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"Emma Rice's last season in charge of the Globe opens with loud defiance."  If she can't have it, she'll trash it.

Remember that appalling Midsummer Night's Dream?  Her Romeo and Juliet outdoes it in vulgarity.

"I see no reason why Shakespeare’s words should be screeched."

This production "roars and giggles and stamps its feet. ... The ball scene is engulfed in a chorus of YMCA; Romeo turns into the Columbine killer."

Nine



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Martin Wiggins has studied every play, masque, or interlude performed or published in the British Isles or by British writers, from the first secular dramas to the closing of the theaters.  (What the Reformation gave, it took away.)  All of it.  The whole corpus.  He's cataloged it all in his magisterial British Drama 1533-1642, "an enumerative, descriptive, and analytical catalogue of identifiable dramatic works, both extant and lost, written by English, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish authors, in all languages, during the 110 years between 1 January 1533 and 31 December 1642."  He's noted their languages (English, Latin, Greek, Welsh, Cornish),  their metrics (from iambic senarius with "one passage of adonics" to skeltonics and poulter's measure), their sources, settings, performances, parts and doubling of parts, known actors, extras ("a group of morris-dancing SHOEMAKERS (sc. 11; speak collectively)"), and every known penny expended, including late-night water taxis.

I admire the hell out of him.

This means that Wiggins can see the whole evolution of early modern drama in the British Isles:  genres unfolding, dramatic rivialries and emulations, fads and false promises.   John Webster's adaptation of John Marston's The Malcontent (written for the Children of Blackfriars in 1602-1603): "was followed by a prodigious run of dark comedies using its central plot devices of disguised dukes, political displacement, and averted murder; these included Middleton's The Phoenix, John Day's Law-Tricks (1604), and of course Measure for Measure."  It's dizzying to see the landscape from the air.

The Oxford University Press is now up to volume six of ten.  I wish they'd hurry up with the online datadase, because whoa.

A lot of recent scholarship has been on Shakespeare among others, a part of a collaborative venture.

Anyway, the BBC has posted Wiggins's useful graph of Who Wrote What in the Shakespeare canon.  Aside from Sir Thomas More (a special case because that's almost certainly his holograph), this doesn't include his occasional play-doctoring:   a scene or two for The Spanish Tragedy, and what not.  What's awesome is that they've got clips of actors doing both Shakespeare's and Fletcher's bits of Two Noble Kinsmen and All Is True.  Which twin has the Toni?  Don't peek!

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The Horrible Histories guys take on Shakespeare.

Thanks to Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous, the status of “definitive farce detailing William Shakespeare’s origin” seemed forever locked. That might change though, with the release of a more intentionally amusing biopic, entitled Bill, this September.



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They were celebrating the Bard in the Square on Saturday.  A hoarse-voiced woman in modern black and a ruff declaimed all of the sonnets to the pit (it took her four hours).  This crowd being this crowd, she had--well, not groundlings, exactly.  Walklings-by who stood.  A roaming company played scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream all over:  the lovers' quartet ("How low am I, thou painted maypole?"), and most of the rude mechanicals' scenes.  Really broadly, as befitted the traffic.  And really well.  At "Find out moonshine," Peter Quince got out his phone.  Their tedious brief tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe was gloriously demented, as it should be.  Quince (aglow with pride and anxiety) kept shuffling his note cards for the prologue; Wall wore a painted tube like a sweat sock, and rolled it up so the lovers could whisper through his legs ("I kiss the wall's hole"); and Bottom managed the most spectacularly protracted suicide I've yet seen, working in every death they'd thought of, in crescendo:  he stabbed himself with a penknife, in attacks ranging from Sweeney Todd to seppuku; he flung himself from heights onto the bricks of the pit; he leapt just short of traffic when the lights changed; he hanged himself in Thisbe's bloody scarf; and finally, brought on a gas can full of water, and drenched himself:  which was trembling Quince's cue to flick a lighter...

Then there was cake.

And after, quite a few of us repaired to a nearby microbrewery for craft beer and more scenes.  Helena and Bottom did a fierce bit of Shrew; Quince was a brilliant Cassius; two Wellesley women—one tall as a crane, one boyish, blockish, with startled hair—did scenes from All's Well (not the Hamlet they brought cards for, damn it); two other women did a passionate balcony scene, speaking with their bodies to the heartbeat of the poetry; and Michael Anderson told stories.

Happy 451st, Will!

Nine
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Last night I got to screen the insanely glorious 1982 production of The Critic for new friends.   What a joy!

I adore theatre about theatre, and films about theatre:  above all, about theatrical fiasco.  I so love The Critic (1982), which culimnates in a dementedly bad production of the tatters of a tissue of twaddle.  Unlike the producers in The Producers (1968), Mr. Puff is perfectly assured of his genius. So are the delusionals in Waiting for Guffman (1996).  That's hilarious, but ouch!  There's a strong scent of burning dreams about it, like a bonfire of plastic cups.  In the Bleak Midwinter (otherwise A Midwinter’s Tale, 1995) follows an ad hoc company of misfits, neurotics, and visionaries trying to put on Hamlet in a church at Christmas.  It's a slighter version of the wickedly brilliant Slings & Arrows (2003-2006).  And now we're getting close to the threshing floor, to the great mystery of how theatre happens.

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

Never mind the romance in Shakespeare In Love (1998):  it's the company of players that I treasure.  They're all somewhat fantastical--brilliant caricatures of real figures mingled with imaginary ones--but that Romeo and Juliet they put on is a good production.  In Topsy-Turvy (1999), there 's a very real-seeming world of Victorians working to create an transcendently fantastical world on stage.  Both unreal, of course:  it's a film.  But they're all fully there, all these cranky, egotistical people in terribly hot clothes, from the rehearsal pianist and Miss Sixpence Please to Gilbert and Sullivan themselves.  (Mike Leigh does the best 19th century ever.  Can't wait to see Mr. Turner.)

Other films are about the unmaking of the mystery.  The Dresser (1983) follows a touring company during World War II, made up of Shakespeareans too old or too fragile to fight, who can only gallantly distract.  Their great tragedian, Sir, is off somewhere in the marches of dementia; his dresser, who loves him devotedly, tries hold him together, to get him through one more performance, and one more.

Stage Beauty (2004) is about the cisgendering of the theatre in the Restoration.  Edward Kynaston, the last of the boy players, whom Pepys called "the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life," is about to be replaced by an actress. (Farewell!  Desdemona's occupation's gone.)  A woman playing a woman!  Where's the artistry in that?  This movie actually thinks, just a bit, about gender performance.  It also has that scene of Charles II with terrible wig hair, in bed with Nell Gwyn and about a zillion spaniels that cracks me up when I remember it.  Sadly, it also has the invention of method acting in the 1660's.  Sigh.

So what are your favorites films about the theatre?  I'd love to find new delights.

Nine
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Happy 450th birthday.

All our thanks.

Nine
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Follow him, friends: we'll hear a play to-morrow.

What have been your most vivid experiences,
hearing, seeing, reading Shakespeare?

Among so many others, I remember an idyllic Edwardian Love's Labours Lost, on a lawn by the river Cam, under the willows (there were strawberries and cream in the interval); that black-and-white galliard at the close of Twelfth Night; that Macbeth in the mud in an abandoned church, for the witches in unsaintly niches and all the candles of Tenebrae.  And I remember reading straight through the Penguin Shakespeare, one cold wet Christmas in Wales, with interludes for stone circles.

Nine
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In the TLS, Charles Nicholl reviews Bart van Es’s Shakespeare in Company.

"He seeks to show that Shakespeare’s achievement as a writer was in crucial ways communal; that the contributions of his playhouse colleagues, indeed his whole immersion in the business and practice of the theatre, are woven into the fabric of his plays; and that in a broadly chronological framework one can see his literary skills evolving in response to certain changes in his working conditions. These are not in themselves new ideas, but they are pursued with great vigour and clarity, and with much telling documentary detail, and the book moves us yet further away from that daft but tenacious construct of Shakespeare the lofty genius, 'seated' (as Coleridge put it) among the 'glory-smitten summits of the poetic mountain.'"

With a lovely long chapter on my impish friend Armin.

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Has anyone else read Tiffany Stern's Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan (Clarendon Press, 2000)?  Fascinating.  And fairly radically different from the theatre practices we know.

First the author would audition the play to a small group of the sharers:  give a sketch of the scenario, read a few scenes.  If they approved, he'd go on to finish the play.  Then—customarily, not always—the poet would give a reading of the book to the inner company, by preference at a tavern.  (Hirelings weren't in on this; they'd have to clue themselves in.  "There's this nurse...")

Shortly after that, each player would get a copy of his part and his part only, with his cues.  (Not only did this spare the scrivener—it prevented the actors from flogging the script to a rival company or a printer.)  There was nothing else on the page, no names, no numbered acts and scenes.  Just his lines and one to three catchwords.  He wouldn't know how many others were in a scene with him, or to whom he was speaking, or when in the play.  No wonder poor Flute speaks all his part at once, cues and all.   The text itself was meant to clue him in on how it should be played, by its changes from prose to verse, or smooth to broken rhetoric, or you to thou.  There was an art to reading such pieces; and a highly specialized art to writing them.

Then they'd all go to their rooms (or an inn with a fire or a field somewhere they could shout) and study.  Sometimes alone.  Sometimes with a teacher:  for lesser actors, greater actors; for the principals, maybe the poet himself.  ("Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue...")  Ben Jonson was renowned as a magnificent, relentless practice teacher.  Boys worked with their masters, perhaps Desdemona with Othello, the Lady with Macbeth.   Ben's children with Ben.  Things that really had to be practiced together, they did:  part-songs, dances, swordfights, slapstick.  I should think they'd all start piecing the jigsaw together—wait, you kill me?

And then?  They had one full rehearsal—if they were lucky—and went on.

You remember that fiction that companies of players were only perfecting their art for the delectation of the Queen or King?  Well, it wasn't quite fiction.  A first night at the Globe was a tryout.  If the play flopped for that first audience, it went in the trash.  If it played, the company would note what worked, what needed punching up or cutting down, where the laughs were, where it dragged.   And the poet would revise.

Heaven knows what they did about blocking.  Perhaps they'd all learned patterns, like the figures in a dance, and as they went on, the prompter whispered, "Six."

Not much room in there for a Man of Mystery.

Nine
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Glorious essay-review on the history of swearing by the witty and learned Colin Burrow, Fellow of All Souls, none of it quotable on LJ except for his title, which I've borrowed.  That was his mother's (the late incomparable DWJ's) "favoured way of flirting with the ‘f’ word."

(This ties in beautifully with a lovely moment in a master-class on speaking Shakespeare:  Fiona Shaw, waked by a street argument outside her window, heard, "Lock up your bike!  Lock up your [frogging] bike!," thought "iambic pentameter," and went back to sleep.)

From the sidebar:  "Colin Burrow's Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity has just been published. He thinks it is the best thing he has written."  Oooh!

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Overture, beginners, curtain! Cry Murder! in a Small Voice is out!

And I am first-footed on Amazon UK:  he regrets only the brevity.

Small Beer Press was at the Harvard Bookstore warehouse this Saturday, with other tiny but celebrated presses and distinguished slender journals.  A lovely, low-key event.  There are other good bookish things upcoming.  I was talking with Small Beer about the new manuscript—I don't think it's giving away much to say that they love it—when a young woman came up to the table, and asked, "Do you have Cry Murder! in a Small Voice?"  Serendipity!  She turned out to be [livejournal.com profile] tempestsarekind, inspired by [livejournal.com profile] angevin2's review.  Gavin and Kelly didn't in fact have a copy right there--they had a huge tableful of returns at $5 each--but it was a fabulous moment.  And a good conversation.

After that, I did a quiet browse and bought some fascinatingly weird books (John & Anne Hollander erotica? for $3? a picture book about a trick-or-treating Zen panda?) and one or two handsome ones:  a new Penguin edition of Orlando with good footnotes and a stunning cloth cover:  lavender cranked up to Quentin Crispness.

In keeping with the playhouse tenor of this year, I've been listening and reading masses of Elizabethan/Jacobean stuff:  besides the Garber class on later Shakespeare (her Othello on Monday was a stunner), I've heard some excellent Oxford podcasts (all good so far, but 14 and 15 were especially delicious).  Hearing those last two, I went straight to the library and got their books.  Right now I'm reading Tiffany Stern's most excellent Making Shakespeare:  "She argues that the versions of Shakespeare that have come down to us have inevitably been formed by the contexts from which they emerged; being shaped by, for example, the way actors received and responded to their lines, the props and music used in the theatre, or the continual revision of plays by the playhouses and printers."  Not the immaculate Shakespeare beloved of bardolaters, in short:  but Genius bodied forth in parts and scrawls and ill-timed breaking voices and the Procrustean bed of type; written and rewritten for certain players, playing spaces, and audiences; overwritten by the up-to-the-minute and the inattentive, the distracted, the miscalculating, and the just plain thick.   Gods, I love material culture.

Nine
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A most excellent brief review of Cry Murder! by our own [livejournal.com profile] sartorias.

It's been a splendid week for Shakespeare--inspired by [livejournal.com profile] tilivenn, my dear BBW and I have been auditing a class on his later plays, taught by Marjorie Garber.  Cool blue September and schoolwork--bliss!

Nine
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A late-night conversation.  (Warning:  contains adulterated Shakespeare.)

[livejournal.com profile] sovay:

Don't worry, nobody died; but if Mercutio hadn't, this'd've killed him.
 
[livejournal.com profile] nineweaving:

Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgggghhhhh!

“From the greatest playwright ever known.”

Reminds me of Murder Must Advertise:  "If you say ‘Our perry is made from fresh-plucked pears only,’ then it’s got to be made from pears only, or the statement is actionable; if you just say it is made ‘from pears,’ without the ‘only,’ the betting is that it is probably made chiefly of pears; but if you say, ‘made with pears,’ you generally mean that you use a peck of pears to a ton of turnips, and the law cannot touch you.”

I wonder how much of his Shakespeare is turnips.

[livejournal.com profile] sovay:

"If your heart like mine is full, then tell the joy that awaits us this night."

Don't insult turnips,
      
[livejournal.com profile] nineweaving:

I want to hollow him out and put a tallow candle in him.

Feh.

-----

Shakespeare has a few words for this upstart:

"Is not this a strange Fellowes, my lord, that so confidently seems to undertake this business, which he knows is not to be done; damns himself to do and dares better be damned than to do’t?"

"Whip him, Fellowes.  Till, like a boy, you see him cringe his face, And whine aloud for mercy: take him hence."

"Here’s a Fellowes frights English out of his wits."

"Has this Fellowes no feeling of his business?"

"A whoreson mad Fellowes."

"A paltry, insolent Fellowes!"

"Abominable Fellowes."

"Go to, go to, thou art a foolish Fellowes."

Nine
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Above all, the chapbook is gorgeous and is flying off the Small Beer table.  Can't go down the hall without signing one or two (even  three).  Borne up by this--and by more coffee than is wise--the reading was uproarious.  I strode and ranted, playing all the parts to the top of my bent; the audience held back its laughter, so as not to miss the next line; and to crown all, there was the most glorious synchronicity.  I was playing Armin playing a morality, and had just said "in comes Retribution--" when the great door was flung open and a hand with the 5-Minute sign was thrust in.  It brought down the house.

Afterward, there was a modest clamor for sequels, and Graham Sleight, clever fellow, suggested that each murderer should be a different Shakespeare pretender.

Hee!

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May I point you to the Oxfraud site, which Jonathan Bate [!] has called "marvellous"?

But really, some of these transcendent theorists exist in a realm beyond satire, like this genius, writing on Ben Jonson's praise of Shakespeare in the First Folio.

'Struth! )

BY A FULL COLON!  You can't make this sh!t up.

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"Who wouldn’t like to see Bellum Grammaticale by Leonard Hutten (1581)? Its plot description starts like this: 'Love, King of the Verbs, has quarrelled with Poet, King of the Nouns, at a banquet. Now Poet intends a military response and sends the pronoun He to drum up support among the prepositions and interjections.'"

From a review of Martin Wiggins’s British Drama, 1533–1642: A catalogue in the TLS, which adds "The set will not be affordable ... but it will eventually be available online."

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Twenty-five years and day.  Last night, I uncovered an ancient photocopy of the New Yorker article on mad Oxfordians that set me off on quarter-century rampage of glee and wrath.   The "irk in the oystershell," as I said of another tale.  And I did in the end get a story from it, though perhaps not a pearl.  If it is one, black and baroque.

...and pure gold.

Heard an evening of radio plays by the glorious Post-Meridian gang.  Them! is a tour-de-force of straight-faced fifties kitsch (with .... mandibles); [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel's Crisis of the Cuddlykins is divinely demented.  Last chance to catch them is next Sunday at the MIT Museum.

(And isn't Responsible Grace a wonderful name for a church?)

Nine

Unlost

1 April 2013 01:01 am
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Wow.  They've found a fragment of Cardenio, a page cut round for baking pies on, up in Cumbria.

Nine
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