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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
Against All-Male Productions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0651  Wednesday, 12 July 2006

[1] 	From: 	Donald Bloom <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 11 Jul 2006 10:04:38 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions

[2] 	From: 	William Proctor Williams <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 11 Jul 2006 11:54:06 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions

[3] 	From: 	Scot Zarela <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 11 Jul 2006 12:38:38 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK17.0631 Against all-male productions

[4] 	From: 	William Sutton <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 12 Jul 2006 00:05:09 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions

[5] 	From: 	Carol Morley <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 12 Jul 2006 10:05:55 +0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Donald Bloom <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 11 Jul 2006 10:04:38 -0500
Subject: 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions

Aaron Azlant (following a number of roughly similar comments on earlier 
threads) says this on doubling:  "Another example appears if you grant 
that the same actor may have played both Ophelia and the First 
Gravedigger in /Hamlet/ . . .  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."

I confess that, were I that actor (male or female) I would consider 
myself to have failed rather seriously if the audience were thinking, 
"Say, isn't that clever. The one doing the First Gravedigger is the same 
one who did Ophelia," while I spoke my lines.

It is not that the audience must BELIEVE that you're Ophelia, or a 
gravedigger, or a fop, or whatever, but they must IMAGINE it (see Sam 
Johnson). If they start doing literary interpretation when they're 
supposed to be involved in the play, then you've screwed up somewhere. 
Even if you're in a technically minimalist production, you should have 
enough power as an actor to get the audience imagining that character at 
that moment.

What they think later is, of course, another matter. But if you force 
theoretical twists (no matter how interesting in some respects) into the 
play, you run a serious risk of damaging the play as play.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		William Proctor Williams <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 11 Jul 2006 11:54:06 -0400
Subject: 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions

Oh, please stop rising to the bait!  It only encourages him.  One 
posting and 6 responses!  Charles must be very pleased.

William Proctor Williams

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Scot Zarela <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 11 Jul 2006 12:38:38 -0400
Subject: Against all-male productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK17.0631 Against all-male productions

1.  Not all camp is drag, and not all drag is camp; but a categorical 
confusion between the two allows Mr Weinstein to argue against one under 
guise of the other.

2.  All play-acting is imitation (whatever else it may be as well); an 
actor pretends to be someone he (or she ) is not.  But in those 
instances when a male actor plays a female character, Mr Weinstein turns 
"imitation" and "pretending" into derogatory counts, and gives 
preference to a supposed reality of "being".

3.  Mr Weinstein writes:  "Women are much better at playing women than 
men are (to state the obvious)."  But this is not obvious at all, unless 
"being" is the same as "pretending to be".

4.  Mr Weinstein frames the opposition starkly:  on the one hand he 
holds up "a genuine actress", on the other "a cheap imitation". 
Furthermore, this cheap imitation is the _best_ that can be expected 
from "the most skillful female impersonator"; while nothing is said of 
the skillfulness of the genuine actress.  She may have few or weak 
skills:  no matter.  Simply the thing she is shall make her --- not 
merely live, but --- bring to "vivid and truthful life" Rosalind, Viola, 
Imogen and the rest, up to and including ... Cleopatra.

5.  These are the terms Mr Weinberg has laid out; he hasn't said, "Other 
things being equal..." or "Given two performers of about the same 
ability... it's better to have men playing men, women playing women." 
In Mr Weinberg's terms, other things need not be equal.  If it happens 
that the best available actress is only so-so, a producer should 
unhesitatingly prefer her above the best available actor, even if he's 
magnificent.  Identity trumps craft.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		William Sutton <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 12 Jul 2006 00:05:09 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions

Hi All,

Whilst not knocking Shakespeare done as all-male all-female, or a bit of 
both, the idea that Shakespeare knew women would be playing his female 
roles: accepted or not?

Not, seems to course through the replies here. Yes I hear the argument 
of how clever the doubling makes the lines. Ed Hall's direction is loads 
of fun.

 >I believe that there were no such laws. says Gabriel Egan.

I don't wish to speak for Charles, but weren't the Laws the Sumptuary laws?

Then what was it that stopped the Elizabethans following the example of 
the Italian and Spanish stages and allowing women to play?

We are told women would attend the theatre unaccompanied to be in the 
audience, so the demographic was there to be pleased. Maybe they were 
the ones most affected by the following.

 >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.

 >>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. <<

I raise your perhaps to a probably and conjecture they would have known 
this! Women were an integral part of Elizabethan Society as mothers, 
wives, mistresses' and as Professionals in the world of Printing and 
bookselling.

 >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.


Charles sexual orientation is about as interesting as Shakespeare's and 
uncalled for.

So really, why is it only England that likes their men to dress up in 
women's clothing and strut and fret their hour (OP) upon the stage? 
(Having done the sonnets as a filthy little Cressid, I know whereof I 
speak).

Is it not significant that on Continental Europe during the time that 
Shakespeare was composing his works, actresses were already working?

Yours,
William Sutton

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Carol Morley <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 12 Jul 2006 10:05:55 +0000
Subject: 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0639 Against All-Male Productions

 >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

Dear Peter,

Surely only an illegitimate Algerian would do?

But in all seriousness, the fundamental job-requirement in theatrical 
performance of dressing up and 'playing' must be emphasised at all 
costs. I am prepared to believe that Shakespeare's one extended Moorish 
characterisation might not have been a complete success, despite 
Burbage's best efforts, because of the difficulty of 'personating' a 
North African to their satisfaction. Female characters however, continue 
to flow across the stage, suggesting that the actors were doing them 
convincingly enough. And the typical audience (females aside) would on 
average meet a lot more women in real life than Venetians (of any 
colour), and be reasonable judges of verisimilitude.

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