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IMPORTANT SHAKSPER Appointments

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.3781  Thursday, 28 August 2014

 

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

Date:         Thursday, August 28, 2014

Subject:    IMPORTANT SHAKSPER Appointments

 

During the summer, I have been seeking volunteers to assist me with some of the SHAKSPER operations.

 

Since I was away for most of the summer, I have not had a sustained period to work through those who have volunteered and how I might use those persons.

 

Tonight, I am announcing my first two appointments of SHAKSPER Contributing Editors.

 

Assistant Professor of English, Louise Geddes of Adelphi University in Garden City, NY, will be Contributing Editor in change of the Festivals and Plays section of the SHAKSPER web site.

 

Louise Geddes is an Assistant Professor of English at Adelphi University.  She has just completed her first manuscript, Pyramus and Thisbe: The Stage Histories of Shakespeare’s Unruly Play, which reflects her interests in Shakespeare’s role as a maker of theatrical manners. One article from this monograph has been published in Shakespeare Bulletin and another is forthcoming in MaRDiE. Her current research centers on the death of political theatre in contemporary British drama.  Her article “The Bite of the Right in Thatcher’s England: Jacobean Presentism and Howard Barker’s Women Beware Women” was recently published in Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies, and “A Mad Art, My Masters: Theatre and Usable Culture in Late Twentieth-Century Britain” is forthcoming in ILS. Beginning this year, Louise is also a contributor at YWES.

 

All suggestions, additions, or changes should be sent to Professor Geddes at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

Associate Professor of English Annalisa Castaldo from Widener University in Chester, PA, will be SHAKSPER Contributing Editor in charge of coordinating the SHAKSPER Book Review Panel for the SBReviews.

 

Annalisa Castaldo received her PhD from Temple University. She is an associate professor of English at Widener University in Chester, PA where she teaches Shakespeare and other early modern works. She has worked closely with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater in Philadelphia in numerous roles and has edited Henry V, Henry VI: 1-3 and Macbeth (Focus editions). Her scholarly interests include performance history, Shakespeare in pop culture, and gender representations on the early modern stage.

 

Any suggestions for possible books to review should be sent to Professor Castaldo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and copied to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

Please join in welcoming Louise and Annalisa to what I hope will be the ever expanding family of SHAKSPER Contributing Editors.

 

Hardy

 
 
(RSC) Miniatures

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.380  Thursday, 28 August 2014

 

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

Date:         August 28, 2014 at 10:11:30 AM EDT

Subject:    (RSC) Miniatures

 

I don’t care much for little Falstaffs: they’re a contradiction in terms.  Antony Sher is too small for the part in every sense (height, girth, personality), and his old-man’s voice is not fooling anyone.  But he’s a good comic actor; he gets his laughs; and he’s endearing the way a leprechaun is endearing.  Ever since Richard III (1984), Sher’s audience has been waiting for lightning to strike again.  His Falstaff does not constitute a second bolt, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  And if one must have puny Falstaffs, I will easily take Sher’s rendition over the scabrous and joyless performance of Simon Russell Beale, who looked like a garden gnome with its paint flaking off.   

 

--Charles Weinstein

 

 
Timon of Athens and Depression

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.379  Thursday, 28 August 2014

 

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

Date:         August 27, 2014 at 9:21:30 AM EDT

Subject:    Timon of Athens and Depression

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/william-shakespeare/11054284/Shakespeare-could-have-been-depressed-when-he-wrote-Timon-of-Athens-Simon-Russell-Beale-says.html

 

Shakespeare could have been depressed when he wrote King Lear and Timon of Athens, the actor Simon Russell Beale suggests

By Hannah Furness, Arts Correspondent

 

Shakespeare could have been depressed when he wrote his finest and most puzzling works, the actor Simon Russell Beale has suggested, as he examines what inspired the playwright’s “torrent of bile” during a “bad patch”.

 

Russell Beale, the acclaimed stage actor, said two of Shakespeare’s plays are so extraordinary they must have signalled a darkness in his personal life.

 

Suggesting Timon of Athens and King Lear are so “savage” they must have been written during a “bad patch”, the actor argues Shakespeare may have “temporarily lost faith in human nature.”

Russell Beale has now examined the First Folio as part of a new BBC Four series, The Secret Life of Books.

 

Speaking of Timon of Athens, which some believe is unfinished, he said: “To my inexpert eye it looks potentially like rather a good play, but it must have been very depressing to write,

 

“It’s as if Shakespeare can’t stop this flow of invective and bile, like a nervous tic.

 

“So perhaps, I’m suggesting, he himself was depressed. He temporarily lost faith in human nature.”

 

The actor, who has recently played Lear at the National Theatre, added even that play shows the “savage rewriting” of the ending, to kill off key characters and “obliterate a happy ending entirely”.

Comparing the early “quarto” version of the play with the later publication of the First Folio, he noted changes in the play he believes reflected a darkening of mood.

 

[ . . . ]

 
 
Alan Cumming and Macbeth Curse

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.378  Thursday, 28 August 2014

 

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

Date:         August 27, 2014 at 9:12:55 AM EDT

Subject:    Alan Cumming and Macbeth Curse 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2013/apr/16/lyn-gardner-theatre-blog-dont-mention-m-word?guni=Article%3Ain+body+link

 

Should Alan Cumming beware the curse of Macbeth?

 

Alan Cumming says he has no truck with theatrical superstition – but his producers are taking no chances

 

There’s an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer and the family visit London. Walking past a theatre, they encounter Ian McKellen, currently appearing in Macbeth. Unaware of the theatrical superstition that Macbeth should not be mentioned by name, Homer says the title of the play and McKellen is promptly struck by lightning. As the actor leaves to get ready for the performance, the family wish him good luck – so unwittingly breaking another theatrical taboo. The long-suffering star is promptly hit on the head by falling masonry.

 

The episode playfully skewers the superstitions of theatre folk, which range from a ban on whistling onstage to never passing another actor on the stairs, or unpacking your makeup box until after the reviews are in. My favourite is the ghost light – the small onstage light that must never be turned off. Its function is entirely practical: to ensure that anyone arriving backstage can see and doesn’t accidentally fall into the pit. The more entertaining notion is that it is there after all the actors have left, to appease the ghosts and provide a light by which to stage their own performances.

 

It's also held to be bad luck to speak the last line of the play during rehearsal. And some actors believe that it’s bad luck to put shoes on the table, while others believe it’s unlucky to leave them on the floor. (Though in a rat or mouse-infested theatre that might be a wise precaution.)

 

It’s easy to see why some might consider passing a funeral cortege on the way to the theatre unlucky, but other superstitions are baffling. I’ve no idea why chimney sweeps were once considered such good luck that the great actor Eleonora Duse insisted on one being present during a premiere.

 

But it’s Shakespeare’s Macbeth which is most shrouded in superstition – perhaps because of its supernatural element or perhaps merely because of the large number of fights. Some say the curse is a result of the backstage death of the boy actor playing Lady Macbeth during the premiere in 1606. And there have been countless cases of revivals hit by disaster: most recently Jonathan Slinger was knocked off his bike and broke his arm while playing the role for the RSC after dismissing superstitions around the play. Of course it’s perfectly possible that as many actors have been injured or choked to death on cucumber sandwiches during performances of The Importance of Being Earnest, but we haven’t totted these disasters up as we do with Macbeth.

 

Nonetheless maybe Alan Cumming, who has just opened at the Ethel Barrymore theatre on Broadway in his one-man Macbeth, had better look out.

 

Last month he took to Twitter to announce that he has no truck with superstition, saying: “I am going to say Macbeth everywhere, even in the theatre. None of this Scottish play stuff for me.” But according to a report in The Stage, the producers have other ideas, and have put up a sign in the foyer asking audiences to refrain from mentioning the title while in the venue. I can understand the superstitions of nervous actors, but nervous producers? Could it be that the move is less to do with genuine theatrical superstition and more of a marketing ploy to drum up a bit of tension and excitement?

 
 
4 Orson Welles Mercury Theatre Shakespeare Productions

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.377  Thursday, 28 August 2014

 

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

Date:         August 26, 2014 at 12:56:10 PM EDT

Subject:    4 Orson Welles Mercury Theatre Shakespeare Productions 

 

I thought one of the conference members might be interested in this online find. These CDs pop up rarely and—when they do—a single volume sells for what all 4 sets are going for here:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/261570786124

 

Best,

Doug Anderson

 
 
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