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June 18, 2011

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Jack Worthing

I love Shakespeare. And doing Bond's BINGO should be a required antidote to any season with him in it.

Andrew Utter

I question the notion that producing a play needs to be justified in terms of the present moment in time, audience, etc. I find that attempts to do this often end up unintentionally flattening the complexity of the play and marring it as a result.

The truth, I think, is that the reasons for doing most canonical works have to do with human concerns that have stayed more or less constant over time, so the reason for doing them does not have much to do with any given historical moment. The attempt to define the "now" is futile anyway. Whose now? And even assuming that could be settled, that now is to be understood into which elements of that person's past? These determinations are more or less arbitrary in the end. And is there truly something about the now that says that NOW is the moment for Uncle Vanya, but not for Three Sisters?

The notion that we choose plays as an antidote to particular pressing historical exigencies is a quaint fiction, albeit, perhaps, an attractive one. People choose plays because they find the plays themselves worth manifesting, not because it answers some immediate social concern. That worthiness lies in the complex matrix of plot, character, and a lot of other considerations that comprises a play.

I suppose I find the whole business of justifying a play to produce to be a useless exercise. We don't justify which books we are going to read before we read them. Not a perfect analogy by any means, but justification has to come to an end somewhere, as Wittgenstein was fond of remarking. The next play I want to do I want to do because it involves people making a fake elephant to sell, and I love the absurdity of that. It has nothing to do with any historical reality. And for most people, I think that's just fine.

Jack Worthing

Rubbish. The only, only, only reason to do a play is that it has some relevance to the problems or possibilities of now. Reading a book is a personal exercise and a play is something you inflict on other people, so you'd better have a good question for them or something to say or they'll feel cheated. (Cf. Ruhl, Sarah and McCraney, Tarell.) The question is not if major Shakespeare plays are relevant; the Scottish play will be as long as there are politicians and LEAR will be as long as people have regrets. (There's a reason why you never see THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN.) The question is whether we plumb the well too much to the exclusion of others. I'd say we do, even to the exclusion of Chekhov and Moliere, let alone living writers. Any playwright who's not allowed to be in conversation others quickly starts to lose air.

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