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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
Against All-Male Productions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0639  Tuesday, 11 July 2006

[1] 	From: 	Mary Coy <
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 >
	Date: 	Monday, 10 Jul 2006 10:45:55 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

[2] 	From: 	Gabriel Egan <
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 >
	Date: 	Monday, 10 Jul 2006 16:35:24 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

[3] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Jul 2006 12:16:51 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

[4] 	From: 	John Briggs <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Jul 2006 17:32:12 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

[5] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Jul 2006 18:36:32 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

[6] 	From: 	Aaron Azlant <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Jul 2006 10:59:05 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Mary Coy <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Jul 2006 10:45:55 -0400
Subject: 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

 >"Those who go to Shakespeare today in the hope of seeing the 
characters convincingly
 >embodied and successfully realized will not be gratified by all-male 
productions."

I completely disagree!

I went to my first all-male Shakespeare with reservations. But Edward 
Hall's MIDSUMMER a few years ago was very moving. For the first time the 
four lovers were as funny as the mechanicals.  Seeing a male Hermia 
thrown around stage was funnier, the exchanges between Helena and Hermia 
were funnier, the power struggle between Titania and Oberon was richer.

Hearing the language spoken with a range of male voices was also 
powerful. Words resonated in the fairy forest in a way I hadn't heard 
before. There was a new edge to the magic.  I have enjoyed each of his 
company's productions since that time.

However, the all-male MEASURE I saw in NYC (a re-mounting of Mark 
Rylance's Globe production) did feel (at times) like camp. However, many 
of my friends enjoyed it.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Jul 2006 16:35:24 +0100
Subject: 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

Charles Weinstein wrote that

 >Shakespeare . . . chafed under the stupid and repressive laws that
 >prevented him from witnesing Juliet, Marina, Perdita, Isabella,
 >Hermione, Constance and, yes, Rosalind, Viola, Imogen and Julia
 >brought to such vivid and truthful life [by being played by female
 >actors]

I believe that there were no such laws. (If a Weinstein or anyone else 
has evidence to the contrary, I'd be interested to hear it.) Without the 
dead hand of Elizabethan authority to chafe against, it would seem that 
Weinstein imagines Shakespeare chafing against the theatrical traditions 
of the performance industry itself. What an odd way to think about one 
of the most successful practitioners of the artform.  It would be more 
useful to explore to many ways in which Shakespeare exploited the comic 
and tragic (and sexual, of course) potential generated by boys acting 
female roles.

Gabriel Egan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Jul 2006 12:16:51 -0400
Subject: 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

Charles Weinstein <
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 >

 >2.  A director mounts an originalist production of Othello.  He casts
 >men as Emilia, Desdemona and Bianca, and he casts a white actor as
 >Othello who performs the role in blackface.  Some spectators are highly
 >offended by the latter casting.  When the director pleads fidelity to
 >Jacobean practice, they respond by questioning the value of such 
fidelity.
 >"Why resurrect the racist conventions of four centuries past and inflict
 >them upon our 21st-century sensibilities"?  A question to be asked about
 >the sexist conventions that kept women off the stage in the same 
remote era.

"Racist"? Pray, how many Moorish tragedians were available to the King's 
Men in 1604? This is simply snatching for the nearest fashionable insult.

 >4.  When Shakespeare's greatest female character spurns the thought of
 >viewing "some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness," she is mocking
 >the idea that she could be adequately incarnated by a male.

/Cleopatra/ may be mocking the idea, but to suppose that /Shakespeare/ 
is doing so at that crucial point in the tragedy is madness. On the 
contrary, it shows his faith that his leading boy actor would turn in a 
performance good enough for scene to hold.

 >5.  Women are much better at playing women than men are (to state
 >the obvious).  Compared to a genuine actress, the most skillful female
 >impersonator is a cheap imitation.  Perhaps audiences 400 years ago
 >did not know this, but we do.  Those who go to Shakespeare today
 >in the hope of seeing the characters convincingly embodied and
 >successfully realized will not be gratified by all-male productions.
 >Swapping truth and authenticity for drag and camp is no bargain at all.

You know, your insistence, here and otherwise, on using the words "drag" 
and "camp" begin to suggest a concern that is not wholly an artistic one.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Briggs <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Jul 2006 17:32:12 +0100
Subject: 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

Charles Weinstein wrote:

 >4.  When Shakespeare's greatest female character spurns the thought of
 >viewing "some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness," she is mocking
 >the idea that she could be adequately incarnated by a male.

Whatever point Shakespeare was making, Charles Weinstein has missed it.

John Briggs

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Jul 2006 18:36:32 +0100
Subject: 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

Charles Weinstein writes ...

 >I think Shakespeare wanted to see his female characters played
.by real women.  I think he chafed under the stupid and repressive
 >laws that prevented him from witnesing Juliet, Marina, Perdita,
 >Isabella, Hermione, Constance and, yes, Rosalind, Viola, Imogen
 >and Julia brought to such vivid and truthful life.

Do you think he also chafed under the stupid convention that prevented 
him having a real Dane to play Hamlet or a real aboriginal to play Caliban?

Peter Bridgman

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Aaron Azlant <
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 >
Date: 		Monday, 10 Jul 2006 10:59:05 -0700
Subject: 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0631 Against All-Male Productions

Though I definitely agree with the idea that one century's convention is 
another century's camp and sexism, the one thing that I will say in 
favor of all-male productions is that they unlock hidden dimensions of 
the text. The best example that comes to mind is the extra heft given to 
"and my poor fool is hanged!" in 5.2 if the same actor in /Lear/ plays 
both Cordelia and the Fool.

Another example appears if you grant that the same actor may have played 
both Ophelia and the First Gravedigger in /Hamlet/; this doubling 
repeats the potential heroine / comedian pairing of /Lear/ and their 
songs (note that they and Hamlet are the only characters that sing) are 
thematically similar. But when Hamlet asks the First Gravedigger whose 
grave he is digging, the response -- "Mine, sir" -- might have worked in 
many dimensions at once for an audience if the same actor had also 
played the character for whom the Gravedigger was now preparing a final 
resting place.

--Aaron

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