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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *