Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I don’t typically post every review or press release about every new interpretation I see, just the ones that catch my eye.  Like this one, which sums up much of what we talk about here:

You need to do it old school enough to serve the language and story, but not so old school that it flashes back to mandatory high school reading lists. It’s about splitting time between classic and cool, between poise and unpredictability.

That gets my attention right off the bat, infinitely more than people who talk about having to bring the language up to date.  Lose that, you lose the Shakespeare.  Keep that, and everything else I think is up to your own interpretation.

Then again…

Some characters have been cut, or merged with others; Juliet is now raised by a single mother, for example.

Hmmm.  That’s quite the statement to make with your production.  The helplessness of Juliet’s situation is pretty crucial to her “I have no choice but to kill myself” logic.  How exactly do you get across “Marry the guy I tell you to marry or GTFO” from a single mom???


JM said...

Although I think Artistic Director Chris Hanna's idea of incorporating the results of "shopping" the play to high school students for their impressions is commendable in and of itself, I'm not so sure I feel the same way about his intentions for doing it.
Here we go with "concept" again:

Some obvious questions arise: Are they doing Shakespeare? Or are they employed in some sort of culturally relevant masturbation? And how can we "... serve the language and story..." by doing this:

"Some characters have been cut, or merged with others; Juliet is now raised by a single mother, for example."

--And glorifying the acceptibility of this:

"The posters even feature the dialogue from the balcony scene in textspeak on an iPhone."
(more on "shkspr txt spk" at length:

I suppose you might say there's value in getting it out there however you can. But once again, the impression one leaves, when one is more concerned with leaving an impression of their own "creative genius", always leaves the real creative genius somewhat hamstrung "impression-wise".

Duane said...

I thought the txtspk posters was a particularly telling comment because of the context -- it's on the posters. It doesn't say they actually use it in the play. So if that gets the butts in the seats, I can live with it.

The removal of major characters like Lord Capulet, as noted, I have concerns about.

JM said...

On R&J from their website:
"In this bold new staging, the social revolution takes over the Wells Theatre as Shakespeare’s text is brought to life with the innovative use of technology and digital media."
"One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays is made electric again for a new generation."
“We have no idea at this point how this production is going to turn out,” “And God forbid we should.” --A.D. Chris Hanna

I didn't misread the statement about it being "on the posters". But how I viewed it as "particularly telling", though in quite a different way, was no mere stab in the dark. Still, I do hope you're right in taking it at face value.
Even then, there's still the problem of what they've already admitted to doing to the text by completely excising whole major characters. With an Axe Murderer's scalpel-wielding technique, have they told all?

And knowing Chris Hanna--and I do, personally--his statement above, and the (still quite possibly harmless) choice of a text-speaking phone logo, prompted me to investigate a little further. And I still wonder (but not much) at what Hanna will decide is "okay" with Shakespeare's text, given this statement: "...Shakespeare’s text is [going to be "...made electric again" and] brought to life with the innovative use of technology and digital media."

In light of all this, please excuse my initial skepticism. :)