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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
First Folio Function
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0852  Tuesday, 3 May 2005

[1]     From:   Steve Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 30 Apr 2005 23:33:55 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 28 Apr 2005 to 29 Apr 2005 First Folio
Function

[2]     From:   Kim Carrell <
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 >
        Date:   Monday, 02 May 2005 13:02:48 -0400
        Subj:   Re: First Folio Function


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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 >
Date:           Saturday, 30 Apr 2005 23:33:55 EDT
Subject:        Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 28 Apr 2005 to 29 Apr 2005 First Folio
Function

Function of First Folio --

Particularly when there is more than one early printed version, but even
when there is only one, the earliest texts (1) show us that these are
not "perfect" artifacts.  Rather they sometimes give us weird or
impossible or "obvious mistakes."  But by looking at the early printed
versions enough, we get to see the "uncooked" books and learn to
negotiate our way through their oddities.  Speech prefixes, for example,
come up very often odd. (My favorite is COR -- for Cordelia or Cornwall
-- rather than GLO for Gloucester in LEAR at the entry of France and
Burgundy. It really helps for actors and directors and students and just
plain readers to know these options are there and to try them out for
themselves, to accept or reject them, rather than to accept
unquestioningly an editor's choice.  The act of choosing gives US the
heady pleasure and the experience that otherwise editors hold for
themselves.  After a lot of looking, one sees that editors often make
silly choices based on theatrically grubby reasons.  See for example
Michael Warren's typically wise analysis of speech prefixes for the
Citizens in the opening scene of CORIOLANUS.  The early printed versions
can sometimes tickle us in ways that modernized texts smooth over.  And
even though the punctuation may be according to some other pattern than
any of those varieties chosen by modern editors, it can only help an
actor to realize that she has to dope out the pointing of a half-line, a
line, a sentence and a speech for herself anyway.

Putting my beliefs on the line, for the first time for me, I'm going to
work directly from a Folio script of ANTONY & CLEOPATRA for a production
this fall with undergraduates at the City College of New York.  I expect
it may in some ways be less convenient, but . . . . Wheeeee!
Putting on any production is an extended exercise in lunatic
inconvenience no matter what.

Joys of those old books and their modern electronic convenience.

Steve Urquartowitz

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kim Carrell <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 02 May 2005 13:02:48 -0400
Subject:        Re: First Folio Function

In reference to Mark Alexander's question and Tom Bishop's
self-important response regarding actors using the First Folio text -

Yes, many actors work from the First Folio text. Not because (as Bishop
insists) we have a "fetish" to "get closer to the real Shakespeare", but
because we have found that it is the most easily actable text. In
addition it has been my personal experience that audiences find the
plays more accessible when a production uses the Folio text as its
script and the actors use its unique qualities to their advantage.

Whitt Brantley mentions the work of Patrick Tucker and the OSC in his
post. I would like to point out - again - Tucker's book Secrets of
Acting Shakespeare: The Original Approach (Routledge 2002). This book
documents Tucker's work with the First Folio text in cue-script
productions from 1990 to 2000. In a chapter titled "The Experiment"
Tucker begins with "a word about the scientific method" in which he says
"If you are going to experiment, then do it completely, even if you
yourself think that what you are doing is pointless and could not
possibly work". In the book's introduction Tucker states "Suffice it to
say, in bold terms, that in the thousands and thousands of Shakespeare
lines I have worked on in speeches, scenes, and full-length plays, I
have always (repeat always) found that the Folio text improves and helps
matters" (italics mine).

My point in mentioning these quotes from the book is to make clear that
Tucker reached his conclusions about the Folio not through some
knee-jerk reaction or "fetish". He reached them through years and years
of work on the plays - alongside John Barton at the RSC, as a member of
the Artistic Directorate of the International Shakespeare Globe Centre,
his own Original Shakespeare Company, and countless workshops around the
world. Speaking for myself, I chose to spend five seasons working with a
company that focused on the use of the Folio and cue-script technique as
my own application of the scientific method - I was intrigued by the
experiment and I wanted to "do it completely". My objective was not to
"get closer to Shakespeare" but to fulfill my responsibilities as an
actor as best I could.

Just for the record Mr. Bishop, I have actually spent time "learning
about the book's history". I have read Hinman and Blayney's work on the
subject of the printing of the Folio, as well as Moston's. I guess that
Bishop would have me believe that the positive audience response
(especially from those who professed to dislike Shakespeare) and the
greater frequency of my being cast in Shakespearean roles has nothing to
do with use of the Folio. I most vehemently disagree - and since Bishop
claims to teach drama I challenge him to try the Folio experiment with a
group of actors himself. Somehow I doubt he can muster the
open-mindedness to accept the challenge.
After all, how dare I - a mere actor - think that perhaps I might know
something about what text works best in performance?

Kim H. Carrell
Actor/Fight Director
AEA/AFTRA/SAFD

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