Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Who's this for?

I always step out of Textual Culture with a wealth of challenges to my ideas, and today's theme was who I'm doing all of this for. Is it possible that there might be some folks out there that don't know the conventions of reading plays? Yes, but I'm ultimately not interested in writing for them. Is it possible there are some folks who would like to read the play with some guidance to help them picture it? Probably, but my cast would take exception to highly detailed stage directions that negate performance possibilities.

So the answer is that I'm doing this for my cast, and then I'm doing it for that mythical beast, the general reader. I hesitate to call it the first step in the process, as that would imply a degree of temporal  linearity that doesn't align with real world practice, but producing a play text for my acting company is the first goal on the road to a new edition of The Merry Devil. They will then perform that text, and that will be a new edition. I will perhaps then use the information gathered from that performance and prepare it as a reader's edition, a text which will be a cross breed of 17th century collaborative writing, performance, editing, printing, and then 21st century transcription, editing, printing, performance, editing, and printing.

So if you followed along with all of that, lets pretend that you're sitting there with the new reader's edition in your hot little hand: who is responsible for putting it there? Who authorizes it? The King's Men? Myself? My actors? The American Shakespeare Center? Mary Baldwin College's M.Litt/MFA program? All of the above? None of the above?

I think I had an insight into all of this in class today, and with luck I've brought you to the same crisis of contradiction that I find myself in: you can't win, so don't try. Alternatively, what is likely to sell the most tickets? And thus I turn back to The Merry Devil of Edmonton as a member of Shakespeare's Apocrypha, because lets face it, the name of William Shakespeare sells tickets.

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