Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2007
To discuss directors and their productions in relation to editors and their editions is at first glance to mix (or conflate) apples and oranges, cuts and emendations. To the scholar, the differences may far outweigh any similarities, but the essential problem facing both groups remains the same: when putting quill to paper, Shakespeare was fashioning his plays for players, playgoers, playhouses, and (perhaps) play readers that no longer exist. How does or should an editor or theatrical professional factor in the gap between the 1590s–early 1600s and the 1990s–early 2000s? To focus on the preparation of early modern English plays for presentation in today’s theatre is to bring into focus the problems and choices involved in a species of ‘editing’ geared to a larger arena and a less predictable audience.
When mounting a production of a Shakespeare play, today’s theatrical professionals take a wide range of approaches in choosing which words, speeches, and scenes to perform. Occasionally a textual adviser or dramaturg will be on hand to sort through the various options; some actors and directors deal directly with the Quarto or First Folio texts; others rely on a particular series as their chosen authority (e.g., the Arden, Oxford or Cambridge editions). One director told me that, after various paperbacks fell apart during the rigours of the rehearsal process, he chose a particular edition for its durable binding. During the rehearsal process some directors encourage their actors to use as many different editions as possible so as to highlight choices and anomalies, whereas others hand their personnel a playscript that contains pre-established cuts and transpositions, so that some cast members may never consult a full text of the play in question.