Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #84

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Today I set out to accomplish two tasks at once. It was time to do TT but it was also urgent for me to take stock of where I stand with the Shakespeare related materials I have out of the library. And lo and behold there were 13 items.

That is all you need to know about the TT list. Unless you have an interest in the work habits of writers and how they plan stories and research for them and so forth, you can skip the rest of this rambling preamble.

I ordered these items in late January and early February and purposely spaced out their arrival so that I could space out my attention to them. I ordered them for a specific writing project: a story involving three high school teachers overseeing students performing Macbeth on stage. I am fairly familiar with the story of Macbeth and have read the play and seen more than one production of it on film whether it was a made for screen or a filmed stage play. But I know little to nothing about what is involved in putting on any kind of play let alone a Shakespeare play.

Besides specifics about the themes in Macbeth and methods and problems of staging it, I also needed to keep my eye out for controversy that I could tap into for the bickering that is an integral characteristic of the relationship between the three teachers--Faye and her twin sister Julia and Wilma the twin sister of Faye's husband, Inny.

The story I have in mind is intended to be folded into another one already written: Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities. This is the story which introduces the three women, the one I created them for. After finishing that story I began another one featuring the same characters which evolved into Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes. Before I had finished that story I had figured out I had enough material for a novel and that the two stories would probably be chapters one and three. I have posted both stories in sections for Friday Snippets and this post acts as portal to them.

When I got around to mapping out chapter two (still unwritten) I discovered it had the same format as chapter three: alternating scenes between what I call the NOW thread and the THEN thread. The NOW thread takes place in the weeks following the events of chapter one and the THEN threads are events several years in the past that are directly relevant to the events in the NOW thread.

I realized then that I should consider adding a THEN thread to chapter one. Later I realized this could solve another problem. The fact that several characters in Rag Doll Babies integral to the entire novel would seem to drop in out of the blue some 12K words into the story if I could not find a way to introduce them earlier. Since two of the characters in question had already been established as previous students of Faye and the others were in their circle of friends and family it followed that the THEN thread for chapter one should involve that student/teacher relationship. And since quotations from Macbeth are an integral part of the story in Of Cats and Claws, it seemed that a high school production of the play was a natural fit and that also made it easier to include all three of the women while keeping Faye as the POV.

Writing the THEN thread for chapter one and both threads for chapter two were to be my primary focus for the 70 Days of Sweat challenge that began March 1st. I was planning to spend the month of February preparing. But I spent the month of February fighting two colds or possibly one that relapsed. Then around the first week of March I had a jarring fall that made typing difficult for over a week and just as I was getting back on track the Friday following Easter I came down with the flu and was laid flat by it for three weeks. The last two weeks have been a slow, turtle paced slow, recovery of energy and stamina.

Meanwhile the Shakespeare materials started to flow in as planned but I was unable to use them. Our library system allows for two renewals if no one else is requesting an item. Most books are checked out for three weeks so two renewals means a potential for keeping an item for nine weeks. Well I am on the eighth week for the first batch of Shakespeare items. I needed to at the very least make a thorough evaluation of each one as to its relevance and usefulness and prioritize them and see if there was anything I could hope to accomplish with each one in the time I had left with it or should I exercise the option of sending it back now and resending for it.

Thirteen Library Items Regarding Shakespeare On My Shelf Now

1. Lectures on Shakespeare by W. H. Auden reconstructed and edited by Arthur Kirsch
319 pages + Kirsch's 15 page introduction. I hope to read the whole thing eventually but this book is due next Thursday so this time around I'm going to focus on the 11 page lecture on Macbeth, the 11 page concluding lecture and Kirsch's intro. For a total of 22 pages.

These lectures were given for anybody interested in Greenwich Villiage, New York from the fall of 1946 through spring of 1947 and took he read and commented on the plays, one per lecture, in the order in which they were produced.

2. The Authentic Shakespeare: and other problems of the early modern stage by Stephen Orgel
256 pages. This book is also due next Thursday. It is a collection of essay's written by a Berkley professor between the mid 1960's and late 1990's. Every one deals with scholarly debates over a variety of issues to do with Shakespeare from the authenticity of existing manuscripts and folisos to the speculations about what the audience at the time experienced at a performance. Just by the titles of the essays I know I want to read the whole book but it too is due next Thursday so I must limit myself to these three: #4 Acting Scripts, Performing Texts at 28 pages. #11 Macbeth and the Antic Round at 14 pages. #15 The Authentic Shakespeare at 25 pages. For a total of 67 pages.

3. Shakespearean Tragedy as Chivalric Romance: Rethinking Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello and King Lear by Michael L. Hays. 210 pages. Again, the entire book interests me but it too is due in one week so I'm limiting myself to the 26 page Introduction and the 25 pages chapter, Macbeth: Loyal Stewards and Royal Succession for a total of 51 pages.

4. Shakespeare: The Seven Major Tragedies by Porfessor Harold Bloom. 14 recorded lectures on 7 CDs. Part of The Modern Scholar: Great Teachers Teaching You series.

These lectures are based on Bloom's book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human a book I first encountered in the late 90s via the Longview WA library and then bought my own copy while we lived in Sunnyvale CA and then had to sell in 2001 along with nearly 700 more volumes out of my personal library. I've just ordered the book through the library again.

I have two weeks left with the audio lectures. I doubt with all else on my agenda that I will be able to listen to all 14 so I'm going to start with the two on Macbeth. Though I will know better once I know the length of a lecture. I can't find any indication on the case, the accompanying booklet or the CDs themselves as to the length of the lectures. That probably has something to do with why I've not got started listening yet. That and the fact I spent over two weeks with such compromised hearing that listening to lectures on anything would have been a most frustraing and unproductive use of time and energy.

The booklet includes helpful websites for each play discussed which I hope to visit and bookmark. Starting with the ones for Macbeth of course.

5. Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide editied by Stanley Wells and Lena Cowen Orlin. 696 pages including a chronology of the plays and Shakespeares life. I've got two weeks left with this one and will limit my focus to issues of Macbeth and of stage productions of the plays in Shakespeare's lifetime. Even so I estimate well over a hundred pages involved.

There is also a chapter that really fascinates me about Shakepseare resouces online which invloves a critique of the Internet as a resource. That may have to wait until another turn with it.

Overall this book is such a good resource I drool over having it on my shelf permanently.

6. Witches & Jesuits: Shakespeare's Macbeth by Garry Wills. 149 pages. I have two weeks with this one and really need to read the whole thing as its very thesis is related to my current focus--the performance of Macbeth then and now and how its themes relate to the political, theological and social millieu of the audience it was first performed for.

7. Will Power: How to Act Shakespeare in 21 Days by John Basil with Stephanie Gunning. 344 pages. I'm sure every page would be helpful but I'm going to prioritize the introduction and the first 8 days which focus on interpeting the clues for performing Shakespeare embedded in the text and in the manuscripts which the first performers used i.e. italics and capitalizations which most modern pritings of the plays eliminated to conform to gramatial rules.

8. Gender in Play on the Shakepsearean Stage: Boy Heroines & Female Pages by Michael Shapiro. 204 pages. Also due in two weeks. I'm very interested in the material in this book but sinse it doesn't relate to my current needs regarding the themes of and the stage production of Macbeth, I may have to let it go and send for it again.

Shapiro discusses the role of cross dressing in the plays of Shakespeare and in Elisabethean England. It was the practice of the time for all female roles to be played by males in female costume. Shakespeare played with that to the amusement of his audiences with the plays in which female characters were disguised as men.

I do have story lines in mind for my FOS story world (Faye's world) that explore the meaning of gender and involve some gender bending which is why I sent for this when I spotted it in the library catalog.

9. How to Enjoy Shakespeare by Robert Thomas Fallon. 104 pages. Based on the blurb on the cover, I need to read the whole thing: "A Guide for the Perplexed--This book will help you overcome puzzles of language, theme, staging, character, and plot so that you can delight in the bard's great plays." Due in two weeks.

10. Speaking Shakespeare by Patsy rodenburg. 356 pages. If this one renews for me tomorrow (Thursday) I will have another three weeks with it. The whole book applies to my current need as it is advice for actors on performing Shakespeare plays. Even with a full three more weeks, I may not be able to do all 356 pages justice.

11. The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public fiascoes, Palace Coups by Ron Rosenbaum. 550 pages. I may have over five weeks left with this one as I just renewed it Monday for the first time and have another renewal available unless someone puts in a request for it. I want to read the entire book eventually but my main interest in it for the current project is to find fodder for the bickerig among my characters over the 'correct' way to stage Macbeth. The wars referred to are those between the scholars of Shakespeare.

12. The Shakespeare Sessions with John Barton and featuring Sir Peter Hall. 60 minute DVD. The legendary directors and founders of The Royal Shakespearean Company work with some of America's brightest stars, teaching the power of the language of the plays as the way to bring the characters alive on stage. A must. I have two weeks.

13. Macbeth. The play on DVD 148 min. The BBC-Time Life production staring Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotire. Another must. Obviously. This was the second Macbeth production on DVD which I checked out this year. The other one was also a British production and starred Judy Dench. I didn't get to watch it before it went back and plan to send for it again. I wish I could get a DVD of the legendary 1955 performance starring Lawrence Olivier.

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6 tell me a story:

Meg 5/01/2008 6:16 AM  

Hey, Shakespeare just had a birthday last week--that makes him really old, but you know, his poetry still works and all....

She Became a Butterfly 5/01/2008 8:21 AM  

i'm not a shakespeare fan, although i was a theatre major.

visit my tt -- it's lonely! hehe

Denise Patrick 5/01/2008 9:19 AM  

I think the last time I read any Shakespeare was in college. I still have the textbook for that class.

Happy TT!

Susan Helene Gottfried 5/01/2008 12:19 PM  

Ahh, the Bard. THE bard.

You've got great taste, woman. But then, you knew that.

Ann 5/01/2008 8:22 PM  

Okay- 1, 3, 6, and 8 look very interesting. :)
I know it's not about the Scottish play (if you're writing about theatre people they NEVER name that play- but I digress), you might want to check out Bloom's essay on Hamlet, fascinating and actually quite short. :)
Good luck with the reading. Enjoy.

Anonymous,  5/01/2008 10:08 PM  

Interesting selection. I just bought Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare, bit I haven't read it yet

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