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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0107  Friday, 18 January 2002

[1]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 10:00:15 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 13:08:44 -0500
        Subj:   Criticism, Authority, etc.

[3]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 13:37:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale

[4]     From:   Ben Fisler <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 16:39:36 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale

[5]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 14:03:21 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 10:00:15 -0500
Subject: 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale

C. Weinstein cites Brustein and Simon as the pinnacle of theater
criticism.

If the ability to use words to destroy that which one does not admire,
regardless of the narrowness of one's perspective, then I cannot fault
his choice of Simon.  Weinstein's own emulation of Simon is clear in the
elegance with which he wields his own venom-coated blade.

If Brustein is to be cited as a model, then one must consider his
history, at least as I observed it back in the dark ages when he led the
Yale Repertory Theatre and drama school program.

Brustein presented more bizarre, distorted variations on "theatre" than
any other director since, and I've seen quite a few productions there.
I'm not fond of the current director either but even he did not go so
far as a play (the name of which blessedly escapes me) which had as its
highlight the repeated forcing of a character's head into a toilet which
had previously been filled by someone else's digestive distresses.  His
Shakespeare productions tended toward the same sorts of excesses.

That being said, his MSD the last season before he left was in many ways
the most luminous I have seen; his Tempest, which in many ways was a
dud, featured the most captivating Ariel (a group of 4 inside a
cloud-like casing) I have seen.

However, I consider neither Simon nor Brustein to be the sole voice(s)
of authority on theatre of any sort.  Simon in particular takes more
pleasure in destroying than in uplifting, and I do not believe
"criticism" is supposed to be almost entirely vicious.

I shall never forgive Simon calling a former student of mine "the always
execrable <name omitted>" in the pages of _New York Magazine_ .  I've
seen that performer on stage and he has been both screamingly funny and
almost unbearable poignant depending on his role, and on the piece
itself.

And I have never understood the need for cruelty, any more than for
bigotry.

Mari Bonomi

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 13:08:44 -0500
Subject:        Criticism, Authority, etc.

Charles Weinstein writes,

"As Mike Jensen has so eloquently written, 'criticism is not a
democratic process.'   The victory belongs to those with superior
knowledge, education, experience and insight."

Two questions:

(1) Does there have to be a victory (and a victor)?

(2) Is it really true that literary arguments (or arguments of any kind)
are invariably (or even usually) won by those with superior knowledge,
education, experience, insight, etc.?

As an example, I think it is universally acknowledged that Northrop
Frye's knowledge, education, experience, and insight were/are unmatched.
But how many critical disciples does he have? Did he EVER have an army
of exegetes applying the methods of _Anatomy of Criticism_ to
literature?

As another example, consider Harold Goddard, untrained in literature,
with an imperfect understanding of literary traditions, little
experience in the area (he was a psychologist by training, I think) --
clearly a kind of "every man."

Yet for years critics have seen _The Meaning of Shakespeare_ as a
seminal source for much of late-humanist and postmodern criticism of
Shake-speare.

?????

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 13:37:44 -0500
Subject: 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale

At the risk of sticking my foot in it -- I have seen equally phlegmatic
Hamlets who got raves from critics because, unlike Beale, they happened
to have the looks, physique and film track-record of matinee idols.
Perhaps what makes Beale's quiet interpretation so unique is that for
the first time in ages, critics had to look beyond the cute face and
finely shaped leg and consider Hamlet's actual presence on-stage.

I'm all in favor of subjectivity in criticism, but as an actor I have no
trust in a critic's judgment if she/he indulges in personal attacks --
whether on the actor's techniques or appearance.  I know a good critic
from a bad one, and I don't care who among the distinguished cadre of
American critics indulges in what is a despicable practice, one that
should be beneath a self-anointed priest of high art.  We can pan a
production, we can pan individual actors, but wallowing in their
appearance for cheap rhetorical effect demeans the critic far more than
the intended target.

Caveat arbiter,
Andy White

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Fisler <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 16:39:36 EST
Subject: 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0101 Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale



 

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