On Doran and directing Cardenio

From the History of Cardenio's first readthru. Image by Raincliffs Photography.

by Gary Taylor

Greg will, unfortunately, not be able to attend the colloquium, or even see the show, because during that entire period he is filming his production of Julius Caesar for the BBC. This is our loss—but also, as Shakespearians, our gain, because it means we will be able eventually to buy the DVD of his BBC film, to use in our own classrooms.

Reading his book, I am struck by the fact that almost everything he does involves meeting other people. Even going to the library is characterized, by him, as a meeting with a librarian. Since the beginning of my career, I have insisted that theatre is a collaborative art-form, but watching Terri Bourus work on the upcoming production of Cardenio (since last September) I have been amazed and appalled by how much time she spends in meetings and on the phone. Although I have learned more than I care to admit from the various readings and workshops of my evolving reconstruction, most of my writing and research is done alone in my home or office, attended only by my faithful computer Jeeves, who doesn’t ask too many questions or get upset if I don’t give him enough face-time. I guess I am more of a misanthrope than I ever realized. Certainly, life as a director would kill me, or kill someone else in my vicinity.


On sitting down to read Doran again

by Gary Taylor

“Fantastico!” cried the King of Spain.

That’s how Doran begins. As a modern exclamation the Spanish word means “Great! Fantastic! Terrific!” This is what the Oxford English Dictionary describes as the “trivial use” of the word, dating from 1938. But the earlier meaning of the Spanish fantastico (and the English fantastic) is more relevant to Don Quixote, or to Cervantes and Shakespeare and Fletcher more generally: imaginary, imaginative, eccentric, a product of fantasy. What is so disappointing about Double Falsehood, at the level of both plot and language, is the 1727 text’s paucity of the fantastic. There is little, here, of what Shakespeare and Fletcher would have called “fancy”, let alone “fantasy”.

But back to Doran. “‘Fantastico!’ cried the King of Spain when I told him that Shakespeare may have written a play based on Cervantes.”

You can see here, and from this memoir generally, what makes Doran a good director. He begins with an anecdote, a little social scene, immediately intelligible to a modern reader or spectator. One of the characters is a King, and the other is a representative from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Lifestyles of the rich and famous, familiar enough to be comprehensible, exotic enough to be interesting. Two pages later, the Cuban-born artistic director of a classical theatre festival in La Mancha, with an “emphatic sweep of his hand”, spills vino tinto all over Doran’s white dinner jacket.

The memoir is full of such moments. When Doran walks one sunny morning from his home in Islington to “the Library and Archives of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, at Stationers’ Hall, at Amen Corner on Ave Maria Lane in the City of London’, the clerk is “a  city gent straight from central casting, with a pinstripe suit, and loud pink tie” (99-100). Doran does not discover in the Stationers’ Register anything about The History of Cardenio not already familiar to bibliographers, but he is constantly alive to settings and costumes and characters.

But this is also why Doran was right to conclude that his approach to reconstructing the text of Cardenio was incompatible with mine. I did not begin with a living King of Spain, or a trip to Cordoba, or plans to collaborate with Spanish theatre companies, or the famous Gustave Dore illustrations of Don Quixote (which Doran loves).  I began with what Shakespeare and Fletcher knew in 1612 or 1613. There is no evidence that either of them ever visited Spain. Theobald owned two editions of Don Quixote in Spanish, but The History of Cardenio was clearly based on the 1612 English translation of what we now consider only the first half of the novel. In all the years I have worked on Cardenio, I have never read the second half, or any other translation, and I have checked the Spanish only once, to verify that one phrase in the 1612 translation does not come from the original. I have focused on what stay-at-home literary Englishmen in 1612 knew or thought about Spain and Cervantes.

Doran’s approach is more cosmopolitan, more politically correct, more respectful of Cervantes and Spain, and more attuned to the commercial realities of the international theatre circuit. By contrast, my own approach is determinedly parochial.

Why? I’ve been to Spain myself–but to Valencia, not Andalucia, and what I like best about Valencia is the modern City of Arts and Sciences in the dry river bed created by re-routing the river that used to flood the medieval and renaissance city. I read Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls before I ever read Don Quixote. I am primarily interested in modern Spain, and I believe Cervantes still speaks to the modern world, inside and outside the Iberian peninsula. But there have been, over the centuries, lots of plays, in lots of languages, based on Don Quixote. Writing another one of these disposable adaptations does not interest me.

I am interested in The History of Cardenio only insofar as it represents the intersection of Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Fletcher. I have great respect for the monarchy’s role in returning Spain to democracy after the Franco’s horrific Christian dictatorship. But when it comes to The History of Cardenio, the King of Spain is irrelevant.

On NOT reading Doran’s Shakespeare’s Last Play

by Gary Taylor

Okay, okay, I know that if I’m going to write a blog, I need to write faithfully every day, so that my vast virtual readership can get in the habit of sipping me with their morning coffee. This is, I suppose, why I have never been good at writing journals, or a diary. But in this case I do have an excuse: I’ve been working as dramaturg on the Cardenio  production, not co-organizer of the Cardenio colloquium. Which, depending on your point of view, means I’ve put the scholar in my pocket—or not. Anyway, something closer to Doran.

Tonight is the first table reading for the Indianapolis production. This means that the actors all need their own hard-copy final script. But Terri Bourus (who’s directing) also wanted me to provide them each with a synopsis, with a paragraph describing every fact about each character that can be discerned from the script, and with a pronunciation guide for unusual proper names. Also, the university wanted an excerpt from the script to use in invitations to the Gala opening, which needs to be printed this week.

I thought I had finished revising the script a month ago, when we emailed it to all the actors. But they are pretty much all working, and we don’t expect any of them to be off book for the reading. So I’ve been able to make small adjustments. And last Friday I received an email from Gerald Baker, an English scholar-director who is interested in mounting a production in Twickenham (ironic, given its association with Pope).. He has been working on the Cardenio/Double Falsehood problem for some time, and among other things has done a lot of work on Fletcher. After attending the Globe reading of my version last November, he sent me long, detailed, and very useful notes, which helped me in my post-Globe revision. So I sent him that revision last month, and this weekend he sent me some more notes on it—just in time for me to take them into account in the script that the actors will read tonight! Baker is coming to the colloquium, incidentally, so you can ask him which two speeches in Sancho’s part he convinced me to change.

So that is what I’ve been doing, instead of reading and writing about Doran.

Reading Doran’s “Shakespeare’s Lost Play”

By Gary Taylor

I’ve invited Gregory Doran to Indianapolis to see the production, and (if possible) attend the colloquium or the gala grand opening the weekend before.. Chances are he won’t be able to come: the schedule of the Associate Director of the RSC is going to be packed in the second half of April, and to see the show he would have to be gone from Stratford three full days. So, rather than invite him only to the colloquium, I’ve invited him for any of the seven performances that he could make.

More on his book tomorrow.

Reading Doran’s “Shakespeare’s Lost Play”

By Gary Taylor

I ordered Doran’s book as soon as Amazon.co.uk sent me an email telling me it was available. (They knew to tell me because the last book I bought from them was the published text of Doran’s Cardenio.) It cost more for the express mailing to the US than for the book itself, but I knew I would need to read it before we started rehearsals, just in case there was anything that I, or the company, needed to know. It arrived yesterday, and I started reading it immediately, amid the constant interruptions of meetings and emails about the production and the colloquium. Then today Sarah Neville told me that we have to provide regular new content for the colloquium blog. All I can offer, for the moment, is running responses to Doran’s memoir of his development of the RSC version.

Like all reviewers of memoirs, I first have to respond to what the memoirist says about my own, very tiny role in his story (pp. 65-6). Yes, I did meet him for lunch in London, and we were the only two people present, and yes, he gives a substantively accurate account of the meeting, or at least one that corresponds to my own memories, and he says various nice things about me and recommends some of my books.

I can supplement his account with a few unsolicited editorial footnotes. We lunched at least six weeks before the Middleton edition was published (in mid-November 2007), so strictly speaking the Oxford Middleton was not “recent” when we met, but perhaps he is writing from the present tense. More significantly, he is mistaken when he claims that, at the time we met, my version of the script “had received a successful production at the Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand, as part of a seminar on Shakespeare’s lost play”. That production was mounted in May 2009, more than 18 months after our meeting. The attached academic seminar was great, and led to the collection of essays to be published later this year by OUP. But I don’t think that the directors or cast or crew of the Wellington production would like to see their five sold-out performances subordinated to a seminar that took place on the last day of the run, after more than two months of rehearsal. Although I am excited about the upcoming colloquium, I do not regard the April performance as an appendix to the colloquium.

These pedantic corrections are not very important, but at least the facts are verifiable. By contrast, how can I prove that I did not say what Doran says I said? He reports that I claimed that he “had done more professional productions of Fletcher plays than pretty much anyone else” (which was then and I think still is true, and which I remember saying), but then goes on to report that I claimed to be “the scholar who probably knew most about Fletcher”. Has anyone ever heard me say such a thing? Even my edition of Tamer Tamed is co-edited. For the record, I regard Gordon McMullan, Suzanne Gossett and Jeff Masten as our leading Fletcher critics. What I do remember telling Doran, as part of my pitch, is that I was among the minority of Shakespeare scholars who had even read all of Fletcher’s work, and that I had worked intensively on one of his plays. I also pointed out that my 1986 reconstructed text of Pericles had been used successfully by several Shakespeare companies (including the RSC).

But the crucial point is that Doran was completely right to conclude that he and I could not collaborate. A director has to be good at sensing who he can work with. So although I was very disappointed at the time, in retrospect I recognize that our approaches to the problem were, from the outset, incompatible. And it is better to have as many people as possible conducting their own experiments.

Call for Graduate Papers

Cervantes and Quixote in England, by Nathanael Brandt

The History of Cardenio: Spain and England, Then and Now

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

April 27, 2012

Keynote Speaker: Gary Taylor, George Matthew Edgar Professor of English at Florida State University

Despite its status as a collaborative play based on an episode in Don Quixote, much of the scholarly work on William Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s “lost” 1612 play, The History of Cardenio, has largely focused on Cardenio’s status as a work by Shakespeare alone, with Cervantes’ and Fletcher’s contributions to the text treated as incidental. Fortunately, recent work on the play has begun to redirect attention away from Shakespeare and towards Cardenio’s historical and literary contexts. Such recent scholarship will be presented at a colloquium of renowned Cervantes, Fletcher and Shakespeare scholars that will be held in Indianapolis on April 28, 2012. Confirmed participants include Roger Chartier, Barbara Fuchs, Joe Cacaci, Chris Marino, Suzanne Gossett, Joyce Boro, Vimala Pasupathi, Douglas Lanier, Eduardo Olid Guerrero, Adam Hooks, Christopher Hicklin, Huw Griffiths, and Regina Buccola.

To complement this colloquium of senior scholars, “The History of Cardenio: Spain and England, Then and Now” graduate colloquium similarly seeks 15-minute papers that broaden current understanding of early modern Anglo-Spanish relations, especially the relationship between Cervantes and English drama, in order to better contextualize Cardenio within the early modern imaginary. Also welcomed are papers that engage with issues of collaboration (particularly those considering the relationship between Fletcher and Shakespeare), adaptation (particularly those considering Lewis Theobald’s Double Falsehood), and performance-based research. Participants in the graduate colloquium on April 27 are encouraged to stay for the April 28 colloquium of senior scholars, several of whom will be available to chair panels in the graduate sessions. Conference participants who arrive on early will be able to attend a free pre-performance lecture by Professor Ayanna Thompson on “Shakespeare and Race” on April 26.

Both the senior and graduate colloquia take place in conjunction with the premiere of a fullscale production of “The History of Cardenio”, a version of Shakespeare and Fletcher’s play directed by Terri Bourus, an Equity actor and one of the three General Editors of the New Oxford Shakespeare. The text of Cardenio has been reconstructed and re-imagined by Gary Taylor, General Editor of the Oxford Shakespeare and the Oxford Middleton, and co-editor of Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed, or The Woman’s Prize. The production is taking place April 19-28 in Indianapolis, home to a Spanish-speaking population of over 200,000 people. “The History of Cardenio” celebrates the grand opening of a new, state-of-the-art, 248-seat, $2.5 million theatre at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), a campus which has recently been hailed as one of the top five up- and-coming American universities.

More information about the production is available here.

Abstracts of no less than 300 words, submitted in a .doc or .pdf format, along with a 50 word bio, should be sent to Dr. Francis Connor at fconnor |at| iupui.edu. Review of abstracts begins immediately; no abstracts will be considered after March 15, 2012.

Shakespeare’s Lost Play: In Search of Cardenio by Gregory Doran

Gregory Doran’s account of his quest to uncover Shakespeare’s “Cardenio” was just published last month by Nick Hern Books.

Doran’s Royal Shakespeare Company production of Cardenio played at the Swan Theatre 14 April – 6 October, 2011. For more information on Doran’s production, see his production blog.