On reading Shakespeare to cats

11 09 2008

The first taste of art is spontaneously sensual, it is the discovery of an absorbing entertainment, an absorbing pleasure. If you ask anyone who enjoys ballet or any other art how he got started, he will tell you that he enjoyed it long before he knew what it meant or how it worked. I remember the intense pleasure reading Shelley’s Adonais gave me as a boy – long before I followed accurately the sense of the words; and once, twenty years later, I had two kittens who would purr in unison and watch me bright eyed when I read them Shakespeare’s sonnets, clearly pleased by the compliment and by the sounds they heard. Would they have enjoyed them better if they had understood them? The answer is, they enjoyed them very much. Many a college graduate might have envied them.

-Edwin Denby, from Dance Writings and Poetry

How we mutiliate, then, when we pretend to alter form and style under the pretense that the content remains the same? In reality, we are just as moulded by the exterior of things as by their “profound” and “essential” meanings.


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11 09 2008
Leah

This is why I’ve never been a fan of modern stagings of plays, operas, and ballets. If Shakespeare had wanted cowboys or whatever the Elizabethan equivalent was in his plays, he would have put them there. I’ve noticed that there seems to be a trend in the staging of Wagnerian operas to have excessively minimalistic stagings that resemble something akin to “Star Trek: The Budget Cut Years.” As with anything, be it liturgy, the theater, or any other event, once you change the externals, the way we relate to the activity changes. This is why round churches projects a fundementally different theology than traditional churches. The former reflects egalitarianism, space, and light, whereas the latter suggests hierarchy, clutter (in a good way), and the need for mediation. Incidently, I’ve noticed that post-World War II, Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues also have bad architecture too. Whether or not these groups are as angry about it as Internet Catholics are is unclear though.

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