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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: The Laws of Theatre
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0709  Friday, 8 March 2002

[1]     From:   Brandon Toropov <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 09:43:40 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre

[2]     From:   Matt Henerson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 21:54:56 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre

[3]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 23:48:02 -0500
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brandon Toropov <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 09:43:40 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre

Bill Godshalk writes:

> 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

You appeal to the audience for adjudication. They are the disinterested
judge.

If they squirm around in their seats, cough repeatedly, and fail to
engage in the plot as set out for you by the playwright, you'll have a
clear sign that the Tempest-as-seen-from-Mars concept isn't working, and
that the Tempest-is-about-governing concept might have been worth
looking at more closely. Maybe you go back in and rework the scene at
that point.

WS was, I think, intensely focused on keeping the audience attuned to
the "necessary questions of the play." ("Will Hamlet kill the king, now
that he's got him alone in a room without anyone to defend him?")

He placed great importance on the theatrical positing of these
*specific, identifiable* questions. If an actor's approach to the text
undercuts or has nothing to do with the question a given scene is
supposed to be about, then the audience will stop paying attention to
what the playwright's built, or maybe start grumbling and muttering to
themselves, or perhaps even walk out of the theatre -- in which case
they will not only have rendered their clear judgment, but have placed
themselves well outside the field of play.

Brandon

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matt Henerson <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 21:54:56 EST
Subject: 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre

>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.

I was Horatio in a production the San Diego Repertory Theatre did in the
mid-90's.  Our Hamlet, Jefferson Mays, delivered the speech as if giving
director's notes.  He had a yellow legal pad, and with each piece of
advice, he'd draw a line through the "note" on the pad.  I was never
sure how it resonated generally.  The company thought it was terrific.
And friends who were actors invariably laughed.  Onstage, the "players"
listened attentively.  Having added the dozen or so lines to the play,
Hamlet had clearly decided to "direct" the show.  We were in modern
dress, so this was not the anachronism it might have been.

Matt

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 23:48:02 -0500
Subject: 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre
Comment:        Fw: SHK 13.0686 Re: The Laws of Theatre

To add to this great quote from  Billy Houck

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

Richard Boleslavsky tells us, "Above all, be attentive and flexible"
(_Acting: The First Six Lessons_. NY: Theatre Arts Books, 1933. Page120)
-- good advice in many areas of life!

Paul E. Doniger

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