The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0720  Monday, 22 October 2007

From:		Dan Venning <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Sunday, 21 Oct 2007 15:54:25 -0400
Subject: 18.0712 Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0712 Hamlet

I saw the Wooster Group's HAMLET in April at St. Ann's Warehouse, and 
agree with the analysis that it was "not quite there." The production 
seemed to rely too heavily on one particular concept (that of comparing 
theatrical and filmic point-of-view, and the fact that "recreating" a 
past staging is always impossible, even when actually mimicing a film).

It's important to come into the production, however, with the 
understanding that the goal is not to produce Shakespeare's HAMLET, but 
The Wooster Group's. This acknowledgment is clearly made 
throughout--they're doing their own thing, using Shakespeare's text not 
necessarily as the basis for production, but as, in a sense, a backdrop. 
The goal isn't to put on Shakespeare's play, but to make a statement 
about theatrical art.

One can admit that this production won't be for everyone, particularly 
SHAKSPERians who aren't interested in avant-garde theatre. Heck. I 
certainly didn't like it, and might even go so far as to say that it 
made me dizzy at times.

On the other hand, as scholars I don't think it's necessarily 
appropriate to completely dismiss and demean avant-garde art without 
serious critical evaluation, or at least without seeing the show itself. 
While Ron Vawter did die of AIDS and Gray committed suicide, the other 
founding members of the Wooster Group are alive and well, although most 
have gone their own ways. The Wooster Group is acknowledged by many 
theatre scholars to have paved the way for the contemporary avant-garde, 
particularly involving the use of multimedia in theatre. The Wooster 
Group never "ripped off" CRUCIBLE--they adapted the text, and *invited* 
Miller to a rehearsal, which is when he sent the letter.

This show may not be for everyone and I'm certainly not recommending it, 
but dismissing the Wooster Group offhand simply displays a lack of 
concern for contemporary theatre, something I'd hope most SHAKSPERians 
(and Shakespeareans!) could avoid. The Wooster Group's BRACE UP! was the 
best version of THREE SISTERS I've ever seen, and for that one they got 
the translator, Paul Schmidt, involved.

Dan Venning

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