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In each volume of the Shakespeare on Stage series, a leading actor takes us behind the scenes, recreating in detail a memorable performance in one of.
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Vita Kirk is a travel writer who has never left her hometown. In fact, she rarely leaves her house. Four friends gathered in a cold, dusty attic on Christmas day to make a solemn pact. Before Diedre McAlister's mother dies, she gives her daughter an old photograph and says: Victorian productions of Shakespeare often sought pictorial effects in "authentic" historical costumes and sets. The staging of the reported sea fights and barge scene in Antony and Cleopatra was one spectacular example.

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Towards the end of the 19th century, William Poel led a reaction against this heavy style. In a series of "Elizabethan" productions on a thrust stage , he paid fresh attention to the structure of the drama. In the early 20th century, Harley Granville-Barker directed quarto and folio texts with few cuts, [5] while Edward Gordon Craig and others called for abstract staging.


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Both approaches have influenced the variety of Shakespearean production styles seen today. The troupe for which Shakespeare wrote his earliest plays is not known with certainty; the title page of the edition of Titus Andronicus reveals that it had been acted by three different companies. The Globe, like London's other open-roofed public theatres, employed a thrust-stage, covered by a cloth canopy.


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A two-storey facade at the rear of the stage hid the tiring house and, through windows near the top of the facade, opportunities for balcony scenes such as the one in Romeo and Juliet. Doors at the bottom of the facade may have been used for discovery scenes like that at the end of The Tempest. A trap door in the stage itself could be used for stage business, like some of that involving the ghost in Hamlet. This trapdoor area was called "hell", as the canopy above was called "heaven".


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  7. Less is known about other features of staging and production. Stage props seem to have been minimal, although costuming was as elaborate as was feasible. The "two hours' traffic" mentioned in the prologue to Romeo and Juliet was not fanciful; the city government's hostility meant that performances were officially limited to that length of time. Though it is not known how seriously companies took such injunctions, it seems likely either that plays were performed at near-breakneck speed or that the play-texts now extant were cut for performance, or both.

    The other main theatre where Shakespeare's original plays were performed was the second Blackfriars Theatre , an indoor theatre built by James Burbage , father of Richard Burbage , and impresario of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. However, neighborhood protests kept Burbage from using the theater for the Lord Chamberlain's Men performances for a number of years. After the Lord Chamberlain's Men were renamed the King's Men in , they entered a special relationship with the new court of King James.

    Performance records are patchy, but it is known that the King's Men performed seven of Shakespeare's plays at court between 1 November and 31 October , including two performances of The Merchant of Venice.

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    After , the troupe performed at the indoor Blackfriars Theatre during the winter and the Globe during the summer. In Cymbeline , for example, Jupiter descends "in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: The ghosts fall on their knees. A fragment of the naval captain William Keeling 's diary survives, in which he details his crew's shipboard performances of Hamlet off the coast of Sierra Leone , 5 September , and at Socotra , 31 March , [15] and Richard II Sierra Leone, 30 September A theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams and thatching.

    According to one of the few surviving documents of the event, no one was hurt except a man who put out his burning breeches with a bottle of ale. Sir Henry Wotton recorded that the play "was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and ceremony". Critics praised the best actors for their naturalness.

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    Scorn was heaped on ranters and on those who "tore a passion to tatters", as Hamlet has it. Also with Hamlet, playwrights complain of clowns who improvise on stage modern critics often blame Kemp in particular in this regard. In the older tradition of comedy which reached its apex with Richard Tarlton , clowns, often the main draw of a troupe, were responsible for creating comic by-play.

    By the Jacobean era, that type of humor had been supplanted by verbal wit. While denied the use of the stage, costumes and scenery, actors still managed to ply their trade by performing " drolls " or short pieces of larger plays that usually ended with some type of jig. Shakespeare was among the many playwrights whose works were plundered for these scenes.

    Measure for Measure - Angelo and Isabella

    At the Restoration in , Shakespeare's plays were divided between the two newly licensed companies: The licensing system prevailed for two centuries; from to , only two main companies regularly presented Shakespeare in London. Davenant, who had known early-Stuart actors such as John Lowin and Joseph Taylor , was the main figure establishing some continuity with earlier traditions; his advice to his actors is thus of interest as possible reflections of original practices. On the whole, though, innovation was the order of the day for Restoration companies.

    John Downes reports that the King's Men initially included some Caroline actors; however, the forced break of the Interregnum divided both companies from the past. Restoration actors performed on proscenium stages, often in the evening, between six and nine. Set-design and props became more elaborate and variable. Perhaps most noticeably, boy players were replaced by actresses.

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    The audiences of comparatively expensive indoor theaters were richer, better educated, and more homogeneous than the diverse, often unruly crowds at the Globe. Patrons of both companies expected fare quite different from what had pleased Elizabethans. For tragedy, their tastes ran to heroic drama ; for comedy, to the comedy of manners.

    Though they liked Shakespeare, they seem to have wished his plays to conform to these preferences. Restoration writers obliged them by adapting Shakespeare's plays freely. Writers such as William Davenant and Nahum Tate rewrote some of Shakespeare's plays to suit the tastes of the day, which favoured the courtly comedy of Beaumont and Fletcher and the neo-classical rules of drama.

    According to Stanley Wells, Tate's version "supplanted Shakespeare's play in every performance given from to ," [24] when William Charles Macready played Lear from a shortened and rearranged version of Shakespeare's text. Tate's Lear remains famous as an example of an ill-conceived adaptation arising from insensitivity to Shakespeare's tragic vision.

    Tate's genius was not in language - many of his interpolated lines don't even scan - but in structure; his Lear begins brilliantly with the Edmund the Bastard's first attention-grabbing speech, and ends with Lear's heroic saving of Cordelia in the prison and a restoration of justice to the throne.

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    Tate's worldview, and that of the theatrical world that embraced and demanded his "happy ending" versions of the Bard's tragic works such as King Lear and Romeo and Juliet for over a century, arose from a profoundly different sense of morality in society and of the role that theatre and art should play within that society. Tate's versions of Shakespeare see the responsibility of theatre as a transformative agent for positive change by holding a moral mirror up to our baser instincts. Chanel Daniele Bott Inbunden. Skickas inom vardagar. The performers interviewed represent a Who's Who of stage and screen actors between them they have seventeen Oscar nominations , and range across all generations.

    Each actor talks through their role, scene by scene, with refreshing candour and in forensic detail.