This is cross-posted, but hey. Since it made Metafilter, I figured it'd be fun to cross-post the long-awaited third part of the Evil Shakespeare Overlord List, newly corrected and augmented. I have incorporated suggestions made on Metafilter, so if anyone has come in from there, thanks! :) Evil Shakespeare Overlord List, #1-359Evil Shakespeare Overlord List, #360-426
427. I will not allow any depiction of Richard II's arrested development to cross the line into the grotesque.
428. I will not play Henry of Richmond with a poorly-done Welsh accent.
429. While I am entirely willing to cross-cast roles, I will probably not have actresses play certain roles as women
if the production is set in a time when having a woman in that role would not be plausible. For instance, if I am staging Julius Caesar
in Elizabethan dress I will not make one of the tribunes in the opening scene a woman and change her name from Flavius to Flavia.
430. If I decide to do this anyway, I will not have the actors continue to refer to the character as Flavius.
431. I will not confuse loudness with emotion.
432. If a character is called upon to play a stringed instrument during the production, I will ensure that it is properly tuned before the show starts, unless it's supposed
to be played badly.
433. I will not hang a giant crown over the throne in any of the English histories. No matter how emblematic it is, it looks really stupid.
434. I will not allow actors in crowd scenes to say anachronistic things during vocal responses.
435. I will not pretend that black netted fabric looks like chainmail.
436. Also, I will not put the actors in costumes that are supposed to be medieval for battle scenes if the production up to that point has been done in Elizabethan dress, even if the costumes from a recent production of Henry IV
are conveniently lying around. This is especially true if the costumes from said production were bad.
437. If the production has been in modern dress or anything approaching it, I will not have everyone show up for the battle scene in modern dress but put the principals in chainmail. Even if the ESC did it.
438. Although I will not allow the actor playing the soothsayer in Julius Caesar
to play the role as a shrieking banshee (cf. #385), I will
instruct said actor to convey that "Beware the ides of March" is an ominous line and should not be delivered as though he or she were giving directions to the nearest service station.
439. I will make sure that Caesar's body is covered during Antony's funeral oration, so that when he reveals it at "Look you here, here is himself" it will be dramatic and not give the impression that either he or the crowd hasn't been paying attention.
440. When arranging to have bodies carried offstage I will make sure that the actors involved can handle doing it the way I'd like it to be done. If they can't, I will rethink my blocking so that the actors playing said bodies will not be in any danger of being dropped on their heads.
441. If rethinking my blocking entails fading to black so that said actors can get up, I will actually go
to black so that the audience can't see them do so.
442. I will not depict Fluellen as a psychotic hyper-patriot who cracks under pressure and machine-guns the French prisoners when nobody else will follow Henry's order to do so.
443. If I am adapting Shakespeare for radio, I will not assume the audience has no idea whatsoever what is going on, and consequently I will not insert clarifying lines that insult the audience's intelligence. For instance, Sir Piers of Exton is not Emperor Palpatine and should not say "Now, Richard, you must die!" before getting all regicidally stabby, as the sound effects and following dialogue make what's happening perfectly clear anyway.
444. Biron/Berowne is a cynical, snarky, intelligent, playful young man. He cannot be played by a person whose dream role is Richard III, and who uses every role he gets along the way as an opportunity to hone his "spitting, repulsive, evil hunchback" presentation. (salophile
445. If I am going to simulate a severed head in a bag by filling it with sand, I will not have an actor drop the bag onto the stage, so that the audience can hear the sand rustling around in the bag.
446. I will not make Richard III dance the cancan while saying "Now is the winter of our discontent." (damned_colonial
447. If I am doing a production on film or television, I will light scenes such that the audience can actually see
them, since all the verisimilitude in the world will do me no good if my production is invisible.
448. I will not have Lady Mortimer in 1 Henry IV
sing either "Suo-gan" or "Ar hyd y nos" if I can help it. There are other Welsh songs.
449. If there is singing occurring onstage, I will insist that the singer and the accompanist(s) are in the same key.
450. I will not make the apparitions in Macbeth
(including Banquo's ghost) invisible. There's no way to avoid the supernatural element in the play, so why not revel in it?
451. I will not dress anyone going into battle in gold lamé.
452. No matter how much of a stickler for accuracy I am otherwise, I will not require any male character to have a pageboy haircut, on the grounds that it's impossible not to look stupid in one.
453. However, I will also not allow actors to have ragingly anachronistic hair. This is particularly true if it is a film or television production, as anachronistic hair is one of the quickest ways there is to make the whole thing look dated.
454. I will not decorate my set with piles of skulls, unless it's the graveyard scene in Hamlet
and the script consequently calls for them.
455. I will not stage The Tempest
without the epilogue. (karabair
456. I will not kill off my Macbeth by shooting arrows at him. Especially live arrows. Unless my name is Kurosawa. Which it isn't. (anonymous)
457. As "personal non-bedroom chamber" is a perfectly acceptable early-modern meaning of the word "closet," I will not include a bed in the big scene between Hamlet and Gertrude in the third act of Hamlet.
Not that I think it's wrong
to do so; I just want to be perverse.
458. I will not interpolate lines in the histories to clarify some of the complex dynastic relationships if I have not checked to make sure that they are accurate. For instance, I will not insert lines into the first scene of Henry V
that say that Henry's claim to the French crown comes from Edward III's "marriage to Philippa of France," since his claim actually comes from his mother and not from his wife, who was not, in point of fact, French, and there will invariably be at least one person in the audience who notices the mistake and laughs at my apparent inability to check my facts.
459. If I am directing a radio production, I will not cast actors with similar voices in roles where they talk to each other all the time, if I can help it. This isn't specific to Shakespeare, but it's common sense.
460. I will not put Caliban in bondage gear. Nor will he wear a chastity belt.
461. In fact, I will not put anyone in a chastity belt, unless I'm staging Volpone
and the text calls for one (and even then, the intended wearer doesn't actually have to wear it).
462. I will not allow any actor to deliver all
of his lines in an ear-piercing screech, no matter how appropriate to the character it is.
463. I will not include Muppet waiters in the production.
464. I will not have any actors simulate childbirth if that is not what is being portrayed onstage.
465. Although 1 Henry VI
is somewhat lighter in tone than its sequels, I will not play it as a slapstick comedy.
466. Conversely, I will not make it gratuitously
dark. For instance, I will not imply that Talbot allows his soldiers to gang-rape the Countess of Auvergne after foiling her attempt to take him captive, as while it does evoke a sadly too-common war crime, it is grossly out of character for Talbot.
467. I will not depict soliloquies on film by having the actor in question staring angstily at the camera while delivering the speech in voiceover.
468. I will never decide that the back of somebody's head would be an interesting place to direct the attention of the audience, no matter how thinky the character is.
469. I will not open any production by intoning significant lines from the play in question in voiceover.
470. I will not bowdlerize lines.
471. Although I am not adverse to trimming the dialogue in The Mousetrap
due to time constraints, I will not omit ALL of the dialogue.
472. I will not make Claudius look like Henry VIII.
473. I will not exploit Ophelia's mad scene for sex appeal.
474. If I decide to dramatize Ophelia's drowning, which I really ought not to do, I will not emulate pre-Raphaelite painting in my mise-en-scene.
475. I will not have singing and dialogue occurring simultaneously, as it is distracting.
476. I will never, ever, allow costumes featuring the shades "hot pink" or "radioactive green" to make it past planning stages. Not even for the faeries. (fivestarlunatic
477. Especially not for the faeries. (fivestarlunatic
478. I will not cast anyone as Titania who cannot enunciate their words or project their voice. (fivestarlunatic
479. I will not allow anyone who is cast as Titania to go on stage raging drunk. This is simply poor taste. And, if she somehow does makes it on stage, I will apologize to the audience afterward. (fivestarlunatic
480. The Mechanicals are not the main characters. I will not allow for the failed play-within-a-play to stretch over half an hour. (fivestarlunatic
481. I will never add bad slapstick and fart jokes in order to appeal to the young and supposedly stupid masses. (fivestarlunatic
482. I will especially not add in random dance numbers involve half naked preteen girls and war drums to any Shakespearean play because it is "artistic." It merely makes me look like a pedophile. (fivestarlunatic
483. I will not allow any of my actors to go on stage with sharpie-leg hair. Anyone who thinks that using a sharpie to simulate a leg hair is clever will be shot on sight. (fivestarlunatic
484. I will not allow David Birney anywhere near my production.
485. Richard II's "down court, down king" speech is a highly dramatic moment. Therefore I will not allow the actor playing him to prance ludicrously down an onstage staircase while delivering it.
486. I will be very, very judicious in my application of Christ-imagery. This is especially
true if any character in the play makes that comparison himself.
487. I will not assume French dialogue is funny simply by virtue of the fact that it is in French.
488. I will not assume that minor characters have so little personality that their lines can arbitrarily be reassigned among them. Sometimes this is possible, but if I am considering it, I will take this into account.
489. I will also not assume that major characters are easily interchangeable. For instance, I will not replace the Duke of Burgundy in Henry V
with the Constable of France
of all people, as this makes precisely zero sense.
490. If I am staging Julius Caesar
in ancient Roman dress, I will not have Brutus' singing pageboy play Dowland.
491. While it is permissible to cut some of the songs in The Winter's Tale,
I will not cut all of them.
492. Although I am perfectly okay with evoking rather than scrupulously reproducing period clothing, I will not pretend that costuming which appears to have been taken from the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture
is in any way appropriate.
493. I will never set a play in period and then have lots of television screens involved in the action. (sonneta
494. If I must costume Jaques like a beatnik, then I will not force the rest of the characters to be costumed in Renaissance garb. (sonneta
495. I will never have The Ghost of Hamlet's Father appear out of a Pepsi One machine. (sonneta
496. I will not assume that since the line "The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed / The shadow of your face" is thematically and emotionally significant, it is necessary for the audience to hear it three times.
497. I will not install a faucet and drain onstage for the express purpose of enabling Edmund to bathe himself in the nude early on in the play, even if the actor playing Edmund is very attractive and even if turning on the faucet emphasizes the wet aspect of the storm later on. (anatomiste
498. There are a number of ways to interpret the fact that Lord Scroop was Henry V's bedfellow. It is, however, perhaps possible to explore the subtextual implications without having Henry actually hump his leg WHILE SENTENCING HIM TO DEATH. (commodorified
499. If I must, however, I will not ALSO have him engaged in extended swooniness over dead bodies at Agincourt. I don't want to still be wondering about Henry's possible necrophilia while he is courting Katherine. (commodorified
500. I will ensure that the entire cast has a chance to have a good and long laugh about "balls of the burning basilisk" and all the other regrettable testicle puns in Henry V
early in rehearsals, so as to ensure there will be no unseemly incitements to sporfling in performance. (commodorified
501. When staging Taming of the Shrew,
I will not have the entire company lean to the left en masse in a painfully obvious allusion to the leaning tower whenever anyone mentions Pisa. (gilded_garb
502. If I am too embarrassed to make it obvious that I think I can write better than Shakespeare by inserting numerous lines of my own composition, I will ALSO avoid inserting six five-minute processional scenes that demonstrate my mastery of Symbolism. (executrix
503. While it is actually rather clever and interesting to have Katherine practicing archery during the language-lesson scene in Henry V,
I will not have her do it in the throne room.
504. If I am ever casting Macbeth,
even if there are no male actors available whose abilities are commensurate with the title role, I will not have Lady Macbeth carry around a sock puppet. (a_t_rain
505. I will not allow myself to think that playing the witches in Macbeth
as masks floating over black material is a good idea. (liseuse
506. I will not restage Macbeth
as if it is in ancient China, but still put Macduff if a kilt. (liseuse
507. I will not place Lady Macbeth in the world's lowest cut dress and no bra, so that leagues of audience members can be horrified. (liseuse
508. I will never make Desdemona sing the entire song, three times. (liseuse
509. While there may be a legitimate artistic vision that includes costuming the Exiled Duke and his men as hippies, and another that includes the Usurping Duke and his court in Star Trek costumes, I will not combine these two conceits, particularly if they also accompany a Forest of Arden made of silver balls hanging from the ceiling. (ricardienne
510. I will not have Isabella lip-synch "Santa, Baby" while the rest of the cast does a dance routine as an intro to Act IV in an otherwise period production of Measure for Measure.
I will make a particular point of not doing this if the production is for a summer festival, and so does not even have the excuse of being seasonally appropriate. (ricardienne
511. I will not completely cut the lengthy dialogue between Malcolm and Macduff on the subject of Malcolm and Macbeth's relative fitness to be king.
512. I will not use what appears to be watered-down fruit punch to simulate blood, especially if the presence of copious amounts of blood is important to the scene (for instance, during the assassination scene in Julius Caesar
513. If I set Much Ado About Nothing
in the American South immediately post-WWII, I will not dress Don John in a full SS uniform to indicate his having "of late stood out against his brother." (sly_redux
514. I will not cast the most beautiful actor in my ensemble as Richard III and then never address why this young Adonis of a man thinks he looks malformed. (azdak
515. If the script calls for a red-hot poker, I will provide a poker-shaped object that is at least slightly red and that is handled by the cast as if it were hot. One out of three is not acceptable. (bookslibretti
516. I will not turn the witches of Macbeth
into crows and make them push swivel chairs around the stage to the sound of helicopters. (dubaiyan
517. Also, I will not cast five witches instead of three even if it is a drama school production and 'every student deserves a chance'. (dubaiyan
518. I will not omit Cinna the Poet.
519. I will not attempt to put on Richard II
and then cut all the really good bits, including "This England" and "Not all the water in the rough rude sea..."
520. I will never make the audience watch John of Gaunt being sponged off.
521. If I am staging one of the history plays, I will not randomly kill off characters who are not supposed to die, even if the play is being removed entirely from its historical context.
522. I will not add reverb to anybody's voice with the possible exception of supernatural beings, and even then, I will do so judiciously.
523. I will not have characters read from the Sonnets for no reason.
524. I will not pretend that a large white hat which makes its wearer resemble the captain of the Love Boat is an acceptable substitute for a crown.
525. I will not allow a production to make it through the entire rehearsal process without ensuring that both I and everyone else involved know how to pronounce the names of the characters.
526. I will not attempt to adapt a play if I do not understand it.
527. I will not put gratuitous action sequences into Richard II.
528. I will especially not insert a sequence into the last act where the Queen, having inexplicably booted Northumberland off a cliff (!), escapes from custody, sneaks in to visit Richard disguised as a stable-groom, and is then killed during a really tedious action sequence in which Richard fights off his assassins, runs around in the woods, and then is finally gunned down to the relief of the audience. If I take leave of my senses entirely and do this anyway, I will not allow Richard to cop a feel while grieving over her body, even if I can "justify" this by claiming it as an allusion both to the historical Richard's grief for Anne of Bohemia and to his oddly necrophiliac behavior at the ceremony held when he reinterred his deceased favorite Robert de Vere. (...you know what? I'm not sure there's anywhere this list can go from there.)
529. If Desdemona is six feet tall and has a strong and (for a woman) deep voice, the worst person you can cast as Othello is the guy who's only about five feet tall, with a high voice, whose idea of acting "angry" is to emote "Donald Duck having a tantrum." (Incharitable Dog)
530. Even though the play is 5 acts long, I will not overlook the first rule of junior high school drama, speak slowly and clearly.
531. In a period production of Julius Caesar,
it's probably not a good idea to encourage all the actors to copy Brando's performance in the 1953 movie. Particularly if they don't have American accents to start with. (Sonny Jim)
532. No role in the Shakespearean canon is best played as an Elvis impersonator. (Sonny Jim)
533. Any Macbeth
production really should economize on the following: flying broomsticks; large, bubbling cauldrons; black, pointy hats with crescent moons and stars on them. (Sonny Jim)
534. If soldier characters are portrayed as being part of any recognizable military service, particularly one that any members of my audience might have served in, I will research the uniforms properly. (noahbrand
535. Malvolio wore yellow STOCKINGS. Not yellow pantyhose. Let's only make him suffer, not the whole theatre. (oytamarind
536. No matter how well my Malvolio can replicate German and Russian accents, they probably aren't in character. (oytamarind
537. Neither are stereotypical German phrases like "Ach du liebes bisschen!" (oytamarind
538. I will not set A Comedy of Errors
in a climbing frame which is meant to represent a lunatic asylum and have lookalikes played by the same actor in both parts as if has a split personality. (feelinglistless)
539. With regard to Measure for Measure,
it is probably not effective to have Angelo open and close his mouth while he's thinking about what to say. Likewise, it might be best if he didn't bounce slightly on his toes and hold his arms kind of stiffly away from his body. He is neither a codfish nor a marionette. (darthfox
540. I will not have dead characters pop back into the action later in the play to repeat Significant Lines, (e.g. Mercutio wandering around the final tomb scene saying "a pox on both your houses") as this is not meaningful but confusing. (ricardienne
) Corollary: this practice is acceptable for characters who are not-quite-dead, such as Margaret in Richard III
and Hermione in The Winter's Tale.
541. One should never insert gimmicky interludes between scenes such as people running around dressed in "We are Sheep" t-shirts. That is wank. (arriterre
542. Place names should never be changed for political and/or patriotic ones such as "Iraq" or "Christchurch" for cheap laughs. (arriterre
543. "Heavy accent" does not equal "great chracterization"; it in fact usually only equals "coherency out window". (arriterre
544. Physicality does not take precedence over voice; this is Shakespeare. (arriterre
545. There will not be some stupid physical gag in the background going on to detract from a "boring" speech, or because the director is afraid that the audience "won't get" the wit that is actually being spoken. (arriterre
546. The audience does not need visual aids to understand what is being said, such as people becoming a ship or the sea to show the audience what a ship or the sea is, because it's Shakespeare, and they might suddenly lose all their powers of comprehension when faced with a speech more than three lines long. (arriterre
547. I will not, if I am filming a version of a play, insert random shots of "artsy" things like planes flying in the middle of a dramatic scene. (arriterre
548. Nor will I portray Hamlet as an angsty young filmmaker, just so I can have him play all these grainy artsy things back to the audience on his handcorder. (arriterre
549. I will not cast an ugly old sot as Gertrude whose face is falling off. Gertrude is magnetic and beautiful. (arriterre
550. I will not make it look as though Claudius doesn't care tuppence for his wife. (arriterre
551. Though Ophelia might not agree with her brother, it is not fit that she should ignore him whenever he is speaking. (arriterre
552. Ophelia is also allowed to smile more than once during a production. We already have one angstpuppy in the play, whose angstthrone she will never usurp. (arriterre
553. Do not have Fortinbras enter at the end of Hamlet
and machinegun the entire royal court. (Kattullus)
554. Playing heavy metal music to underline character's anger means that you can't hear a word they say. (Kattullus)
555. No rapping. (Kattullus)
556. Do not have a major character played by a small child. Yes, I know they're adorable, but if it's adorable you're after why don't you have Hamlet carry around a puppy. (Kattullus)
557. Do not have Hamlet carry around a puppy. (Kattullus)
558. Kurosawa can make Shakespeare characters into samurais. You can't. (Kattullus)
559. Titus Andronicus
is supposed to be bloody, don't try and make it nice. (Kattullus)
560. Titus Andronicus
is supposed to be bloody, but don't kill barnyard animals onstage. (Kattullus)
561. Don't try to insert ambiguity where there was none before, there's plenty already in the text. For example, don't have Polonius be naked when Hamlet stabs him. (Kattullus)
562. Hamlet is pretty much angst-ridden enough without making him a proto-Kurt-Cobain, so don't. (Medieval Maven)
Feel free to contribute more! There's no end of bad Shakespeare in the world, and I'd love to get as many of these as possible.