Clowns, Lovers, and Women in Pants Successfully Performed by Oklahoma City University School of Theatre, USA

On the afternoon of October 20th, Clowns, Lovers, and Women in Pants was performed as the last performance of WTEA Theatre Festival, at the proscenium stage in Changping Campus of the Central Academy of Drama. This theatre selected a series of the most interesting scenes and monologues in Shakespeare's work and analyzed its particular connotation with the interpretation of clowns, lovers, and women in pants.

The performance is based on ten Shakespeare's play including The Twelfth Night, A Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, All's Well That Ends Well, The Merry Wives of Windsor, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, and A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as comic scenes from tragedies like Hamlet and Macbeth. This performance stringed major themes from different Shakespeare's productions together with the three kinds of characters as the clue and mixed abundant comic elements.

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The production explored the role of the clown (and the fool) by looking at the distinct differences between some of the iconic roles written for Shakespeare's two great comic actors: Will Kemp and Robert Armin and compared the clown with the fool. It combined simple action with trenchant court words to express two different comic styles in different age, and achieved great success in its comic effect.

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Besides, this performance analyzed the function of battle between lovers in comic scenes, like the mediation between Viola and Olivia in The Twelfth Night, the conquer to Katharina by Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew, as well as the quarrel between Lysander and Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

There is also a reflection about the confusion to the core of Shakespeare's comedy caused by the "pants" obliged to Elizabethan women. In Shakespeare's work, women had to disguise themselves as men to achieve their goals due to the limit set by the social environment and gender, which "left a chance for demons".

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During the performance, the actors on the stage not only played the roles in Shakespeare's play, but also worked as the story teller or the commentator of the character beyond the situation of the play. This expression somehow revealed the performing style in Elizabethan age, and made it possible for actors to interact with the audience directly.

The simple stage design minimized the use of property and music, which made the text and lines the focus of the production. It also helped the audience feel the great literary value of Shakespeare's work.

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In the morning of October 17th, the workshop was held in Thrust Stage Theatre in Chang Ping campus of The Central Academy of Drama, by Professor Lance Marsh, Head of Performance in the School of Theatre at Oklahoma City University. The title of the workshop is Wall-to-Wall Shakespeare: Choice-Making through an exploration of the humors.

In Shakespeare's England, it was generally accepted that the body was composed of four humors (or vital fluids). The Elizabethans believed that an imbalance in the humors could cause illness and disordered personality. Prof. Lance believes that Shakespeare uses humoristic nomenclature to describe the traits of characters in his plays. In essence, the humors were what passed for psychology for the Elizabethans.

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In order to offer a clear perspective through which contemporary actors may discover aspects of their characters, in this workshop, Prof. Lance prepared a specially designed acting place. Each corner of the space is marked with signs that denote the four humors: sanguine, choler, phlegm and melancholy. Each of the four walls is marked by signs corresponding to specific attributes shared by the humors. First Prof. Lance asked the participants to perform a monologue in specified emotion and then to walk towards the opposite direction. The actors shall gradually change their emotion in this process. In 14 separate but linked exercises, the actors could stimulate buried impulses and clarify major beat changes which helps them have a visceral understanding of the Elizabethan concept of the humors and how those humors help define their character. It also offered a normative emotion training system for the performance.

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