Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holy Logistical Nightmare!

The economic logistics of preparing a show will, very often, come into conflict with the editorial ones. If you can only afford a company of 8 actors, say, you're not going to be presenting Midsummer without lots of very creative doubling and, yes, cutting. You know, removing the words that Shakepseare wrote from the play.

Fortunately, Merry Devil escapes some of that taboo. It wasn't written by Shakespeare, after all (or rather, there is no evidence that it was), and so I can cut the text for touring purposes without butchering the master of the English language. I am still butchering something, though. Then again, no one eats steak before a cow gets butchered. Then again again, maybe I'm not as smart as I like to think I am.

I was banging my head against the logistical nightmare posed by the concluding scene of the play. It featured 14 characters. That's pushing the bounds, even for a King's Men play (not counting supernumerary servants, soldiers, and what not), and is an insane amount of actors by modern standards. As it turns out, I was wrong.

My guidelines for scene breaks have been pretty simplistic: look for when everyone leaves the stage. The thing is, the quarto editors weren't always good enough to say when everyone leaves the stage. Sometimes you have to do something crazy, like read the play for context, to figure out that in one moment they're standing on the North side of town, and in the next they're in the South. Despite the fact that no one said exeunt, they characters have all clearly left the stage before the next enters, signaling a change of location and, yes, of scene.

This brings my final head count down to the much more manageable 11. The dramaturg and the accountant smile at one another, shake hands, and congratulate each other on a job well done. The moral of the story is that the text isn't trustworthy yet.

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