The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0370 Wednesday, 5 September 2012
Date: September 4, 2012 8:52:12 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Cressida
Thank you so much to all those offering perspectives on the current Troilus and Cressida, especially Tom, with that tremendous injection of inside information.
I do admit to being baffled by the idea of actors continuing to rehearse with a gurney, because the actor for whom it was standing in was no more responsive! I am also struggling to imagine Elizabeth LeCompte and Mark Rylance being in the same room without some kind of matter/anti-matter nuclear implosion taking place. If anyone knows how they negotiated directing the composite scenes, I’d love to hear it.
A feature of Cressida’s performance history is that she highlights the impossibility of a woman on stage being presented as ‘unmarked’. I refer here to Deborah Tannen’s article (New York Times Magazine, 1993: http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/tannend/nyt062093.htm ), in which she explores the idea that, while men can be marked by their appearance, they can also choose to be unmarked, provided they conform more-or-less to the norms of their culture. Women, however, are always marked one way or another, by their clothes, choice of hairstyle, whether they wear makeup, and so on. What the designer does with Cressida can mark her in an extreme way, like Francesca Annis dressed as a courtesan, but she remained just as marked when Juliet Stevenson wore a sensible Edwardian dress, because it marked her as ‘not the slapper you assumed she is’. It sounds as if the costume change in this production marked her removal out of her home culture, and the requirement that she now conform to what was ‘normal’ elsewhere.
A quick response to Larry:
>We used to have rollicking conversations here about whether or not
>it is possible to recover Shakespeare’s “intent.” Perhaps not, or
>maybe not entirely or not with great certainty; but it is frequently
>possible to be certain of things he did not intend.
At the most literal level, of course, we can say with confidence that Shakespeare was not working with the intention of having his lines spoken in the accents of Native Americans, filtered through film interpretations. But communication in the theatre doesn’t work in a purely literal fashion. It is entirely plausible that Shakespeare had the intention of presenting the Trojans as a people of a distinct but diminished culture, the knowledge we have of which is distorted by the nostalgia and condescension of the group whose values have taken over. This might be seen as a means of conveying that intention. Even if you feel confident about Shakespeare’s intention, you won’t be able to transmit it to a modern audience using all the same tools he did, so we continue to seek around for new ones. Which is what keeps theatre alive.