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  • A Tale of Twelfth Night:Music, Performance, and the Pursuit of Authenticity
  • Amanda Eubanks Winkler

In the summer of 2017 the perennial favorite, Twelfth Night, was performed again at Shakespeare's Globe in London, this time under the direction of Emma Rice, who departed as artistic director after only two seasons. Rice had a well-publicized dispute with the Globe's board over her use of sound amplification and stage-focused lighting at the theater, elements that board members felt distracted from the raison d'être of the Globe: to explore historical performance conditions in a reconstructed early modern space. In keeping with her postmodern aesthetic, Rice's production of Twelfth Night featured modern stage lighting, amplified disco hits, and a basso profundo drag performer playing the role of Feste. Obviously, what audiences heard and saw in Rice's Twelfth Night was a world away from the sounds heard in Tim Carroll's production of Twelfth Night, first performed at Middle Temple Hall and the Globe (2002) and later revived at the Globe, in the West End, and on Broadway (in 2012–2014). This was an "original practices" production, a performance approach collaboratively developed in the mid-1990s by personnel at the Globe: Mark Rylance (who served as Artistic Director), Jenny Tiramani (Director of Theatre Design), and Claire van Kampen (Director of Music). Carroll's Twelfth Night featured an all-male cast of actors clad in meticulous reproductions of Renaissance costumes, early modern approaches to staging, including the lighting design (the lights were kept on throughout the performance and dripping beeswax candles hung above the stage), and music from Shakespeare's time arranged by van Kampen and played on period instruments, as I observed when I attended the Broadway production at the Belasco Theatre in January 2014.1 [End Page 251]

Because of the ongoing tensions and controversies associated with the Globe's mission, it seems an appropriate time to re-evaluate the "original practices" approach and its relationship to discourses of authenticity. Theater historians and literary scholars have examined "original practices" from various perspectives, but my essay focuses primarily on its musical components. Because music is a highly specialized field, there has been less academic consideration of musical choices within "original practices" productions, although David Lindley has written an important essay on the subject ("Music, Authenticity, and Audience") and van Kampen, the music director for Twelfth Night, has described her creative process in multiple venues. Indeed, the lens through which people understand "original practices" is field-dependent; therefore, in order to contextualize my discussion of music in Twelfth Night I first focus on how the engagement with historical performance plays out differently with regards to costuming, directing choices, and acting practices, demonstrating that music occupies a special position within the "original practices" paradigm. Music's inherent ephemerality, the lack of contemporary settings of Shakespeare's songs, and the imprecision of early modern notation make it the most slippery art to co-opt in service of the "original practices" project. Furthermore, it is through the study of music in "original practices" productions that the problems inherent in claims to authenticity become most evident. My analysis also reveals the false dichotomy between the supposed historicism of "original practices" and the postmodernism of Regietheater, for, as we shall see, "original practices" productions tell us just as much about our current preoccupations as the most radically anachronistic performance of Shakespeare.

Divergent philosophies of "original practices"

Directors, production designers, and musicians speak different disciplinary languages and have different expectations, and this was borne out in the ways the creative team discussed Twelfth Night specifically and "original practices" more generally. The director Tim Carroll and production designer Jenny Tiramani made the strongest connection between "original practices" and authenticity. Carroll emphasized the importance of a historically accurate architectural space (such as the Globe or the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse) for excavating past performance practices and thereby the essential meanings of early modern plays: "If we could only perform the plays in something like their original conditions […] we should surely learn something about their true nature" (Carroll, "Director Tim Carroll"). Tiramani's essay in the Broadway Playbill [End Page 252] is titled "Striving for Authenticity," and in it...