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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: The Laws of Theatre
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0686  Thursday, 7 March 2002

[1]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Mar 2002 11:28:31 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Mar 2002 17:27:54 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Mar 2002 13:47:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

[4]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Mar 2002 20:32:36 -0500
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

[5]     From:   Stephen Dobbin <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 10:45:13 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Rules of Theatre


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Mar 2002 11:28:31 EST
Subject: 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

I always preferred Spencer Tracy's advice to a young actor: "Always
learn your lines and try not to bump into the furniture."

Billy Houck

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Mar 2002 17:27:54 -0000
Subject: 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

Andy White says, "What I love about Shakespeare's plays-within-plays
(I'm thinking, too, of MSND) is that he portrays royalty as boorish,
impatient, ready to correct the actors on a whim if he doesn't look or
talk right.  One can only wonder how the less-moneyed groundlings would
have taken this royal example". They would have been like me at Moulin
Rouge (sorry to bring that up again), who, during the boring bits with
terrible dialogue terribly delivered, kept remembering the account of
James I at one of the Jonson/Jones masques, crying out, "We came here to
see dancing! Damn it all, why don't you dance!"

m

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Mar 2002 13:47:55 -0500
Subject: 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

Martin Steward writes, "I think that setting oneself interpretative
limitations (within a context of ideal freedom) is the very basis of
critical enjoyment of works of art." Limits are fine, and you certainly
are entitled to set yours in whatever way please you.

If one of my students tells me that The Tempest was written by a little
green man from Mars -- and he can prove this from an interpretation of
the script -- I'm willing to draw the line -- for me. But my student may
find my idea that the play is about governing totally wrong. To whom do
we appeal for adjudication?  Where do we find the disinterested judge
who stands outside the field of play?

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Mar 2002 20:32:36 -0500
Subject: 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre
Comment:        Fw: SHK 13.0674 Re: The Laws of Theatre

In response to Martin Steward's comment,

> Paul Doniger suggests Heywood's "Apology for Actors" (1612) as a
> codification of the laws of theatre. But that really was an apology - he
> was merely coming up with lots of arguments as to why theatre was
> edifying, and not dissolute, debased, a plaything of the devil. He
> doesn't really go into a theoretical discussion of drama, except insofar
> as he writes of it as a spur to moral thinking. By the same token, John
> Greene's "Refutation" (1615) does not waste time discussing the finer
> points of dramaturgy, but goes straight for the moral jugular no
> messing.

I didn't mean to suggest that Heywood's text is a codification of the
laws of acting in its entirety, but that there might be some content in
it that adds to a codification. For example, Heywood writes: "It
[rhetoric] instructs him to fit his phrases to his action, and his
action to his phrase, and his pronunciation to them both." This sounds
like Heywood knew his _Hamlet_ and expanded upon at least one law of the
theatre. Admitedly, he is speaking here about scholars, but he later
says that actors should BE scholars (part 2); in essence, he seems to
suggest that a the two most important "laws" of good acting are
intelligence and voice ("Where a good tongue & a good conceit both
faile, there can neuer be a good actor.").

I only mean to suggest that, while his purpose may be an "apology," he
does, in the process, present some theatrical tenets.

Paul E. Doniger

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Dobbin <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 10:45:13 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Rules of Theatre

In '78 Cambridge Theatre Company toured a Hamlet with the late Ian
Charleston in the title role.

In this production  Hamlet's advice to the players took place as the
unfortunate actors were trying to finish their make up, learn their new
lines and grab a few moments of quiet before going onstage. Meanwhile
this frighteningly callow and intense Hamlet flapped round them: an
insensitive, over excited, would-be director who had never acted in his
life but, as a student and a writer to boot, felt perfectly justified in
telling seasoned professionals how to do their jobs.

The increasingly strained smiles of the players as they tried not to get
cornered by him was an unexpectedly subversive, very funny and
absolutely convincing 'take' on this scene. And thinking back to the
Parnassus plays and Greene and Nashe's comments on actors who thought
they could write, I wonder if it wasn't potentially a very authentic
reading.

Stephen Dobbin

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