Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shakespeare dreams

My DVD of the new Macbeth with Patrick Stewart arrived the other day, so I decided to watch it to celebrate my last grading-free night for a while. So, naturally, I dreamed about Macbeth, only not Stewart-Macbeth (which is just as well, because that would be a serious nightmare). No, in my dream the Folger and another theater were putting on rival productions of Macbeth, so I went to see both of them. And one of them was a very avant-garde production where there was no seating and the audience got to wander all over the theater and follow the actors around (and, in fact, had to do so, because the sets were full of weird arches and nooks so that you could only see the action from one particular angle). You could even come up on the stage and, for example, stalk the murderers while they were stalking Banquo. It was cool, if completely impractical.

Most of my Shakespeare dreams involve performance. I never seem to dream about teaching Shakespeare, or about being a character in Shakespeare, and very rarely about reading or doing research on Shakespeare. (Except for that one dream where I discovered the original manuscripts of a bunch of Shakespeare's tragedies, and Severus Snape was a character in all of them. He had to be edited out of the final versions because he kept running around concocting antidotes for all the characters who got poisoned and telling the rest of them when they were being idiots, thus converting all the tragedies into non-tragedies. That was an awesome dream. I was very disappointed when I woke up.)

But most of the time, even in dream-world, I'm very conscious that the play is a play. I used to have a recurring dream in which someone forced me to act in a stage production at short notice, ignoring my protests that I didn't have any of the lines memorized. ("You call yourself a Shakespeare scholar and you don't KNOW this stuff by heart?") Usually it was one of two parts, Emilia in Othello or Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice, and I would end up having to ad-lib it. I don't think I've had that dream since grad school. Perhaps it was really a paper-and-dissertation-anxiety dream in another guise.

I wonder what sort of dreams people who work on non-dramatic literature have about their texts?


Lea said...

I saw a production much like your avant-garde dream!Macbeth, except it was of Edward II. It was awesome.

Also, I have dreams about playing Richard II and not knowing the lines even though I know them in real life, so I guess it doesn't matter whether you have things memorized or not.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Wait, you can actually do that sort of thing in non-dreamland? How did it work?

Lea said...

Basically? If the audience got in the way, the actors would shove them aside. (I got shoved a lot. I am a very involved audience member.)

There actually was seating in the balcony, but if you were on the main level there were no seats and thus no separation of audience space and performance space. It made the whole thing dreadfully immediate, especially during the poker scene at the end.

There's a long long long description of it, actually, on my blog; if you click the "edward ii" or "cst" tags you should be able to find it.

Fretful Porpentine said...

OMG, that sounds SO AWESOME.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Wow!! I want to see the Macbeth in your dream. AND the avant-garde Edward II. That would be amazing!!

Dr. Virago said...

Wait, you have the DVD of the Patrick Stewart Macbeth already? Amazon says it's not available until January. Did you get a courtesy copy for teaching? If so, tell me how!

Fretful Porpentine said...

Dr. V. -- PBS online shop. Releases much sooner than Amazon!