It is one thing to read a book, but plays are meant to be staged.
Some people have responded to this Capek site with anecdotes about
the staging of Capek's works. RUR needs to be staged with the idea
in mind that Capek wrote at a period of high expressionism.
Some of what follows is universal behavior of actors - - bless
their little hearts - - for where would dramatists be without them?
KARL POLLAK writes about his Canadian production that staged an
act of _R.U.R._, along with some stories Capek wrote:
Strange thing, I sort
of look at RUR as a variation on the Phoenix story.
Karel C was in my view above all a humanist. RUR pretty much tells
believed that even if human race destroys itself, it will rise again out
I mean isn't that the point of the 3rd act? I happen to be a bit
it, even put it into a stage dramatization we did a few years ago.
a program of stage adaptations of several of his _Apocryphal Stories_ and
the finale was the 3rd act of RUR. (all done in Czech)
Curiously enough, we had two shows (only about 10,000 people in this area
speak either Czech or Slovak). At the first performance we had the
sobbing at the love scene between the two robots. The next night
were giggling at precisely the same spot. Go figger ...
All the other memories I have of that production (it has been a few years)
are the usual theatre stuff like the other co-director telling me that
have rehearsed a great "radio play" but the actors are acting like robots,
except when they _are_ supposed to be robots ... and me telling him
naaw I'd better not repeat my response again, it was not very nice ...
... or my Pontius Pilate always being at a different spot than the
beam of light he was supposed to be under while he ponders what to do about
this troublemaker from Nazareth that the Jews all in at tizz over (bare,
black stage - just a 3 step riser to sit on.)
... or my Neanderthal Janousek (the first Apocryphal story) deciding
minutes before curtain time that he doesn't like the bone we got for him
and pulls out something like a beef hip-bone with the meat still on it.
Acting that he eats was too phony to him, so he actually started ripping
the meat off the bone on stage and stuffing himself in hefty portions so
that the audience could only understand half of the dialogue ...
not supposed to eat anything, just to bring the bone to his mouth and just
before he takes a bite he was to deliver another sentence.
... or my co-director who also played the Narrator freezing up 5 minutes
before curtain time ...
If I had to do it again, I would have the balcony scene between Romeo and
Juliet busted by the Morality Squad. But fortunately, I'm in no danger
getting back to the theatre.
Feel free to do with these anecdotes whatever you like. It was my
venture into the world of greasepaint magic. It was fun, but I don't
very well with people whose ego is diametrically disproportionate to their
GM: When I was in grad school, I took some theatre classes and the profs.
GM: pointed out how distorting it is to treat plays as books. They have
GM: a life outside that of any printed book.
But we did the opposite trip, we took a book of short stories and made
play out of it. I am amazed that Frankie Howerd never used any of
stories on his TV show. They were almost tailor made for him.
GM: I hope you will write your memories of a Capek play in production...
Well, I just gave you everything memorable about it ... though I
from people about the performance for a couple of years afterwards. My
co-director kept pestering me about transcribing it into English and taking
it to a 'legitimate' theatre company in town, but the thought of having
work with him again was to much for me to ponder.
Somehow, everybody found something to like about it. But of course,
Czechs are rather attached to Karel Capek, anyway. The fact the at
time the Communist regime quietly refused to publish some of his works
tells you that he was uncomfortable to any totalitarian, not just the
GM: Not just a Zoon Politikon, either. Capek used the Greek term *Zoon
GM: Politikon* someplace: man the political animal. Capek never met
GM: an animal he didn't like. To get out of the world of clashing
GM: human ambitions, Capek made friends with the animals. He wrote _I
GM: Had a Dog and a Cat_, _Dashenka_ which is the _Winnie the Pooh_
GM: of Central Europe, and many more. On his grave is a bird
JOHN OUGHTON, also a Canadian, writes of his experiences
staging another of Capek's science fiction plays (this one
more allegorical), called _The Insect Comedy_:
I played the lead in a college production of the Insect Play. The
year was 1967-68, the college was Glendon, a recently-opened small
liberal arts college connected to York University in Toronto. it had a
good drama department, the most illustrious alumna of which is Kate
Nelligan, of movie and stage fame.
The Insect Play production was an undertaking of my drama class. I was
(and am) not much of an actor, but I had just discovered sex, drugs and
rock 'n' roll, and affected a scruffy appearance with a beard. So I was
given the lead role as the vagabond who falls asleep and visits the worlds
of the insects -- ants, butterflies, bees (I think -- it was a while ago).
I remember the location was the basement of an old estate house on the
campus. Because its low ceiling was festooned with water and heating
pipes, it became known as The Pipe Room and doubled as a coffeehouse.
Somehow it suited at least the ant part of the play. I think we chose the
play partly because some of the insects seemed to represent lifestyle
choices of the day -- the butterflies were a touch hippyish, spouting
off about love and flowers, and the ants definitely sounded like they
were ready to invade Vietnam.
I don't have any any special memories of the production (except the
reminder that I better find a day job fast, because acting was not going
to be my metier -- when Kate Nelligan and I did an acting exercise
together for another project, she said diplomatically, "John's too much
himself to be an actor"). But the frivolous, love-obsessed butterflies
had wonderful gauzy costumes, and the fascist ants were appropriately
grim. The play resonated for me considerably with The Once and Future
King, by TH White (which I'm sure was written after the Insect Play, and
may in fact have been influenced by it) in which the young King Arthur's
education by Merlin features being transformed into ants, fish, deer and
other animals and spending some time with them. Great stuff. Orwell's
Animal Farm, too, uses the device of a world of talking animals to make
telling points about human society, but I think Capek did it with a
lighter touch of whimsy and irony.
"Language is how we handle the world,
Yet its wrappings conceal reality..."
from Mata Hari's Lost Words, by
John Oughton, Sheridan College, Box 7500, Brampton ON Canada
HOME (BOY) PAGE = http://www.oise.on.ca/~joughton/intro.html
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