Directors! What Do You Cut, And Why?

I know I’ve got a bunch of directors in the audience.  Here’s a question I’ve never asked before, and I have no frame of reference for answering:

What’s the single largest piece of text you’ve cut from a production, and why did you pick it?

I’m specifically curious about how big a passage can get, while still being something that a director will say “Nope!  Don’t need that!”  Excising 50 lines throughout the play is very different than getting rid of a single speech of 50 lines, I’d assume.

Giving lines to another character doesn’t count.  This is about bits where you made the choice to leave some stuff on the floor.

7 thoughts on “Directors! What Do You Cut, And Why?

  1. Largest cut I've ever made is also the most conventional: I cut both of the Hecate appearances from Macbeth. My rationale was that they were not useful for the story I was telling with Macbeth and that they were almost certainly not written by Shakespeare anyway.

  2. I directed Twelfth Night for a competition, so had to cut it down to 40 minutes. I ended up taking out the part where Malvolio is put in prison and is essentially tortured by Toby, Andrew, and Feste.
    I hate this part of the play anyways because it takes a funny practical joke and turns it borderline cruel by making Malvolio basically go insane.

  3. I always wondered about cutting Margaret out of Richard III. I love the character, but she doesn't necessarily bring anything into the main plot that isn't also brought by other characters (other than the prophecy, which I can do without). Anytime I've spoken about it it's been met with virtual hostility…which of course makes me want to explore it all the more.

  4. Romeo & Juliet 4.3.182. This passage where Peter dismisses the musicians, is a welcome interlude, but is never included in any production that I know of.

  5. I've done a lot of productions with kids, where deeply painful cuts are a necessary evil.

    The hardest such choice I ever had to make was cutting the actors from Midsummer. Just lovers and fairies. The Bottomless Dream, if you will.

    Tyler, I am a huge fan of Margaret, both in general and in Richard III, so I understand that anger. But remember that this is the fourth play in a tetralogy, and Margaret is in all four plays. What she brings is a reminder of the shared history of the characters and a sense of continuity in the story.

    Modern audiences likely won't be aware of this history, and modern performances of Richard III are generally done as a stand-alone. So I think you really can cut Margaret. You lose the prophecy, as you say, and I think that's a big loss, but the play survives quite well without it.

  6. You also lose the commiserating widows scene, which though not strictly essential to the plot, is my favorite scene.

  7. You also lose the commiserating widows scene which, though not strictly essential to the story, is my favorite scene.

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