very much like Viola,
and this was very successful.  Much of it was body language, some of it
was the hair (this was *very* subtle; Sebastian's and Viola's hair were
short and the same shade, but Sebastian's a touch less "styled" than
Viola's).  The text helps a lot, reminding the audience as it does that
Viola is "really" female while Sebastian apologizes for crying, gets in
fights, etc.

Melissa D. Aaron

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gerda Grice <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 11:44:26 -0700
Subject: 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness

If I remember correctly, Joan Plowright doubled the roles of Viola and
Sebastian in a film (TV?) version of the play some years ago.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 19:09:14 -0700
Subject: 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness

>I wonder if anyone has seen a
>performance of Twelfth Night in which Sebastian was played by a female
>actor - if not, why not?

When TN was produced by the high school where I teach, we did not have
enough boys to fill all of the male roles, so by necessity Sebastian was
portrayed by a girl.  We did not, however, try to change the character
to a female.  But we do this all the time...Don John, Tybalt, all the
rustics except Bottom (yes, even Flute), etc.  Our audience all seem
okay with it...I guess they just understand the lack of male talent.
The one actual change to female was Egea (instead of Egeus) in MND.

BTW - our school is about 60% Hispanic and 30% black so we don't even
bother to talk about colorblindness anymore...it's a given.  In our
recent production of MND all four lovers were hispanic and we all
marveled at the odds of it having turned out that way!

I am just wondering if I can do scenes from Othello for the Utah Shakes
competition with a black Desdemona, Iago, Cassio and/or Emilia...will
the adjudicators find that too hard to accept?

Susan.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Jun 2001 21:28:29 +1000
Subject: 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1289 Re: Colorblindness

Greetings to all on SHAKSPER:

I'd like to make a couple of comments about a couple of things, and pose
a question of my own--. The comments are on Sean's question about
Pushkin's translation of Shakespeare, and the more general
'colour-blindedness' one. A Russian we met assured me that Pushkin's
translation was so good that he vastly preferred it to the 'English
version', as he called it! He said it was 'much more passionate, and had
the soul of a real poet in it!'  He was most offended when we laughed! I
don't know Hugo's version very well, but the French version we had at
home when we were children was so terrible that to this day my parents
refuse to hear anything about Shakespeare. The verse had not been
translated, but rendered as hideously clunking prose, and altogether
there was no sense of 'spirit', just an awful leaden-footed dullness. It
had been done by a member of the Academie Francaise, too, but I'm not
sure who.

As to colour-blindedness, I wonder if in itself a 'decision' to cast an
actor of a different race to that of the character could be said to be
racist. Of course, if that actor is the best, he or she is the best, no
question--but when a director makes a conscious decision, avant l'heure,
as it were, what does that mean? Of course, there's nothing inherently
wrong with that--it can make a very good point, and force people to
think beyond a certain framework. Damned if you do and damned if you
don't, I suppose. But we often invert things which seem obvious, take
'risks' with what is really very comfortable, rather than taking more
subtle, but more dangerous, ones, perhaps. I've often wondered how it
would go, for instance, if we took another kind of cultural icon, such,
as in Australia, Ned Kelly, and set it within the Aboriginal community
(I've actually thought of doing this myself).  Ned Kelly is often
thought of as an us-versus them kind of story, 'British imperialism'
versus 'Irish rebellion', whereas in fact it's much of an Irish tragedy
altogether, concocted within the atmosphere of tribal politics--the
outlaw was Irish, the cops were Irish, even the judge was Irish. All
representing different aspects of one people. In that respect--and sorry
if this is so longwinded--does concentration on race, and making points
about race, sometimes overwhelm directors' thinking, because it is such
a modern preoccupation? I have no answers, but it's something to think
about, perhaps.

Incidentally, in Sydney at the moment, there's a production of The
Tempest on which sets the action in the 18th cent Antipodes, with
Aboriginal spirits and British coming to the island. Not a new idea, of
course--but has anyone seen it? It sounded like a good production,
judging from what critics said anyway. Trying to make a decision whether
to go and see it..  For those interested, too, I was on a panel at the
International Reading Association Conference in New Orleans in early
May--a panel on re-imagining Shakespeare for children, which was
convened by Assoc Professor Naomi Miller of Arizona State. It was a
great success, and has led also to the production of a book on the
subject which will be published by Routledge sometime in the future. (It
has just been accepted) It was a most interesting collection of papers
that were presented, on a subject that has already had some coverage on
SHAKSPER.

Sophie
Author site:
http://www.northnet.com.au/~smasson

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