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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Critical Principles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0237  Tuesday, 29 January 2002

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Jan 2002 10:11:22 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0218 Re: Critical Principles

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Jan 2002 16:24:36 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0218 Re: Critical Principles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Jan 2002 10:11:22 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0218 Re: Critical Principles
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0218 Re: Critical Principles

Because Sir Ian McKellen is openly gay, are we to suppose that Gandalf
wants Frodo in the sack? Or Gimli? Aragorn? Maybe he wants a true
"fellowship" indeed.

Yes, it can be fair game but it doesn't necessarily make it RELEVANT
game.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Jan 2002 16:24:36 -0600
Subject: 13.0218 Re: Critical Principles
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0218 Re: Critical Principles

Charles Weinstein wrote,

> An actor who steps onto a stage to perform Shakespeare (or any other
> playwright) makes himself part of a living artwork.  He thereby exposes
> his entire actor's persona to critical judgment.  This includes not only
> his skill, intelligence, imagination and conceptual powers, but also his
> face, physique, voice, age, height, weight, race, ethnicity and sexual
> orientation.  The critic is free to comment on each and every one of
> these attributes, their suitability to the role in question, the ways in
> which the actor has used, misused, disguised or flaunted them, and
> whether they enhance or compromise the artistic result.  And others, of
> course, are free to disagree with him.

And various listmembers responded -- very politely and intelligently, I
might add. But I think CW's point is different from what they take it to
be.  When an actor obtrudes his sexual orientation on the role, that is
part of his characterization and not only deserves critical response but
requires it -- favorable or unfavorable.

I take it that what we are talking about is the collection of
mannerisms, generally called "swishy," that are so closely allied with
homosexuality that anyone displaying them is assumed to be so oriented.
Thus if an actor -- gay or straight -- plays a role with swishy
mannerisms then he is characterizing the part as being openly
homosexual.

This is a matter of choice, of conscious decision. Any actor worth
anything can play a part as swishy or not as he chooses, no matter what
his personal orientation. Edward II and Osric, for example, could
legitimately be done that way, and the actor need not be gay to do
either of them. By the same token, an actor who is extremely swishy
off-stage, should be able to do a part as straight.

One of the swishiest (and most brilliant) actors I know did Henry VIII
in a production of "A Man for All Seasons" without the slightest hint of
swishiness. In fact, a lot of the actors I know are gay, some very
swishy offstage, some not, but all the good ones can do a straight part
without swish.

The question remains whether CW is right in bringing up the actor's
actual sexual orientation in complaining about what he considers a very
bad interpretation of a given character by that actor. On the one hand,
it is the interpretation, not the actor's private life, that is an
artistic product and thus fair game for criticism. On the other hand, if
that orientation is well-known, it provides an explanation for a
particular aspect of the interpretation, which might be important in a
quasi-political way.

Personally, I'd leave the actor's sex life out of it and simply tear
into what I thought was a particularly bad performance. But CW may have
other reasons for bringing it in.

Cheers,
don

P.S. Apologies to CW for explaining what he means -- with a hope that
I've not done him too much of disservice. d.a.b.

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