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Double Shakespeares

Emotional-Realist Acting and Contemporary Performance (Shakespeare and the Stage)

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press


Double Shakespeares examines contemporary performances of Shakespeare plays that employ the “emotional realist” traditions of acting that were codified by Stanislavski over a century ago. These performances recognize the inescapable doubleness of realism: that the actor may aspire to be the character but can never fully do so. This doubleness troubled the late-nineteenth-century actors and theorists who first formulated realist modes of acting; and it equally troubles theorists and theatre practitioners today. The book first looks at contemporary performances that foreground the doubleness of the actor’s body, particularly through cross-dressing. It then examines narratives of Shakespearean rehearsal—both fictional representations of rehearsal in film and video, and eye-witness narratives of actual rehearsals—and how they show us the process by which the actor does or does not “become” the character. And, finally, it looks at modern performances that “frame” Shakespeare’s play as a play-within-a-play, showing the audience both the character in the Shakespeare play-within and the actor in the frame-play acting that character.