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Production Questions

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0463  Monday, 30 September 2013

 

[1] From:        Mari Bonomi < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         September 27, 2013 2:21:18 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Production Questions 

 

[2] From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         Monday, September 30, 2013

     Subject:     Production Questions 

 

 

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

From:        Mari Bonomi < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         September 27, 2013 2:21:18 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Production Questions

 

Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it > wrote,

 

>So do you think about these questions:

 

>1. Are the most memorable Shakespeare productions 

>you’ve seen modern or ‘classical’? 

 

>2. Do you find it jarring when Hamlet picks up an 

>iPad? 

 

>3. What did you make of Mr. Leveaux’s ‘Romeo and 

>Juliet’?

 

>4. What are we as teachers conveying to high school 

>students by having them read Romeo and Juliet ?

 

>5. What are we as teachers conveying to high school 

>students by having them read Julius Caesar ?

 

Regarding Hardy’s questions about staging Shakespeare:

 

I confess to preferring traditional stagings, even if that marks me as an amateur, a tyro.  

 

Most of the shows I’ve most liked have been only semi-costumed—soldiers in vaguely military non-descriptness, royalty in vaguely royal garb perhaps with something robe-like, women in long skirts and perhaps some “jewels” if appropriate to their stations.

 

I have seen modern stagings that worked well.  The Old Globe (San Diego) Julius Caesar in the early aughts is one that stands out.

 

The single most memorable performance for me dates back to some time in the early or mid 1980’s at I believe it was the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  I do not remember the cast, nor which British company was the visiting artist. I cannot find it via Google, either. What made it memorable was actually an accident: the company’s sets and costumes did not make it to BAM in time for the opening. So the company played it in rehearsal clothes.  Hence zero distraction of any sort from performance and text. It was riveting; I still easily conjure up the images it planted in my memory.

 

Would Hamlet reaching for an iPad distract me? Yes. But then so did virtually everything in the Baz Luhrmann R&J abomination. (Yes. I know it was a great way to get kids to watch Shakespeare. I’m not a kid.)

 

I taught R&J every year from 1966 through 2001. Every year. At least once, usually to at least 3 classes.  I never tired of it; I found something new each time.

 

I think it worked for my HS sophomores who had read JC in 9th grade (and some of whom had read MND as well as or instead of JC).  But then I did a couple of things that perhaps are not standard. I began by explaining that R&J is one of Shakespeare’s dirtiest plays, full of sexual commentary.  Then I said I was not going to explain any of them—but if they got the jokes, they should feel free to laugh, while if they didn’t I was not going to corrupt their innocence.

 

Then I performed the prologue—and had them tell me what they heard, and figure out what they wanted to look for as we read—which we did, in class, daily, aloud. At least through 3.1 – after that I was a bit more selective, since they were comfortable w/ the language by then. We talked about how key scenes should best be staged, and students acted out several variations and decided which made the language clearest.  We looked at Romeo’s explanation of why he’s “sad” and they explained what “seige of loving terms” and “assailing eyes” suggested about R’s approach to his love-object. Then we decided what it means to “ope” one’s “lap” to “saint-seducing gold.” By that point they were ready to dig in to find more such humor :D

 

And it was a student who first suggested staging 3.1 with Romeo grabbing up Mercutio’s fallen sword on the lines “Away to heaven, respective lenity,/And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!”  Her reasoning: If Romeo were coming out of church having just received the sacrament of marriage, he’d be unlikely to be wearing a sword. And another year, a student commented in that staging by adding that it seemed to him Romeo was taking an oath, so how fitting that the hilt of the sword is cross-shaped. (I forebore from pointing out that it probably had a basket hilt.)

 

 

I’m really looking forward to seeing Allison Glenzer as Friar Lawrence and Benjamin Curns as the Nurse during the Blackfriars Conference next month in Staunton :)

 

Mari Bonomi

whose favorite Shakespeares are R&J, Richard II, and Winter’s Tale (no, don’t ask me to explain. . . )

 

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

From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         Monday, September 30, 2013

Subject:     Production Questions

 

I have during my 66 years, seen many, many excellent (and many not so great) Shakespeare productions, in the theatre and on film and television, in the United States and in Stratford-upon-Avon and London in the United Kingdom.

 

Regarding the question I borrowed from Christopher Isherwood:

 

>1. Are the most memorable Shakespeare productions 

>you’ve seen modern or ‘classical’? 

 

I grew up during the “Golden Age of Television.”

 

I have a vague memory of Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson in George Schaefer’s Macbeth; but that would have been 1954 and I would have been six or seven during the original broadcast; however, my memory is of a fatter man than in the still I just looked at and in plaid, so this memory may not be accurate at all.

 

I do, however, clearly remember March 11, 1956, a Sunday afternoon when NBC broadcast Olivier’s Richard III, the same day that it premiered in cinemas in the United States. “A horse, a horse . . .” I was mesmerized even though we did not have a color television.

 

So it would seem that my introduction to Shakespeare would have been to “classical” productions.

 

But a quick scan of my memory recalls without effort some of the finest productions that I have seen that have been with “modern” production values.

 

Burton’s Hamlet, which I cut high school, to see in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday, September 23, 1964.

 

Ralph Cohen’s SSE production of Julius Caesar at the SAA meeting in Philadelphia in 1990.

 

The so-called “photo negative” Othello I saw with Patrick Stewart at the Shakespeare theater in 1997.

 

Samuel West as Richard II at The Other Place in 2000.

 

In 2008, Hamlet at The Courtyard with David Tennant as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as the Claudius I have always imagined. 

 

If I had a bit more time to think about it, I could surely produce a list of equal length and heft with “classical” production values—okay, just one, Stacy Keach as Richard III in the Folger’s Elizabethan theater’s 1990 production. 

 

I will have more to say about other questions should this thread continue.

 
 

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