The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0213  Wednesday, 11 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Ira Abrams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 16:36:02 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 9.0204  Re: Lancelot GOBBO

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 19:29:47 -0500
        Subj:   Yale Rep. Midsummer Night's Dream

From:           Ira Abrams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 16:36:02 -0500
Subject: Re: Lancelot GOBBO
Comment:        SHK 9.0204  Re: Lancelot GOBBO

Stevie Simkim writes,

>it is so difficult to recover an early modern mindset, so different from our own...

This is a piety of our day, but I do not think that it is true.  What I
said was that it is perhaps impossible to make absolute statements about
the ethical status of plays.  I do not think this has anything to do
with the historiographical difficulties; rather, the desire to make the
sorts of ethical statements I was referring to is itself
anti-historical.  The difficulty lies in the unacknowledged attempt to
recover ourselves from the early modern period.

When you speak of confronting <<those aspects of the texts we would
today find repugnant>> it seems to me you mean those aspects of
ourselves, which you believe are present in the play, which you find
repugnant.  This is why you are able to argue that the Holocaust is
incipient in Merchant.  The quality of repugnancy is not in the text
anymore than the Holocaust is.  It seems obvious to me, and I am not
sure why it isn't to you, that if you want to find modern anti-semitism
in Merchant, you are not trying to recover an early modern mindset, but
trying to project a (certain) modern one onto it.  It is no wonder that
you are pessimistic about connecting with past minds if you go about
this way.

There is a brilliant and very funny paper to be published soon-I'm not
sure where-by Janet Adelman on a related subject.  Adelman takes a
psychoanalytic approach to the phenomenon of male Shakespeare-scholars
who subscribe to the bizarre and apparently groundless theory of the
one-sex anatomical model (i.e., that Elizabethans did not acknowledge a
distinct female anatomy).  Luckily, the innate dignity which we are able
to partake of when we find literary sources for Hitler and the slave
ships protects us from such ridicule.

As I said, I think it is very important to acknowledge and come to terms
with our own responses to plays such as Merchant, but it is at least as
important to distinguish the texts we read from our responses.   I am
not sure how much there is to be gained from a professional society of
analysands devoted to peeling the scales from our own eyes, but I
suspect it may be of more use than a guild of amateur psychotics trying
to persuade the world that we do not really think what we think, it is
the texts that think our thoughts for us.

Ira Abrams

From:           Marilyn Bonomi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 19:29:47 -0500
Subject:        Yale Rep. Midsummer Night's Dream

A truly amateur review of the current (through March 14) production of
MND at the Yale Rep:

As the Rep does every year, this year's production of a "classic" work
is the project of the acting program of the Yale School of Drama.  All
the students are, of course, at least semi-professional performers; many
are equity actors w/ at least regional theatre experience, as well as,
in many cases, movies and TV as well.

This year's company seemed remarkably young; of course, so did Meryl
Streep when I saw her on the Rep stage, and Mark Lynn Baker as well.
The latter two, however, seem in retrospect to have possessed and
projected considerably more talent than most of the current crop.

The production itself had levels of satisfaction for the audience.

The set was effective!  Set up as a proscenium (the Rep is often NOT a
traditional proscenium stage), the original appearance when the audience
enters is of white-draped hard surfaces.  Once the setting moves out to
the woods, however, the draperies are whisked away and what remains is a
dreamscape indeed.  Raked surfaces painted and lighted in blue-green,
umbrellas (of all things!) suspended from the flies and moving on
occasion up and down, odd exit spaces rather than traditional types-all
these elements created a sense of unreality that suited the play if not
the production.

Costumes were rather generic in a modern sense.  Helena and Hermia in
long semi-fitted v-neck bodice flowing dresses w/o sleeves, one red w/
white flowers, the other the reverse.  Lysander and Demetrius in rather
60's-70's type suits w/ shirt/tie in reverse colors.  Theseus in tux;
Hyppolyta in what appears to be a morning suit of the turn of the
century, though her hat is a bit more restrained than that.  Faeries in
androgynous underwear, w/ odd headgear... quite effective.  Oberon and
Titania in tacky stuff...  very peculiar....

Performance/interpretation... ah, there's the rub!  First, of course, is
the speaking of the speech... rather trippingly, true, and in a way that
acknowledges the poetry of the lines.  But so... flat and lacking in a
real FEELING for the way the lines should sing.  Even the sections w/
the faeries singing didn't feel melodic.  An acoustic guitar and a flute
provided accompaniment for both sung and sometimes spoken lines.

Oddities included Hyppolyta's apparent hostility and/or disdain for
Theseus... never explained, never anchored in anything more than
directorial decision, and in Act V she's all warm and fuzzy with him.
Theseus reminded me in mannerism of Donald Trump.  'Nuff said there!

The production is partially double-cast.  I saw the same cast as my
student teacher did; she said the entire production was flat... not even
a tentative round of applause at curtain rewarded a mediocre
performance.  The very next evening I saw the same cast, and the primary
praise I had was the wonderful energy of almost the entire cast, an
energy rewarded by a second curtain call's worth of applause.  Go

Demetrius and Lysander were tolerable.  Oberon was not particularly
convincing (and his flabby chest did NOT need to be revealed!).  Titania
did nothing special... except for some of her interactions with the
faeries.  Puck...  now HE was interesting!  He's of Asian descent, and
the director used that to include certain martial arts-like movements.
He was quite engaging, and the scenes between him and Oberon were the
latter's best moments.

Helena and Hermia were the best (other than Bottom) in the production.
They were physically most opposite, Helena being both tall and blonde,
Hermia being petite and dark.  When they get to the fight scene, they
get rather down and dirty... and Hermia's "And yet still short!" etc.
was absolutely perfect... this scene is by far the best in the
production, at least with these two women.

Overall... a B- rating (as I'd grade it in my role as high school
English teacher).  Compared to the 12th Night of several years ago,
however, it's an A+!

Just a side note for Mssrs Weiss et al:

This is color-blind casting, like many Rep productions... and the
audience also is simply "blind" to the differences of hue and
eye-shape.  Hermia is Asian; her father is African-Caribbean (if his
accent is a clue... his tones are pure Darth Vader!).  Demetrius is a
very light-skinned African-American.  Helena is pure Anglo; Lysander the
same.  Oberon (played by the same actor as plays Egeus!) and in this
casting Titania both of African descent.  Theseus and Hyppolyta both
Anglo in this casting.  The rustics, in this modern setting all wearing
hard hats, are a mix of gender and race.

The color/ethnicity/gender of the casting made NO difference at all to
the ability of the audience to appreciate the production.  The
effectiveness of their portrayals did make a difference.

Incidentally, I'm 54; color-blind casting stopped distracting me years
ago... must be all the years of being a Rep. subscriber.  Though I
confess that I'd boggle at _Raisin in the Sun_ with a white cast... or
with Lindner as another Black man.  That raises some INTERESTING
elements, doesn't it?!

Anyway... just thought I'd share one woman's perspective on a new MND

Marilyn B.

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