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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1859  Monday, 9 September 2002

[1]     From:   Debra Murphy <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 09:01:57 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

[2]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 12:56:23 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 12:38:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

[4]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Saturday, 7 Sep 2002 13:33:07 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Debra Murphy <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 09:01:57 -0700
Subject:        Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

Don Bloom wrote:

>To me, inappropriate laughs indicate very bad judgment on the part of
>the director and/or actor. Cheap laughs damage the mood of the scene
>which the playwright and players have been carefully building, and which
>can usually never be recovered fully. Sometimes an accident occurs that
>startles the audience and causes a laugh, but you work through those
>things. To leave in a bit of business that damages the mood cannot, to
>my mind, be excused.
>
>My un-favorite occurred in a production of *R&J* where Mercutio did his
>line just after being stabbed by Tybalt ("I am hurt") in a bemused and
>quizzical tone that brought down the house every night. I think that the
>director and actor were trying to get something across about the wound
>being so apparently minor, yet ultimately fatal, but it manifestly
>failed -- and yet they wouldn't change it. Frankly, it drove me nuts

By contrast (a very effective use of well-placed, text-based humor) is
the exact same scene in the Zeffirelli film of R & J, in which Mercutio
(John McEnery-- wonderful) clearly realizes he's badly wounded, yet uses
a madly ironic reading of the "not wide as a barn door" and "a grave
man" lines (playing on his own reputation for mad speech and general
tomfoolery) as a way of underscoring his anger at his situation.  It
serves, ultimately, as the perfect build-up to his roof-rattling "A
plague on both your houses!"

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 12:56:23 -0400
Subject: 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

Don Bloom mentions <<My un-favorite [misplaced laugh] occurred in a
production of *R&J* where Mercutio did his line just after being stabbed
by Tybalt ("I am hurt") in a bemused and quizzical tone that brought
down the house every night. >>

Don, were I a director I'd play for rather the same tone on that line
and expect the laugh... in the hopes that the audience is thereupon
*shocked* to discover that they were laughing at a dying man.  It's an
intentional disjunction of emotions to me.  I've seen several R&J's
where that did work.

Perhaps for those of us who know the plays well, and know that certain
lines presage disaster, tragedy, etc., such laughs seem misplaced and
literally misdirected.  I suspect that those not knowing the precise
plot (beyond R&J love, die) will be shocked when Mercutio dies.

It takes a strong actor to turn that laugh line "I am hurt" into anger,
"What, is he gone and hath nothing?" and finally pathos, "I have had it,
and soundly too.  Your houses... "  That last "your  houses" needs to me
to be incomplete, as his voice fades away into pain as he's removed from
the stage.

Well, that's my mental picture of the scene and how I'd direct it, at
any rate.  And I can tell you that it worked for appx 35 years when I
did that scene with my high school students.

Mari Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 12:38:12 -0400
Subject: 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

Don Bloom:

>My un-favorite occurred in a production of *R&J* where Mercutio did his
>line just after being stabbed by Tybalt ("I am hurt") in a bemused and
>quizzical tone that brought down the house every night. I think that the
>director and actor were trying to get something across about the wound
>being so apparently minor, yet ultimately fatal, but it manifestly
>failed -- and yet they wouldn't change it.

In the current production at the Stratford Festival, the actors playing
Romeo and Benvolio make it very clear that they interpret "I am hurt"
and everything that follows up to "I was hurt under your arm" as merely
more of M's customary fooling.  Romeo's shocked realization of the truth
makes "I thought all for the best" deeply moving and effective, and the
sudden shift provides an unusually effective commencement to the second
fight.  I had not seen this before--it's suggested in both the
Zeffirelli and the Luhrmann films, which give us M conducting a
performance piece about death on raised platforms (the fountain in the
first, the skeletal theater in the second), but in both films the camera
concentrates on M; on the Stratford stage the other two are equally
strongly present.  I was so struck by the moment that I cannot tell you
how the audience responded, though I would not be surprised to learn
that there was some laughter.

Dave Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Saturday, 7 Sep 2002 13:33:07 +0100
Subject: Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        SHK 13.1848 Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland

>Seminole County's anti-nudity ordinance, which requires dancers to wear
>at least a G-string and pasties.

The thought of dancers wearing pasties raises a titter. However, if
you'd seen my jpegs from the Minack Theatre's production of The Tempest,
it would not, perhaps, seem so absurd.

>The law, passed in November, exempts ``bona fide performances'' --
>which, according to county officials, refers to legitimate theater. The
>club's attorney said the performance that included Macbeth was meant to
>show the hypocrisy of the ``bona fide'' restriction.

They need to get a new attorney. If the performance was meant to show
the hypocrisy of the "bona fide" law, then it clearly wasn't a "bona
fide" performance, i.e. one given in good faith. The nude Macbeth / de
Sade was clearly given in very bad faith - for it was primarily
concerned, not with the performance pieces themselves, but with breaking
an act of legislation.  "We really like Macbeth, and feel that the true
profundity of the play is emphasized through performers' nudity" would
be the appropriate, bona fide argument.

>``They're trying to legislate me out of business,'' Pinter said.

To which one is tempted to respond, and so they ought, Mr. Pinter. I
wonder why he didn't stage a performance of The Birthday Party or The
Caretaker or something...?

m

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