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SCA Theater - request for ideas
Bar Harbor
In the kitchen t'other day, herooftheage and I were talking about SCA theater. He was trying to convince me to direct another show, and I seriously considered the matter. Part of the reason I *haven't* done anything since The Knight of the Burning Pestle is that if I'm going to spend months deeply involved with a show, I really want it to be something I can get behind 100% -- and Sturgeon's Law applies as much to Med/Ren theater as it does to any other field. Heck, I think part of the reason that Shakespeare gets thought of so highly is that only about 80% of his stuff was crud.

Tom brought up Henry V, and I allowed as how that was one of The Good Ones, as is Hamlet. But there didn't seem to be any burning *need* for me to do either of those. There are very good movie versions of each readily available, and those shows are each still popular enough that you can see one on stage in the Boston area every few years. I would certainly bring my own interpretations to any production I did, but I'm not (at the moment) convinced that my vision for either play is sufficiently unique and interesting to be worth the effort.

One of the reasons I did Pestle was because it *wasn't* readily available for viewing. If I wanted to see it, I pretty much had to do it myself, so I did. Sturgeon's Law has a flipside; 10% of everything *isn't* crud, and that is as true of the lesser-known works as it is of the famous ones. I feel that if I'm going to go to the bother of putting on a big production, it should bring something new and different to the table. At the moment, there isn't anything I'm aware of that is calling out to be done, and which hasn't been. But my awareness is very limited, so why not ask for input?

What (SCA-appropriate) play have you always wanted to see performed, but haven't been able to yet? What is it that you love about it? I make no promises, but if you can get me excited enough, I might help make it happen. And, of course, if you can't convince me, maybe that means that *you* should go out and do it yourself :)
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I would have put no more than 70% of Shakespeare as worse than good, and only about %30 as actually bad. And that's because I think the comedies are mostly pretty bad.

I'd agree on a line-by-line, or scene-by-scene analysis. But a Shakespeare play tends to run no less than 90 minutes, and often upwards of 180. There are very few of his plays that (IMAO) are good all the way through. When I started reading King John, I was extremely excited about how great it was -- for the first half. The second half was so dull, I don't even remember what happened. If there's just one awful bit, you can cut it, but a lot of them have more than that wrong with them.

I actually was talking about a play-by-play basis. Here's my opinion, based on plays I have seen produced. Now, of course, the argument can be made that a great production can help a mediocre script, but I don't know that I buy that - if a production is great, there was probably something great in the script. Of course a bad production....

Henry II, Henry IV part 2, Henry V, Richard III, Henry VI 1,2,3, Macbeth, Hamlet, 12th Night, Titus, Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Othello, Tempest, Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew,

Henry IV part 1, Midsummer's, R&J (barely made it into good...awesomely stupid plot about awesomely stupid people, but lots of great speeches and fights), Lear (sorry Tom, but I still don't love this script, or enough of the writing, or the characters. In fact, if it weren't for you, this would prolly be down in 'bad'), Comedy of Errors (okay, dumb but funny), Measure for Measure (a very dark 'comedy'), Much Ado about Nothing,

Bad: Coriolanus (bad writing, though I love the blood), King John (right, a good first half, and one line that has become common parlance in corruption), Winter's Tale (2 okay plays that go poorly together), All's Well (icky people, dumb plot), As you Like It (stupid stupid stupid), Love's Labors Lost, Merry Wives of Windsor

Don't know: Timon of Athens (though the plot has always sounded cool to me), Troilus and Cressida, Cymbeline, Pericles, Two Noble Kinsmen, 2 Gentlemen.

Am I missing any?
So, I have 17 great, 7 decent, 7 bad, of the 31 that I have at least seen.

Henry II

Been rackin' my noggin to guess which play you mean here. Do you mean Richard II? All the other Henries are accounted for elsewhere in your list except Henry VIII, which I'm having trouble believing you'd rank as 'Great'. Or is there a play on Henry FitzEmpress I'm spacing on?

Right, right...Richard II. Great play (if the guy playing Richard gets it).

OK then, we just disagree. Luckily, we are good enough friends to do so :-)

I would list far fewer (and some different) plays in the category of Great. I'm perfectly capable of enjoying the large number of plays in the "Good" category as an audience member, but not enough to spend months with them as a director.

Well duh...why do you think I bothered making a list?!?

What's yours?


Henry V, Midsummer's, R&J, Macbeth, Hamlet.

Richard II, Henry IV part 1, 2, Richard III, Lear, Comedy of Errors, Much Ado about Nothing, 12th Night, Antony and Cleopatra, Merchant of Venice, Tempest, Taming of the Shrew (this has been very close to the edge of the 'bad' list for me ever since I noticed how much it is a period primer on effective brainwashing techniques).

Better than bad, but I don't know well enough to judge more definitively:
Measure for Measure, Caesar, Othello, Love's Labors Lost.

King John, Winter's Tale, Henry VI 1,2,3.

Don't know:
Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, Cymbeline, Pericles, Two Noble Kinsmen, 2 Gentlemen, All's Well, As you Like It, Merry Wives of Windsor, Titus, Henry VIII.

You like R&J? woah. Aside from having the best villain in all of Shakespeare (best in that he gets away with arranging the murder of a slew of folks, and nobody ever even accuses him of more than being an idiot), and having a bunch of great speeches, really that story torques me off. It would make a logical commedia scenario, but for regular people to be that dumb makes me not really care that they all die.

And you don't like Blood of a Nation?! (Which is what I call Henry VI 1,2,3 - we did a combined production of them with that subtitle) That has awesomeness! It has a great theme ("Be careful what you wish for" plus "What goes around comes around"). And it has such great swings for the audience. We feel really sad when Richard kills Clifford. Poor old guy. And we totally get behind Young Clifford vowing revenge. And killing a bunch of soldiers. But when he catches Rutland (10 year old boy) being escorted off the field and brutally murders him, saying essentially, "Hey audience - you're the ones who cheered when I said I would have fitting revenge, if they didn't spare our old men, why should I spare their babes?", audiences find themselves re-examining whose side they are on. Which is awesome, because it flips back the other way a few acts later, until in the end we finally come to the conclusion that vengence is a bad idea. Really powerful stuff. Plus Warwick, with his speech telling Henry VI that he should run away, Henry says something like 'well, you were the one who fled at our last battle at suchaplace', and Warwick says his awesome line: "Then it was my turn to flee. Now its yours." Plus Margaret with her twisted hatred.
And for people who like that sort of thing there's the whole Joan of Arc thing.

You like R&J? woah. ... for regular people to be that dumb makes me not really care that they all die.

When I was a hormone-crazed teenager, I was pretty dumb too, and I empathize with them.

And you don't like Blood of a Nation?! (Which is what I call Henry VI 1,2,3 - we did a combined production of them with that subtitle) That has awesomeness!

How long was your production, and how much did you cut? I don't deny that there is *some* awesomeness there -- but from my point of view it was buried under an awful lot of unmemorable crap.

Am I missing any?
Queen Alexandra and Murray

I'm not really sure what to suggest. Every time someone does a big play in Carolingia, i Sebastiani ends up on hiatus. Still some plays worth doing include:

Period plays of interest:
Aminta (Torquato Tasso)
A Comedy of Betrothal (Leonne de' Sommi)

Slightly Post period plays of interest
Volpone (Johnson)
Cupid's Revenge (Beaumont & Fletcher)

I've read Volpone, and remember not liking it much. Could you give me at least a one-line description of the others?

Cupid's Revenge The play portrays Leontius, the Duke of Lycia, suppressing the customary worship of the god Cupid, the patron diety of the land, in response to the pleadings of his son and daughter, Leucippus and Hisdaspes. In revenge, Cupid (who functions as a chorus in the play, comparable to the choral figures in the tragedies of Seneca or the personification of Revenge in Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy) oversees the ruin and death of the royal family and their retainers through some very unwise amorous entanglements. As he is dying in the play's bloody final scene, Leucippus reverses his father's edict against Cupid.

AmintaIs a pastoral performed by Gelosi about A young man Aminta, who saves a young maiden (Silvia) from a Satyr.

BetrothalThis is a Comedy performed in Mantua by the Jews in the 1570s. The original work is in Hebrew. It is a fairly normal comedy, except that it is filled with 16th century Jewish Italian culture.

Betrothal: This is a Comedy performed in Mantua by the Jews in the 1570s. The original work is in Hebrew. It is a fairly normal comedy, except that it is filled with 16th century Jewish Italian culture.

Now that's something I'm not likely to catch at Trinity Rep. If I had an outside chance of seeing that, I'd make a very serious effort, and I don't think I'd be alone.

I was going to say Medea or Antigone, but the play I still really want to participate in is Lysistrata!

Oooh. I remember reading that oh so many years ago. That would intriguing undertaking.

Hm. Do you know if/when these was performed in Med/Ren times? They are interesting shows, but I'm not keen on going back to Greek/Roman material that wan't actually performed so much before the centuries I focus on (roughly 1350-1650).

Yes! No one has the ...*ahem*... balls to put that on anymore.

(OK, I'm not SCA, so I'm not sure how much my opinion counts here, but I know I and several of my mundane classics-geek friends would happily rent, beg, or borrow garb to see Lysistrata staged.)

Where are you from? Don't most cities see a production of it once a year or so? I don't see the big thing, myself. (That's a sort of joke. Most productions involve elaborate puppet penises that are as realistic as the company can afford except for being 2-3 feet long. Because dick jokes may be sophmoric, but CLASSICAL dick jokes are CULTURE.)

I'm from Boston. We actually met last week at the Keep; I'm Colleen, the curly-haired housemate.

Oh, I know all about the oversized penises. ;) When people do put the play on, they never (that I've seen) do it with the proper props, and that takes much of the fun out of it.

You're not looking hard enough. Lysistrata is staged at least once a year around Boston -- probably more since the war in Iraq started.

Heh - sounds like we have a winner.

I've looked, but when I do see it's being staged, it's always followed by the revelation that it's being done by a poor-quality community theater, that they're leaving out the giant phalluses, or both. Which, I'm sorry, takes too much of the fun out of it.

I'd have expected the war to bring an upswing in the number of productions of Lysistrata, but many people seem to think that because war is a Serious Thing, it cannot be joked about, or the joking will demoralize the troops. There's definitely been a marked uptick in the frequency of Troilus and Cressida stagings, though, and I'm really not sure that's a good thing.

I've looked, but when I do see it's being staged, it's always followed by the revelation that it's being done by a poor-quality community theater,

Well... so is 90% of the Shakespeare out there. In fact, 90% of the theater out there is poor-quality community theater. Of the remaining 10% about 8% is good community theater, and the last bit is professional theater (of varying quality).

I'll leave it as an excercise for the reader to put the various SCA productions into the appropriate categories.

You'll be able to find a lot of SCAdians from the Boston area who have performed in Lysistrata (at Pennsic a few years back). Fritz made a great Spartan. Rhonwen made a great Lysistrata.

A blend of the two versions of Dr. Faustus attributed to Marlowe. Each one has its strong points.

There's famous Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet, King Lear, Henry V) and there's obscure Shakespeare (A Winter's Tale, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus). Now, okay, the obscure stuff is obscure for a reason, but it strikes me that there's a Shakespeare play that's perceived as popular, but relatively rarely performed: Julius Caesar.

Of course, why even stick to Shakespeare? I've never heard of a Marlowe Repertory Theater...the guy needs some PR.

Of course, why even stick to Shakespeare? I've never heard of a Marlowe Repertory Theater...the guy needs some PR.

Marlowe is an exquisite poet. As a playwright... he deserves to be in Shakespeare's shadow. I know I'm arguing against myself, since I suggested Faust, but I also said that it needs a good editor.

I'd second the vote for Ben Johnson's Volpone though.

I loved Volpone, right up until the end. IIRC, the ending is very *just*, but for me it kind of wrecked what was otherwise a rather delicious little play...

My great loves are just a *shade* post-period - but then again, so is Pestle. Duchess of Malfi is, of course, the front-runner, and Tom and I discuss it from time to time.

I would LOVE to see the Revenger's Tragedy put on, even though the girl roles are largely teh suck. I love all the Theater of Blood stuff because it's so totally over-the-top. It's all flawed (The Changeling has phenomenal set pieces, a brilliant fall from grace, a squick-worthy villain - and about 1/3 of the play is utter dreck), but some of the joy in it is simply that it exists in its baroque dementedness.

I'll insert my usual tuppence about genuinely medieval plays, and then make an argument for plays like The Jew of Malta. Yes, it is uncomfortable. Yes, it is the kind of stuff we gloss over with the "as it should have been" rubric. And by those lights, I think it should be performed so that we look hard at it.

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