Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: August ::
Re: Jarring Experience at Ashland
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1810  Wednesday, 28 August 2002

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Aug 2002 09:01:47 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland

[2]     From:   Debra Murphy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Aug 2002 09:04:21 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland

[3]     From:   M Yawney <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Aug 2002 11:44:01 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 27 Aug 2002 09:01:47 -0700
Subject: 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland

I'm not sure I get Al Magary's point.

>Why is it that with Shakespeare, anything goes?  At Ashland, it seems,
>20th century works are played realistically, with real sets and
>costumes, to enhance the text and performance, while Shakespeare must be
>so universalized . . . It's
>Shakespeare; anything goes.

Do you advocate returning to the Lyceum style of Shakespeare production?

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Debra Murphy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 27 Aug 2002 09:04:21 -0700
Subject: 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland

Al Magary wrote:

>On a trip to the Northwest we stopped at Ashland and saw Julius Caesar
>in the Angus Bowmer Theater.  This is Laird Williamson's production of
>unknown vintage but was definitely late 20th century.  The stage,
>constantly as dark and dangerous as the Dungeons of Barad-dur, was
>dominated--nearly taken over--by three enormous metallic sculptures, not
>unlike compacted cars.  These were shifted for different scenes, as were
>some zebra-striped police barricades.  The rest of the sets and props
>could be counted on one hand.  Caesar's corpse was wheeled about in a
>gaudy casket.
>
>The costumes were vaguely 1930s European:  the plebs of Rome looked and
>behaved like Soviet agitators, Caesar and entourage were initially
>dressed as for the opening of La Scala, Cassius as something like a
>radical philosophy professor, Octavius like an SS officer (played as
>sympathetically, too).
>
>All of JC was there, including the long and tiring anticlimax after the
>funeral orations to the battle of Philippi.  The audience was polite,
>attentive, unprotesting even when the ghost of Brecht appeared--that is,
>an anti-war ditty that was tossed into Act V:  "The noble Duke of
>York/He had ten thousand men/He marched them up to the top of the
>hill/And marched them down again."
>
>My college-freshman daughter, who went to an academic high school but
>somehow missed JC, likewise ancient history, was mystified by the
>politics but as a child of R-rated movies understood the assassination
>well enough.  The program, now loaded with material about all of
>Ashland's 11 plays, had a brief non-explanation of JC that linked the
>play to the darker days of the 20th century.  This kind of light
>illuminates nothing.
>
>I guess I could have gone away from Ashland at this point thinking,
>Well, that *is* one way to do Shakespeare, and gone on to see the
>greater calamity of Mt. St. Helens.  But the next morning we went on the
>backstage tour.  The Bowmer had been transformed for the Italian comedy
>_Saturday, Sunday, Monday_ by Eduardo de Filippo, with stage rebuilt and
>scrupulously arranged as the dining area in an apartment, so real it
>could be a picture in a style magazine.  In the sparkling New Theater,
>which this year replaced the Black Swan, the stage was set for _Playboy
>of the West Indies_ by Mustapha Matura, as a realistic, open-air
>Caribbean bar.  On the other hand, on the Elizabethan Stage, the set for
>_Titus Andronicus_, incomplete as we toured, appeared to be a pair of
>frames as big as steel girders, incongruous against the Globe-like
>stage.
>
>Why is it that with Shakespeare, anything goes?  At Ashland, it seems,
>20th century works are played realistically, with real sets and
>costumes, to enhance the text and performance, while Shakespeare must be
>so universalized and contemporary and edgy that all the plays could as
>well be staged in a nightclub or spaceship or kindergarten room or
>police interrogation room, with costumes and props picked up at garage
>sales, and they could still charge $28 to $58 per seat.  Why not?  It's
>Shakespeare; anything goes.
>
> Al Magary

Our family has seen four productions at OSF this year thus far, and I
can sympathize with Al Magary's reaction.  At least JC had the benefit
of some solid acting!  (Derek Lee Weeden as Brutus, Dan Donohue as Mark
Antony, Mark Murphey as an excellent Cassius.)  But the Scottish Play in
the New Theatre--beautiful facility, BTW-- was simply dreadful.  Not
that we were expecting a lot, seeing as how it was directed by Libby
Appel, who always seems to go for the Abstract Weird in her productions
of Shakespeare.  (She seems to operate with more common sense when the
author is Chekhov).  In the case of MACBETH there was a pool of red goo
in the middle of the bare stage, in which the confused-looking actors
dipped their hands to fling "blood" on one another--to take the place, I
suppose, of having to go to the trouble of staging the fights.  If the
looks of it all weren't bad enough, the gelatinous stuff made the floor
sticky, and by the last third of the play we were constantly distracted
by the sound of Macbeth's boots sticking to the floor as he thuimped
about.  And I couldn't say much for the principals, either, alas, though
they seemed to be working very hard to make up for the production's
incoherence.

Contrast this with two delightful productions at the OSF of NOISES OFF
and IDIOTS' DELIGHT--as Al Magary suggested, with perfectly reasonable
sets, and no attempt at impressing the proles with some de-haut-en-bas
directorial "vision".

As to the Futuristic Grunge look of so many recent productions of
Shakespeare, I don't mind that per se, as long as there is some sort of
coherence and humanity.  The OSF did a terrific CORIOLANUS a few years
back in this mode (pre Julie Taymor, BTW) but it was full of energy and
made marvelous stage sense.

My two daughters and I will be heading to Ashland again in October to
see TITUS and AYLI.  We're hoping still to see at least one really
satisfying Shaksperian production there this season!

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M Yawney <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 27 Aug 2002 11:44:01 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1805 Jarring Experience at Ashland

If the productions were illuminating one would have no reason to
complain. But that is unlikely to happen there because the production
serve the wrong point of view.

The problem with Ashland (according to some colleagues who work there)
is that the design staff has seniority and the power to compel directors
and actors to alter staging if it does not work with the design (rather
than the opposite which is the usual theatrical practice). The designers
both costume and set are given their own head, so you have directors and
actors trying to fit into an interpretation that at least in part comes
from parties uninvolved in the rehearsal process.

That is why though one has the pleasure of seeing Shakespeare on stage
at Ashland, one is rarely struck by any new insight while watching the
work.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.