Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Freely Adapted as a One-Act Play from A Midsummer Night's Dream

McMahon, Luella. The Lovers in Midsummer. Chicago: The Dramatic Publishing Company, 1970.
Something odd just fell off my shelf. I used to remember the history of most of the books I have—it's part of the joy of book ownership to be able to say, "Oh, yeah! I got that at Lobster Lane Books in the late 1990s" instead of "Oh, yeah! I downloaded that to my Kindle at an airport somewhere sometime." But I have no idea where this volume came from!

It's a pretty maudlin adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream designed (I deduce from the chart on where Upstage Left is) for amateur productions. It cuts the rude mechanicals, adds a maid named Felicia for Hermia, and gives us some Shakespeare-sounding speeches—e.g., "But these be modern days and modern ways" (5).

What struck me, however, was the opening advice. We are advised to avoid "declaiming Shakespeare as if reading a song, as read, for example, by Sir John Gielgud" and to follow the manner "made familiar by Richard Burton" (4) instead. Embodied in that brief note is a really interesting slice of stage history—and one that continues to evolve. Contemporary amateurs might be advised to avoid the Burton and cling to the Branagh—or to skip the Branagh and go for the Tennant approach.


There are a few used copies available at amazon.com—starting at $15.00. Perhaps I won't put this out on the free table after all!
Click below to purchase the play from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

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