2002

Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0383  Friday, 8 February 2002

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 14:40:54 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0363 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

[2]     From:   Jane Drake Brody <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 21:59:11 EST
        Subj:   Reading Backwards


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 14:40:54 -0600
Subject: 13.0363 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0363 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

Martin Steward offers as a recommendation:

> For goodness' sake, don't try this with Agatha Christie!

Just so, which is the reason why her works, and most other mysteries,
are not literary, but (to borrow from Graham Greene) entertainments.
There are some that transcend the limitations of the form (I re-read
certain works of Sayers, Chandler and Hammett, for example, periodically
just because I like re-entering their fictive worlds), but the majority
live (and die) for the puzzle, and once you know the answer, there's no
other point of interest.

Pardon me for being heavy (or even (Heaven forfend) pompous), when you
are being whimsical, but I think the point is often over-looked. Critics
and directors tend to develop hobby-horses, fall passionately in love
with some brilliant insight they've had, and re-work the text to suit
their own ego-needs

Meanwhile, Anna Kamaralli warns me

> I would be VERY cautious about applying this method to the full play,
> rather than just a speech.  Remember that characters are often not the
> same people at the beginning of the play that they are at the end.

To be sure, caution -- humility is my preferred term but it seems to be
hopelessly out of date these days -- is required with any method,
gimmick, or scheme. Still, it seems to me that where a character ends up
should be implicit in where they start from. Insofar as they are
"human," they have certain tendencies that under stress may lead to
great heroism or disaster or shame depending on the circumstances.

If fully agree that Cressida is not at all "some kind of lascivious
nymphomaniac," but rather a woman who is weak (like Daisy Buchanan and
Clarissa Harlowe's mother (and countless male figures)). Thus, the
degree to which I might (if, say, directing the play) want to emphasize
that weakness early in the play would require far more expertise than I
can claim right now, not having studied it for years beyond number. But
I would not make her seem *strong* unless I saw some good indication of
her falling a much longer distance than I now recollect.

Thanks, in any case, for a healthy reminder to us all not to get too
enamored of any one theory or method of interpretation. They all have
their uses -- but also their misuses.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jane Drake Brody <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 21:59:11 EST
Subject:        Reading Backwards

David Ball's excellent book "Backwards and Forwards" discusses the idea
of reading a play backwards to discover meaning through structure. It is
a very useful and succinctly written text. He uses Hamlet as his case in
point.

Jane Drake Brody

_______________________________________________________________
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Re: Sonnet 116

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0382  Friday, 8 February 2002

[1]     From:   Nancy Charlton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 07 Feb 2002 11:07:53 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0365 Re: Sonnet 116

[2]     From:   Martin Green <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 07 Feb 2002 17:32:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0355 Sonnet 116

[3]     From:   Alex Went <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 23:02:56 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0365 Re: Sonnet 116

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 18:05:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0355 Sonnet 116


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy Charlton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 07 Feb 2002 11:07:53 -0800
Subject: 13.0365 Re: Sonnet 116
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0365 Re: Sonnet 116

Speak of the devil!  Right after I read this post today the Arts Channel
ran a clip of Dawn Upshaw singing an aria from Stravinsky


Re: Place of Performance

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0380  Friday, 8 February 2002

From:           Laura Blankenship <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 07 Feb 2002 14:35:55 -0500
Subject: 13.0359 Re: Place of Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0359 Re: Place of Performance

>Laura Blankenship urges her students to read 'A Thousand Acres' in the
>belief that 'Perhaps there's some way to encourage them to use the novel
>to help "fill in" the details of King Lear.'

This is not exactly why I "urge" my students to read A Thousand Acres.
My class deals with adaptations of Shakespeare's plays and thinking
about why those adaptations exist, what they might add to our reading of
the original, and how they might, in fact, detract from the original.
What I was thinking, in terms of details, was they if they see those
details fleshed out in the adaptation--setting, costuming, internal
monologue (of which there is considerably more in the novel)--that they
might be more apt to go back to the play and begin to imagine those same
things in the play.  If they see one person's version of, for example,
what the storm scene looks like, they might be able to envision their
own version.  It doesn't have to be the novel they turn to for this; it
could be a production, film or stage, or some other "version" of the
play.  I have, in fact, discussed all the pros and cons of adaptation
and variant performances with my class.

>But to reduce the play to
>the level of a novel, with its commitment to leaden-footed 'character
>development', closes off exactly those performative dimensions of the
>play which her classes are committed to explore.

Have you read the novel?  I don't think it's necessarily reductive.  I
personally prefer Lear, but I can appreciate the adaptation as well.
The novel does more than round out the characters.  I was really
expressing what my students seem to have latched on to as lacking from
Lear.  The form of the novel is much more familiar to them than a play.
As I said in my original message, most of my students have never seen a
play performed.  So performance to them is completely alien.  We are
just at the beginning of the term; I don't expect them to get this
aspect of Shakespeare instantaneously.

>As for a project which
>aims to ' ''fill in'' the details of King Lear', only the revelation
>that such probings 'sometimes inspire stunned silence' from her students
>gives cause for optimism. I'm with them.

I don't think that's my project; it's theirs.  And I think the stunned
silence is related to what Nicole refers to in her message, a lack of
creativity on their part.   In most of their classes, they aren't forced
to think about such things; they're told what to imagine.  In order to
get them to begin to imagine the performance is to put up with some
brief moments of silence while their brains kick in.

Laura Blankenship

_______________________________________________________________
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editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Reviews of Scotland, PA

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0381  Friday, 8 February 2002

[1]     From:   Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 14:06:35 -0500
        Subj:   A New 'Macbeth,' Droll and Deep Fried

[2]     From:   Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 8 Feb 2002 09:19:46 -0500
        Subj:   Review of Scotland, PA


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 14:06:35 -0500
Subject:        A New 'Macbeth,' Droll and Deep Fried

February 3, 2002

By JAMIE MALANOWSKI

SELDOM is an ice cream stand pinpointed as the swamp from which great
art slithers. Yet as Billy Morrissette, the writer and director of the
new comedy "Scotland, PA." recalls it, it was there, more than two
decades ago, when he was a mere high schooler working at the Dairy Queen
in South Windsor, Conn., that it first occurred to him to transpose the
grisly Shakespeare tragedy "Macbeth" from the wilds of medieval Scotland
to the seemingly less treacherous landscape of a fast food restaurant in
Nowhere, U.S.A.

"I remember just babbling to friends - because I had just read `Macbeth'
in school - 'Wouldn't it be great to place this in a fast food
restaurant?' " said Mr. Morrissette, his babble having slowed now to a
pleasantly speedy spiel.  "Because everybody's name around me seemed to
begin with Mc or Mac. I just kept hearing Mac everywhere." There is a
slightly plaintive quality in his voice when he adds, "Nobody cared."

A couple of years ago, however, Mr. Morrissette, by then in Los Angeles,
a bit-part actor ("For the Boys," "National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation")
driving from audition to audition, heard references to the play on the
radio on successive days. "There I was," he said, "an angry, bitter
actor, and I said, `I should buy a computer, and write this crazy idea
from high school.' So I did. And it was really fun."

Fun to write and fun to watch. It's amusing to see the lordly Duncan
transformed into the owner of a burger joint; to see the stalwart
Macbeth portrayed as Mac, the restaurant's best worker, complete with a
white paper server's cap; to watch Mac and his foxy wife murder Duncan
in the deep fat fryer and snatch control of the restaurant from Duncan's
wholly uninterested sons. Even without the fine hand of the Bard guiding
the story line, "Scotland, PA.," which opens on Friday, would be a droll
send-up of small-town life.

The film catches the ambitions and frustrations of people whose horizons
are all uncomfortably near, and instead of playing those feelings for
pathos, torques them up into murderous impulses. Most impressively, Mr.
Morrissette manages to establish and maintain a tone that at once
parodies Shakespeare while being true to the turbulent small-timers he's
satirizing. It's a good trick to write a five-minute parody for
"Saturday Night Live"; it's quite another achievement to keep the
souffl


Re: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0379  Friday, 8 February 2002

[1]     From:   Mark Harris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 10:03:12 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0372 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 8 Feb 2002 00:01:19 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0372 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Harris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 10:03:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0372 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0372 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Nancy wrote,

> The music is simply magnificent, more than makes up
> for the
> implausibilities and gaps in the story.

Is it ever!  The greatest experience I have ever had in an opera house
was a performance of Shostakovich's original version of Lady Macbeth of
the Mtsensk District at the San Francisco Opera in the mid-Eighties.
The music is unbelievably thrilling, most definitely including the
"pornographic" accompaniment to one of the most explicit scenes in all
of opera (dramatized in San Francisco using throbbing shadows behind a
scrim).  By the time Shostakovich got to using a trombone glissando to
indicate....well, detumescence, the audience was simply going wild.

Mark Harris

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 8 Feb 2002 00:01:19 -0000
Subject: 13.0372 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0372 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

It's not surprising that Nancy Charlton felt Shostakovich's opera "Lady
Macbeth of the Mtensk District" strayed away from its "source material",
if she thought that this material was a little-known tragedy called
"Macbeth", by William Shakespeare. In fact, the opera has nothing
whatsoever to do with this 17th C curiosity, and is based upon a short
story by Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895), with which it shares a title. It's
extraordinary that the "programme notes" to which Ms. Charlton refers
failed to mention all this.

I am puzzled that someone should come away from the opera feeling that
Shostakovich had tried (but failed) to elicit sympathy for his
heroine...  Still, Ms. Charlton found the music to be "simply
magnificent", a judgement which can only please those of us on the list
who regard Shostakovich as something like a divine wonder. If you liked
that, check out "The Nose".  Different, somewhat wacky, but shot through
with the same bitter, ironic humour...

m

PS - Stalin actually wrote the review of this opera in Pravda, which was
run under the title "Chaos Instead of Music". He accused it of being
"formalist" and "bourgeois". Weird...

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

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