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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Dramatic Reading of Shakespeare (was SHK 13.2061
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2072  Monday, 14 October 2002

From:           Al Magary <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Oct 2002 15:43:18 -0700
Subject: of Shakespeare (was SHK 13.2061 King John)
Comment:        Dramatic Reading of Shakespeare (was SHK 13.2061 King John)

Brian Willis wrote:

>I would like to invite all Los Angeles area list members who are
> interested to the UCLA Shakespeare Reading and Performance Group's
> production of King John....

I visited the UCLA site --http://www.uclashakespeare.org/--to see how
Shakespeare might be handled in a dramatic or theatrical reading, rather
like a concert version of an opera.  If you've never seen such an opera
as concert, the cast typically is formally dressed, stands in front of
the orchestra on stage, and the chorus (if any) is behind the
orchestra.  The principal singers may face each other in duets,
rearrange themselves in the lineup, and make gestures from time to time,
but for all intents and purposes may as well be recording an audio CD,
though with an audience.

I'm interested in Shakespeare being done this way because my "jarring
experience at Ashland" of a couple months ago still gnaws at me.
Popular culture is certainly guilty of "bardolatry," ranging from casual
satire to undue reverence, and I can imagine Shakespeare today would be
a celebrity playwright, appearing David Letterman and PBS (which would
be the selection of Oprah's book club?).  Along these lines, I'd hope
that he'd get the Nobel in literature by age 40.

A serious artist may, I think, play for the people without loss of
integrity.  However, when leading institutions such as the Oregon
Shakespeare Festival pluck one of his texts off the shelf and give it
the modern treatment, an anything-goes production, a Shakespeare For
Today, that seems to veer toward disrespect and constitutes a definite
violation of what I understand British copyright law now calls the
artist's moral rights to his work, and I want to protest.

In contrast to the Ashland Julius Caesar, with its wrecked-auto
sculptures and strobe lights (for the Philippi battle scene) and
obnoxious Brechtian ditty ("The noble Duke of York/he had ten thousand
men..."), I've thought that I might be happier to see some talented
voices do a straight-forward dramatic reading--without costumes or sets
or production values.  Or, I suppose, without interpretation, for much
interpretation today *is* in the staging, not in the delivery of lines.

Is this too conservative a wish, some reactionary desire to wall off
public domain literature, reinstall Shakespeare in the pantheon?  Or
have we been going through a period of over-interpretation and poor use
of Shakespeare, our non-contemporary?

That's a general, perhaps rhetorical question, but specifically, can
anyone cite any roundup articles on or studies of such dramatic-reading
performances of Shakespeare?

Al Magary

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