2002

Romeo MUST Die (in DC)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1102  Tuesday, 23 April 2002

From:           Jimmy Jung <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 22 Apr 2002 10:37:49 -0400
Subject:        Romeo MUST Die (in DC)

I was looking at David Wallace's response and thinking about a paper I
wrote, probably back in 11th grade, where I tried to resolve if in fact
Romeo and Juliet are in fact "star-crossed," or to blame for their own
tragedy.

Mr. Wallace points out that, "A lovesick Romeo and a dutiful Juliet are
necessary if we are to appreciate that their destiny is governed not by
some character flaw but by the manipulations Fate or God." He asks when
Romeo is "assigned the line 'O, I am Fortune's fool'.  How much clearer
do we need it?"  But it was never that clear to me, let's face it; 30
seconds patience at the tomb and the story has a happy ending
(recognizing, of course that we wouldn't really have much of a story, or
at least a tragedy, at all).  It makes me curious, I may have to dig
through the attic to see if I saw it the same way, when I was in my
passionate youth.

Nevertheless, when Mr. Wallace says, "But if one wants the aesthetic
satisfactions of the tragedy of Juliet AND Romeo, it might be best to
extend some sympathy his way," And while I'm inclined to agree, I put
the burden on the performer to create that sympathy (not me to extend
it) - and with Romeo, that just doesn't happen that often.

I will say, that through some ticketing/schedule goof-up, my wife and my
mother (who scoff at my defense of Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo) saw the
play yesterday and both proclaimed it "excellent."  Those roles I
considered weakest, they considered the strengths; (with the exception
of Romeo, which none of us can endorse, but which none of us saw as
quite as wretchedly as has been elsewhere described).

Someone on this list suggested that all subsequent viewings are through
the perspective of seeing our first Hamlet.  Not true of Hamlet for me,
but everyone in our party is agreed; we may need to go back to the
Zeffirelli film to see if Leonard Whiting comes off as well as we
remember.

Jimmy

PS:  Mr. Heller; Antony and Cleopatra had also crossed my mind as "most
romantic," but the politics always seemed to detract from the drama of
the heart.  I always considered A&C, R&J for grown-ups; something I took
to be a popular perspective.  I am left to wonder why we tend towards
tragedies as "more romantic," is there something unromantic about a
happy ending.  I want to nominate the mature love of "Much Ado ..." or
the insane love of "Midsummer ..." but it just doesn't feel right.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
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It's Only a Movie

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1101  Monday, 22 April 2002

From:           Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 21 Apr 2002 16:56:39 -0400
Subject:        It's Only a Movie

Some refreshing common sense from a scholar who refuses to grovel before
the Great God Film:

"Viewers of a movie version of a Shakespeare play rarely get its text
complete.  Often, by the time the director is finished updating and
adapting the play to the screen--adding music, rearranging scenes,
transposing the setting, and so on--little remains of the original
work.  What should be the occasion for thoughtful reflection on the
human condition is turned into just another Hollywood movie, sometimes
even an action/adventure flick (such as the Mel Gibson Hamlet, which
some of my students referred to as Lethal Bodkin), and almost always in
a form that emphasizes emotion at the expense of dramatic logic.  For
example, Baz Luhrman's version of Romeo and Juliet turned the play into
what amounted to a series of MTV videos, and was so geared to the
teenage market that at the time I proposed renaming it Saved by the
Bell: The Renaissance Years."  --Paul Cantor, "The Art in the Popular,"
Wilson Quarterly (Summer, 2001).

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

IRT's Drive Through Julius Caesar

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1099  Monday, 22 April 2002

From:           Marcia Eppich-Harris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 21 Apr 2002 23:31:25 -0500
Subject:        IRT's Drive Through Julius Caesar

Hello fellow Bardolators,

My husband and I, as well as two friends, went to see Indiana Repertory
Theater's production of Julius Caesar (Dir. by John Green) this weekend,
and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

The first thing I would like to mention is that I'd never seen JC
before, and I was really looking forward to it. JC was the first
Shakespeare play I had ever read that (1) make sense to me, (2) I
enjoyed, and (3) it has always, therefore, held a place in my heart, in
spite of several of my teachers' lack of reverence for it. I read it as
a sophomore in high school (for the first time), and I was really
engaged in it -- which is probably why I thought my freshmen (in
college) class could handle Shakespeare too, but that's another story
for another post...

Anyway, the IRT has a pretty good reputation, and so I thought that this
production would be nice to see. The first thing that should have tipped
me off, though, is that the production was being advertised as a 90
minute production, which somehow seems at least an hour too short, and
there was no intermission. I think that since almost all sophomores in
high school (at least in Indiana) read JC, the reason they cut it so
ridiculously short was to get the revenue from high schools coming in to
see the performance.  The acting, I will say, was excellent. I felt
sorry for the actors though.  They were dressed in typical political
attire of modern times (wintry style for March, I suppose): three piece
suits, overcoats, gloves, and some of them had hats. It must have been
miserably hot for the actors. They also used box cutter knives in the
assassination scene, which was an interesting nod toward Sept. 11, but I
don't know if we think of Brutus et. al. as terrorists per se. Thoughts?

What was really depressing was that any effort Shakespeare may have made
some four hundred years ago to develop both characters and their
relationships was for the most part completely cut. I was not convinced
that Brutus loved JC, but there wasn't any time to see any of that. For
a spectator who loves the play JC, this was a depressingly brief showing
of the play. For high school kids, whose attention spans won't last
through the first half hour, it'll probably still be too long because
much of the substance of the play has been cut, so why should they care
in the first place?? There were some very cool visuals, however, so
maybe they won't be bored to death/sleep terribly early on, but this
production was clearly not geared toward those who love Shakespeare.
It's more likely geared toward highly visually thinking high school
students who will be more excited about getting out of school for a
field trip than anything else. This production, to me, is just another
result of our "fast food" lifestyles--Drive Through Julius Caesar.

"How many ages hence Shall this our lofty scene be acted over [WITH
TERRIBLE BREVITY AND COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT] In
states unborn and accents yet unknown!"(3.1.112-4, and some elaboration)

Shrug,
Marcia

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Imperfect Seers

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1100  Monday, 22 April 2002

From:           Lisa Hopkins <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 22 Apr 2002 10:03:24 +0100
Subject:        Imperfect Seers

A propos of Terence Hawkes' question about vision defects, I don't have
any of the information he wants, but I did go to a conference on Early
Modern Ghosts at Durham last year where someone mentioned that she had
been seeing a ghost for most of the previous summer.  It moved wherever
she did and she could always see a spectral presence out of the corner
of her eye.  Eventually someone recommended a visit to an optician,
peripheral vision disorder was diagnosed and treated, and the supposed
ghost duly vanished.  As someone who has worn glasses since I was eight
years old, I do wonder what kind of world I would think I inhabited
without them.

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Shakespeare Therapy in Leather Trousers

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1098  Monday, 22 April 2002

From:           Takashi Kozuka <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 21 Apr 2002 21:35:34 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        'Shakespeare Therapy in Leather Trousers'

One more article from The Times Online (21 April 2002)...

Andrew Sullivan: Shakespeare therapy in leather trousers

This is not the place I usually write this column.  It's a muggy night
just across the river in Washington DC. Above my laptop is a row of
standard-issue light bulbs, framing a mirror.

I'm dressed in black leather trousers, purple silk shirt and a somewhat
ridiculous beard attached with toupee glue. It's 10 minutes to what
looks set to be another crisis-ridden technical dress rehearsal. Ah,
those sounds and lights. They tend to have a life of their own.

Yesterday, in the middle of what I thought would be a monologue, a
botched sound cue that sounded like a chorus of Monty Python's Knights
Who Say Ni!  accompanied my peroration. Nobody in the rest of the cast
seemed to bat an eyelid. This is the way it usually is, one of my fellow
actors - a real pro -assured me. It reassured me for about five minutes.

How I got myself into this is a relatively simple story. A few months
back, a director from New York City e-mailed me out of the blue and
asked if I'd be interested in auditioning for Shakespeare's Much Ado
About Nothing.

If John Waters could cast Patty Hearst in his movies, why couldn't he,
in a far less impressive way, cast me in a minor Washington Shakespeare
Company production?  He'd heard through the grapevine that I'd had some
acting experience in the distant past.

Alas, I don't think he was referring to my debut, at the age of seven,
as a dormouse in Alice in Wonderland. Nor to a celebrated moment in the
dramatic history of Reigate grammar school when, in a Roman play, my
toga fell off during a dramatic entrance revealing me, at the age of 13,
in nothing but Y-fronts.

In my later teens I joined the National Youth Theatre, which was a crash
course in theatre discipline, and even got reviewed in the London papers
for some minor parts. At Oxford I spent more time doing theatre than
anything but debating, and even crashed a Union debate in my costume
from The Merchant of Venice.

At Harvard I played Hamlet in, er, Hamlet (a gruelling, uncut, four-hour
version set to Frankie Goes To Hollywood), the psycho boy in Equus and
Mozart in Amadeus. But that was a long time ago.

It was fun at the time and I was under no illusions that I'd ever be a
real actor. I'd long since given up the stage in favour of op-ed and the
shoutathons of America's political talk shows.

But what the heck? It was Shakespeare after all. I auditioned; they gave
me the part of Benedick. I didn't know the play very well, but a quick
read made me an instant fan. So after a brief dalliance with prudence, I
said yes.

And so here I am at 10.50pm with one more act of yet more hellish
technical cues to go, writing this column in the breaks.

So far the night has gone even worse than expected.  With all the sweat,
I somehow lost my beard in the first act and it floated around the stage
for a while like some small rodent looking for a home.

When the time came for the "tricking of Benedick" scene, in which a
critical plot element requires Benedick to be hidden from view, the
actor supposed to set my wooden "hiding" box on stage . . . forgot.

This would have been an amusing spectacle - a little like last night
when I was supposed to exit by a trap door that doggedly refused to open
- apart from the fact that this was the second night running that I'd
had to crouch down in the first row of seats in order to maintain even a
semblance of concealment.

Not since the toga fell off . . .

Oh well. This is the way it usually is in "tech", my fellow
professionals assured me. Really? I don't even remember school
productions as accident-prone in rehearsal as this one.

But perhaps my brain has simply blotted out the nightmares. To our
immense relief we were eventually told that the looming preview was
cancelled. We needed another run-through. Actually, we need another
week.

But the show is scheduled to open in a few days and while you're reading
this, I'm probably sweating my way out of a trap door to make sure it
does.

Still, even if the show careens into critical disdain, it was worth it.
I have a day job, after all. It's not as if I have set my sights on
Broadway from which, in any case, the non-profit Washington Shakespeare
Company is far removed.

But acting, I found out all over again, is also a kind of drug. It takes
you out of yourself, like a good narcotic. Playing Benedick has been
particularly diverting. He's a show-off, a soldier, a wit (though no
real match for Beatrice), but he's also an emotional wreck.

For all this, Shakespeare brings him into unaccustomed maturity in a few
scenes and finds him a wife in the end (although, revealingly, we never
see the actual marriage). Finding a path through this emotional journey
- and making it credible - turned out to be far harder than I imagined
(and I still haven't got there).

But it has also been a wonderfully challenging way to think about my
life. A large part of me, I realised, shares Benedick's disdain for
romantic love, his unconventionality, his pride and scorn.

In fact I found it far easier to play Benedick at the beginning of the
play than at the end, where he capitulates to convention and throws his
hands up at the confusion of his own life - and so many others'.

But another part of me, like Benedick, wants the security of love and
marriage and convention - and simply rationalises my own failure to find
an easy way to get there.

Working your way through a character's evolution can therefore become, I
discovered again, a little digression through your own needs and wants.
It can let you say things you'd never say in real life but that make you
feel more complete for articulating.

It's safe therapy, I suppose, in which you can feel things and say
things and even believe things without ever having to take personal
responsibility for them.  You can call that acting. But you can also
call it a kind of freedom.

"For man is a giddy thing," as Benedick puts it at the culmination of
the play.

By acting out the nihilism of Shakespeare's vision, so vividly portrayed
in Much Ado About Nothing, you can feel somehow the saving grace of
human incoherence, expressed in peerless language, echoing and
reverberating in your own little life. Giddiness indeed.

Wish me luck. I'll need it.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

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