What, Midsummer Again?

We ended up with something of a quality theme this week, so I’ve got one more to round it out.   Could you watch Hamlet 30 times?  Or any play?  I expect you probably could.  Because it’s different every time, and we’re all fascinated by what each new production will bring to the table. Say that a really awesome cable network is running a different version of Midsummer, every night for a week (or more).  If you’re like me, you try to catch them all (assuming, of course, that you haven’t seen them all already to the point where you’re bored.  Humor me.)  Now what if they’re showing the exact same version every day for a week?  How many times do you watch? Thought exercises like this are tricky in the days of “buy the DVD”, but hopefully you get my point.  Shakespeare’s words are frozen in time, but performance is not.  Thus we have an infinite variety to go enjoy.  But what if you took a single performance and froze it in time? How would it stand up? This is not a Shakespeare specific question, of course.  You may have The Godfather, or Lord of the Rings, on DVD sitting in your collection right now. And we’ll all agree those are very good movies.  But when’s the last time you watched them?  What made you stop?  When did you decide you’d had enough?

7 thoughts on “What, Midsummer Again?

  1. I don't think I could watch any particular film many times in a row, or even many evenings in a row. My favorite Shakespeare films I may be able to watch a few times, but that would be all.

    That said, if I had the opportunity to see a staged production for multiple performances, I would take it in a heartbeat. Just using recent productions as examples, I could have seen Jude Law's Hamlet or the Public's Merchant of Venice every single night of their runs and enjoyed them more each time. When "Long Day's Journey Into Night" was playing Broadway, I saw it 5 times. It was very expensive, but probably taught me more about acting, drama, art, and life than any class a proper "tuition" has ever gotten me. I can't sit through the film version more than once a year.

  2. I don't think it's entirely because of the slight variation in a live performance, but I think that's part of it. I think it's even more because of the possibility of larger variation.

    Even though it rarely happens, just knowing that someone could trip and fall, it could starting pouring rain, or the actor may have an amazingly transcendent moment and give the most fantastic performance of their lives; Just knowing that anything could happen makes me much more engaged than when watching a film.

    Mostly, I think it's the fact that I am physically in the same space as the performance. If an actor addresses his soliloquy to the audience, he really is addressing *us* – This specific group of people, of which I am a member. Heck if he wanted to, he could jump of the stage and grab me. If I really wanted to (and wasn't afraid of the consequences), I could jump on the stage and grab him!
    A film on repeated viewings will always remain the same, to nobody's surprise. A live performance could be exactly the same as the night before; but if it is, that's just as surprising as the variations would be, and in fact quite impressive.

  3. A very good question. I could watch the British Royal Theatre Production of Hamlet with David Tennant a few more times but I had to call Lord of the Rings quits for 4 years after watching them at least 5 times. I could, however, always read the books again.

  4. Ok Chris, why? Is it because with a live performance, something is different every night? Or is it the idea that with performance you can't pause and rewind like you can with DVD, so yuo have to see it many times to fully appreciate what you miss? If you could record a live performance, would you play it back multiple times? That's different from saying just any old movie version, where actor and director collaborated on multiple takes before choosing which they prefer. If you just record any old performance you're getting it for what it is, warts and all.

  5. I think you can go through Hamlet's murderous downward spiral to ruin as many times as you can live it yourself. You watch, you live. When you stop living it, you stop watching or reading it.

    My wife, when she watches TV, just has it on as background noise. I'm in the other room in front of the computer or something. When I ask her what's the deal with all the yelling, isn't that show awful, how can you watch SO MUCH TV? I find out that I'm absorbing more of it than she is. I can't watch TV because it seeps through my pores and drives me crazy. She's in front of that thing nearly ever chance she gets, but hardly notices it.

    Anyway, watch and live. Turn off the TV and live!

  6. I overdosed on LotR a couple of years ago (was part of a geek message board); haven't watched it since, and probably won't for a while. But Shakespeare … I can watch Branagh's Much Ado as often as there's time, and the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's Twelfth Night (a recording of a live production)? Yes, please. And new-to-me productions are as good – it's geekily great fun to see the decisions made by the producer and directors and actors.

    I guess I have a high tolerance for repetition when it comes to my geekinesses.

  7. I haven't watched any film adaptation of Shakespeare, or even seen one in theatre. Whenever I try, I get embarassed at the directorial decisions–usually when they try to force realism in highly dramatic poetry. We're all directors as we read the plays ourselves, and it makes for a very enjoyable experience.

    I think I could re-read almost any Shakespeare daily. Hell, I KNOW I could re-read Antony & Cleopatra daily. Some plays are so enjoyably thick I re-read acts as I finish them.

    But adaptations, I don't know. I need to first find one I actually enjoy.

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