Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shakespeare Tavern on “Original Practice”

http://www.shakespearetavern.com/opp.htm

Thanks to regular reader/commenter Ann for the link on “original practice”, where Shakespeare performance is done as close as possible to how Shakespeare himself would have done it. 

In the Elizabethan Playhouse, as I imagine it, the world of the play and the world of performance are one and the same. Thus we do not craft a distinct world of performance for each and every play we do. We use the Elizabethan playhouse. In the Playhouse, we have the Heavens, we have the Hell, we have every thing known to man and we have all of humanity as well. We have all that has come before and all that is yet to come. The playwright has free and easy access to all creation with the stroke of the pen. Thus the playhouse was the central metaphor for life, the universe, and everything. Shakespeare called his playhouse “The Globe”.

This reminds me of my own limited theatre experience back in college, where I wrote for the annual festival of plays (and saw 4 of my works produced).  They did strictly bare stage, where the only props you got were black cubes.  If you sat on one it was a chair, if you stacked them it was a wall.  Anything else, you were bringing it onstage and taking it off yourself.

Now, that’s probably a gross over simplification of one small part of what the author’s talking about, so I’ll shut up.  I mention it only because I credit that experience with making me more a playwright and a man of words, than some who cares what color the mountains are.  I’ve always been happy to write “Scene: Outside” and then move on to whatever the characters need to be talking about.

6 comments:

modi said...

any information about hypermedia shakespeare would be welcomed such as webpages that contain original text, images and the video clips on the same page to develop an interactive text for the students.

Ann said...

The stage at the Tavern shifts some - there are thrusts and stairs that can be added or taken away, but that isn't a scene change. I like being able to focus on the words and events, without the little analytical voice in my head yammering on about a set.

Willshill said...

Although the essays differ somewhat in their angle of approach, Jeff Watkins' A.D.of the Shakespeare Tavern from an applied sense, Cynthia Bowers', PhD from the historical/literary/critical field, they both converge in the common sense of the sanely Practical.

The surprising thing to me has always been that even with all of the evident historical background and knowledge of the stark and obvious transmogrifying dealt the Works, that there were still those "scholars" ready to insist on the veracity of their own claims that it was something other than the sum of its ORIGINAL parts. Apparently, a course or two in applied logic was absent from the university curriculum of some of our greatest "critics" whose names are followed by capital letters. This has, in my estimation, done more to damage the reputation, and therefore the popularity, of what we know as "Shakespeare", than any other single influence.
Thanks Ann, for the links.

Ann said...

Glad to share! There's always the everlasting favorites such as Romeo & Juliet and Midsummers Night Dream, but the ones that get the most enthusiastic response from the audiences are the lesser known plays, like Troilus & Cressida, and this year, the Henry VI plays. I think it's because everyone, cast and audience, come to them with nothing decided in advance.

Craig said...

I live about five miles from the Tavern, and get out there as often as I can. They did all three parts of Henry VI on successive weeks last Fall--that was pretty amazing.

But, as much as I like them, I frankly get a little bit tired of Watkin's claims to this incredible artistic purity that leaves all other approaches to Shakespeare somehow impure or artistically suspect. The Shakespeare Tavern has selected, as a matter of policy, a few aspects of Shakespeare's theatre that resonate with them, and turned that body of practice into a "house style" that lets them do some wonderful things. But, "original practice?" Please. If you go to the Tavern--and you should--things you will see include:

--Actresses
--Directors
--Electric lights
--Special effects such as fog machines

Ain't none of that "original practice." I don't think they've ever even _tried_ do a production as fully aligned with original practice as possible. As I say, they pick and choose. But who doesn't?

modi said...

hey craig u are rite. i agree with u