The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2671  Tuesday, 27 November 2001

From:           John Ciccarelli <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 26 Nov 2001 10:48:26 -0500
Subject:        Re: My Old Brain is Troubled


I know what you mean to a certain extent in regards to a disconnection
to the dialogue itself.  My company here in the New York area puts on
3-4 Shakespeares during the summer and there are times that we get the
"deer in the head lights" look from the audience.  I find this
especially apparent in performing.  As an actor you can feel the
audience not getting it.  However, this is not a universal reaction to
the plays being presented.  More often than not our audiences do follow
along and can grab the gist of the story.  An example: During our
production of "Merry Wives of Windsor", a six-year old spectator was
asked if she was able to follow the story.  She then began to rattle off
the couples involved and plot rather easily.  In the same production, we
were amazed that at times some of our visual gags didn't go over well,
but then a line from the show would have the audience in stitches.  Any
stage actor can tell you regardless of what show you're doing, there
will be nights that you have good audiences and nights that they seem

As for the point of Shakespeare dying out today from society, I would
have to ask "compared to what and when?"  Our showings remain popularly
attended and several groups in our area both non-professional and
professional continue to make the bard part of their schedules.  Movies
continue unabated and I would say have been on the increase in recent
years.  However, I doubt that all of this will ever be "mainstream".
Shakespeare, especially in the US, seems to occupy a niche and that's
all that it ever seems to have occupied.  Going back to colonial times,
has Shakespeare ever truly been a "darling enjoyed by the masses"?  My
guess is no and you may find commentators from various periods
contemplating the same thing you are.  The works of Shakespeare have
survived the times by remaining (sort of like their author) omnipresent
but in the background.  They comment and are interpret each new era but
are never "in your face".  So I would say continue to produce with your
students and know some nights you will have good houses and some nights
bad houses.

One last note on this interesting subject.  There seems to be a movement
afoot in the undergraduate/high school area to remove Shakespeare from
the classroom and replace him with courses in pop culture, especially in
England.  However, as I stated previously, the plays remain popular
theatrically.  It would be rather ironic if the administrators succeed
in removing Shakespeare that the works last stronghold would be the
theater.  The medium that has been spurned by scholars for centuries as
being beneath the works may wind up being the works' saving grace.  Some
food for thought.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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