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Archive for Sunday, October 31, 2010

KU production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to feature original dialect

Paul Meier, KU theater professor and dialect expert, right, directs actors in rehearsal for the production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The play will be spoken in “original pronunciation,” which is what the play would have sounded like performed in Shakespeare’s day. It will be the first full-length Shakespeare production completely in original pronunciation in North America. Performances will be 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-13 and Nov. 19-20 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 14 and 21 in Crafton-Preyer Theatre in KU’s Murphy Hall.

Paul Meier, KU theater professor and dialect expert, right, directs actors in rehearsal for the production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The play will be spoken in “original pronunciation,” which is what the play would have sounded like performed in Shakespeare’s day. It will be the first full-length Shakespeare production completely in original pronunciation in North America. Performances will be 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-13 and Nov. 19-20 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 14 and 21 in Crafton-Preyer Theatre in KU’s Murphy Hall.

October 31, 2010

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Shakespeare Original Pronunciation

The KU theater department is preparing the first North American production of a Shakespeare play done in 'original pronunciation.' The performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" starts Nov. 11, 2010 at KU's Murphy Hall. Enlarge video

Senior J.T. Nagle as Puck, left, rehearses "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with original 17th century early modern English. At right is associate KU theater director John Staniunas as Oberon.

Senior J.T. Nagle as Puck, left, rehearses "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with original 17th century early modern English. At right is associate KU theater director John Staniunas as Oberon.

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One cast member likened it to a kind of “Pirate Irish.”

Those putting on the upcoming production of the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Kansas University will be speaking using a dialect that’s rarely been heard in the last 400 years.

They’re using the so-called “original pronunciation” — an effort to recreate what the play would have sounded like performed at the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare’s day.

So when Puck utters the famous line, “Lord, what fools these mortals be,” the word “fools” sounds more like “foals,” and the word “be” becomes “bay.”

Still, the dialect is understandable to audiences — if it weren’t there’d be no point in putting on the production, said director Paul Meier, a KU theater professor and dialect expert.

The cast worked with David Crystal, a British expert on original pronunciation, who told them that they would be staging the first full-length Shakespeare production completely in original pronunciation in North America.

“He held the key to unlocking a portal back to 1600,” Meier said.

The cast also worked with scripts with vowels written phonetically, accompanied by recordings of the entire script made by Crystal.

“It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard,” said Matt Gieschen, a senior from Overland Park who plays Theseus. He then paused for a bit. “Well, it’s like everything you’ve ever heard, really.”

Other cast members described auditions where one person lapsed into a thick Irish brogue, and another fell into a Jamaican accent.

It’s about pacing — it’s quicker and more guttural than the refined Shakespeare of Sir John Gielgud, Meier said.

The stage becomes Meier’s laboratory, and the play a science experiment — but it’s worth the extra work, the actors said.

“All the rhymes work,” said Festus Shaughnessy, a junior English major from St. Louis. After all, he said, those couplets are meant to rhyme, and it’s not like Shakespeare was a bad poet.

And it unlocks a new set of double entendres that were always meant to be there, but weren’t quite understandable before.

For instance, Shaughnessy said, in one play, a scene makes light of the fact that the word “hour” and “whore” are pronounced the same. That works when you use the original pronunciation, as both words sound close to the word “oar.”

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-13 and Nov. 19-20, and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in KU’s Murphy Hall.

The cast will spend several days in the recording studios at Kansas Public Radio creating a radio drama production with music and sound effects.

That production will be available through radio broadcast, podcasts and a CD.

Comments

sad_lawrencian 4 years, 1 month ago

How about just putting on the play and forgetting stupid mechinations of changing the dialogue and altering pronunciation? What's wrong with just mounting a simple production of the play? This is Shakespeare after all, why would anyone need to go and screw around with that? (Yes I know the article says they're not changing the dialogue, but if they're pronouncing words like "fools" as "foals", that's change enough to me.) Seriously, people.

parrothead8 4 years, 1 month ago

"What's wrong with just mounting a simple production of the play? This is Shakespeare after all, why would anyone need to go and screw around with that?"

It's kind of sad how you presume that a Shakespearean performance in American English is the norm. In fact, we've been screwing around with Shakespeare since his plays were first performed, and the English language has changed quite a bit since Shakespeare's day.

Now we have a chance to hear Shakespeare as he intended his writing to be heard. This is Shakespeare, after all. Why would anyone screw around with his writing as he intended it to be heard?

JustNoticed 4 years, 1 month ago

Wow. Did you read past the headline? What an unhappy drudge you are.

tcohen 4 years, 1 month ago

View videos of a scene with original pronunciation and an interview with Prof Meier and Mr Crystal at http://www.news.ku.edu/2010/october/22/shakespeare.shtml

sad_lawrencian 4 years, 1 month ago

I watched the video; these people sound like idiots. If I want to hear Shakespeare in an Irish brogue, I'll go to Ireland.

Tricky Gnosis 4 years, 1 month ago

Hey, sad_lawrencian: when you point a finger at someone, you point four back at yourself. In other words, a person's criticisms often reveal much more about the person criticizing than they do the criticized. Just sayin': you may want to watch what you call idiotic.

bastet 4 years, 1 month ago

My goodness! Let's not engage in any educational experiences; let's not stretch our minds a bit; let's not examine a new perspective; let's not learn a bit before we judge.

Don't worry, Shakespeare's plays have survived a great deal worse than an attempt to restage them in OP. They've even survived narrow, simple-minded dolts who post on newspaper blogs. To avoid the "horror" of this production--let me see--what could be done? Oh, I know: don't attend! And then you can continue to spout off your self-absorbed inanities to your heart's content.

Steve Bunch 4 years, 1 month ago

I plan to attend, and all's fair in Shakespeare. Nevertheless, KU's theater productions--for decades now--have gone for gimmickry. It does make one wonder if they could just play it straight.

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