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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Authenticity
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0300  Thursday, 31 January 2002

[1]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Jan 2002 11:31:37 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0272 Re: Authenticity

[2]     From:   Brandon Toropov <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Jan 2002 15:40:25 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0272 Re: Authenticity


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Jan 2002 11:31:37 -0800
Subject: 13.0272 Re: Authenticity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0272 Re: Authenticity

Brian Willis wrote,

>recent scholarship has suggested that putting up
>plays were truly a COMPANY effort for COMPANY profit.

Can you point us to that scholarship?

Thanks,
Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brandon Toropov <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 30 Jan 2002 15:40:25 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0272 Re: Authenticity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0272 Re: Authenticity

To clarify:

Radio = no scenery, and thus = no maddeningly wrong moments like ART's
production of HENRY V a few years back, which foisted elaborate,
flamboyant puppet-horses on the paying customers. This in a play, mind
you, that specifically instructs the audience to IMAGINE horses that
WOULD NOT (or so the author assured us) be appearing onstage.

Over the years, I have watched lighting, sound, and set designers fling
hundreds of equally inane ideas at their audiences -- ideas that fought
openly or implicitly with language that was clearly designed, at key
points in the script, to evoke a series of mental pictures, language
meant to do most of the "heavy lifting" we now assign set designers. The
speeches evoking these mental pictures, I believe, were DESIGNED TO BE
the theatrical happening when they were spoken. Not the lights. Not the
set. (Director's interior monologue: "The text mentions moonlight; we
must therefore show the audience moonlight." Grr.)

So. Given these more or less constant missteps, I have in fact often
wondered (and I'm pretty sure that's what I said, 'wondered,') whether
or not radio was the best contemporary medium in which to present
Shakespeare, inasmuch as many stage directors, lighting designers, and
set designers simply refuse to accommodate their work to the demands of
the text.  Radio folk can't do precisely this kind of damage to the
experience.

But -- all that wondering took place about productions I saw in theaters
other than the New Globe.

Having now seen good work there, I've condluded that a theater like the
New Globe is in fact the ideal setting. Lacking such a theater in
Boston, though, I'm pretty much forced back to square one, which is
ongoing resentment at directors, lighting designers, sound designers,
and anyone else who insists on distracting my visual cortex with horses
that shouldn't be there, or reflections of water that my mind was meant
to supply on its own, or some grad student's best approximation at what
a morn in russet mantle clad is "supposed to" look like. This problem
certainly shows up in the movies, too, of course.

Remember the silly moment in Branagh's HAMLET where he tries to show us
a sunset that matches that "russet mantle" line? Didn't it give you a
sense of the limitations of the medium of film? It did me. At any rate,
such moments seem to me irretrievably *inauthentic.*

Moral: For better or for worse, we're visual organisms, we poor audience
members, and many productions of Shakespeare offer a far more
distracting visual stage environment than Shakespeare ever planned for
us. Stage productions that repeatedly make this mistake for two and a
half hours or so -- and I have to say that includes most that I've seen
-- would surely have disturbed a man resentful enough of unnecessary and
superfluous theatrical distractions to pronounce judgment on such
distractions in the speech to the players.

This was my point.

Clearer?

BT

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