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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: April ::
Playing Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0194  Tuesday, 28 April 2009

[1] From:   Michael Luskin <
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     Date:   Monday, 27 Apr 2009 17:48:08 EDT
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0181 Playing Iago

[2] From:   Mike Shapiro <
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     Date:   Monday, 27 Apr 2009 17:06:25 -0700
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0187 Playing Iago

[3] From:   John W Kennedy <
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     Date:   Monday, 27 Apr 2009 23:44:43 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0187 Playing Iago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Michael Luskin <
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Date:       Monday, 27 Apr 2009 17:48:08 EDT
Subject: 20.0181 Playing Iago
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0181 Playing Iago

To me, the essence of Shakespeare is that the characters are usually so 
human that they are even more than human. So many of them make me wonder 
about what happened in Act zero. All Shakespeare characters, Edmund, 
Aaron the Moor, Osric, have something to like about them. Maybe not 
Clothen... And Iago is the same. I would like to think that if someone 
had sat down with Iago, and said, "There, there" maybe he would have 
come around a little. What had happened to make him the way he is? 
Though everything he does is evil, I find it hard not to sympathize with 
him.

Verdi's Iago is fascinating because he is a powerful embodiment of evil, 
while Shakespeare's Iago is perhaps less evil and more human.

Think of C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, when he writes to his nephew 
about the tang of Hitler's soul, which I think that Verdi would 
understand perfectly, but not Shakespeare.

So, to play Iago badly would only require an actor to think that he 
fully understands him.

Mbl

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Mike Shapiro <
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Date:       Monday, 27 Apr 2009 17:06:25 -0700
Subject: 20.0187 Playing Iago
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0187 Playing Iago

I wanted to correct my statement regarding "Terry" who made remarks 
concerning Sarah Siddons' Lady McB. It was actually her partner, John 
Irving.

Mike Shapiro, Owner

Corrected Posting:
***************
From:       Mike Shapiro <
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Date:       Sunday, 26 Apr 2009 22:12:29 -0700
Subject: 20.0181 Playing Iago
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0181 Playing Iago

I think back on Stanislavski's position that the Cherry Orchard played 
in Moscow in 1925 should not be the Cherry Orchard played in France in 
1955. The advancements in understanding psychology, current events, 
social manner and customs of the present audience should be considered. 
How people scammed back in the 1600's (the posture, the volume and pitch 
of their voice, was their speech pressured or did they throw away any 
urgency, what level of relief will success provide them) does not work 
for me in 2009.

My experience with the criminal mind leads me to believe that those who 
commit violent felonies are saddled with existential deformity. To 
themselves, they do not exist. Whether the malady's origin is nature, 
nurture or both they are damned to relentlessly pursue relief. If it was 
not the personnel decision that completely consumed Iago it would be 
some other crisis in which the existential conundrum would play out.

For example, I do not feel Branagh's Iago in his filmed version was 
successful. To my, albeit unreasonably high standards, a successful Iago 
is one who seduces every man in the audience into believing that this 
Iago or someone with similar powers of persuasion could expose their 
vulnerability to such conniving. This brings to mind a review that John 
Irving wrote regarding Sarah Siddons' Lady McB in which he commented 
that every man in the audience was terrified because they felt this Lady 
McB could talk them into anything. I need today's Iago to come across as 
innocent, unassuming and trustworthy as James Earl Jones. And if James 
Earl Jones, squirming in his seat, hesitantly spit out that I should 
start keeping on eye on the comings and goings of my wife . . . God damn 
it, I'd be hard pressed not to start watching. However, if Branagh 
delivered the news in that same manner as he did in his film version, 
I'm looking at him and thinking how do I get this guy reassigned to 
another department. In addition, the con man must be able to, with 
heightened sensitivity, identify the needs of the individual he is 
conning. Most talented con men possess that sensitivity because they 
exist externally and have made an art of reading people. Brando had this 
quality, where at once you could observe him discerning the personality 
of the individual with whom he was acting while at the same time 
addressing the character the actor was playing.

Mike Shapiro

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       John W Kennedy <
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Date:       Monday, 27 Apr 2009 23:44:43 -0400
Subject: 20.0187 Playing Iago
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0187 Playing Iago

From:       Louis Swilley <
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 >

 >It is the duty of every director and every actor of roles of
 >villains to make him/her as sympathetic to the audience as
 >possible. In the recent Alley production of "Othello",
 >Desdemona knelt before  Iago, weeping and begging him to
 >help her convince Othello of her  devotion; Iago moved his
 >hand over her bowed head and was about to  caress it in
 >sympathy - but then quickly brought his hand behind his
 >back with his fist clenched.

In other words, he rudely and impertinently intruded something into  the 
play's text that is not there.

 >Unfortunately there was nothing else in the production to pick up on
 >and continue or reflect  this humanizing moment for the character. In
 >a long-ago production of "Romeo and Juliet", John Wood as Capulet
 >raged against his daughter for refusing to marry Paris  --  but broke
 >into tears in the midst of his rage.

Thus making complete hash of the plot, which demands that Juliet find 
herself trapped with no exit.

 >These humanizing corrections are necessary; otherwise we are merely
 >given the one-dimensional, "you-must-pay-the-rent" villain of cheap
 >drama.

Is cheap sentiment, then, the only alternative? I have known men as 
devoid of conscience as Iago, and they wasted no time on crocodile 
tears, for they were quite certain that they were in the right, in 
whatever mad sense "right" bore for them. I thought we had long ago 
decided to laugh at Pope for putting into his edition what he would 
have written in Shakespeare's place.

From:       Mike Shapiro <
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 >

 >I think back on Stanislavski's position that the Cherry Orchard
 >played in Moscow in 1925 should not be the Cherry Orchard played
 >in France in 1955. The advancements in understanding psychology,
 >current events, social manner and customs of the present audience
 >should be considered. How people scammed back in the 1600's (the
 >posture, the volume and pitch of their voice, was their speech
 >pressured or did they throw away any urgency, what level of relief
 >will success provide them) does not work for me in 2009.

Then why except their grammar and vocabulary?

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