The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0499  Monday, 25 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Jerry Bangham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 21 May 1998 12:26:54 -0400
        Subj:   A "magic" Dream

[2]     From:   Tanya Gough <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 23 May 1998 10:20:35 -0400
        Subj:   Hamlet Rap

From:           Jerry Bangham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 21 May 1998 12:26:54 -0400
Subject:        A "magic" Dream

FEATURE: Penn & Teller's silent man casts spell on Shakespeare
By Adrienne Redd

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Flowers materialize in the hands of fairies,
enchanted herbs turn abruptly and irreverently into squirt guns, and the
sleeping Queen of the Fairies floats back to Earth as a magic spell is

The scenes are all from William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's
Dream," in this case a production at Philadelphia's Arden Theater, which
has been "magically" enhanced by the talents of Teller, the silent half
of the Penn & Teller magic team well-known on television and stage.

Not every play would benefit from sleight of hand, but Teller says the
English Bard's tale of Greek lovers and fairy spells does.

"Certain plays are about people seeing the world other than it actually
is, like 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' which is full of hallucinations,"
he told Reuters in an interview at the theater where the play was shown.

"It's a smart move for the director to put the audience in the same
position the characters are in, so they are seeing things that look
impossible. Magic is a perfect way to express that idea," he said.

His next project may be an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," which
he has been discussing with Aaron Posner, director of "A Midsummer
Night's Dream," and with Arthur Penn, the acclaimed director of
Hollywood's "The Miracle Worker," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Alice's


"'Macbeth' is a play whose subject is the double take. You look at
something and look away and look back, and it's completely different
from what you just thought it was. Therefore, magic is totally
appropriate, because it is the theatrical form that makes you do that,"
Teller said.

Penn & Teller, in their numerous TV and stage performances, employ a
style of magic that critics describe as ironic and edgy, with skits that
sometimes feature macabre titles such as, "How to Play in Traffic."

Their real passion is not for magic but for art, so their performances
are imbued with the larger themes of life, death, suffering, pain,
reality and truth, said Teller, who legally dropped his first name 22
years ago.

"We don't think of ourselves as magicians, which is why we don't do it
as a magic show. We never said it was a magic show and never advertised
it that way. Magic is simply a very central part of theater," he said.

"There is often no theatricality to what sleight-of-hand artists do.
They treat it as a juggling feat: 'Here I am. I am doing something
amazing.  Applaud for the amazing thing I am doing,"' he continued.

"Even a seal juggling a ball on its nose has more meaning than pulling a
dove out of a silk handkerchief. The seal has a playfulness about it,
and pulling a dove out of a silk handkerchief is just illogical."

Astonishment is the effect Teller strove to create in the Philadelphia
Shakespeare production.

He had the same idea 12 years ago at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre,
where he helped musician Tom Waits with a production of Waits' dark
musical, "Frank's Wild Years."

Waits wanted to illustrate the drunken character's hallucinations by
having him throw a bottle that turns into confetti in mid-air and having
golf balls keep reappearing on the putting green in his bar.


"I thought that was a perfect place to take a trick, which ordinarily
has no sense to it at all-the multiplying billiard balls-and have Tom do
it with golf balls," said Teller, who taught high school Latin in
Trenton, N.J., before going national as a performer.

"I've seen this trick done a thousand times by magicians. Audiences fall
asleep. But they don't fall asleep when Tom Waits does it because he
points every production and makes it mean something."

Teller worked with the cast and crew of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for
only a two-day period months before the show opened. Then he returned to
his native Philadelphia for opening night and wound up polishing up some
of the illusions.

One of those illusions unfolds when the King of the Fairies releases his
queen from her magical, and comical, infatuation with donkey-headed
mortal Bottom.

It was at this point that Teller had the fairy queen, Titania, levitate.
But there were complications.

"The basic problem was that the audience ought to be saying, 'Aaah!' and
not, 'Mmm, oh I see how they do that!"' Teller explained.

"This was happening because the trick was taking about four times as
long as it should be, and the movement wasn't right and because it
didn't go with the text.

"The trick was here, and the text was there, so all we did was to make
the emotional meaning of the trick match the content of the scene and
the text."

The hardest thing about the play, he said, was to keep the lovers
straight and make it funny. The second toughest thing was to make the
fairies both formidable and sexy.

"It achieves both those things, and I was also thrilled to see that it
wasn't a fluffy, puffy production, filled with fog. Shakespeare should
never be filled with fog," he said.

Some plays, particularly those by ancient Greek and Roman playwrights,
do not lend themselves to magic. In many cases, mere special effects
would do, he said.

"It's appropriate to have gunshot wounds and Oedipus with his eyes
gouged out. But you don't need the magic trick there and in fact I think
magic tricks would be distracting."


From:           Tanya Gough <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 23 May 1998 10:20:35 -0400
Subject:        Hamlet Rap

Don't know if this has been mentioned before, but Shel Silverstein (The
Giving Tree, The Missing Piece) did a hysterical rap-style version of
"Hamlet: as Told on the Street."  It was originally published in the
January 1998 issue of Playboy (don't ask me how I know that), and can
currently be found at:


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