Staging Premodern Drama: A Guide to Production Problems

Staging Premodern Drama: A Guide to Production Problems

Staging Premodern Drama: A Guide to Production Problems

Staging Premodern Drama: A Guide to Production Problems

Excerpt

My obsession with premodern drama began very early in life. During childhood I was fortunately situated where I was able to attend the best professional productions and I saw a great many. Before I was through high school I had seen six Hamlets, including Barrymore's. By the time I reached adolescence I was being allowed to work backstage in various modest capacities, a rare privilege for a teenager. The natural next stop was the degree program in drama at Carnegie Tech where freshmen cut their teeth on Greek tragedy. Eventually I joined the faculty in theatre at Northwestern University, enabling me to work on the classics under favorable conditions before knowledgeable audiences. During World War II, as an officer in the corps of engineers, I worked first in the Pentagon drawing up plans for expedient stages and afterward in the Southwest Pacific getting theatres built for troop entertainment--over fifty, all told, varying in seating capacity from six hundred to ten thousand. The virtue of this assignment was that with plentiful manpower and earthmoving machinery I was able to experiment with every stage shape and seating arrangement from Greek to Elizabethan. Upon returning to Northwestern I initiated a course in Production of Premodern Drama, followed by others in Advanced Stage Directing and Directing for the Open Stage. The labs of the directing courses proved ideal for experimentation. I think I can honestly say that I have witnessed more attempts to solve the problems of presenting the court scene in Volpone, the table scene in Tartuffe, and the revelations in Electra than any person alive. School holidays were spent catching up on plays in New York, while summer vacations passed in a round of Shakespearean festivals such as those at Stratford, Ontario; Stratford, Connecticut; Ashland, Oregon; and Antioch, Ohio. Upon reaching retirement age at Northwestern I was offered an appointment as Distinguished Professor of Theatre at Western Kentucky University which provided for more frequent visits to the theatrical centers of Europe.

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