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In order to work with and critique the evolving relationship between films of staged Shakespeare and Shakespearean "feature" films, we must engage the issues raised by the intersection of performative "liveness" that depends upon the potential of reproducibility and the ephemeral present life often posited as the precondition of performance. The shift presently occurring between media forms brings this conflict into particularly sharp focus because such remediations call into question the reproduction of stage performance and register anew a history of encoding "liveness." This article examines four filmed stage productions in the Broadway Theatre Archive: (Much Ado about Nothing (1972 -- New York Film Festival); King Lear (1974 - New York Shakespeare Festival/James Earl Jones); The Taming of the Shrew (1976 - San Francisco Repertory Theatre); and Hamlet (1990 - New York Shakespeare Festival/Kevin Kline). While the filmed productions of the 1970s should and do differ from the 1990 Hamlet and later television productions, the more intriguing discovery concerns how the weaknesses and strengths in the representation/invocation of "liveness" throughout these productions extend our understanding of how stage production might affect cinematic recording as significantly as cinema influences staging. Following William Uricchio's insistence that we should address pivotal issues in theorizing new "media historical practice", the article explores the filmed stage production in terms of what Uricchio calls "intermedial redefinition of media. As the techniques that register "liveness" evolve (or perhaps oscillate), so, too, it argues, does the viewer's contextual understanding of the many filmed Shakespeares, recreating as well as reproducing Shakespearean performance.
Shakespeare,Digital remediation,Liveness,Cinema,Viewer experience,Feature film