Just a quick blast (I think) regarding some directing and acting choices (or at least QUESTIONS) for Act One, Scene Two, of The Tempest.
Is it any surprise that in the play with arguably the most famous stage direction ever, we find a down-tick in dialogue-based stage direction? Of course, nothing about The Winter’s Tale surprises me now…
The Winter’s Tale has, arguably, the most famous stage direction in history: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Now, I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s day, but legend has it that bear-baiting bears were used, or possibly a man in one of the deceased bear-baiting animal skins. Now, in a film, you could actually have him pursued by a bear (though that BBC version opts for the man-in-a-bear-suit route…with one of the most ridiculously fake bear suits I’ve ever seen). But in a theater? With real-life audience members (who you would like not to become late audience members)?
Now, as part of a BBC Radio show, actor David Tennant discussed the problem for “Just a Minute”…pretty entertaining and a great summing up of the issue:
But the question remains, how do you stage it?
With every play, toward the end of the discussion cycle, I like to address a subject that rocks my world, but probably bores the socks off you. Well, since it’s my blog, I get to do what I want. And I want to talk about stage directions hidden in plain sight within the dialog. While these later plays do tend to have more stage directions than before (like the bizarre war correspondency that opens Act Five, Scene Two; or the truly truly bizarre directions around the dream of Posthumus Leonatus), there are still some hidden nuggets. And what are Cymbeline’s nuggets? (that sounded like it belonged to our discussion of bawdy)
Well, let’s see…
OK, last week, I looked at Martius’ big speech (and we’ve already taken a look at the homo-erotic response to it, the longest speech by Aufidius) from Coriolanus. Today, let’s take a look at the longest speech of the play, this one by dear ol’ mum, Volumnia. There’s some pretty interesting stuff going on in the scansion (as well as a stage direction or two).
It’s Act Five, Scene Three, in the Volscian camp on the outskirts of Rome, where Martius and Aufidius ready their armies for the attack. Martius has already turned away Menenius (who seemed like a father-figure to him), and Martius has admitted doing so “cracked” (V.iii.9) his heart.
So who should walk in at this moment?
I’ve been noticing that as we near the end of the Canon, we’re getting more and more stage direction from ol’ Willy Shakes (or at least from those who wrote this stuff down). I find it interesting that not only are we getting more direct stage direction, we’re also getting less indirect direction. In other words, there seems to be less stage direction embedded in the dialogue. And Pericles seems to maintain that trend.
Throughout the project, I’ve always searched in the dialogue for hidden stage direction (explicit ones which are usually few and far between…I say usually because as we get nearer the end of his career, I’m finding more explicit directions). Timon of Athens is no different.
But in this case, for me, it was like digging for roots and finding…not gold.
With every play, I like to take a look at the stage direction that are hidden in the dialogue. Shakespeare’s (in)famous for a dearth of explicit stage directions, forcing the enterprising actor/director to plumb the dialogue lines in search of some helpful nuggets. And thus my occasional sojourns into script studies. Antony and Cleopatra is no different.
Only it is.
Back when I was doing the plot synopsis for Act Three in Antony and Cleopatra, I mentioned the strange opening stage direction for Act Three, Scene Ten: “Canidius marcheth with his land army one way over the stage, and Taurus the lieutenant of Caesar the other way. After their going in is heard the noise of a sea fight” (III.x.opening s.d.).
How do you stage that?
In most plays, I find a whole lot of stage direction within the lines, be they soliloquies or dialogues. But in Macbeth, a play where some real stage direction was later filled in with the work of other playwrights, I’m finding less.