Monday, September 13, 2010

Real Shakespeare

A couple of questions have come our way about Flatwater Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, involving the authenticity of the attire and the propriety of the production for younger audiences. Since others may have similar questions, we’d like to share our answers here.

“Authentic” is a somewhat vexed term generally, but especially in matters of dress. Theatrical costumes in Shakespeare's day reflected contemporary ideas about royal attire, not historical ones. There’s evidence of this even in the language of this play. “Cut my lace, Charmian,” says Cleopatra, at one point – clearly indicating that Shakespeare imagined her (and the boy actor playing her) in a cinched-in 17th-century bodice. “To flatter Caesar, would you mingle eyes / With one that ties his points?” demands Antony later – points being the laces used to hold up men’s hosiery in Shakespeare’s own age.

That said, Flatwater’s costume designer for the production, Kat Cover, has done a wonderful job of suggesting the historical period depicted in the play, with flowing Egyptian dresses, severe Roman tunics, and rugged leather armor. She achieved such successful effects despite a severely limited budget – this because we like to keep ticket prices affordable.

(On that point: any support, from attendance to donations, would be greatly appreciated! See details below.)

The question of propriety also connects with the idea of “Real Shakespeare”: in other words, are we keeping to the original playtext or are we adding extraneous, even gratuitous stuff? At Flatwater, we believe there are many ways of getting Shakespeare right, just as there are many ways of doing him wrong. With Antony and Cleopatra specifically, our interpretation is guided by Shakespeare’s glorious and gloriously candid language concerning sensuality and moral censure – and his acute insights as to how human frailty and aspiration can be involved with sensuality and censure alike.

So our staging includes passionate embraces and kisses (the chemistry between our lead actors has been justly described as STEAMY, all in capital letters), sinuous dancing, a brief bit of tunic-lifting, reeling drunkenness, and physical violence – culminating, of course, in several suicides. All of this, however, is done in keeping with the play’s language and structure (and also with Shakespeare’s historical source material). Most of all, we want to make immediate to our audience’s ears and eyes the searching question that Shakespeare proposes in the play: is it better to be greatly powerful or powerfully great?

Our audiences so far have included ten-year-olds and octogenarians and, in between, a group of seminarians. They have been captivated and moved by Shakespeare’s play – and our realization of it. We hope you will be, too.

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents
William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
directed by Bob Hall

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka
3600 "O" Street in Lincoln
Thursdays -- Sundays, September 16-19, 23-26
All performances 7:30
Tickets $18 general, $12 seniors, $10 students
CALL 402-473-2897

Flatwater Shakespeare is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Send your tax-deductible contribution to:

Flatwater Shakespeare Company
P. O. Box 84935
Lincoln, NE 68501-4935

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