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|Monday, 28 March 2005 07:59|
Plantagenet Women: The end of Richard III, with HR as the Earl of Richmond.
Since the time of Plato's Republic and the Poetics of his pupil Aristotle, art has been identified as an imitation of life. Compared to the normally two-dimensional art of painting, or even the mostly static three-dimensional art of scupture, drama (and to a much lesser extent its later permutations in film and video) uses forms of artifice more closely corresponding to the actual conditions of life of its audience: with live human bodies in three dimensional physical spaces. These spaces may approximate to the settings of actual experience, or even utilize surviving historical settings of actions when these are recreated on location - as with any performances of Shakespeare's divorce trial in Henry VIII in the Blackfriars theatre, which occupied the identical space where Queen Catherine of Aragon originally confronted her judges. What has become fully explicit in modern training programs ranging from language skills to jet piloting, is that such imitation of reality can provide an intrinsic part of effective learning, using artificial situations and mechanical "mock-ups" to approximate and anticipate the challenges of "the real thing." Modern sociology typically invites neophytes to imagine themselves in hypothetical situations in which to learn by experiment through acting out their options. Moreover, the celebrated psychologist Erving Goffman (once a faculty member at U.C.B.) has asserted that all social interaction is acting, in his seminal work, The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life. His avowed precedents for detailing this intersection of daily experience and dramatic artifice lie in such famous assertions by Shakespeare as are found in Jaques's speech in As You Like It:
All the world's a stage,
Similarly the tragedy of Hamlet invites the hero and his audiences to explore the distinction between the harmless acting in a feigned reality and those fatally irreversible actions taken in earnest. My ultimate point is simply that education and theatre are not just complementary, they are deeply interrelated, even interdependent. The very role of teacher in any discipline necessarily involves the planning and staging of learning experiences. Perhaps all teachers should take an introductory course in acting (or in Shakespeare, at least).
The Shakespeare Program, specifically, was developed in response to the vast size and impersonality of an undergraduate lecture course in the major plays of Shakespeare, in which dynamic individual interaction by students with the material or the instructor seemed impossible, not least because of the almost total absence at that time of usable theatres and even of film-projection facilities on campus, to provide direct theatrical experience to students. In 1964 I taught this class to 400 students and it became clear that procedures for such huge courses needed drastic rethinking to ensure the appropriate educational outcome of a significant student appreciation of the Fine Arts in general, and particularly of those involving performance. Our use of new, more authentically theatrical procedures was incremental and financially modest, as it was initially necessary for these attempts to be largely self-supporting.
For it was soon apparent that any use of performance for intensified understanding of Shakespeare's texts required diverse procedures for which only minimal facilities and funding then existed. We had to develop means for the rental and projection of major feature films of Shakespeare productions; the co-ordination of course schedules and activities with local professional productions; the recruitment of professional actors and directors from such distinguished resources as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, A.C.T., and the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival; the use and even creation of video documentaries of performances, etc. Modest student fees and then tiny administration grants helped to institute these innovations. Additionally, presentations were diversified by a series of prominent actors such as Mark Rylance and Mel Gibson. Demonstrations and workshops were also given by professionals: R.S.C. actors including Susan Fleetwood and Mike Gwilym; and stage directors Patrick Tucker (R.S.C.), Dakin Matthews (Calif. Shakespeare Festival), William Glover (Oregon Shakespeare), and Louis Fantasia (Shakespeare's Globe, U.S.A). Such approaches were further diversified by a range of distinguished lecturers from various departments of U.C.B. itself, such as Louise Clubb, Stephen Greenblatt, and Norman Rabkin, and scholarly visitors such as John Wilders of Oxford University (consultant for the B.B.C. TV Shakespeare series), Laurence Ryan (Professor of English at Stanford University), and Stanley Wells (Director, Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon).
However, such exposure to the professional theatre and to researchers into its nature did not provide the full interactive experience offered by direct participation. A more active mode for undergraduates was introduced which used dynamic options to replace minor mid-terms and quizzes - such as writing a Shakespeare sonnet, or staging Shakespeare scenes. The first of these options proved so successful that several collections of sonnets were published (see the fourth of the Appendices for examples). Later, on the model of a traveling Elizabethan company of players adapting to circumstances, many experimental performances were given to the public on Wheeler Hall Steps, at the Faculty Glade, in the Fife Room, at the Lawrence Hall of Science, and even (appropriately, if ambitiously) at the Greek Theatre, which now seems suitable mostly for pop music.
Literary essays remained central to the Shakespeare Program since it remained imbedded in the English major, but writing now included use of diverse and professional formats such as theatre reviews, actors' notes, script writing, etc. However, the deeper student involvement in the presentation of course materials fostered a marked increase in effective writing skills generally because criticism was based on experience not theory. As student interest in performance evolved, satellite courses were attached to the main lecture course, offering formal credit for study of Renaissance analogues and source materials (Rabelais, Erasmus, Machiavelli, Cervantez, Lope da Vega, etc.) and for the staging of full-length student productions. The latter even won international recognition because the productions ultimately included useful video recordings of rarely staged plays: King Henry VI, King Henry VIII, Pericles, The Two Noble Kinsmen, etc. These performance options were successfully extended to related texts in the other courses, in comparative literature, medieval studies: La Celestina of Rojas and The Second Shepherds' Play; and even to (supposedly) non-dramatic literature such as Milton's Paradise Lost and Pope's The Rape of the Lock. Some of these productions were so unusual that they are now cited in scholarly works (e.g. the Oxford University Press edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen; the Lang performance script of Paradise Lost; and the Manchester University Press performance study of King Henry VIII).
Satan meets Sin and Death (Paradise Lost, II.648-80).
Students become so deeply involved that, as a direct consequence of the Program, many are now distinguished university teachers and producers of Shakespeare (e.g. Eric Nicholson, at SUNY and Syracuse University in Florence); others founded repertory theatres (e.g. James Reber: the San Jose Repertory theatre) or performing companies (Jess Borgeson - now Jess Winfield - a founding member of the internationally-famed Reduced Shakespeare Company). Three winners of Distinguished Teaching Awards are among those faculty who have been involved in supervising or applying materials from the Program: English Professors Janet Adelman, Stephen Booth, Jackson Burgess, William Nestrick, Hugh Richmond; in Dramatic Art, Warren Travis, Barbara Bush. Dr. Paul Shepard (of Media Services) won a Distinguished U.C.B. Staff Award for his directorial work on stage and video with the Program.
This documentary provides a key resource for the annual courses now operating for American Shakespeareans who wish to work on the Globe stage. The Globe course initially included, and has since been partially staffed by U.C. faculty and doctoral students, who have used this activity in their research about the significance of the restored Globe stage. The initial opportunity to participate in a full Elizabethan-style performance of a Shakespeare play before a large invited audience at the Globe marked the high-point of the Shakespeare Program's artistic achievement for the undergraduates involved. They will not readily forget the lessons learned under these circumstances. Moreover, the U.C.B. Office for Educational Development has funded a project (2007) to digitize the visual records of the Globe Theatre reconstruction and its subsequent use in such projects as our production of Much Ado. Some 550 of these images have since been added in Gallery 8 of this web-site, for student and scholarly use.
Indeed, such performances have led to numerous other scholarly and critical publications and to the founding of two University facilities: the Shakespeare Film Library, a teaching collection based on the Extension Media Centre of U.C.B. which served all eight campuses from 1979 until video casseettes made it redundant; and a Multi-campus Research Group with over a hundred active participants: the University of California Shakespeare Forum, which has organised annual conferences and frequent research and pedagogical training sessions statewide and year-round from 1980 to 1999. Some of these meetings have involved many hundreds of expert Shakespeare teachers, noted scholars, committed students, and famous performers, such as our international congress on Hamlet, honored by the participation of Mel Gibson, the star of Zeffirelli's film of the tragedy. Members of the Forum such as Reginald Foakes and Hugh Richmond also worked closely with the International Globe Centre on the rebuilding of Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre near its original site in Southwark; on creation of the California Shakespeare Festival's new theatre at Orinda; in restoring the Joseph Wood Krutch Theatre on the Kerr campus of U.C. Berkeley; and with many other cultural organizations. During its twenty years of operation the Program has encouraged the development of analogous groups across the U.S.A., for example, at Cal Poly at San Louis Obispo, at the University of California Santa Cruz, and in SUNY. Most recently the teaching resources of the UCB Program have been devoted to Shakespeare courses at the Osher Life Long Learning Institute at U. C. Berkeley, including lectures on audience impact on many Shakespeare plays which have been attached as epilogues to the single-play bibliographies of major scripts on this site.
DVD of Shakespeare and the Spanish Connection Distributed by TMW Media.
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