How Shakespeare became our contemporary dramatist : historicizing elements of the "original practices" movement




Jones, Robert William, Ph D.

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This dissertation historicizes the “original practices” (OP) movement in contemporary Shakespearean performance. However, my examination dates to earlier theatrical innovations and conventions that took hold in the late- 1960s through the 1980s that I argue affected to a great degree the conception of OP and its performance(s). I investigate the ways in which modern theatrical practices have influenced what is often considered historical performance, often in ways that have gone unacknowledged or under appreciated. In this work, I follow scholars such as W.B. Worthen, Cary Mazer, and Abigail Rokison in seeking to determine how contemporary theatrical perception has inflected both a sense of historical performance and how that perception gets translated to the modern stage. The major foci of my study are versification and delivery, as connected to Peter Hall’s work with Harold Pinter; thematic doubling and the impact of late twentieth-century doubling practices from contemporary playwrights and companies; and the influence of improv strategies on the more recent “unrehearsed” Shakespeare movement. The portion of my study that evaluates doubling relies heavily on the work done by Brett Gamboa, but also contemporary dramatists such as Caryl Churchill and Tony Kushner, while also considering the impact of companies that regularly employ extreme doubling practices, such as the Actors From The London Stage. The pervasiveness of the unrehearsed Shakespeare approach, practiced now by both professional and amateur companies, draws heavily on Folio adherents such as Patrick Tucker, Neil Freeman, and Don Weingust. In teasing out how these advocates read action into text, I explore how improv techniques developed especially by Keith Johnstone have conditioned the ways in which these texts become instructional for sets of action, seemingly authorized by Shakespeare as a “director.” Overall, I argue that, in practice, in the rehearsal room, and on-stage, OP performance and its offshoots are less of a reconstruction, rediscovery or excavation of Shakespeare’s staging conditions and practices and more of a continuation of innovations in contemporary performance that are often regarded as distinctive and separate from OP.



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