NOTES – Editing and Cutting: Approaches for Educators, Directors, and Performers

Editing and Cutting: Approaches for Educators, Directors, and Performers
Monday, Feb. 27, 9:45am-12pm
Leader: Rebecca Ennals, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
Resources Used: Powerpoint: Suit the Words to the Action, Rebecca’s Notes: Fit to the Purpose – Adaptation and Editing, Group Assignments – Fit to the PurposeRamparts Scene – F1Ramparts scene – Q1, Ramparts Scene – Q2, Ramparts Scene – Modern edition
Resourced Mentioned: Jeffrey Chips’ graduate thesis on “Extreme Casting”

Summary of session: Rebecca Ennals discusses the many reasons a director will cut and adapt a script, including time, content, and resources available. It’s important that the director be clear about his or her reasons for the adaptation, and to understand who the adaptation is for (know your audience). Working with primary sources instead of those published by other editors encourages and empowers the director to makes his or her own decisions about the text. A breakout activity where 5 different groups were given different parameters under which to cut the first scene of Hamlet led to individual discoveries about how much really can be cut while still being able to tell the story effectively.


Suit the Words to the Action: Adapting and Editing Shakespeare’s plays for different audiences and purposes

Two Ways to perform the plays:

  • perform it all
    • still requires that you choose an edition, and make choices about what themes will be highlighted as well as choices about casting, doubling, etc.
  • perform an edited version (more common choice)
    • requires the above choice, plus:
      • edited for time – tends to be primary reason
      • edited for number of roles, genders of roles
      • edited for purpose/content – educational, professional, experimental
        • have to have the famous stuff when cutting things for kids
        • different cuts for an audience of mostly adults instead of mostly kids
        • if highly experimental company, different adaptation
        • choices for adaptation might have nothing to do with the purpose of the play, but more about logistics
      • editing for message – what are you trying to say with the play?
      • other reasons?
        • Clarity – H. Meltzer
          • to get the point across to the audience in the time we have
        • remove obscure jokes – K. Costa
        • Space issues – T. Burgler
        • Religion – W. Brown
  • Question: has anyone incorporated a narrator?
    • Narrator gives the run-down in Arabic to make sure the audience gets the story – W. Brown
    • 20 minute script for a camp, has entire through line with famous lines, narrator helps facilitate understanding – C. Liffick
    • Gifted kids do a 1-hour presentation around a theme, dots connected with narration – S. Enloe
    • LLL – student wrote a prologue in rapped rhyming couplets – R. Ennals

A History of Adaptations, or reasons not to be a purist

  • Elizabethan/Jacbean Theatre
    • Quarto 1 – considered to be adaptation
      • Shakespeare’s company was likely able to edit on the fly – do the play that fits the moment, suits the purpose
    • Q2 – Scholar’s Version, more complete
  • Restoration
    • “I had sworn I would not leave the stage til I had rescued that noble play from all the rubbish of the fifth act. I have brought it forth without the grave-diggers trick, Osrick, and the fencing match” – David Garrick
  • Victorian theatre
    • addition of scenery
  • 20thCentury
    • “we live in a director’s culture” – not seeing Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, we see Peter Brooks’ Merchant of Venice
  • Question: Anything else that comes up?
    • Lots of retelling of those stories, like “O”, 10 things I hate about you, Lion King, we do it a lot – K. Costa
      • “these plays have become essential mythologies of our culture” – R. Ennals
      • cultural language that we share, if someone’s outside of that culture they don’t get to share
      • however they come into it, they may have seen “O”

From Anthony Carvo’s class – Think before you adapt: Why his play and why your version?

  • What do you love about the play? What speaks urgently to you?
  • Why is this story necessary to tell now? What does it have to say?
  • Why do you want to see this play? What actors do you imagine in it?
  • What about the play sustains your excitement and makes you think about your life and your work in new ways?
  • What in the play helps crystalize your own thinking or feels necessary to share?

Let’s Talk about Hamlet – What are your given circumstances?

How does this show differ based on these parameters?

  • Three-hour prof. Indoor production, major LORT theatre, cast of 12
    • what do you have control of?
      • Sizable budget for Lighting, set,
      • single-cast roles
  • Two-Hour professional outdoor production, major theatre, cast of 9
    • doubling of characters required
    • first scene will be in daylight
    • what are you going to cut? Ideas:
      • Marcellus’s big speech
      • first scene
      • characters of Fortinbras, Voltemond, Rinaldo
      • “how all occasions to inform against me”
      • “I was in a show where Horatio was cut—I was Horatio.” – W. Brown
  • 90-minute high school production, cast of 30
    • no one person plays hamlet
    • lots of players, soldiers
    • add the witches from Macbeth!
    • Double cast the entire show
    • kids are your scenery
    • choosing your venue – can you do more performances?
  • One-hour school and library tour for all ages, cast of 5
    • cut first scene
    • can’t cut the famous, keep the big speeches
    • one actor plays Hamlet
    • Rebecca – I doubled Laertes and Polonius, can’t keep “borrower or lender”
      • family resemblance is striking (ha!)
      • actor can morph into each character onstage – C. Liffick
      • grad student did thesis on “extreme casting” – (see link above, sent from S. Enloe)
      • “be careful not to become too mathematical,” – Terry Burgler
    • How are we making these cuts? – J. Helsinger
      • using word processor, I highlight everything I like, have a rough idea of how many words to hit, word count at end of each cut. Depends on each show, how many fights, dances, etc? How are other people getting to “I know it’s 90 minutes now?”
        • Terry Burgler – use number of pages
        • S. Enloe – 2200-2400 lines, unless heavily dance/fight oriented
        • 8-9,000 words usually approx. 1-hour – R. Ennals
        • 4-5,000 words for camps
        • need to consider preshow speech, etc.
  • Half Hour camp show, elementary school, cast of 15
    • big sword fight at end
    • ghost
    • add narrator (or several)
    • couple of hamlets and ophelias
    • choral presentation of soliloquies
    • do only play within a play (like Midsummer, just doing Pyramus and Thisbe)
  • Performance in a church
    • not the syphilis jokes
    • need to be careful not to make it a blanket rule to censor for your audience, job is to challenge – T. Burgler
      • what boundaries are worth pushing?
      • some kids don’t understand the innuendo, but they do if you make it clear
        • “if you do your job then you’re in trouble” – Jim Helsinger
    • example: all women production of Merry Wives in a Muslim University
      • overt dick jokes were cut
      • pushed boundaries with some of the physicality. Hand kiss was controversial. “we pick and choose our battles” – W. Brown


  • Primary
    • Q1 – (“bad quarto”) 1603, shortest version, some garbled text, published by actor playing Marcellus?
    • Q2 – 1604-5, longest
  • Edited Versions
    • Folger, Arden, Riverside, Cambridge, Oxford, Penguin/Pelican, You!
    • R. Ennals – encourages adaptors to use primary sources instead of edited versions

Break-out activity

Enhanced by Zemanta

One response to “NOTES – Editing and Cutting: Approaches for Educators, Directors, and Performers

  1. So sorry I missed this one…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s