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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: Reviews
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0502  Monday, 17 March 2003

[1]     From:   William Proctor Williams <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Mar 2003 13:44:53 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0495 Re: Reviews

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Mar 2003 15:17:56 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0482 Re: Reviews

[3]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Sunday, 16 Mar 2003 16:48:15 -0800
        Subj:   Reviews


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <
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Date:           Friday, 14 Mar 2003 13:44:53 -0500
Subject: 14.0495 Re: Reviews
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0495 Re: Reviews

Oh, just  stop it!  I am getting sick and tired of CW throwing out the
bait and all of you rising to it.  When he does it again just keep
still.  That will no doubt be as eloquent as any of the postings which
respond to him.

William Proctor Williams

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Friday, 14 Mar 2003 15:17:56 -0000
Subject: 14.0482 Re: Reviews
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0482 Re: Reviews

>1.  Mr. Larque's misapprehensions were addressed in my post of February
>17, which I urge him to (re?)read.

The only response that I see there to the embarrassing point (from
Weinstein's point of view) that Robert Brustein is a Professor of
English, part of a breed that Weinstein says is incapable of writing
decent reviews of theatrical productions, but is nevertheless still one
of Weinstein's favourite reviewers, is the suggestion that "Brustein
held tenured positions on the English faculties of both Yale and
Harvard; but these were strictly adjunctive to his artistic
directorships of, first, the Yale Repertory Theater and then the
American Repertory Theater".

We might have to ask Brustein to be sure, but judging from the website
histories of these two theatres, Robert Brustein in each instance was
professionally an academic, but set up and ran the theatre companies
either in his spare time or as a minor part of his work as Professor.
I very much doubt that these theatres - both of which are
non-profitmaking and non-commercial - had sufficient income to pay
Brustein more than he was earning in his day job, and I suspect that
neither Harvard nor Yale would be happy to employ a Full-Time Professor
who spent more time on other projects than he did on his real job.  I
would guess from this that Brustein was principally an academic and that
his involvement with theatre companies was "strictly adjunctive" to his
primary career as an academic.  Certainly he seems to have had a
relatively minor creative role in the theatres that he set up - in at
least thirty years he apparently has only directed 12 productions and
acted in 8.  His main creative work seems to have been to write
adaptations and academic books on theatre, both of which might be seen
as falling into his remit as Professor of Drama or English (his
teaching, in the latter case, presumably including Creative Writing).

>2.  As I said, I have no objection to academics writing production
>reviews.  I just don't think they're any good at it.

Except for the many exceptions that you have just listed, which hardly
help to prove your point.  In any case, your constant carping about
academic contributions to performance criticism and performance history
almost inevitably contains the suggestion that not only do you
personally dislike the work, but that it is universally pointless,
worthless, and should never have been produced.  If you are willing to
withdraw all of these suggestions, and promise never to repeat them
again, then I am sure we will all be very pleased.

>3.  I do object to the academic "discipline" known as Shakespeare on
>Film, which strikes me as a complete farce.  I also have problems with
>the larger field of Shakespeare in Performance, which is riddled with
>absurdities.

The main absurdity, apparently, being that academics do not all think
and write the way that Charles Weinstein wants them to think and write.
How upsetting!

>4.  Those who believe that my standards are too high must make do with
>the possibility that theirs are too low.

If only we agreed that your standards were "high", this might be a
possibility.  I would suggest, however, that your refusal to countenance
any performance criticism which considers anything but the "best"
productions (as defined, apparently, by the Charles Weinstein test - if
Charles Weinstein doesn't like them then they shouldn't be studied) is
based on the same sort of thinking that leads the majority of "Classical
music fans" to prefer CDs with titles like "Beethoven's Greatest Hits!"
to actually collecting a wide range of Beethoven's music, including the
great, the not so great, and the actually pretty bad.  This seems to me
to be better evidence of your philistinism and ignorance of academia
than evidence of "high standards".  If we were to apply your "high
standards" to study or performance of Shakespeare himself, then we would
never see or study plays like "Titus Andronicus", "Cymbeline", "Timon of
Athens", or the disputed "Edward III".  What, after all, is the point of
studying or watching plays that are generally considered to be inferior
or minor, when we could be studying or watching "Hamlet"?

Furthermore, why bother with all of Hamlet, when long stretches are
generally considered less interesting and even (dare we say it) a little
tedious.  Why not just produce a list of "My Favourite Hamlet
Quotations" and get a Weinstein-approved actor to read it out onstage?

Real academics are interested in studying performance in a way that
takes account of both major and minor productions, and of productions
that were poorly received when they were first produced but later proved
surprisingly influential, as well as genuinely bad productions which
still tell us something interesting about how Shakespeare should or
should not be performed, or the way in which it is received.  Weinstein
apparently believes that nobody should ever have written anything about
Henry Irving's failed productions (and there were several - including,
for example, "Twelfth Night"), but a real scholar examining the history
of Henry Irving, or the performance history of "Twelfth Night", or the
development of Victorian Shakespeare in general would find such accounts
invaluable.  Isn't it interesting to consider why "Twelfth Night" did
not work in the 19th Century yet has become one of the most popular
plays in our own times?  What is the point of a study of Henry Irving
that (by Weinstein's method) would list his high points, but ignore all
his low ones?  The proposed Weinstein method reduces us to a rosy glow
of supposedly wonderful productions, but tells us little about history
or reality.  It is rather obviously the view of somebody who knows
nothing about the point or purpose of academic study.

Thomas Larque.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Sunday, 16 Mar 2003 16:48:15 -0800
Subject:        Reviews

Thomas Larque writes:  "...Charles Weinstein doesn't like hearing about
minor productions or failed productions, although, as an actor, he seems
to have taken part in at least one of the latter, and presumably many of
the former...."

Indeed.  One reason I can spot bad theater is that I've spent so much
time participating in it.

Cheers,
Charles Weinstein

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