What? He Was Supposed to Be Funny! OOH!!!

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From "Life os a Dream" by Pedro Calderon de la Barca:

SEG:       In that case, I shall put you to death,

                to prevent your knowing that I know

                that you know my weakness

                   Merely because you overheard me,

                with my brawy arms

                I must tear you to shred.

CLA:       As for me, I’m deaf, and I wasn’t able

                to listen to you. (15)

As stupid as I will probably sound saying this, I didn't realize how funny Clarin was until I saw the play!  When I saw the play, Matt Henderson did a fantastic job at presenting Clarin.  I have now seen Henderson in two plays (this one and "The Merry Wives of Windsor") and he brings life to the stage and a character.  He was so funny even when he was just on the stage saying nothing!  His facial expressions and clear speech patterns make him great to watch and easy to listen to.

My chosen scene reminded me of the scene in Wedding Crashers when Vince Vohn pretends to be deaf in order to avoid confronting a woman he had former relations with.  Both characters pretend to be deaf to avoid an uncomfortable situation. 

As for my viewing experience, it wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been.  The audience, besides Greta, Kayley, and me, (it seems) didn't realize that the play has comedic elements.  I found myself laughing obnoxiously loud (slightly louder than I'd normally laugh) to try to make up for the crowd's lack of a reaction.  I felt so bad for the actors because they were so good, and I mean that with all my heart, and the audience was dead.  Being that we were at the first show, I think that the actors could have used a more enthusiastic audience.

I could honestly not say enough about the cast.  They were very strong, each bringing a unique personality to their characters.  Their brilliant acting really helped each character come alive, jump right off the page.  If Pedro Calderon de la Barca were alive today, he would have loved the presentation.  I want to take this time to really congratulate the cast a a job very well done!  (I have a hard time reading plays because I have difficulty developing the characters in my mind and keeping them straight.  Seeing this play was enlightening and really enhanced my understanding!)

What did you think?  What struck you about the performance as opposed to reading the play (if you've read it)?  Who was your favorite character?




Sue said:

Hey Angela, I just saw the play tonight and haven't read the play yet, so I haven't blogged about them yet, actually I'm still trying to catch up on other stuff, but anyways. I liked the play too. You are right about the comedic characters. Shakespeares plays are like that too, you don't really realize how funny they are until you see the play. A couple of years of ago I had to read As You Like It, Shakespeare of course, and then I saw it I saw it here at Seton Hill. Like you I didn't realize how funny the clown character was until I actually saw the play, in a way I think plays aren't really ment to be read, because you miss things that the actors would be doing.
Anyways, I have to say Matt's character was my favorite too. I have to admit I was a little sad when his character died. Since when did they start killing off the funny characters? I think now that I have seen the play I will be able to picture Matt and the others in those roles, seeing how they acted and appreciate it more.

Ha ha, thanks, Angela and Sue! I was just hanging out in the blogosphere and I saw this and it made my day. That's an interesting quote you picked, because my line in the translation we used was "I'm deaf and I haven't heard a word," which is a lot shorter and punchier. The rhythm of the line in the translation you're reading is slower and a little more labored, so I think it might be harder for an audience to laugh at it because it doesn't work very well as a snappy punchline. I think in general the Nilo Cruz translation we used was a lot more succinct and economic than some of the other translations of the play that I've read, which makes it a lot more stage-worthy and accessible to audiences. I couldn't picture a guy who's been raised in a cave all his life to use formal words like "shall" and use such long, flowery sentences. But anyway, thanks again for the compliments, guys!!

I see what you mean about the text. I know that Dr. Jerz picked our version because it was cheaper than the one you guys had. As for the use of "shall," I think that was the translator's attempt at making the story sound more Shakespearean. Although Shakespeare definately made his way into the text, I'm not sure that Calderon would have intended it this way, but who truly knows the author's intent. I'm glad we made your day though because you made mine! You are a great actor. Definately comment on one of my blogs when you get other roles because I love seeing you perform. In general, the theater department doesn't have the wide exposure that it desirves. You guys are awesome!

Greta Carroll said:

Matt, I definitely agree with Angela, I thought you and the rest of the cast did an amazing job! I thought Sarah Laughland was also particularly good. And I agree with Angela, the audience was rather lacking in enthusiasm besides us.

As for the translation we used and its wordiness, I think that was mainly a product of the translation. Appaulbaum who edited and translated the edition we read, translated the text very literally. When I read the introduction he mentioned something about not changing things to Anglicize them unless absolutely necessary for us to understand the meaning. Probably many of the other translations cared more about making the play relatable to English audiences than Appelbaum who was trying to preserve a more literal interpretation.

As for the similarities between Calderon’s play and Shakespeare, he could certainly have been influenced by Shakespeare. But more than anything else, I think that certain types of stories and characters were simply the conventions of the time and that theatre-goers would have known and related to these conventions which is why playwrights used such common, archetypical characters and monomyths.

Ellen Einsporn said:

Angela, I don't think the translator's use of the word "shall" was an attempt to be Shakespearean. I think it was just an attempt to be accurate. Calderon probably would have used the Spanish equivalent of the word "shall" in his writing since he was writing in the same time period as Shakespeare. I'm not denying that Shakespeare may have influenced Calderon's text, but I don't think he would have (or the translator would have) used such a simple and commonly used word as shall to imply something "Shakespearean."

As for the two texts, I think the script chosen by the theatre department has a more modern translation than ours. As Matt said, this was a good choice for a production because it is easier for the audience to understand. This does not mean that the translator of our text tried to impose a Shakespearean style on the play. Instead, he was most likely creating a translation that was closer to the original language of the play which, given that Calderon lived in the 1600s and thus was a contemporary of Shakespeare, would exhibit some the same functions of language that were popular in Shakespeare's day had Calderon written the play in English.

Finally, I second your praise of the play. Don't worry, I laughed too :)

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