Shakespeare in Performance

Art Horowitz, Pomona College

Course Syllabus

However hard a producer or designer may strive to mount a classic with complete objectivity, he can never avoid reflecting a second period- the one in which he works and lives.
Peter Brooke

The blind Gloucester falls over on the empty stage. His suicidal leap is tragic.
Gloucester has reached the depths of human misery; so has Edgar, who
pretends to be Mad Tom in order to save his father. But the pantomime
performed by actors on the stage is grotesque, and has something of the
circus about it. The blind Gloucester who has climbed a non-existent height
and fallen over on flat boards, is a clown. A philosophical buffoonery has
been performed, of the sort found in modern theatre.

Jan Kott, Shakespeare, Our Contemporary

The course will begin by establishing early Shakespeare performance conventions and traditions. From that introduction we will swiftly move around the globe and over the centuries, examining seminal interpreters and productions, and inquiring into the canon’s evolution over the past four hundred years of adaptation and appropriation by diverse cultures and a changing artistic, historical, political and social climate.

Week One

Wed. Aug. 31—Introduction. ‘Will of the World.’

Reading for Mon. Sept. 5—Jan Kott, “Shakespeare’s Riddle,” from The Theater of Essence, pgs. 7–9, Laura Bohannon, “Shakespeare in the Bush,” from Ants, Indians, and Little Dinosaurs, pgs. 203–216, Dennis Kennedy, “Shakespeare and the Visual,” from Looking at Shakespeare, pgs. 1–24, Monica Achen, “Bread and Ashes: Romeo and Juliet,” from Theater 35: 2, pgs. 93–96.

Week Two

Mon. Sept. 5—‘The very notion of ‘looking at Shakespeare.’

Reading for Wed. Sept. 7—Andrew Gurr and Mariko Ichikawa, “The Conditions of Original Staging,” from Staging in Shakespeare’s Theatres, pgs. 1–20, John Elsom, ed., “Is Shakespeare Still Too English?” from Is Shakespeare Still Our Contemporary?, pgs. 79–98.

Reading for Mon. Sept. 12—Gary Taylor, “Restoration,” from Reinventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History from the Restoration to the Present, pgs. 7–51, Simon Williams, “Shakespeare and the mid-eighteenth-century theatre, pgs. 46–87,” from Shakespeare on the German Stage, Vol. 1: 1586–1914,

Week Three

Mon. Sept. 12—“The established Elizabethan/ Jacobean Shakespearean conventions” (or, so we believe), and “Shakespeare Improved.”

Reading for Wed. Sept. 14—Zdenek Stribrny, “Shakespeare Under the Tsars,” from Shakespeare and Eastern Europe, pgs. 26–56.

Wed. Sept. 14—‘Shakespeare in Eastern Europe’ (phase one).

Reading for Mon. Sept. 19—Marta Gibinska, “Polish Hamlets: Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Polish Theatres after 1945,” from Shakespeare in the New Europe, pgs. 159–173, Tony Howard, “Behind the arras, through the Wall: Poland 1989,” Women as Hamlet: Performance and Interpretation in theatre, film and television. Cambridge UP, 183–205, Odette-Irenne Blumenfeld, “Shakespeare in post-revolutionary Romania: the great directors are back home,” from Shakespeare in the New Europe, pgs. 230–246, Tibor Fabiny, “King Lear in the New Hungarian Political Context (1989–1995),’ from Shakespeare and Hungary, pgs. 191–206.

Week Four

Mon. Sept. 19—‘Shakespeare as political weapon in Eastern Europe.’

Readings for Wed. Sept. 21—John Elsom, ed., “Is Shakespeare Sexist? from Is Shakespeare Still Our Contemporary?, pgs. 64–78, Lisa Merrill, “Wearing the Breeches: Charlotte Cushmann’s Male Roles,” from When Romeo was a Woman: Charlotte Cushmann and Her Circle of Female Spectators, pgs 110–137.

Wed. Sept. 21—‘Shakespeare as both political and feminist weapon.’

Readings for Mon. Sept. 26—Jill Edmonds, “Princess Hamlet,” from The New Woman and her Sisters, pgs. 59–76, Anne Russell, “Tragedy, Gender, Performance: Women as Tragic Heroes on the Nineteenth-Century Stage,” from Comparative Drama. 30: 2, 1996, pgs.135–157, Sharon Magnarelli, “Staging Shadows/Seeing Ghosts: Ambiguity, Theatre, Gender, and History in Griselda Gambaro’s La señora Macbeth,” Theatre Journal, 60,3,365–382.

Week Five

Mon. Sept. 26—“Princess Hamlet and La señora Macbeth.” Reading for Wed. Sept. 28—Stephen J. Greenblatt, “Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century,” from Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture, 16–39.

Wed. Sept. 28—“Shakespeare, emblem of English imperialism.”

Reading for Mon. Oct. 3—Roberto Fernàndez Retamar, “Caliban: Notes Toward a Discussion of Culture in Our America” from Caliban and other essays, pgs. 3–45.
Roberto Ferreira Da Rocha, “Hero or Villain: A Brazilian Coriolanus During the Period of the Military Dictatorship,” pgs 37–53, from Latin American Shakespeares, Bernice W. Kliman and Rick J. Santos, eds., Geraldo U. de Sousa, “Cultural Re-encounters with The Tempest”, from Shakespeare’s Cross-Cultural Encounters, 159–178.

Reading for. Wed. Oct. 5—“Cantinflas’s Romeo y Julieta: The Rogue and the Will,” by Alfredo Michel Modenessi, pgs. 219–241, from Latin American Shakespeares, Bernice W. Kliman and Rick J. Santos, eds.
Watch Cantinflas’s Romeo y Julieta on our sakai site.

Reading for Mon. Oct. 10—Read Aimé Césaire’s A Tempest, Watch Giorgio Strehler’s The Tempest.

Week Seven

Mon. Oct. 10—Is it time for us to explore elsewhere?

Assignment for Wed. Oct. 12—Nandi Bhatia, “Multiple Mediations of ‘Shakespeare’”, from Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance: Theater and Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial India, pgs. 51–75. Watch Omkara on sakai.

Week Eight

Mon. Oct. 17—Fall Break

Assignment for Wed. 19—Watch Huapango and Shakespeare Wallah on sakai.

Week Nine

For Mon. Oct. 24—First class projects due. View and be prepared to talk about any of the dvds related to Shakespeare in Performance on our sakai site.

Assignment for Wed. Oct. 26—Minoru Toyoda, “Shakespeare on the Stage,” from Shakespeare in Japan: An Historical Survey, pgs.107–118, Brian Powell, “One Man’s Hamlet in 1911 Japan: The Bungei Kyokai production in the Imperial Theatre,” from Shakespeare and the Japanese Stage, pgs. 38–52, Minami Ryuta, “Shakespeare Reinvented on the Contemporary Japanese Stage, from Performing Shakespeare in Japan, ed. by Minami Ryuta, Ian Carruthers and John Gillies, pgs. 146–158.

Week Ten

Assignments for Mon. Oct. 31—View Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood on sakai.
Read Siyuan Liu, “Adaptation as Appropriation: Staging Western Drama in the First Western-Style Theatres in Japan and China, from Theatre Journal, 59 (2007), 411–429.

Assignments for Wed. Nov. 2—Leonard Pronko, “Approaching Shakespeare Through Kabuki,” from Shakespeare East and West, pgs. 23–40, Alexander C. Y. Huang, “Silent Film and Early Theater: Performing Womanhood and Cosmopolitanism,” pgs. 101–124, from Chinese Shakespeares, on sakai, pull up Silent Shakespeares and watch any three or four of these film shorts (none is longer than ten minutes) and be prepared to discuss them in class.

Reminder: LA Opera Romeo et Juliette tonight! Stagehen leaves at 6pm promptly!

For Monday, Nov. 7—view Joe Macbeth, Mickey B, and Scotland PA. If you have the time the curiosity and the inclination, you might also want to look at Maqbool, the Bollywood adaptation of Macbeth by the same producers who created Omkara. It would also be instructional if some of you were prepared to talk about any of the other more ‘traditional’ productions of Macbeth on our channel (or, perhaps, the wildly funny film, A Private Function, or some of the episodes from the second season of Slings and Arrows, in which the company struggles to mount their production of Macbeth.

In any event, come to class prepared to discuss what you observed and your response to each of these treatments of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. How do these adaptations ‘stack up’ against Kurasawa’s Throne of Blood? How faithful is each of these adaptations to the plot of the play? What have they omitted? What might they have added? How is the Lady Macbeth figure treated?

Come to the table on Monday armed and dangerous!

Week Eleven

Reading for Wednesday, Nov. 9—Read “Shakescorp Noir,” by Douglas Lanier, from Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 2, (Summer 2002), 157–180.

Assignment for Monday, November 14—Watch The Bad Sleep Well, a film by Akira Kurosawa and The Dresser, a film by Peter Yates.

Week Twelve

Monday November 14—The Bad Sleep Well and The Dresser — “Looking at Hamlet and King Lear through highly refracted lenses.”

Readings for Wednesday, Nov. 16—Read “Disciplining Digital Humanities, 2010, Shakespeare’s Staging, XMAS, Shakespeare Performance in Asia, Shakespeare Quartos Archive, and BardBox,” by Whitney Anne Trettien, 391–400, Shakespeare Quarterly, Fall 2010, Vol. 61, No. 3, “Shakespeare and Japanese Film: Kurosawa Akira,” 126–145, from Shakespeare in Japan by Tetsuo Kishi and Graham Bradshaw

Global and Asian Shakespeare Online
and Shakespeare Performance in Asia

These are two open-access digital video archives of intercultural performances. The archives contain video highlights and subtitled full videos of performances. They provide global, regional, and national portals to Shakespeare productions, making it possible to view productions within and across cultures. East Asian and Indian performances are the focus of the archives. There are also bibliographical resources, essays, interviews, company and director profiles and portals to theatres in the Arab World, Brazil, India, East Asia, and the US and the UK.

Core Readings and Media Exploration

Bardbox. An archive of original Shakespeare videos curated by Luke McKernan, Lead Curator, Moving Image, The British Library.

Donaldson, Peter. “Shakespeare in the Age of Post-Mechanical Reproduction: Sexual and Electronic Magic in Prospero’s Books.” In Shakespeare the Movie II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, Video, and DVD, eds. Richard Burt and Lynda Boose, 105–119. London & NY: Routledge, 2003.

Friedberg, Anne et al. The Virtual Window Interactive. A digital translation of the book The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft (MIT Press, 2006). A collaboration between the author and designer/programmer Erik Loyer, developed with Vectors’ DBG technology, a multi-media journal platform.

Manovich, Lev. “The Database.” In The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001. 218–243. Especially pages 225–239.

Week Thirteen

For Monday, Nov. 21—Watch Hamlet and King Lear, both directed by Grigori Kozintsev. Read “Shakespeare Behind the Iron Curtain,” 106–114, from Shakespeare and Eastern Europe by Zdenek Stribrny. Come to class prepared to discuss both films.

There will be no class on Wednesday, Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving.

Over Thanksgiving you are to watch the 1975 Macbeth (w/ Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Judi Dench) mentioned in the Kurosawa article as “magnificent and very influential” …and which “showed the influence of Beckett and the Theatre of the Absurd,” and the South African Othello, starring John Kani and directed by Janet Suzman. Come to class on Monday, November 28th prepared to discuss Kozintsev’s Hamlet and Macbeth and Othello.

Week Fourteen

Monday, Nov. 28—“Hamlet on film, Macbeth and Othello—from stage to video format/ changing landscapes, altering perspectives ….”

Reading for Wed. Nov. 30—Read “Shakespeare is South African,” pgs. 31–48, from South Africa, Shakespeare and Post-Colonial Culture by Natasha Distiller.

Wednesday, November 30—From “Shakespeare in the Bush” to “Shakespeare is South African” — (to quote the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been …”).

For Monday, Dec. 5—Watch The Merchant of Venice, directed by Trevor Nunn, starring Henry Goodman on Sakai, Read “Shylock after Auschwitz: The Merchant of Venice on the Post-Holocaust Stage–Subversion, Confrontation and Provocation,” by Arthur Horowitz, from The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Fall, 2007), 7–19.

Week Fifteen

Monday Dec. 5—“Shylock on the contemporary stage—and wherever has Portia gone to?”

Wed. Dec. 7—“Hunting and Gathering …”

Final Projects—Must be in my possession by Monday, December 19th.

As with the mid-term projects, I hesitate to give you any more than the barest of prompts or requirements. You have read the material, viewed the videos, and participated in the class discussions. Now, please create a final project that, in some way or another reflects the impact of any of this work upon you. Even if you choose to do a visual project, include a brief written abstract explaining how you came to this visual “take” upon the material and the course.

Of course, if you have any questions, or wish to discuss your proposal with me, I’d be happy to listen, advise, and cheerlead.