Ask Philippa: Off-season Edition!

Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts and answers your questions on our upcoming 2012 season programming and about productions past.

Philippa Kelly by Jay Yamada

Photo by Jay Yamada.

Throughout his 20-year writing career, Shakespeare was fascinated with metaphors of rehearsing and scripting: the very things we do in life to re-make the past and to predict and forestall the future. No matter how we might wish it, there is no rehearsal that can prepare us for, or insulate us against, the vagaries of life itself; and there are limitless possibilities for misspeaking our intentions and mishearing what we ought to understand. This is the stuff of comedy as well as tragedy, history as well as romance.

What was Shakespeare doing in the “lost years”, the period immediately prior to 1592? What were his preoccupations when the 35-year-old author wrote Hamlet, at the end of the 16th century? Why was The Tempest one of his very last plays, even though up to that time he was in still in the full vigor of his life and production schedule? Thoughts, questions, opinions about Shakespeare or about any of his plays (they need not just concern Hamlet and The Tempest), are welcome in the “comments” section below. Also welcome are questions about George C. Wolfe and Zora Neale Hurston, whose Spunk we’ll be doing next season, as well as Noël Coward, whose Blithe Spirit is third in the Main Stage line-up.



7 thoughts on “Ask Philippa: Off-season Edition!

  1. Here is a response to a question on the Ask Philippa Shrew Blog:
    An attention-grabbing dialogue is worth comment. I feel that you must
    write more on this matter, it might not be a taboo subject but
    generally people are not enough to talk on such topics. To the next.
    Cheers Mariann

    Hello Mariann,

    It’s interesting, the fact that you’ve honed in on the
    attention-grabbing dialogue. The dialogue you mention between Katherine
    and Petruchio is like a jousting match – building to a crescendo and
    then – who has won? Petruchio, ostensibly – but has he indeed himself
    capitulated? This play was written very early in Shakespeares career –
    and it evidences something he’d continue to work over again and again –
    a fascination with words as the mechanism of communication we trust –
    but words that also continue to fail us. Mis-speaking and mis-hearing – this is what humans do so regularly and predictably, and Shakespeare’s dramatic moments thrive on this.

  2. Hi Philippa, Happy New Year! Have you heard about a theatre group in New York- Punchdrunk? I heard about their production of Macbeath on my way home from NY in Nov. It takes place in a warehouse, with the action in different places, on different levels. The audience is free to follow the actors, check out the rooms and props, all the while wearing masks. I found a review when I googled “Macbeath” productions in New York. I’m not computer literate to email the review or send you the link. I’m not sure how CalShakes could do this kind of production, but I thought the idea was worth sharing with you. Looking forward to this year’s season. See you soon. Nancy

    • Dear Nancy,
      Thanks so much for sending this and I will definitely look it up. It’s lovely to get a posting over the holidays – the blog is a bit quiet in the off-season – so if you have any other thoughts or questions please don’t hesitate to write.

  3. A new question: Are the dates for the Scoops set yet? They are so wonderful, I’d like to get those on the calendar. Will they be at the Orinda Library? Have we outgrown that location yet? It seems like we are getting close. And maybe another carton of ice cream. Some of us who can’t get there early sometimes miss out. Thank you. Nancy

    • Hello Nancy,
      Sorry I didn’t get this email till now. I wasn’t alerted to it because we have been waiting to get the Scoop dates finalized – but because it’s taken a little longer than we hoped, we wanted to just let you know we are delighted that people are gearing up for the season already. So the minute we get the dates finalized, marketing will let me know and I’ll put them on the blog. Hopefully we can also up the administration of the dose of ice cream.

      warm wishes, and see you soon at the Tempest Scoop!

  4. Philippa,
    In his late plays, Shakespeare tends to employ what you term a “providential framework.” Do you think that he is making a statement about how the play is NOT like the world, i.e., does he heighten the artificial quality of the operation of providence in these plays to drive home the point that the only place providence works in on the stage?


  5. Hello Nina,
    I think this is a really good question.
    I think Shakespeare is suggesting that the play is, and is not, like
    the world – that, in a sense, the world is like a play although it
    extends beyond the proportions of the Globe and Blackfriars Theaters. Why do we have
    these notions of God’s divine plan? Is God like a playwright,
    ultimately holding the reins of our existence, so that whatever we do
    is really no more than a strutting and fretting upon a much wider and
    more incomprehensible stage that is ultimately controlled by someone
    else? Or is a playwright like God – a kind-of mimicry of God –
    mirroring the Divine power in the magical and supreme power of his pen
    (‘So long as men can breathe, and eyes can see/So long lives this, and
    this gives life to thee’)? I often think of all Hamlet’s agonizing,
    which gives way, in the end, to a surrender to providence: ‘There is a
    special providence in the fall of a sparrow.’ In a sense there is a
    reassurance in being able to give over control to some higher power –
    although this means loss of one’s own perceived autonomy. We humans
    see-saw between these extremes – wanting to believe that there is an
    ultimate plan and that we don’t have to take responsibility for every
    little decision because ‘God has his plan’ – and, conversely, wanting
    to believe that we HAVE the power, we CAN shape our destinies. Hamlet
    stood at the cusp of this uncertainty. Cymbeline (written in 1611) too – but Cymbeline is
    less important as a consciousness and more important as a dramatic
    structure that both questions and resolves and, in the end, leaves us
    with tantalizing strings yet to pull.

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