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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: November ::
King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and Setting
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2143  Friday, 7 November 2003

[1]     From:   Anne Lower <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Nov 2003 11:10:54 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Setting

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Nov 2003 11:24:22 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Setting

[3]     From:   Alan J. Sanders <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Nov 2003 16:32:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Setting


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anne Lower <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Nov 2003 11:10:54 EST
Subject: 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Setting

>Any attempt to make King Lear 'palatable and entertaining to
>middle and high school audiences' must be absurd in principle.

Actually, Lear is entertaining to high school students as is. Most high
school students begin by identifying King Lear as the tyrannical parent,
and root for his ousting. However, once Lear is banished, and begins his
decline into madness, the students tend to experience great remorse, and
feel that Regan and Goneril go "too far" in their revenge.  Always
extraordinary to perform or view performances within this age group.

As for setting in the Old West, I would be interested into why this
location/era was chosen; I have absolutely no problem with brave
concept, as long as there is sense or method to it; concept for
concept's sake gets a bit wearisome. It has been set in the Modern
Midwest (Thousand Acres) and 14th century China (Ran) - both adaptations
which I enjoyed. Best of luck.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Nov 2003 11:24:22 -0600
Subject: 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Setting

Terence Hawkes writes,

"Any attempt to make King Lear 'palatable and entertaining to middle and
high school audiences' must be absurd in principle. To set such a
production in the 'Old West' can only be ludicrous in practice."

Dunno, TH. On the one hand, making Lear "palatable and entertaining" to
ANYONE boggles the mind. Experiencing Lear is (and is supposed to be) a
kind of verbal equivalent of being drawn (as in drawn and quartered). On
the other, a really good production should be able to grab and hold the
attention of all but the most ADHD of adolescents.

Setting it in the American West is certainly dicey: there's a good
chance of it turning into a kind of "Dallas" re-run with a lot of
bloodletting and strange words. Tex Lear, owner of the fabulous King
Ranch, divides his spread among his daughters, but the two gradually
squeeze him out until the third returns with a posse of gunfighters out
of Louisiana (or maybe Mexico). Everyone gets shot or hanged by the end.

Still, the thought of Tex, in cowboy boots, Levi's and ten-gallon hat,
bellowing out "Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!" in a
heavy Texas accent entrances me.

Cheers,
don

(Nothing against Texas accents, of course. I don't want to start THAT
argument up again.)

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan J. Sanders <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 6 Nov 2003 16:32:00 -0500
Subject: 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2135 King Lear: Looking for Advice on Editing and
Setting

Actually, Terence, I am not Bill, though I will keep that in mind the
next time I am looking to poke fun at some on these posts.  I would have
responded off-list, but wanted to add a few additional remarks that
might move the discussion into areas outside of the context of my
original note.

In a perfect world, I would have my pick of talent and pay them a salary
commensurate with their worth.  I would have four month runs of packed
houses and support from every media outlet available.  Alas, that is a
fairy-tale world and I must deal in the realities of the present.

This may be a deep rooted personal flaw in my thinking, but I truly
believe Shakespeare was meant to be performed in front of the masses.  I
don't think it was ever intended solely for the high-society
sophisticate or the academician.  To assume this is, in my mind, to
reduce the universality that makes Shakespeare so alive.  Of course, we
all want to "get our monies" worth when we see a show, but, as Einstein
puts it, isn't it all 'relative'?  In other words, if you are a middle
or high school student in a typically blue-collar, low-to-middle class
socio-economic environment, will you know the difference between a show
that is done well and one that is magnificent?  Doesn't this only start
to happen when you become a more sophisticated student of Shakespeare?
Intention, motivation, pacing, and delivery are what makes the story
discernable.  My goal is always, first and foremost, to entertain the
maximum audience possible.  If I limit my scope to only the learned few,
then Shakespeare will continue to be a 'dull' subject to the rest.

I liken this to the controversy Tiger Woods brought to the game of
golf.  There is (and probably always will be) a small group of
individuals who feel the game has been "brought down" by becoming a more
accessible sport.  Some of the 'elite-ism' has been washed away and this
scares some.  However, how exciting is it to see kids, especially those
in urban cities, suddenly think of golf as something other than a game
for old, rich, white people?  Shouldn't the plays of Shakespeare be
thought of in the same way?  Shouldn't we show everyone how funny,
touching, motivating, and inspiring his works are?  Shouldn't that be
the lesson first?  There is plenty of time to discuss and teach the
finer points of the literature after one has fallen in love with the
stories.

I will close with one last personal experience.  I never enjoyed
Shakespeare in my entire pre-college years.  I actually loathed the idea
of having to slog through the material.  It wasn't until I was cast in a
production of "Romeo & Juliet" that I changed my view.  Looking back I
realized my aversion to the work (and the playwright) grew from only
looking at his plays from a purely academic perspective.  I had no sense
of the passion on the stage; the energy evoked from the actors.  There
was no emotional context, only academic dissertations and discussions of
poetical devices.  Had I been introduced to the joys of performance
first, perhaps it wouldn't have taken me 20 years to realize what I had
been missing.  Don't get me wrong, I believe you should always strive to
learn more about his works and it is very important to immerse yourself
in the thoughts and ideas of other scholars.  I just don't believe you
start by trying to promote the idea that only the lucky few can
appreciate him.  To have 400+ kids stay after a performance to talk to
me and my cast and to see their excitement (none of them sleeping!)
should be something all of us appreciate.  Instead, I feel there are
those who would prefer to read a paper from a serious scholar whose sole
aim is telling you why the show should have never been done in the first
place.

Alan J. Sanders
www.pumphouseplayers.com

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