Lace and rhetoric
March 18, 2011
Pippa Nixon and Alex Hassell in rehearsal
Outside of the fiesta (see previous post), rehearsals continue at a more sober, steady pace. In one of the fitting rooms, Dorotea (Pippa Nixon), is being taught lace making, by local expert, Marion Stubbings. In Cervantes' novel, Dorotea spends her free time lace-making and playing on the harp. I pop in to say hello. I've brought a copy of a painting by the seventeenth-century Spanish artist Zurbarán of the Virgin Mary as a child. Zurbarán is sometimes known as the Spanish Caravaggio for his use of chiaroscuro - the play of light and dark. In this image, and several like them, the young girl is depicted working on a lace-making cushion.
'Oh no,' says Mary, 'that's a Belgian cushion. This is a Spanish cushion.' She reveals a large oblong block. Not the dainty prop I was looking for. I feel a little churlish, suggesting that the traditional Spanish cushion might be a little too large for our purposes as it requires propping up, and we have nowhere on stage to prop it. And that Belgian or not, the cushion in Zurbarán's painting might just be a little more convenient for us. But for the moment I choose to hold my peace. Marion is an inspiring teacher and gets the girls fiddling their bobbins in no time.
We have been continuing our regular weekly verse and text sessions. I was doing a morning on rhetoric a few weeks ago, concentrating on the first two speeches of Titus Andronicus, and extracting just how much you can tell about the character of the two speakers from the way they construct their arguments. We were joined for the session by the American scholar, James Shapiro (Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and author of 1599, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare) he's been giving us insights into the historical background of the plays in the season. After we have examined Saturninus' rant, insisting maniacally on his absolute right to rule, Jim shrugs his shoulders and says: 'It's Hosni Mubarak!' And it could be Gadaffi too. Shakespeare acts like a magnet to the iron filings of contemporary events.
by Greg Doran
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