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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
A Roof on the Globe?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0516  Tuesday, 30 May 2006

[1] 	From: 	David Crystal <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 27 May 2006 12:06:00 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0506 A Roof on the Globe?

[2] 	From: 	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 28 May 2006 12:22:59 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0506 A Roof on the Globe?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Crystal <
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Date: 		Saturday, 27 May 2006 12:06:00 +0100
Subject: 17.0506 A Roof on the Globe?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0506 A Roof on the Globe?

William Dudley, the designer of the Globe Titus, has sent me this 
comment which (with his permission) will be of interest to all SHAKSPERians.

Kathy Dent writes,

 >logic that informs this design choice: it's okay to put a roof on
 >because that's what the Romans did at the Coliseum.

My reasons for placing a Velarium over the Bankside Globe for the new 
production of Titus are not as banal and facile as you seem to suggest 
in your article. My interest in the Globe recreation and the discovery 
of the remains of the 1587 Rose Theatre in 1989 (from which many of the 
subsequent decisions on the Globe were made) is long term and passionate.

I was co-opted onto the Globes's artistic committee by Sam Wanamaker in 
1992 to advise and interpret the architect's drawings for the actors, 
writers and directors who Sam had assembled as a theatrical steering 
group to act as a balance to the massive academic pressures on the 
project. In brief, over the next 4 years I became a whistleblower over 
the vexed question of the on-stage pillars that support the roof. As 
proposed at that time, the Pillars were only 2'-6" from the front edge 
of the stage, based I believe, on a misinterpretation of the Rose Site. 
With strong support from Walter Hodges and Sir Peter Hall, the pillars 
were eventually moved to their current position some 7'-0" upstage. This 
is still not far enough though, as it does not agree with the equally 
famous Swan Theatre drawing which alas, was not trusted and thus ignored 
by the academic committee on the project.

It was during this vigorous academic debate that I read the famous 
"Fortune Theatre Contract" which mentions that over the stage there 
shall be a "shadow"- i.e. not a roof! I reasoned that beyond the 
"majestical roof fretted with golden fire" mentioned by Shakespeare, 
was an adjustable shadow or cloth shade to screen some of the  audience 
from sunlight and inclement weather, much as in Roman times  and in 
modern Bullfights arenas. The existing "Pentice" Roof and large Stage 
House tower has forced the Pillars to be too massive and to be forever 
stuck too far downstage - to the misery of most actors who work there. 
They call the constricted space between the pillars:  "Death Valley".

The reason for including this in my response is to show that the origin 
of the Velarium idea comes from a genuine interest in just what stagings 
at the Globe and the Rose were like. Having staged the  York mystery 
plays at the National Theatre just upstream from the  Globe from 1977 to 
2000, I am certain that the Original Globe and its stagings grew from 
that very English form of Street and Yard Theatre - vigorous, pragmatic 
and adaptive - and I take great heart from recent findings from the Rose 
Theatre (where I designed the onsite exhibition in 1999) passed on by 
the original 1989 archaeologists, that the first (1587) Rose did not 
have any stage at all, but had a plain yard which was freely adapted by 
any company or other entertainment that played in it.

Finally, the Globe was and is the marriage of two great theatre 
traditions: the classical stage with its Frons Scenae, Stage and 
Orkestra and secondly, the English mediaeval street theatre of the 
Mystery Plays with the oak timbers and plasterwork evoking an English 
Inn yard. Our production of Titus seeks to explore this marriage by 
using the groundlings space (Orkestra) as both a processional English 
Street space and as a Roman Gladiatorial arena. The Velarium above 
produces magical filterings of the changeable daylight and diffuses the 
rain (it is fully porous) which makes it more bearable for the damp 
groundlings below. It also conjures up a funereal mood that fits with 
the sc 2 funeral ceremony of Titus' sons and the early death of Tamora's 
son Alarbus. I firmly believe such cloths have been regularly used 
throughout the history of the outdoor theatre.

William Dudley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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Date: 		Sunday, 28 May 2006 12:22:59 +0100
Subject: 17.0506 A Roof on the Globe?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0506 A Roof on the Globe?

Philip Eagle wrote that

 >many of the condemnations on this thread
 >have been well over the top and seemingly
 >based on misconceptions about the ethos
 >of the Globe and its past productions.

"The ethos" of the project depends on who you ask. British American 
Tobacco (who paid for the main staircase in the foyer) wouldn't agree 
with prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud*, the largest individual 
contributor, about what they were paying for.

That's the money angle; what about the intellectual?  The project was 
begun by the American actor Sam Wanamaker who relocated to London in the 
1950s because he was blacklisted for his socialism. The theatre 
historians that he got interested in his Globe project in the 1960s 
(Glynne Wickham, Richard Southern and C. Walter Hodges) couldn't agree 
with Wanamaker about what should be built. Should the building have a 
full roof to keep the rain off, should it be modular and reconfigurable 
to allow for active experimentation? Hodges in particular thought that 
the replica would have to be modelled on the second Globe (built 1613), 
of which there is reliable pictorial evidence in the Hollar sketches and 
engraving, while Wanamaker was adamant that the replica had to be the 
first Globe (built 1599) because that was Shakespeare's Globe.

A second team of theatre historians, headed by Andrew Gurr, John Orrell, 
and Frank Hildy, were much closer to Wanamaker's position on the nature 
of authenticity: it should be a one-shot, best-guess and quite 
unalterable replica of Globe-1, and in the late 1980s work began. 
Wanamaker's first permanent hiring, however, Patrick Spottiswoode (head 
of education) was firmly opposed to 'Shakespeare-in-tights' and took 
years to become convinced of the value of original practices.

In 1995, near to completion, the Artistic Directorate under Mark Rylance 
began its work and a third strand of opinion and practice entered "the 
ethos". Several practitioners consulted about the building wanted those 
parts that hadn't yet been built (the stage, tiring house, and stage 
cover) to remain modular, and there was a semi-public row about the 
sitting of the stage posts in relation to the cover. Rylance upheld the 
Wanamaker line about authenticity, and his long-time designer Jenny 
Tiramani autodidactically became a world expert on early-modern 
clothing, but a number of the directors Rylance brought in to work on 
productions were visibly terrified by the academic atmosphere of the 
place and rebelled against it. Tim Carroll, for example, insisted on 
punching 4 holes in the stage cover to run computer-controlled 
suspension cables down to a steel table 'floating' over the stage, for 
his risible production of Macbeth. For his penance, Carroll directed an 
original practices Richard 2 the following season, and so got over his 
terror of intellectualism.

The Communications Department of the Globe puts out a line about its 
"ethos", but this singularity is a fiction. In reality the project is, 
like anything of this size including Higher Education, riven with 
tensions and contradictions and pulling in multiple directions at once. 
David Crystal, for example, has recently become closely involved in the 
project, and only with his arrival has there been any attempt at 
original pronunciation. To judge from his comments on this list, he 
seems, however, much less concerned than the likes of Andrew Gurr and 
Frank Hildy about departures from original staging. It's not 
"misconception" that drives the debates in this thread but genuine 
disagreement (amongst fairly well informed contributors, it seems to me) 
about what the Globe should be doing.

Gabriel Egan

* He is half-brother of the former ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Fahd, and 
his name at the head of the Globe donors board disappeared just after 
the wayward son of the Fahds' business partners and close friends, the 
bin ladens, disgraced himself and embarrassed his American business 
partners with the September 2001 attacks. The Globe's Development 
Department (that is, the ones who get money out of donors) assured me 
that the disappearance of this donors's name was accidental.

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