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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Re: Anything Goes
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2300  Tuesday, 19 November 2002

[1] From:       Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Nov 2002 14:18:34 -0500
Subject: 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes

[2] From:       Michael Shurgot <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Nov 2002 11:59:21 -0800
Subject: 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes


[3] From:       Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Sunday, 17 Nov 2002 08:15:40 -0500
Subject:        Anything Goes or All's Right With the World

[4] From:       Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Sunday, 17 Nov 2002 08:18:05 -0500
Subject:        Anything Goes: Sundry Replies


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Nov 2002 14:18:34 -0500
Subject: 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes

Re: Poor old Charlie Weinstein!

It took me quite some time to realize that the eloquent curmudgeon on
SHAKSPER  is the same C. Weinstein as the Boston area actor whose
performances I have enjoyed over the years.  I did a name search of my
theatre reviews for the 1997-2002, and it came up empty-- apparently my
general impression that Charles is excellent in the quality he professes
is not based on a recent instance.  I'm sure that if I had his resume in
hand it would jolt my memory and I would recall at least some of his
roles. However, I did discover that his name is on my list of good
mature actors to recommend if somebody calls me asking.  And I can vouch
for Charles' good reputation among the "lower rung"--Independent
Reviewers of New England critics I gossip with; and for the generosity
he has shown to obscure playwrights.  I have performed with him in
staged readings for the authors at Playwrights Platform-- I think he
once even condescended to read in something of mine.  Probably not a
very good something, since I seem to have suppressed the memory of which
play.

Geralyn Horton

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playwright, actor, critic
Newton, MA
http://www.stagepage.info

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Shurgot <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Nov 2002 11:59:21 -0800
Subject: 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.2282 Re: Anything Goes

Dear Colleagues:

Though I try to avoid "getting involved" in postings that I consider too
personal, too ad- hominem, I sense that the latest round of postings on
Mr.  Weinstein's arguments about performance criticism and performance
reviews, as well as performances themselves, requires a response. Since
I write performance criticism, and review Shakespearean productions out
here in the cultural wastelands of western Washington and Oregon, oh so
far from NYC and the Folger and (egad!) the RSC, I and my work are
presumably the target of one of Mr. Weinstein's scud missiles. Hence
this response, which shall be my only one on this acerbic exchange.

I teach at a small community college in Olympia, WA., the state capitol,
a town of @ 40,000 that is surrounded by very small towns inhabited
mostly by people who work(ed) in logging, fishing, etc. I have one
Shakespeare course per academic year, and in each class I take my
students to see a live performance in one of the theatres from Seattle
south to Portland, OR. I have been reviewing these various theatres for
seven years in Sh. Bulletin, and I believe that many of the productions
I have reviewed have been superb (esp. at Intiman Theatre and Seattle
Rep. in Seattle). Further, for many of my (mostly rural) students this
is the first live theatrical production they have ever seen,
Shakespearean or not. Apparently Mr. Weinstein would have us all believe
that such productions are worthless, not only aesthetically and
theatrically, but also pedagogically. While the Seattle Shakespeare
Company is not DC, nor NY, NY, nor (thank goodness!), the RSC, their
productions are in fact often quite good, and for my students immensely
valuable. To argue a priori that such productions that Mr. Weinstein has
not seen are worthless is to argue for a cultural and artistic hegemony
that I cannot imagine any educated person embracing. Are all
performances of J. S. Bach's violin concerti artistically worthless
because they are not performed by The English Concert or The Academy of
Ancient Music? Do we want to argue analogically that no one in Seattle
or Portland can REALLY play a Baroque violin? Or articulate a
Shakespearean soliloquy?

As for performance criticism, I would argue that it is most valuable
precisely because it evaluates the artistic and theatrical value of
interpretations of Shakespearean scripts that are alive because they are
performed around the world, just as is Bach's music. I would also
challenge Mr. Weinstein and others who denigrate performance criticism
to try writing honest performance criticism to see how difficult it is,
and to realize how much such criticism necessitates a thorough grasp of
the script whose performance one is reviewing. Examples of such writing
from the many fine reviewers in Sh. Bulletin and especially performance
scholars such as Alan Dessen in his annual review essay in SQ testify to
the historical and scholarly value of performance criticism, which has
always seemed to me to be much more lively and engaging than the
foot-note laden tomes that dominate SQ and similar journals.

Finally, I would urge colleagues to spend some time hanging around with
actors, who will tell you that the only ideas about a Shakespearean
script that have any real value for them are those that can be realized
in performance. This view is one-sided, I admit, but it does remind us
after all of what Shakespeare wrote and why. Academic scholarship can
certainly help all of us understand,  explain, and analyze Shakespeare's
plays, for ourselves and for our students; certainly has intellectual
interest and value; and obviously provides the basis for further
research. But most such "scholarly" ideas about a play survive mainly as
forgettable footnotes that pale besides an engaging, riveting
performance of a script, such as Derrick Lee Weeden's as Othello two
years ago in Ashland. Such performances demand to be recorded, and
justly.

But this apologia is already too long. Enough.

Regards,
Michael Shurgot

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Sunday, 17 Nov 2002 08:15:40 -0500
Subject:        Anything Goes or All's Right With the World

Not so very long ago, big-studio films were seen as the quintessence of
crassness, hucksterism, superficiality and artistic compromise.  That
judgment was correct.  The alleged interregnum of a golden age in the
Sixties and Seventies was short-lived at best:  there is nothing at
present to call the time-honored judgment into question.  Yet if a
big-studio film happens to be a Shakespearean adaptation, academics
instantly hail it as an object worthy of deep and appreciative study.
Those same academics would view any other industrial product with
condign suspicion; yet let it be a movie and their skepticism vanishes,
along with their aesthetic and intellectual standards.  And so (for
example) they do not see the vulgarity, cynicism and tastelessness
involved in casting Clare and Leo as Romeo and Juliet, or turning the
play itself into a blaring rock concert that jettisons over half of the
text.  What accounts for such myopia?  Arrant with-it-ness?  The frantic
need to justify their tenure by forging a new canon, regardless of
whether the material deserves to be canonized?  Or could it be what John
Simon called the "confusion [that] stems from critics' trying to treat
the aristocracy and hierarchy of art as a democracy or chaos; either
because they refuse to admit that, along with their high tastes, they
have low tastes as well; or that, along with their low tastes. they have
no high tastes at all"?

--Charles Weinstein

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Sunday, 17 Nov 2002 08:18:05 -0500
Subject:        Anything Goes: Sundry Replies

To Mr. Evett:  What would "relativity" mean in this context?  "X's
performance was bad in absolute terms, but compared to what an even
worse actor might have done, it was acceptable?"

To Mr. Lindley:  Why bother to "re-create" what should never have been
created?  Most productions are unworthy of intellectual resurrection.
Or is everything produced at Stratford automatically exempt from that
judgment?

To Mr. Willis:  If the beast were truly dead, I would stop beating him;
but he seems to have plenty of malign vitality left.

To Mr. Egan:  Right you are.  Not bad for a man who "usually doesn't
read" my posts.

Regards,
Charles Weinstein

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