2012

Aesthetic and Anesthetic

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0341  Friday, 17 August 2012

 

From:        Colette Gordon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 16, 2012 1:21:24 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Aesthetic and Anesthetic

 

Steve Urkowitz’s comments on anaesthetic Macbeth hit a nerve. I recently went, as a reviewer, to see Punchdrunk’s titanic flagship US production “Sleep No More”: an 100 room immersive theatre installation that essentially offers audience a non-linear Macbeth with elements from Hitchcock, most notably a stridently controlling Bernard Hermann-drenched score.

 

Something that this sprawling, nigh unreviewable work does do is to produce something like the criterion of  “educated emotional evocation” that Urkowitz calls for. So, a provocative review in Shakespeare Bulletin by Kevin Ewert eschews the usual review format to reflect on the reviewer’s experience of a single moment of intimate contact with one of the actors. Certainly reviewing or viewing a show like this forces us to answer that question: “tell me if you felt along with your understanding. And tell me how that feeling connects with other emotions you enjoy intensely.”

 

But on the whole I was struck precisely by how “immersive theatre” seems to have become anaesthetic in the hands of its great proponents. Yes, it breaks a barrier, and allows audiences to be grabbed, up close and personal.  Yet “one on one” moments in this expensive, well-publicized show, like the one Ewet describes, have become like bonus scenes in a computer game, known and sought out by audience members wanting to “score” the maximum experience.  What could be less affecting than this dull, mechanical euphoria: somewhere between computer gaming and online shopping—with a hint of surfing for porn.  I wonder, is theatre not equally or more immersive when an actor playing the porter looks into the crowd and addresses members of the audience? Punchdrunk’s “mind-blowing” Macbeth seems to forget this.  Even dance companies working behind a proscenium arch do more to interrogate and destabilize the boundary between audience and actor than Punchdrunk’s “one on one” immersive theatre technique, where the overriding emotions dealt with are the viewer’s infantile demand for attention, touch, and recognition. 

 

Punchdrunk’s Macbeth is a machine.  And it’s Macbeth is a machine, incapable of showing any development or engaging any emotional response.  I hope I won’t be spoiling the show for anyone if I let on that the climax come when Macbeth puts his head in a noose—an odd form of emotional pleading.  Overall, it struck me that a show that purports to be all about active response seems to render both its audience and its protagonist, conveniently passive, and dispassionate.  Macbeth’s nobles usher Macbeth to his death; the ushers usher us back into the bar.  End of show. 

 

This also touches on Urkowitz’s second point, about directorial interventions / inventions.  I’d noticed this as a particularly rife problem in South African Shakespeare and had taken it as a symptom of director designer’s theatre, that doesn’t trust either actors or audiences, though the same thing crops up all over, especially when working with “dark” materials like Macbeth.  Directors like to colonize silences and use dumbshow to rewrite the play, often to make the texture more generically even.  So Adam can die poignantly at the end of the As You Like It Act II, Richard III and other villains can stab any number of messengers and, yes, Macbeth can stab the doctor—because he (because we) can.  In the most striking example I’ve seen, a production of King Lear in Cape Town, on the exit from the heath, Edgar walked over and strangled the clown. Why? I put this down to directorial interference.  But when I put this to the director, I was told that it had been Edgar’s idea. When the director, Guy de Lancey, asked the actor why he did it, he replied that he wanted to get the trousers. Actors have also learned to replace emotions with ideas.  I don’t think they learned this from Shakespeare.  

 

Dugdale Archive

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0340  Friday, 17 August 2012

 

[1] From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         August 16, 2012 2:10:30 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER:  Dugdale Archive 

 

[2] From:        Jim Marino <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         August 16, 2012 3:40:07 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Dugdale Archive 

 

[3] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         August 16, 2012 8:37:49 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Dugdale Archive 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 16, 2012 2:10:30 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER:  Dugdale Archive

 

Marcia Eppich-Harris wrote:

 

>I noticed looking through that Anne Hathaway died three months before 

>the printing of the First Folio. I suppose there’s no way to know for sure,

>but is there evidence that Heminges and Condell were waiting for Anne to 

>die before publishing the FF?

 

You do realise, don’t you, that the First Folio actually spent over two years going through the press?

 

John Briggs

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Jim Marino <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 16, 2012 3:40:07 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Dugdale Archive 

 

Marcia Eppich-Harris raises a good question, which has occasionally crossed my mind, and I’m eager to hear other colleagues’ thoughts on this question.

 

The short answer is that the work of printing the First Folio began in 1622, many months before Anne Shakespeare’s death in August 1623, so that it’s unlikely that anyone involved with the project was waiting for her demise. In any case, Shakespeare’s primary heir was not his widow, but his daughter, Susanna Hall. If there had been any profit

 

But I have never found any sign of economic rights to a work of literature being inherited by the author’s family during this period. There were no copyright laws, and no idea of an authorial “intellectual property” in our sense of the term. (The closest thing to an exception is Sidney’s family, who use their political influence and connections to control publication of his works, but they don’t claim to “own” the Arcadia, or to imagine that the Arcadia is a heritable commercial property.) 

 

You do see stationers’ claims to a work being inherited by the widows and children of members of the Company of Stationers, but you don’t see poets’ widows or children making such claims. So the printer Thomas Pavier’s widow did assert her rights to a share of “Shakespeare’s plays, or any of them,” but Shakespeare’s widow would likely not have.

 

Hope this helps,

Jim Marino

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 16, 2012 8:37:49 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Dugdale Archive

 

“I suppose there’s no way to know for sure, but is there evidence that Heminges and Condell were waiting for Anne to die before publishing the FF? Who made the financial profit from the FF? I assume that estate laws now are far different from the early modern period, and probably different in the US than they are in the UK. But I wondered if Shakespeare’s estate (and Anne) would have profited from the FF if it had been printed and sold before her death.”

 

Shakespeare held no copyright or similar interest in the plays, so they were not assets of his estate. 

 

Images from the Dugdale Archive

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0338  Thursday, 16 August 2012

 

From:        Marcia Eppich-Harris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 16, 2012 8:38:18 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Images from the Dugdale Archive

 

Thank you for sharing the Dugdale Archive images! 

 

I noticed looking through that Anne Hathaway died three months before the printing of the First Folio. I suppose there’s no way to know for sure, but is there evidence that Heminges and Condell were waiting for Anne to die before publishing the FF? Who made the financial profit from the FF? I assume that estate laws now are far different from the early modern period, and probably different in the US than they are in the UK. But I wondered if Shakespeare’s estate (and Anne) would have profited from the FF if it had been printed and sold before her death.  Any experts on this subject here?

 

Thanks!

 

Marcia 

 

Aesthetic and Anesthetic

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0339  Thursday, 16 August 2012

 

From:        David Richman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 14, 2012 10:26:30 AM EDT

Subject:     Aesthetic and Anesthetic

 

It is always good to read or listen to what Steve Urkowitz has to say on any subject.  I too have devoted myself to emotionally evocative productions of Shakespeare.  I wonder about directorial intention:  (and yes, I do know about the intentional fallacy).  Perhaps the director was deliberately aiming at a Brechtian Macbeth—asking the audience to experience, in a roundabout way, what lack of fellow feeling can do to us all.  Or perhaps the director was merely being clever in less efficacious ways. 

Perennial problem:  How do you shock the audience into experiencing anew a play the audience knows well?  We all cudgel our brains on that hard stone.  

 

David Richman 

 

Information Please: Beerbohm Tree as Antony

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0337  Thursday, 16 August 2012

 

From:        Kate Welch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 14, 2012 4:50:35 AM EDT

Subject:     Information Please: Beerbohm Tree as Antony

 

>For the Broadview edition of Julius Caesar, I’d like to use the painting 

>(or is it a photograph?) of Herbert Beerbohm Tree playing Antony in 

>1898 at Her Majesty’s Theatre. For this purpose, I need a high-resolution

>image (1200 by 900 pixels). The best image I can find online is taken 

>from a post card with a much lower resolution.

>

>Does anyone know where the original painting or photograph is located?

 

Dear John,

 

If it’s the painting by Charles Buchel of Tree standing over Caesar’s corpse it is held at the V&A Museum in London – www.vam.ac.uk.

 

Kate Welch

Shakespeare Institute Library.

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