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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What do you think of cutting lines and scenes from Shakespearean plays for live production?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25799 points ) July 20th, 2012

I’ve worked with directors who cut not a single word and expected the performances to be absolutely word perfect, and I’ve personally edited Love’s Labour’s Lost cutting 10% of the lines.

What do you think of cutting Shakespeare’s work?

How would you chose what to cut or keep?

I’m currently performing in a production of Richard III which has had many lines cut and even a couple of characters. The play is still 3.5 hours long, and the actors are in no way dragging their feet on stage. The action really moves.

What stays in and what goes?

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13 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Nothing should be cut. Those plays were written for live performances, and they were able to do it back then, why not today?

Trillian's avatar

You could replace Hamelt’s soliloquy with an explosive sex scene

Sunny2's avatar

Cutting Shakespeare is done all the time; there’s no shame in it. Times are different than they were in his time and our modern audiences are often accommodated. What is cut is up to the director. Just don’t cut the lines I love most.

josie's avatar

I like and appreciate Shakespeare.
I understand that there may be lots of reasons to edit it for production. But I would expect to be told BEFORE I bought the ticket that the play had been been modified for the sake of time or political correctness or whatever. And if I was not told, and I thought the edit was significant, I would consider asking for my money back

filmfann's avatar

I knew a Shakespeare teacher once said that, uncut, Hamlet would run over 4 hours.

josie's avatar

@filmfann @Hawaii_Jake The plays are long. So what? So is a football game, and football fans still go. Why would anybody go to a Shakespeare play without knowing up front that they wanted to enjoy some Shakespeare?

Blueroses's avatar

Just from my Shakespeare production experience, I learned that the in the original “two hours traffic of the stage” the words were spoken much more rapidly and there were “actions to suit the words” that were universally understood by attendees.

In these times, we expect the emotive to come from the way the words are spoken, dramatic pauses and all. We don’t have the action codes, nor do we want them. That means some text must be cut.

It’s perfectly fine for a director to update the classics. In fact, it’s pretty much vital to the continuing appeal of these plays to have a director’s take on the story. I think of The Goodbye Girl “Richard was gay there’s no doubt about it. But let’s use that as subtext.”

DominicX's avatar

Honestly, I feel the same way about ballet, but I suppose it’s too expensive. Tchaikovsky’s ballets Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, for example, are about 2½ hours long in their original form, but most productions today cut them down to 2 hours each. I suppose the same goes for plays, but that’d probably be a bit more difficult because you’d be cutting out parts of the story.

I tend to be a purist when it comes to live performances, whether plays, symphonies, ballets, operas, so I’d rather hear the whole thing and I’d be willing to stay the extra length to hear the whole thing uncut, but I’d also rather hear a slightly-truncated version than not hear it at all…

Blueroses's avatar

Yes @DominicX, I can be a purist too, but I love seeing different company’s takes on interpretation. It keeps the thing alive!

Just this week, I saw Hamlet (for the millionth time) and wished the director had made different choices. This Hamlet was sullen and spent a lot of time mumbling into corners. That could have been effective if the mics and sound system was working, but alas, they were not. This production relied heavily on technology and didn’t adapt to electronics going down.

wundayatta's avatar

I think it is foolish to make judgments about always be true or do whatever you want. It all depends on the goal of your project. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish you may need to make cuts or you may need to keep everything exactly as published (which is not the same as exactly as written).

Aethelflaed's avatar

I prefer to see as much as possible, but since Shakespeare himself often had several different versions of the same play, I don’t think the case for purity is all that strong. And while I’d rather, say, the Globe theater or Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company be more on the pure side, for most Shakespeare performances – small theaters, In The Parks, festivals, off-Broadway, etc – it’s important to constantly be having a new spin and keep creating, for revenue if not for intellectual curiosity.

Blueroses's avatar

exactly! @Aethelflaed .

Find your own interpretation of R3, and make it yours.

Own your presentation (and cut a lot. R3 has more verbage than necessary)

6rant6's avatar

It’s performance, not liturgy. Cut!

I like some attempts at “authenticity” but really, for theater to persist we need to make it fresh and relevant, not calcified and obscure.

I’ll bet a hell of a lot of people learned more about Shakespeare from “Reduced” than they did from seeing full length plays.

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