Monday, November 1, 2010

*Eyes* and *Qualities* finally rhyme again!

It must be like watching the original, unadulterated, completely undigital versions of Star Wars!

In ten days, students at Kansas University will be performing the first original pronunciation performance of Shakespeare to take place in the United States: A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I encourage you to watch their video on YouTube, where you can watch them in rehearsal and hear the original rhymes preserved.  Click here for a detailed article on the production.

This production, of course, has me thinking about authenticity.  Is the production going to be more authentic because the actors will be speaking as Shakespeare did?  Because the rhymes are finally going to ring true in our ears, as they haven't in hundreds of years?  I really enjoy listening to original pronunciation (OP), not that I have many opportunities to do so.  The first place I heard it was in Ian McKellen's Acting Shakespeare, which aired on TV in 1982 but has just come to DVD in 2010!  He does a very small bit of Macbeth in OP and it's just extraordinary to hear.  I really couldn't say what the experience of hearing the entire play in OP would be like.  I suspect my ear would get used to it rather quickly, but I have a pretty decent ear for accents.  Would I get too caught up in the rhymes?  What if the actors themselves are not very good?  The novelty of OP is not going to last very long if Helena is not terribly compelling, right?  I can only speculate, since unfortunately there's no way I can make it to Kansas to see the production.

But it's quite a question, does OP make the production more authentic?  I think perhaps it does to a certain extent, at least historically speaking.  In calling us back to our language's past (as Paul Meier points out in the video, this is the accent the first Americans would have had), there seems to be a sense of the authentic.  We tend to value our roots, our origins.  This, however, is not the sense of authenticity I am seeking this semester.  Not quite.  As I mentioned above, if the actors do not present a compelling story, I don't care what sort of English is coming out of their mouths.  So it appears I have one small requirement to add to this definition... for something to be authentic, it must be compelling.  Well, it's a beginning.

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