From the Pit
Clearly, the power of a great play is in its performance, and all the closeted, academic studies in Harry Widener's book-stacked shrine cannot convey the language, structure, and force of Sophoeles and Shakespeare better than the simplest kind of theatrical presentation. "Hamlet," produced this summer by William West '49 and company, in Professor F. O. Matthiessen's Shakespearean Tragedy (English 24a) dramatized the possibilities of presenting entertaining theatre while achieving scholarly purpose. Happily, the idea has become contagious.
Last Wednesday, playing before an audience of thirteen passionately interested members of Professor Theodore Spencer's English 23a, a select company of fifteen actors and actor-types handled "Henry IV, Part Two" with much humor and ability. The two hundred students who, unwittingly or not, cut this session at Fogg Auditorium could not have found more pleasant diversion at any of the local movie palaces, or melded any more ammunition for their November hour exam in the solitude of their ivy-cased studies. Peter Temple 1G, directed and played King Henry, with Mendy Weisgal '45 as Justice Shallow, David Hersey '48 as Sir John Falstaff, Ted Allegretti '47 as Prince Hal, and Mrs. Marty G. B. Mories as Mistress Quickly. While physically anomalous in the role of Falstaff, Hersey performed with a vigor and understanding that garnered as many laughs as a sparsely-filled auditorium could offer. Weisgal displayed versatility in doubling as Shallow and the Archbishop. Mrs. Mories, having done time on professional boards, played an energetic Mistress Quickly with an occasionally inconsistent Cockney accent.
In Comparative Literature 3a, where meetings every other Wednesday afternoon have seen the readings of Aeschylus' "Agamemnon" and Sophoeles' "Antigone," the dramatic effect is achieved, it is said, despite the weaknesses of translation. Both the Elizabethan and Greek performances are models that might be copied not only by drama courses, but by all classes in poetic literature. The use of recordings, of readings, and of full-scale theatrical productions can solidify and shape subjects that suffer in their current linear presentation.