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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1830  Wednesday, 4 September 2002

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Sep 2002 08:44:03 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

[2]     From:   Michael B. Luskin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 12:04:35 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland

[3]     From:   Matt Henerson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 14:33:54 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

[4]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 12:06:00 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

[5]     From:   Debra Murphy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 16:30:56 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Sep 2002 08:44:03 -0700
Subject: 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

I would like to thank Al Magary for quoting me fully and answering
civilly.  I don't agree with his feelings about some of the Ashland
shows, but I now understand his point of view.

I do not thank Mr. Kennedy for only quoting half of my message.  This
made my question seem sarcastic.  In turn Mr. Kennedy asks:

>And is there no via media but we must choose either the Lyceum style and
>the style of the Nephelococcygian travelog that's been boring audiences
>silly ever since Gordon Craig first got up on his hind legs?

I did not say or imply this.  Al contrasted the abstract sets for
Shakespeare productions in Ashland with the realistic sets for other
plays.  I was asking if he really meant to limit things so simply, and
tried to load the question in such a way that the answer probably should
not be *yes*.  I am pleased that he is not that simple, though I still
think he is ignoring some compelling productions placed in unexpected
settings.  Perhaps he realizes this and can think of some examples from
amongst shows he has seen?  If so, I'd like to hear about them.

Mr. Kennedy, I was trying to suggest that this issue is not as simple as
Al made it appear in his first post, and his Tuesday message partly
clarified that.  Please try to read in context and not overreact.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael B. Luskin <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 12:04:35 EDT
Subject: 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland

I think that there are three basic citable reasons to bring Shakespeare
"up to date."

One is that some directors, and perhaps some audience members, relate
better to it if it is modern, and not incredibly "old fashioned."  Sort
of makes some sense.

Another is that some directors think that new insights can be had if the
staging or basic ethos is changed.  I am not enough experienced in
theater to know one way or another, so I won't say.  But "Daughter of
Time" takes the basic facts about Richard III, and makes him a wonderful
guy, while Shakespeare takes the same history and makes him into a
villain of villains.  The whole point of Shakespeare, even with his
villains, is that the characters are complex humans.

Much more powerful, think of the 1980s staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle by
Patrice Chereau, which was done both in England at the Met.  The setting
was nineteenth century England, and made the Gods into plutocrats, the
giants and dwarves into an industrial underclass, it worked incredibly
well.  Lenin and Hubert Humphrey and a lot of others left and right
would both have gotten a great deal out of it.  J. P. Morgan too, but he
would say that he didn't like the ending.  Oscar Wilde, in "The Perfect
Wagnerite," pointed out Wagner's political background, and made this
interpretation very interesting insightful.  So there can be benefit
from thinking through what is underneath.

Finally, some directors try to justify their keep by changing something,
anything.  And perhaps being mindlessly outrageous.  I don't know why
Shakespeare hasn't yet been performed in the nude.  Macbeth in the
buff.  Or Henry VI, part II.  Why not?

Probably the silliest opera production I ever saw was a Carmen set in
civil war Spain.  Everybody was dressed in army fatigues, including
Carmen.  Everybody walked around carrying AK47s, looking uncomfortable,
and Don Escamillo walked into the bull ring carrying a bazooka.  Unless
the bull, which of course is never seen in the opera, was replaced by a
T34, it would have been a short but messy and memorable fight.  The
production as a whole did NOT work.

I recently saw a film version of Loves' Labors Lost, set more or less in
1939, with Kevin Branagh dancing his way through the play.  Not too bad,
which proves that a modern setting can be done with some taste, so long
as it brings out the essence of the play.

Rant over.

Michael B. Luskin

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matt Henerson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 14:33:54 EDT
Subject: 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

>there was one line of Lady Macbeth's in that scene that was
>- I can't remember what it was though.

It might have been towards the end of the scene, after what's left of
Banquo disappears, Macbeth invites his guests "Pray you, sit still.",
and Lady Macbeth responds by saying "You have displaced the mirth."
I've been in MACBETH three times, and that one usually brings the house
down.  My first time through, I was disturbed by this laugh, (although I
wasn't on stage at the time, so I felt that whatever was wrong it wasn't
my fault), but later in the run, I came to regard the laugh as a
necessary easing of the tension after what's usually a harrowing scene.
In my experience, both as an actor and audience member, the laugh is
almost always there.

Matt

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 12:06:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

>OSF played elements of the
>Banquo's ghost scene
>for comedy; there was one line of Lady Macbeth's in
>that scene that was
>hilarious - I can't remember what it was though.
>Can anyone remind me?
>Macbeth dropped his cup of wine when he saw Banquo's
>ghost, and for a
>moment I expected him to do a spit take.

Although I had some major issues with The Globe's Macbeth, and thought
it did not work in many major ways, I was surprised at how Jasper
Britton pulled some comedy out of the role that did seem to work.
Particularly in this very scene, his "O, now I am a man again" was both
funny and disturbing. Of course, the play should not be played for
laughs, but perhaps there is more potential for comedy in Macbeth than
was previously thought, the comedy Shakespeare was so good at,
disturbing comedy that makes us complicit in laughter and then makes us
ask why we are laughing.

Brian Willis

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Debra Murphy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Sep 2002 16:30:56 -0700
Subject: 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1818 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

John W. Kennedy <
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 > wrote:

>And is there no via media but we must choose either the Lyceum style and
>the style of the Nephelococcygian travelog that's been boring audiences
>silly ever since Gordon Craig first got up on his hind legs?

My own personal view is that this is no either/or matter.  I've liked
both traditional productions with period costumes and sets, and "out
there" anachronistic interpretations.  What I look for is dramatic
integrity and energy, and a director and cast who understand that "it's
the story, stupid".  (Like the Supreme Court Justice on pornography, I
may have some difficulty defining my standards, but "I know it when I
see it!")

What I *don't* like are wag-the-dog productions dominated by some
distracting High Concept that makes no dramatic or theatrical sense, and
which seems to serve no other purpose than to broadcast the
director'ss/set designer's alleged "originality".  ("Anxiety of
Influence", anyone?)  That could go just as well for the "high concept"
of Period Accuracy, or whatever, which I feel sure may be the Next Wave,
complete with all-male casts and a plethora of out-of-work Shakespearean
actresses.

And when I use the word "distracting", I'm being quite literal.  I spent
the better part of the "red goo" Macbeth production suppressing snickers
at the sticky noises made by G. Valmont Thomas (Macbeth) every time he
crossed the stage amidst the splatters; not to mention wondering, as a
mother of six children, how in the blue blazes they got the Red Goo out
of their costumes!  ("Stain Stick...?  Bleach...?  What was that crap
made of, anyway...?")  This, alas, does not make for a satisfying
theatrical experience.

Debra Murphy
http://www.bardolatry.com
http://www.debramurphy.com

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