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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2223  Thursday, 7 November 2002

[1]     From:   Brad MacDonald <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Nov 2002 09:00:19 -0500
        Subj:   Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right (A reply)

[2]     From:   Tiffany Conroy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Nov 2002 10:19:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2215 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

[3]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Nov 2002 12:44:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2215 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brad MacDonald <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Nov 2002 09:00:19 -0500
Subject:        Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right (A reply)

In response to Charles Weinstein's opinion that all Hollywood
productions of Shakespeare are merely mediocre, I would like to
disagree. Although I do agree with Weinstein that there are few decent
Shakespeare films, I don't think anyone goes to a movie based on
Shakespeare and expects to as stringently study it as they do
Shakespeare's work. I think many Hollywood movies, such as Romeo and
Juliet starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Titus starring Anthony Hopkins,
breathe life and entertainment to an experience that would otherwise
entail watching a cheaply made production on the BBC.  These movies peak
the interest of a younger generation and may tempt some young scholars
to begin intensive study on the "real" thing.

Sincerely,
Brad MacDonald

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tiffany Conroy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Nov 2002 10:19:22 -0500
Subject: 13.2215 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2215 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

This post, and as has been mentioned, the quotation from Bloom, reminds
me of a couple things...

First, the Wilde epigram: "A cynic is a person who knows the price of
everything and the value of nothing."

Also, the comments of Theseus on Bottom's troupe and the sometimes less
than eloquent greetings he receives in his travels that sincerity can
compensate for skill.

A few nights ago I re-viewed "A Midwinter Night's Tale" which shows the
redemptive and transformative power in the efforts of a group of people
who put on a very much "mediocre" performance of Hamlet.  Maybe it's
just that people who don't have experience in theater or film in a
down-in-the-trenches sort of way just cannot appreciate the sense of
magic and camaraderie that accompanies even the humblest act of
creation.

Of course we love to see Shakespeare handled "masterfully," but I recall
watching my friends in high school perform Shakespeare, and although the
plays were probably largely technically and artistically wanting, I have
seldom enjoyed watching Shakespeare as much as I did back then in the
high school auditorium.

Perhaps we really have lost a lot of our imaginative powers as audience
members now that film and theater technology have replaced our
imperative to fill in with our minds the things that are lacking on the
stage. "Oh, for a muse of fire..."

Two cents from
Tiffany Conroy

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Nov 2002 12:44:35 -0500
Subject: 13.2215 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2215 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

A good many people have written off Charles Weinstein based on his prior
excesses, but I don't see any reason to dismiss his and Harold Bloom's
view that mediocrity, when encountered and recognized as such, is not
worth preserving, studying, and passing on.  If CW is a comic actor (and
perhaps on occasion a "formidable" one), then he is surely better at
acting than I and, however embarrassing his gleefully reported disaster,
I don't hold poor acting a disqualification in him, nor in myself
neither.

And I, for one, have seen at least a dozen very mediocre Shakespeare
performances this year, yet none without a spark of something that made
the evening worthwhile.  And I also can't believe that anyone on this
list has ever seen the "perfect" Shakespearean performance.  No director
can aspire towards a complete interpretation, nor can any cast deliver
the director's vision.   So what?  Don't we all always have to separate
the wheat from the chaff, and to remember whatever is worthwhile,
whatever presents beautifully what we already appreciate or gives us new
insights to mull over?

But to cling to and defend the mediocrity, the chaff, is depressingly
wrong-headed.  Shall we soon see college degrees in mediocrity?  Is a
Harvard "summa" in mediocrity around the corner? Amateur shows,
not-yet-ready-for-primetime performances, and bad productions by
accomplished professionals are all facts of life to be noted, endured,
and charitably forgotten.  And if there are those among us who confuse
the value of performance studies (as opposed to whatever they think it
is that other Shakespeareans do) with the right of each performance to
demand praise and respect, then perhaps they are also confusing this
listserv with the fan-zines that exist on the internet for those who
wish to gape at and applaud the object of their uncritical devotion.
Despite my quiet suspicion that CW has set himself the goal of being
mostly wrong-headed most of the time,  I will not on this occasion award
him the dispraise he so often appears to seek.

Tony Burton

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