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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Understudies
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0826  Wednesday, 19 December 2007

[1] 	From:	Abigail Quart <
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	Date:	Sunday, 16 Dec 2007 13:00:09 -0500
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0838 Understudies

[2] 	From:	William Godshalk <
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	Date:	Sunday, 16 Dec 2007 15:02:17 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0838 Understudies

[3] 	From:	John Drakakis <
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	Date:	Monday, 17 Dec 2007 09:27:46 -0000
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0838 Understudies

[4] 	From:	Steve Urkowitz <
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	Date:	Monday, 17 Dec 2007 12:17:38 -0500
	Subj:	"Reconstructing" Understudies


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Abigail Quart <
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Date:		Sunday, 16 Dec 2007 13:00:09 -0500
Subject: 18.0838 Understudies
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0838 Understudies

 >Instead, say Kiernander and Neill, it were better to have
 >the actors recite their parts in turn and take down this aural event as
 >writing.

Did any other playwrights on this list start laughing at the above? I'm 
glad that Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser have academically debunked 
the other assertions of Kiernander and Neill but the above is just a 
howl. Get an accurate text from the actors' recitation??? Let me guess, 
these fine scholars are not playwrights who have ever attempted to 
listen to a taped performance of their own work. I have. It only took a 
moment to begin moaning, "That's not my script. That's not my script."

I have seen actors in a reading with the script in front of their faces 
completely redo a line. Once they get onstage...there is nothing to stop 
them from editing, replacing, dropping, or rewriting a line. NOTHING. 
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I would bet money they are 
completely unaware of doing it. Isn't there a famous Broadway story of a 
note on a backstage bulletin board: "Rehearsal tomorrow to remove the 
improvements."

Something else about the idiocy of transcribing a performance: what kind 
of shorthand did they have back then? Because if the actors were 
required to stop and start...losing the rhythm blows memory. And if a 
shorthand were used, that brings its own reconstruction errors into play.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		William Godshalk <
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Date:		Sunday, 16 Dec 2007 15:02:17 -0500
Subject: 18.0838 Understudies
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0838 Understudies

Gabriel Egan writes regarding memorial reconstruction: "Assuming one 
'part' per character (rather than one per actor), what Bill imagines 
would involve sequential transcription from dozens of rolls held open 
simultaneously, which isn't easily done."

I assume that Gabriel begins with a reference to doubling, in which one 
actor has more than one "part." But I was not imagining a kind of book 
wheel loaded with "parts" and a scribe working his way through them to 
recreate a complete play script. No, I was imagining an actor or actors 
reciting "their parts in turn" while a scribe takes "down this aural 
event" in writing.

One of the facts that undergird the theory of memorial reconstruction is 
that certain "parts" in a supposedly pirated text are closer in wording 
to an "authoritative" text than are other parts. Reconstructionists 
attribute this phenomenon to certain rogue actors reconstructing the 
play script with the help of a scribe. Thus the parts played by these 
actors are closer to the authorized text, while other parts of the 
script -- when the rogue actors are not on stage -- are less faithful to 
the script that has been judged authoritative.

My point was a very small one. If the rogue actors retained their 
written parts, their rolls, one would expect their parts in the 
reconstructed script to be memorially reconstructed almost perfectly, 
not just with greater fidelity. They could simply read their parts to 
the scribe.

Bill

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John Drakakis <
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Date:		Monday, 17 Dec 2007 09:27:46 -0000
Subject: 18.0838 Understudies
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0838 Understudies

As I recall, Blayney has taken apart Farmer and Lesser.

But also, what happens when we think about actors doubling parts?

Cheers,
John  Drakakis

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Steve Urkowitz <
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Date:		Monday, 17 Dec 2007 12:17:38 -0500
Subject:	"Reconstructing" Understudies

Okay, there is a lot of mist and disagreement about the marketplace for 
printed plays and the hypothetical sources of manuscripts underlying 
them. As I mentioned earlier, the most recent work of Grace Ioppolo and 
Tiffany Stern and Simon Palfrey brings new light on the rehearsal 
practices and the generation and replication of manuscripts which were 
the bases of those productions and editions we're interested in. But, 
and here's the big "but" I've been butting in with for years, the 
differences between the radically-different multiple texts of 
Shakespeare's plays are really, really interesting. And they are not at 
all like anything remembered / mis-remembered / or dismembered by 
actors. Instead, they are delicious examples of really good playwriting 
being worked on by really good playwrights. Here's a f'rinstance. When 
Polonius hears from his daughter about Hamlet's response to her 
returning his love-tokens, he feels there are only two quite dismal 
outcomes:

Come, goe we to the King,
This must be knowne, which beeing kept close, might move
More griefe to hide, then hate to utter love.
Come. _Exeunt._

At the equivalent moment in the earlier-printed version, the equivalent 
character says:

Lets to the King, this madnesse may prove,
Though wilde a while, yet more true to thy love. _Exeunt._

In other words, things may work out after all. This kinder, gentler 
poppa has many other kinder or at least less ferocious ways of 
presenting himself to his daughter elsewhere in the 1603 printing of the 
play.

My objection to the clouds of "memorial reconstruction" arguments is 
that they ascribe the differences in the texts to these anonymous agents 
who I find to be really inventive playwrights. Rather than saying that 
pirates ruint Shakespeare's great stuff, I'd rather say, "Look at how 
the Corambis-Polonius character tries to be kind to his daughter in Q1 
but is grimly negative and thoughtless about her feelings in Q2." This 
manipulation of the theatrical moment looks like what playwrights do.

Fredson Bowers sneered at my analyses of the HAMLET texts. John Jowett 
and Richard Proudfoot have dismissed my discussions of parallel passages 
as unworthy, not even meriting refutation. But their rejection of my 
arguments confirm my observation that a lot of Shakespearean textual 
study is carried out by folks who just don't register that there are 
important _artistic_ differences between the early printed versions. And 
I fear that they miss the same kinds of things happening in 
single-version plays as well. So, in the holiday spirit, I again invite 
all to unwrap those quarto and folio packages, try acting them out, see 
why and how one text works differently than another, ring their bells, 
blow their whistles, and dance in the new year.

Ever,
Steve Urquartowitz
Closer to the North Pole
In Portland, Maine

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