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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
Comment: SHK 17.0676
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0676  Wednesday, 18 July 2006

[1] 	From: 	David Frankel <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 12:32:10 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions

[2] 	From: 	Michael B. Luskin <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 12:47:08 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions

[3] 	From: 	Susanne Greenhalgh <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 18:54:01 +0100
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0665 Against All-Male Productions

[4] 	From: 	Elizabeth S. Angello <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 14:32:54 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions

[5] 	From: 	Charles Weinstein <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 17:55:45 -0400
	Subj: 	Against All-Male Productions

[6] 	From: 	Charles Weinstein <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 18:25:44 -0400
	Subj: 	Against All-Male Productions

[7] 	From: 	Jeffrey Jordan <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 22:48:57 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Frankel <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 12:32:10 -0400
Subject: 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions

Larry Weiss said (in regard to all-male casting):

 >The more the production
 >verges away from Elizabethan/Jacobean conditions, the less
 >all male casting is legitimate.  It ceases to be an
 >experiment and becomes a gimmick.

I think I'd argue that all theatrical production is a "gimmick." Whether 
or not the gimmick makes sense depends upon how the conventions that 
govern the performance choices and audience responses work together or 
collide.  Just as there is no authentic text, there is no authentic 
meaning-every production creates its own meaning (broadly construed here 
to include the feelings that it evokes in the audience, and the 
connections that audience members make between the play and world(s) in 
which they live).

I do not, by the way, intend to imply a sort of "anything goes" attitude 
-- productions are, and should be, critiqued, evaluated, argued over, 
and judged-but those arguments and judgments are, themselves, subject to 
the same processes of evaluation.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Michael B. Luskin <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 12:47:08 EDT
Subject: 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions

I wonder if this thread is not a tempest in a teapot.  Shakespeare 
produced plays with all male casts, and that was that.  I don't know if 
he ever thought much about other castings.  I wonder if anyone does, if 
anyone knows of "private" productions with females at the time.

I don't know what "authentic" means.  If we use men for the sake of 
authenticity, shouldn't we also use Globe-like conditions, no lighting, 
almost no scenery, and so forth?  Or maybe not.  The question is, what 
is the director trying to do?

It seems odd that people, who usually present themselves as purists and 
narrow constructionists on this list, seem to be in favor of 
revisionism, including women, modern stagings, and so forth.  We don't 
think twice today about women in female roles, but Shakespeare would 
have.  Today, with gay issues are on the front burner, an all male 
staging is in itself a statement.  Or all female.  I suppose a gifted 
animal trainer could put together a staging of Hamlet with parrots.  Not 
sure what that statement would be, but it could possibly be done.  I 
guess a PETA message...

Thirty years ago, I saw an all male As You Like It, and, after, ten 
minutes, I forgot that it was an all male production, it worked as it was.

Twenty-five years ago, Patrice Chereau did a fine production of the 
Wagner Ring Cycle, setting it in nineteenth century England.  Wotan and 
company were Midlands plutocrats.  Much of the scenery was reminiscent 
of old factories.  It worked wonderfully.  Fafner and Fasolt were 
brought to life as shop stewards, who believed in their bosses and in 
progress, and were all the more enraged when they were betrayed.  Mime's 
underground sweat shop looked as though it was conceived by the CIO or 
the wobblies.  And so forth.

At about the same time, I saw a Carmen set during the Spanish Civil War. 
  Carmen walked around in fatigues and carried a bazooka, and the main 
thing she conveyed, aside from the bazooka, was discomfort.  It didn't 
work.  Relevance?

It is possible for there to be "authentic" stagings that do not work, 
and "modernized," whatever that means, stagings that do.

To me, the real issue is the piece, not the staging.  It seems to me 
that the one supports the other, not the other way around.  If the 
staging takes precedence over the play, the performances is about the 
staging, not about the play.

Michael B. Luskin

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Susanne Greenhalgh <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 18:54:01 +0100
Subject: 17.0665 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0665 Against All-Male Productions

Further to the mention of Declan Donnellan's 'King Lear' of some years 
ago I strongly recommend those who can to book a ticket to see his 
all-Russian, all-male 'Twelfth Night'(Cheek by Jowl/Chekhov 
International Festival), which tours the US in the Fall, including New 
York, Chicago and Berkeley.  Not only is this is a highly enjoyable and 
thought-provoking interpretation of the play, but the men's (not boys') 
performances in the female roles are wonderfully varied and nuanced.

Susanne Greenhalgh,
Principal Lecturer,
Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies,
School of Arts,
Roehampton University,

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Elizabeth S. Angello <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 14:32:54 -0400
Subject: 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions

++Olivier was believably made up as a black man, to the palms of his 
hands; Stewart played a white black man.  The former was drama; the 
latter a travesty.++

Painting Olivier black did not make him a "believable" black man. I 
don't discredit the subtleties of his performance, but awarding him 
authenticity is absurd. Olivier was a great Othello; he was not a black one.

++Political correctness or a desire to spread the work around is no 
excuse for revising Shakespeare's plays into something else.++

How can we NOT revise them into something else? We are incapable of 
performing a play "original" conditions, on any level-socially, 
politically, culturally, linguistically, spectacularly, etc. Each 
performance is a revision, each night a "something else." Olivier in 
blackface is as much a revision as Stewart in his own skin, as much as 
Rylance as Cleopatra, as much as MacKellan as Lear. As much as everyone 
after Burbage, and, if you want to get right down to it, as Burbage each 
night after the first.

And, not incidentally, Burbage did not perform Othello in blackface. 
Does this make his performance, too, a travesty?

On all other points relating to this discussion, I think we had best 
adhere to the wise (and more scholarly than mine) postings of Paul 
Hebron and Brian Willis.

--Lizz Angello
University of South Florida

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Charles Weinstein <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 17:55:45 -0400
Subject: 	Against All-Male Productions

"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."

That seems to me indisputable.  Why did Shakespeare devise such a 
sentiment and make Cleopatra utter it (in her death scene, no less)? 
Metatheatrics notwithstanding, I think he shared her opinion of its justice.

--Charles Weinstein

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Charles Weinstein <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 18:25:44 -0400
Subject: 	Against All-Male Productions

"Charles Weinstein happened to repeat a myth (that a law kept women off 
the Renaissance stage) that oughtn't to go unchallenged here."

Mr. Egan's earlier "belief" that there was no such law has now hardened 
into a certainty.  I take it that the issue is unsettled.  Pending a 
resolution, let us say "an unwritten law" or "custom that had the force 
of law," since it ultimately required the intervention of royal 
authority to end the practice.

--Charles Weinstein

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jeffrey Jordan <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Jul 2006 22:48:57 -0500
Subject: 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0671 Against All-Male Productions

Replying to Aaron Azlant.

 >2. Who's to say that one of the teenage boys couldn't have
 >played the Gravedigger?

Me.  I'll volunteer to say it.  Although I suppose a few boys could 
handle it, such doubling would be a heavy load for a youngster.  One 
must keep in mind not only whether a boy could have an acceptable 
voice, and be given an acceptable appearance for a role, but how much 
of a burden one can reasonably place on a youngster without  overtaxing 
him.  Handling both Ophelia and the Gravedigger, and doing a good job 
with both, would be a lot to expect from a boy.

However, I think you've got something here....

 >In /Hamlet/, at least, it seems likely to me that there would
 >have been other work for Armin, who could have played
 >both Polonius and Osric (note, for instance, the similarity
 >between Polonius' agreement with Hamlet on the shape
 >of the fictional clouds and Osric's agreement with Hamlet
 >on the weather).

Doubling of Polonius and Ostrick is highly credible, I believe, and 
nicely compatible with the play.  Symbolically, Ostrick becomes the 
reincarnation of Polonius, so to speak.  With the deaths of R & G and 
Polonius, Ostrick is on track to become the new top aide to the crown, 
which is what Polonius was.  There's also the observation that in Q2 
Polonius is the "smell bad" character, but in Q1 it's Ostrick.   In 
addition to what you mention about the dialogue, Polonius and Ostrick 
share the "smell" as well, if one takes both Q1 and Q2 into account.

And this goes along with what you mentioned earlier about doubling being 
obvious to the audience.  If the Polonius actor were familiar to the 
audience, the audience could enjoy him being "reincarnated" as Ostrick, 
and I don't think it would detract from the play.  The symbolism is in 
the endurance of "the politician."  Kill one, and another steps in who 
is pretty much the same, only younger.  I suggest that Shakespeare might 
have intended to convey that idea, and doubling of Polonius and Ostrick 
might have been used to go along with it.

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