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20 March 2010 @ 05:37 pm
exceptionally random shakespeare stuff  
1. Dear Simon Russell Beale: ILU.

"You know, it's rather embarrassing to admit this, but I was watching a documentary about the effect of global warming and the imminent destruction of the planet, and my first thought was: 'What will happen to Shakespeare?'"

from this review/article in the Guardian:

2. Also, I almost started crying--I had tears in my eyes--while reading about Shakespeare productions in the latest volume of Shakespeare Survey (62, 2009). I seem to be doing that a lot, of late. (Almost crying while reading about Shakespeare in performance, I mean.) Partly it's about opportunities that are more than missed, since "missed" implies that I had the chance to see the productions and didn't, as opposed to usually reading about productions I had no ability to see. For example, the idea of Zoe Wanamaker and Simon Russell Beale as Beatrice and Benedick (covered in this review) has been haunting me since I first saw pictures of the two of them together, like this one:

And partly it's about possibility, and potentiality, about bodies on stage and my wanting to play around with those possibilities and having no way to do so. (I also spent part of the morning reading Simon Russell Beale's essay about playing Macbeth--I realize he appears to be a theme, but it's actually all coincidence!--and about Macbeth's relationship with Banquo, the idea that Banquo has all the social ease and generosity that Macbeth could never muster, and upon reading it, I just... *wanted* that. And I don't lead a life that would give me access to that way of thinking-through Shakespeare. Maybe I'm not even the right sort for it: I am a words girl, after all. It's not like I think in visual terms or have any sort of directorial skills. But sometimes, lately, when I'm watching people act Shakespeare, usually on film, I wish I had some way of trying the scene out differently, expanding on what the actors are doing or taking it in a different direction. And that didn't happen to me when I was younger.)

And then partly it's just about the sheer pleasure of thinking about a familiar scene in a new way, reading about some gesture or touch I've never thought of. Suddenly something opens up, and it takes my breath away a little bit.

But stories like this one, at the end of the review, didn't help:

(The production in question is the Gregory Doran, aka David Tennant, Hamlet, as will be apparent.)

"The Courtyard Theatre had emptied. A last spectator remained sitting in the stalls. An usherette approached. 'It's over,' she said. 'It's time to go home.' A woman looked up as if from a trance. 'It's my birthday,' she said. 'I'm eighty-five today. I've never been to the theatre. But I'm a Dr Who fan, so my friends got together and bought me a ticket to Hamlet. Tell me, is theatre always like that? Have I been missing that my whole life?' "

the cold genius: bardcore by aris_tgdangevin2 on March 20th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)

The thing is...I think about that too.
tempestsarekind: the man himselftempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
He is darling. I've only seen him once in a production, in The Winter's Tale, but he totally changed the way I think about Leontes.

Me too! Although with me it tends to be fears about linguistic drift and the like. In the Company novels by Kage Baker, Shakespeare is still venerated, but nobody actually reads him because language has deteriorated so much. And there's a Connie Willis short story where, due to various protest groups getting up in arms about things, an elementary school teacher is only able to teach one line of a Shakespeare play (after all the offensive bits have been edited out). I found both of these scenarios incredibly depressing.
the cold genius: alas poor yorickangevin2 on March 20th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
I guess the thing is that with e.g. linguistic drift there could still be people around who could figure it out. Planetary destruction is just so final -- Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Curse" gives me cold sweats for the same reason. You can read it here, if you want; it's two pages long and it is INCREDIBLY UPSETTING.
tempestsarekind: oh noestempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
aaaaaah why?!? Oh, that's awful. Oh dear.

I guess my thinking was that if the whole planet is destroyed, there won't be many people around who could have read or seen him anyway. And that if there is interstellar travel, someone will have Shakespeare stashed away in their computers out in space! /chipper

For me the thing that's more worrying, if not more scary (possibly because I can imagine its beginnings in those No Fear Shakespeare "translations" and the like), is the idea that Shakespeare will stop actually speaking to people, when they read or hear him, and that translation will be the only access. Which I suppose *will* happen, at some point--but I don't like to think about it!
(Deleted comment)
tempestsarekind: globetempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC)
I feel like I am coming to theatre very late in the day. I didn't grow up with it, whereas I did grow up with parents who were very big fans of the local library and took me there every other weekend or so (the guard at the front desk knew us by sight, heh). So I've tended to approach Shakespeare the way I know how, which is on the page and in my head. That's shifting a bit, and it's interesting to watch.
La Reine Noire: Hallareinenoire on March 20th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
I completely understand where you're coming from -- I only started going to theatre, and more specifically Shakespeare, very late in life, and there are so many productions that I almost saw, but for some idiotic reason did not (i.e. Tennant as Romeo, the 2000 Histories Cycle when they came to Michigan).

I did see Russell Beale and Wanamaker in Much Ado and they were just marvellous. The only reason I managed to was because British Airways had given me a free one-night stay in a London hotel and it happened to be playing at the National that night. I queued for two hours and snagged a ticket for £10.
tempestsarekind: ten has a secrettempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
That's excellent luck on the Much Ado performance!

I almost saw David Tennant as Romeo, too! I'd just gotten to the UK, and I was not at all confident in my abilities to navigate my way to London (from Norwich) and then to the Barbican by train, since I was still being overwhelmed by trips to the grocery store. And the production was only up for a few more weeks, so I never made it.

I think the thing I'm finally realizing about performance is how much it pushes my "what if?" buttons. There's a flexibility to theatrical performance that I'm quite wistful about, sometimes.
La Reine Noire: Elizabethlareinenoire on March 20th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
I missed Tennant as Romeo by a few weeks, I think. I did get to see As You Like It with Alexandra Gilbreath, which was absolutely wonderful, and unfortunately R&J hadn't yet opened and I was only in London for the week.

I think the thing I'm finally realizing about performance is how much it pushes my "what if?" buttons. There's a flexibility to theatrical performance that I'm quite wistful about, sometimes.

Yes! And there's a fragility about them too -- you never get the same conditions twice.
tempestsarekind: all the world's a stagetempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
I've definitely kicked myself about R&J--not just because of DT, but because R&J is one of my favorites, and I'd love to see it with someone who takes Romeo somewhat seriously.

there's a fragility about them too -- you never get the same conditions twice.

Absolutely. Which is maddening, when one is reading about productions one will never see (unlike film), but also part of the appeal.
Neaneadods on March 20th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
OMG, that last story. Yes, it is, and yes you have. 85 years of that loss!
tempestsarekind: hamlet--though you can fret metempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
I know--it's so sad! I had to close the volume abruptly at that point, and stop thinking about it. Otherwise I really would have started to cry, right there in the library.
Neaneadods on March 20th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
I teared up just reading it. Blessings upon my parents, who thought theater was a big treat and took us young.
tempestsarekind: martha at the globetempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
As I said above, I'm sort of just getting into Shakespeare-as-theater. I've been going to the local (free) summer Shakespeare since college, but it wasn't a part of my upbringing in any substantial way, and it's only recently that it's been a thing in its own right.

But it didn't take me until I was eighty-five! So there's that to be thankful for.
troyswann on March 20th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
Oh man, what a story, about the woman seeing Shakespeare on her birthday. I had pretty much the same reaction to Hamlet the last time I saw it live, the being in a trance part, not the break-your-heart poignant part.

And also there's the story one of my grad profs told me about taking her 12-year-old daughter to see Hamlet at the Globe and early in Act 4, the girl turned to her and said, "Oh! Is Hamlet going to die?!" And that blew me away, imagining that, trying to get my head back to a place where I didn't know the ending of Hamlet. What must it have been like to watch that play and have no idea what was coming? I can't remember. There must have been a time...

I also understand what you mean about not having opportunity to see the plays performed. I've been here 10 years and this town has seen one amateur production of Shakespeare, that's all. Now the students are putting on Macbeth next week, and the last production, all those years ago, was the same play. Not exactly a packed playbill. I've had to revamp my entire research agenda because I can't see the plays performed.

But that said, I have students. This week we walked through 2.2 of The Winter's Tale, figuring out how many Lords and Ladies there are and what they have to do with Leontes' (self)representation and the character of his state and it was fabulous. They had great ideas, tried things out, debated, and came up with a very good understanding of the way that performance choices can illuminate or obfuscate elements of the play. I had no idea how it was going to go, whether or not it would be a disaster, but I had faith it wouldn't be because Shakespeare knows what he's doing. So, it's not the RSC, but it doesn't matter, because it was the best 80 minutes of my week and the students were completely engaged by reading Shakespeare. So, I'm counting myself a winner this week. Heck, I've got this captive audience; might as well make them my captive players, too, right? ;)

Not that I would turn down a free trip to S-U-A to see something in The Swan, mind you... :)
tempestsarekind: posner and scrippstempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)
I am using my History Boys icon of Posner and Scripps acting here, because you're so right to point out that doing Shakespeare with students, particularly in a way that focuses on performance, taps into that same Shakespeare-in-potentia energy. I've been having a tricky time with Shakespeare and performance this semester, because the goals for the course seem to be kind of diffuse, and the students tend to be thinking about different things at different times--but when it works, it's really thought-provoking and exciting. And they really seem to be enjoying the scenes, from their write-ups afterward.

The last time I saw Hamlet in the theatre (only the second time, and the first was a disaster), I sort of wanted to build a little bubble around myself: "don't make me have to interact with the world for a while, please?" I was doing relatively well, I thought, until Laertes said to Hamlet, "In thee there is not half an hour's life," and then--that line just hit me, in a way it hadn't before, because it was real-time, and true in a way that it isn't, quite, when you're watching a film (even though it isn't *literally* true in either case). And then I started grieving for Hamlet, at that moment...

And your grad prof's story is lovely. The freshness of that response!
Emily-- Toppington von Monocle: wooden o [shakespeare]sadcypress on March 20th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)

Also, can I reference you and quote your quoting in my own post?

Edited at 2010-03-20 11:10 pm (UTC)
tempestsarekind: boy actresstempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
It has been a WIBBLY sort of day! And now I want to run away to England (where they seem to keep all the good Shakespeare, for some reason! hmph, I think they should share).

Also, absolutely; feel free!
Emily-- Toppington von Monocle: now might i do it [stoppard]sadcypress on March 20th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
Where did the quote of WIBBLE come from?

(NOT THAT I am not also transfixed by the idea of Beale/Wannamaker Much Ado and Beale in general)
tempestsarekind: hamlet--though you can fret metempestsarekind on March 20th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC)
It's from Carol Chillington Rutter's review of Shakespeare productions in England, in Shakespeare Survey 62 (2009), p. 385.

I sort of feel like I am stalking him from afar today, what with reading his essay and all!
viomisehuntviomisehunt on March 21st, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
The Theatre Experience
It can't be duplicated, no matter who the author, whether one is there as audience or performer. It is not so much that Shakespeare will be lost. My favorite scene in in Reign of Fire is when the two characters act out Star Wars for the young people, taking theatre back to it's roots. As long as there are people, there will theatre, and I think Shakespeare and other works will be preserved that way. When there is no more people -- I suppose it will be unfortunate for the next inhabitants of this planet that they have never heard Hamlet, but they will make their own myths.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on March 21st, 2010 01:55 am (UTC)
Re: The Theatre Experience
Then again, if we are for some reason, forced back into oral memory, imagine millions of people recreating Romeo and Juliet from memory for their great-grand children and breaking out into the song Kissing You during the "She teaches the torches to burn, scene..."
tempestsarekind: fraser: oh deartempestsarekind on March 21st, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
Re: The Theatre Experience
Now there's a worrying thought! :)