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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: Dramatic Reading of Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2105  Friday, 18 October 2002

From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Oct 2002 00:23:06 -0400
Subject: 13.2088 Re: Dramatic Reading of Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2088 Re: Dramatic Reading of Shakespeare

>The only way I've found to experience Shakespeare without what I
>consider to be obvious attempts to put butts in seats by jazzing up the
>production is the Arkangel audio tapes.  I've found them to consistently
>high quality and true to the text.  It is a mystery to me how something
>so good seems to be so undiscovered by so many.  Or perhaps others do
>not share my view.

I have many, and they are a wonderful resource- I never see any
performance without first reading, seeing or hearing it.  Here in
Washington, DC, at the Shakespeare Theatre (not to be confused with the
Folger), last season's Hamlet's director almost gave me a stroke by
moving "To be or not to be..." to the last Act.  Of course, this ninny
thought he had gained a deep insight into the play- amazingly, few I
mentioned it to had realized it, so this stunt may have illustrated the
fundamental lack of taste and basic illiteracy of the audience. [It does
matter to the structure of the play!] Directors seem more focused on
their own importance than the play, all too often.  At a Smithsonian
seminar, to spread the blame, last year a renowned professor and advisor
to the school's drama department, revealed to us her performance
strategy in dealing with WS texts: "If I don't understand a passage I
cut it." My stomach still hurts...

That said, Arkangel is limited in this respect.  By being solely audio,
the words must be used in a heavy-handed way to convey what is often
visual. I am always thrilled to see accomplished actors act out the
words non-verbally, as no other author has made so effortless.  Much of
the play, any play, is pantomime. The Sonnets, too!  "Step not between
the dragon and his wraith," says Lear.  "Take this from this, if this be
otherwise," declares Kent.  [from memory]  I am amazed how every actor
can make these words leap into Life in their own way physically, saying
more than words can say, making words accompany the actions.  These are
literal examples-the best are subtle, even velleities. Of course, one
can't fault Akangel for overcoming this limiting dilemma by sacrificing
this visual dimension.  But, let's not loose awareness of the cost,
since this literalness forces the treatments I have enjoyed to be
uninspired and interpretively mainstream, the way a full-blown
stage/film presentation can be.

Last month, in Stratford Ontario, I saw a really well-done adult version
of "R&J" that gives me some hope.

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