Monday, April 13, 2009

Hey Vern! To Be Or Not To Be, Am I Right?

Anybody remember the “Ernest” movies starring Jim Varney, who gained his fame as the “Hey Vern!” guy of a bunch of commercials?

Turns out he was a Shakespearean actor as well.  Who knew?  Check out the 1984 video for a shot of him doing the “too too sullied flesh” speech from Hamlet.  Not too bad!

16 comments:

Willshill said...

Wow! What a great piece!
Hate to sound like a know-it-all, but I knew. And this is the first time I've actually seen him do anything "classical". People would screw up their faces and look at me as though I had several heads whenever I would mention that I'd like to direct him in something Shakespeare. Of course, in the video, he's not showing what he's really capable of doing--it's sort of an overdone hybrid Burton/Guilgud aping. I always thought that he was a real ACTOR--ready to the task--"Who do you want me to be this time?"--not a "personality"--though they made him one in "Ernest". He just went with the flow. Too bad we never got to see the real Jim Varney-actor indeed; Rest His Soul In Peace.
Thanks, Duane for the wonderful moment!

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann said...

I found out a while back that Jim Varney and I worked for the same summer stock one year, but I cannot remember him.

(Psst. The line is "too, too solid flesh")

Deleted and reposted due to incoherent typing. Sheesh.

Duane said...

Ann - you're right that the reading in the video is "solid", I just think I prefer "sullied" :).

Ann said...

I am aghast, simply aghast -- Inserting your own word into That Soliloquy. *snicker*

Having gone through numerous renditions of it in a college class, not to mention seeing it performed most recently this month. Any play that needs two intermissions wears me out.

Duane said...

R u kidding about "my own word"? The "sullied flesh" reading is quite common.

Willshill said...

Anyone for "...too too 'sallied' " ?
Tally Ho!

Willshill said...

Wow--Hamlet needed 2? intermissions? Sounds more like it needed a rowing coach. Do you know how long it ran, exactly?

sullied-Q1, sallied-Q2, solid-F1-(my preference) Considering pronunciation and spelling variants, I think it could be "solid" simply spelled as it was pronounced and heard. (no spelling bees back then)

Ann said...

Yes, Hamlet is playing through May at the Shakespeare Tavern here in Atlanta, and it runs just over three hours with one 15 minute intermission and another that's 5 minutes.

As to sullied/solid, solid works better with the rest of the sentence. Your suggestion of pronunciation makes good sense to me.

catkins said...

I agree that two intermissions seems excessive. I suspect the players were fond of long, introspective pauses. I think there is not enough respect given to the verse in Shakespeare performance and that paying attention to the iambic pentameter (there it is again!) would generally quicken the pace of most productions.
As to sullied/sallied/solid...I used to know that. That is, I remember having had a strong opinion on that, but I haven't got my books about me right now to re-read the commentary and remember what it was. Have to get back to you on that one.

Willshill said...

I have a two hour version of Hamlet--conflation of Q2 and F1--that would probably run at least a half hour longer, maybe more, with certain other hands on the reigns. I wasn't kidding about a rowing coach. I've taken the temporary title seriously as a director--had to.
Add stops for scene changes (unheard of at the Globe--at least as we know them) and the audience is forced to sit far too long. As Ann noted--they get worn out. I believe one reason is because the attention is forced to recharge at the end of every lag. This takes extra energy, usually demanded from spectators forced to constantly pretend as though they weren't sitting right there--more energy. I think in this case it's totally "unnatural". (Another variation from what happened at the Globe--lack of involvement) It also happens at every unnecessary attempt to act between the lines and at every instance of an attempt to display concept, no matter how interesting or innovative. The Words, words, words.

Ann said...

Oh, Willshill, you've got to come visit the Shakespeare Tavern http://www.shakespearetavern.com/ then. They strive for Original Practice -- no scene changes, everything moving immediately to the next, and they acknowledge the audience. This is the set for A Midsummer's Night Dream a few years ago http://pics.livejournal.com/ann_mcn/pic/00086d2p/g26. The stairs can be taken down, and other rearrangements, but it's carpentry after hours, not scene changes.

Willshill said...

Sorry Ann. Just ran off on a list-- I wasn't implying that all of those attributes could be applied specifically--they were general observations. Thanks for the link--the set looks great! Symmetrically similar in aspects to an Elizabethan setup--Chamber, Study, 2 entrance doors flanking the stage either side. Do they use what appears to be a long balcony or balconies running the length of the room on the side?
And I suppose the style of what you mean by "acknowledge the audience" is dictated to an extent by where they sit in proximity to the stage. From the pictures it "appears" to be more or less a proscenium setup--or is there a true 3/4 aspect I can't see in the pics?

Sorry for all the "travelogue" questions, but this kind of stuff is very interesting to me. It's encouraging whenever the aim is to strive for "Original" production values, no matter how many or few are attainable.

Ann said...

First, I need to apologize to Duane for thread-jacking, and I'll be glad to take this elsewhere if you want.

Willshill, yes, the stage was intentionally designed to be similar to the Globe. It is not proscenium, but is nearer to 3/4. There are bits that thrust, but they come and go according to what is being staged. The balcony actually goes all the way around the room, and there is also audience sitting there. The picture I linked to was in this gallery http://pics.livejournal.com/ann_mcn/gallery/0000y6sb?page=1, that was taken during MSND and The Fantasticks, which was the following show. I tried to show the progress from the lobby, into the theatre, and on into the house. The 4th and 11th pictures show the balcony a little. For the Fantasticks, they removed the catwalk that links the stage balcony to the house balcony. The volunteers sit on the catwalks when it's a full house.

As to audience involvement, they really are near enough to reach out and touch the actors, and the front tables have signs saying "Table of Excitement" because of the action that spills over.

Duane said...

No problem at all, Ann! Although if anybody does have a link to an article on the subject, I could start a new post with that link and we could make it a real discussion instead of burying it here in the Vern comments?

Ann said...

Well, here is a presentation on Original Practice that the Artistic Director wrote back in 2006. http://www.shakespearetavern.com/opp.htm. At the end is a link to an essay on the impact of Original Practice, but I only just now saw it.