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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Postmodern Shakespearean Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0066  Monday, 14 January 2002

[1]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Jan 2002 21:50:14 -0500
        Subj:   Postmodern Shakespearean Performance

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 06:41:33 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0033 Re: Postmodern Shakespearean Performance

[3]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 14:38:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0033 Re: Postmodern Shakespearean Performance


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Jan 2002 21:50:14 -0500
Subject:        Postmodern Shakespearean Performance

1.  I can't argue with Mr. Evett's assessment of Derrah's Iago, not
because of any de gustibus fatalism (let alone an unwillingness to
argue), but because the performance he saw took place a month after the
one I saw.  Some things have apparently changed:  to cite one minor
example, only Derrah and Evett fils were bearded a month ago, yet it now
appears that "all the male principals" have followed hirsute.  Moreover,
the press and the grapevine tell me that Derrah has finally kick-started
himself into some semblance of adequacy.  The Boston Globe's reviewer,
who initially panned Derrah, revisited the production last week and
reports that he is much improved.  I also know several people associated
with the A.R.T. , with whom, however, I had never discussed the
production.  When I asked one of them yesterday how Othello was going,
he replied:  "Better.  Tommy's finally learned his lines."   He then
went on to note that Derrah previously lacked the energy and involvement
necessary to make the play work; this has supposedly been remedied,
albeit at a fairly late date (the production closes in two weeks).  If
these reports are true, I'm happy for Mr. Evett and the other
theater-goers who are actually getting value for money.  Now will the
A.R.T. refund the $60 per-ticket price that I and hundreds of others
paid to see a performance that was not only bad but unprofessional?

2.  As for Derrah's "personal life," he has been openly gay for some
time.  When he inappropriately homosexualizes his character, he has
clearly failed in the actor's fundamental task:  to transform himself
into someone different from himself.  I would be happy to keep his
sexuality out of my review if he would keep it out of his acting.

3.  I'm not sure that I follow Mr. Evett's evaluation of Harbage:  Was
he an idealist who believed in the one true reading and therefore
interpreted Shakespeare with unwarranted dogmatism, or was he a devotee
of irony and ambiguity who couldn't bear the theater's elimination of
possibilities?

--Charles Weinstein

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson <
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Date:           Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 06:41:33 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0033 Re: Postmodern Shakespearean Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0033 Re: Postmodern Shakespearean Performance

I have refrained so far from getting involved in this debate, as I
believed I had little new to add to what had been said so well by
others.  But now I believe I must at least put myself on the record,
"for the good of the seminar" (as one of my former professors used to
say), as supporting the responses of Mike Jensen, Mari Bonami, Pat
Dolan, David Evett and the others who have expressed concern over
Charles Weinstein's manifestly bigoted comments about the personal
characteristics of various Shakespearean actors, ranging from Simon
Russel Beale (shortness) to Anthony Sher (sexual orientation), to (most
recently) Thomas Derrah (perceived sexual orientation).

I agree very much with Mari, Mike, and the others who have confronted
him.  Invariably, when Mr. Weinstein is called on his bigotry and/or
homophobia, he vigorously denies it and offers a "rational" explanation
for why he takes issue with a particular matter of casting or
performance.  Yet this after-the-fact defense does little to explain or
excuse why his initial comments were expressed in terms dripping with
bigotry.  Usually, he then says that if we don't like it, we don't have
to take notice.

This is ingenuous, at best.  It also does not take account of the fact
that Mr. Weinstein's comments on various performances quite often begin
with engaging, interesting insights that encourage the reader to
continue.  I know from off-list correspondences with various list
members that some, at least, have a response similar to mine: we know
from experience that Charles Weinstein is likely to eventually come up
with a bigoted remark, or two, or seven.  But each time he writes, we
want to give him the benefit of the doubt.  His initial posting on the
ART *Othello* is an excellent example.  It started off as an
intelligent, analytical account of the production.  I continued reading,
thinking "ah, maybe this time it will be different."

But it wasn't.

ALL of us have irrational fears and prejudices. NONE of us are
completely free of bigotry.  This does not mean, however, that we should
not confront and contest our own and other's bigotry when we encounter
it. We may not succeed in changing anyone else, but at least in the
process of challenging bigotry, hatred and irrational fears, we may at
least show to others that such beliefs *deserve* to be challenged,
rather than ignored.  Ignoring such remarks as Mr. Weinstein has made
implies a kind of acceptance, albeit a passive one.  And acceptance of
hatred and bigotry is NOT the way to build a better world, or a better
on-line seminar.

Finally, on a more practical level: Charles Weinstein has made many
valid, and valuable, contributions to the list.  I do not want to see
him silenced, nor do I wish him to be drummed off the list.  But may I
make a suggestion to him?

All of us have our idiosyncratic reactions to things.  I shall use
myself as an example.  I cannot bear to see films or plays or television
programs in which animals are treated badly and/or are killed.  The RSC
currently features a play which has received a glowingly enthusiastic
reception, *The Lieutenant of Inishmore."  I know that this play
involves doing Bad Things to a cat (not to mention even worse things to
humans!).  I do not intend to see this play because I KNOW that I would
be unhinged by the cat-abuse (yes, yes, I know that it's "all pretend"
and that no actual animals are actually hurt during the performance,
etc.  It doesn't matter.  I still would get upset).  Were I for
professional reasons obliged to see the play and write about it, I would
have to take myself in hand and consciously NOT address my
discomfort/distress at the cat-abuse theme, as I realize that my
response in this area is not rational and would not contribute to a
better understanding of the play on the part of others.

May I suggest that Mr. Weinstein adopt a similar policy?  If he is
unable or unwilling to change his opinions about, say, gay-inflected
performances, or about physical casting against type, he has a couple of
options. He can avoid seeing productions which are known to include such
elements.  If he simply MUST go and see, and if he then writes about the
production, he might try to acknowledge that his negative responses are
idiosyncratically HIS, and that they do not enhance any subsequent
critique of the performance which he may then write for the (supposed)
enlightenment of others.

Karen E. Peterson
University of Wales at Lampeter

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 14:38:24 -0500
Subject: 13.0033 Re: Postmodern Shakespearean Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0033 Re: Postmodern Shakespearean Performance

> American Repertory Theater production of *Othello* until that I found it one of the more
> coherent, interesting, and moving productions of the play in my fairly
> extensive experience , and that I
> thought Thomas Derrah an uncommonly inventive and successful Iago.

Like David Evett, I missed the opportunity to see "Othello" at the ART
early in its run.  I was offered a press ticket, but only for the night
of the final rehearsal for my choir's Christmas concert, alas.  The
early reviews sounded as if reviewers were trying to be kind, and kind
to a failure that sounded more basic than the "interesting" sort that
results from the imperfect overlay of some directorial concept. It
sounded like the actors were thrown back on their own resources, and
floundering: a spectacle that it would be no pleasure to see, and
downright painful to write about.  Although my Shakespeare savvy friends
were disappointed with the early performances, the word in the local
press and 'on the street" is that, having changed directors, restored
many lines cut from the script, and revised the production "concept" in
mid-rehearsal, "Othello" was far from being ready to open on schedule.
People who have seen it recently seem to agree with David Evett's
assessment. Now, I am told, Derrah's Iago and the show as a whole have
improved to the point that the production is, as D.E. says, "coherent,
interesting, and moving".  The Othello run has been extended for another
week, and I will try to see it before it closes.

Geralyn Horton
http://www.stagepage.org

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