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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1573  Tuesday, 24 August 2004

[1]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 08:19:41 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 11:11:50 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

[3]     From:   David Richman <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 12:21:13 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

[4]     From:   Carey Upton <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 11:32:34 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

[5]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Tuesday, August 24, 2004
        Subj:   "Reformatting Hamlet: Creating a Q1 Hamlet for Television"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 08:19:41 -0500
Subject: 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

Roy Flannagan wrote,

 >When you are a director and have to cut the play to two hours or a little
 >more, where is your best guide to making the cuts?

In your mind; in your own careful reading and interpretation of the
whole play.

L. Swilley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 11:11:50 -0400
Subject: 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

I would tell the young director to stop looking for someone else to do
his job for him. One of the important functions of a director is to
guide rewrites and cuts. What does he want to emphasize with HIS
production? Mel Gibson removed Fortinbras and gutted the urgency. And,
since Shakespeare's imagery is tightly woven throughout his plays, if
the young director cuts a line that uses those references, he might want
to pull on the broken thread till nothing is left protruding.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Richman <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 12:21:13 -0400
Subject: 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

As a rule, I wouldn't trust any directors' cuts other than my own.  When
I must cut a play (I have had to make 90-minute versions of R. and J.,
Merry Wives, among others), I have begun with Q and F, and taken my own
way.  If I have to cut "Hamlet," I will begin with Q1.  I wrote a paper
on implications for staging in Q1 "Hamlet."  If it doesn't come out in
the book that may or may not be proceeding from the conference for which
the paper was written, I'll post it to the SHAKSPER file-server.  (Is
there still such a thing?)

Cheers,
David Richman

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carey Upton <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 11:32:34 -0700
Subject: 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1561 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

HAMLET weighs in at approx. 3800 lines, more if you combine the Second
Quarto and Folio.   Getting it to a playable weight of around 2100 lines
is an arduous chore.  [The '2100 lines' is based on a brisk playing of
18 lines per minute, not for the faint of heart. It comes out to two
hours w/o intermission providing you don't dally with too many fights,
dances or inexplicable dumb shows.]

When I've cut HAMLET, I found some help in looking at the First Quarto,
often called the bad Quarto. I believe it is an early Shakespearean
draft of the more "true and perfect copie."  At around 2400 lines, it
streamlines the story in a way that clarifies the longer work.  In
rewriting, Shakespeare complicated the play.  He made every clear choice
in Q1 full of possibilities in Q2, such as Gertrude's decision to
support Hamlet after the Closet scene which is clear in Q1 and
ambivalent in Q2, or in moving the 'To be or not to be' speech from Act
II in Q1 to Act III in Q2.  A scene by scene comparison of Q1 and Q2
supplies some interesting ideas for cuts. [Or, if you like, I can make
an argument for doing Q1 with students. I have.]

Kevin Coleman of Shakespeare & Company teaches a great plan to cut a
play.  His idea is to go through the play three times highlighting lines
you must have. The first 'cut' highlights the bare bones story, only
lines needed to forward the plot.  This is a brutal 500-1000 line cut.
The second 'cut' highlights lines necessary to communicate essential
elements of the characters, what is said about and by them that explains
their actions.  This adds another 500 to 1000 lines.  The third 'cut'
allows you, the director, to include lines that create the texture and
feel of the play. This is also the cut where you get to add in your
favorites or what you consider essential. This is where you might be
able to include speeches like "To be or not to be."  If at the end of
these three passes, you have exceeded your maximum line count, you must
go back and cut some from the third pass.

Cutting the play is an unrivaled preparation for the director. It helps
to compare other cut scripts to aid you in your cut, like Zefferelli's
(his are some of the best) or Orson Welles.  However, there is no
substitute for the director doing his/her own cut.

Carey Upton
WAGING THEATRE

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[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Subject:        "Reformatting Hamlet: Creating a Q1 Hamlet for Television"

I too have explored the performance implications of basing a Hamlet
production on the Q1 scene structure: "Reformatting Hamlet: Creating a
Q1 Hamlet for Television" for the "Reformatting the Bard" Seminar at
Sixth World Shakespeare Congress in LA. The piece was published in The
Shakespeare Yearbook volume on Hamlet [8 (1997): 370-382] and can be
found on the SHAKSPER web site at
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/files/reformat.hamlet.html

Interestingly, to my taste the best of the RSC Shakespeare plays I saw
in Stratford a few weeks ago was a Hamlet also highly indebted to Q1.


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