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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2238  Monday, 11 November 2002

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Nov 2002 15:41:50 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

[2]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Friday, 08 Nov 2002 12:56:17 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

[3]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Nov 2002 17:59:50 GMT0BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

[4]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Nov 2002 16:39:43 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

[5]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Nov 2002 17:04:26 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

[6]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Sunday, 10 Nov 2002 17:02:09 -0500
        Subj:   Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Nov 2002 15:41:50 -0000
Subject: 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

Charles Weinstein writes

>Others trek through Shakespeare's plays
>line-by-line providing encyclopedic commentary
>on the wildly varying ways in which different
>actors have read a speech or played a moment.
>This chaotic welter of data is supposed to tell us
>something about Shakespeare; in truth, it is a
>zero-sum game that tells us absolutely nothing.

A bit of trekking of his own through a dictionary would have told
Weinstein that he's misusing the term "zero-sum game". It does not mean
'a pointless activity' (as he uses it) but rather 'an activity in which
the advantage of one person necessarily is to the disadvantage of one or
more others', thus the combined advantages always sum to zero. The
interesting contrast is between such situations (war, or the
installation of burglar alarms) and non-zero sum situations such as
collectivization of farming land.*

Gabriel Egan

"Where are they now", Sam? Still here.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Friday, 08 Nov 2002 12:56:17 -0500
Subject: 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

>"I am not actuated by bitterness at personal failure, but by genuine
>anger at what I see happening around me."
>
>I found myself fascinated by Charles Weinstein's above comment, because it
>caused me to wonder why performances could cause "genuine anger." I am
>certain I have not seen nearly as many performances as Mr. Weinstein, but I
>have seen some pretty poor ones. I was bored, irritated, angry at the waste
>of time and money, but I was not angry in a global way.

I wonder if this anger comes from a belief that literature (maybe all
art) has a very specific purpose in the world, and that bad performances
destroy that purpose. I tend to believe that art has many purposes,
political and communal included. Sometimes it is enough that a
Shakespeare play has allowed people to come together for a few hours,
even if the themes I consider vital are mangled.

I'd like to ask Mr. Weinstein if he could articulate why he is so angry
at bad performances, rather than what makes a performance bad. I believe
it could lead to a very fruitful discussion.

Annalisa Castaldo

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Nov 2002 17:59:50 GMT0BST
Subject: 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

I've come rather late to this thread, and skipped some of the earlier
postings, but, having just completed work on 'The Tempest at Stratford'
for the Arden series, it seems to me that there are some simple but
important points about performance history that are being overlooked.

1. Performance history can involve just as much serious and complex
scholarly and intellectual research effort as any other critical
activity.  Attempting to reconstruct an individual performance from the
contradictory evidence of the surviving records, even when these are as
full as those of the RSC, is an exacting business (and, of course,
confirms that individual judgements of any performance vary wildly - one
often wonders whether reviewers have been at the same show).  It's about
weighing, evaluating and synthesising evidence  - the core of any
intellectual work.

2. As with all critical activity that aspires to anything more than the
merely descriptive or tendentiously opinionated, the central point is
not the evaluative judgement of an individual performance, but the work
that any performance may be made to do in building a larger argument.

3.  Performance history can contribute to a number of different kinds of
larger argument, of which the light shed on a particular text is only
one.  Dennis Kennedy's *Looking at Shakespeare* is a wonderful account
of changing theatrical sensibilities in the twentieth century, for
example, and one doesn't have to buy the whole 'presentist' hypothesis
to recognise that performances of Coriolanus, for example, have
functioned culturally in very different, but very significant ways at
different times (vide Hawkes, Meaning by Shakespeare).

There is bad performance history, and there are bad performances - but
the two are not connected.

David Lindley
University of Leeds

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Nov 2002 16:39:43 -0500
Subject: 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

Charles Weinstein
is no Einstein:
he lacks the proclivity
for relativity.

Dave Evett

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Nov 2002 17:04:26 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2228 Re: Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

How many times have we had this discussion? It seems that beating a dead
horse is Charles Weinstein's favorite hobby. Resistance is futile.

Instead of discussing the merit of production and performance
scholarship, let's discuss those productions for better or for worse.
It's all in the details, not in the "merit".

Brian Willis

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Sunday, 10 Nov 2002 17:02:09 -0500
Subject:        Anything Goes or Whatever Is, Is Right

Begin at the beginning:

"In any given period, most Shakespearean productions are mediocre, and
of no lasting significance."

This strikes me as inarguable.

"The constituent works [of the Shakespeare in Performance 'canon'] are
not required to pass the test of time, or any test other than that of
existence."

The first half of this sentence is quite true; the second half may be
overstated, but not by much.

By sweeping virtually everything into their dragnet, the Shakespeare in
Performance scholars give themselves plenty to talk about, which seems
to be the raison d'etre of their discipline.  Yet they also insure that
much of what they talk about will be modish, trivial, fast-fading,
mediocre and/or meretricious.  This wouldn't matter if they were
journalists writing puff pieces for an arts and entertainment column.
But they're supposed to be scholars:  learned men and women called upon
to study, assess and teach the best that has been known and thought, not
to waste their time swooning over Baz Luhrman and Ten Things I Hate
About You.  In dedicating their minds to these topics they betray their
calling and their students, fostering a world in which Shakespeare
recedes into the distance while Baz, Ken, Mel, Glenn, Michelle, Keanu,
Billy and Robin hog the foreground.  That isn't scholarship; it's Access
Hollywood.  Yet apparently none of their more judicious colleagues is
willing to step forward, condemn this nonsense and try to infuse some
rigor into the proceedings.  As a result, Shakespeare in Performance is
a chaos where the worthy is overwhelmed by the ludicrous.

--Charles Weinstein

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