Every Improbable Fictions production goes through the same dramaturgical and rehearsal process. First, the play’s director, often with the help of a dramaturge, cuts the original script down to performance length. Since we primarily perform for undergraduates, we often aim for final runtimes under 90 minutes. Second, we cast these cut scripts using theatre enthusiasts of all backgrounds, from graduate students in the University of Alabama’s acting program to community theatre members to students and teachers who have never before set foot onstage. Third, we put scripts in the hands of our actors and rehearse for about ten to twelve hours total over the course of four weeknights. Ideally, we read through the entire script ‘cold’ on the first night, work on individual scenes for the next two nights, and stumble through the full play again on the fourth night. In rehearsals we try to wed careful, emotionally motivated readings of the lines with some basic physical blocking about the stage. Finally, we perform the show before a University and community audience of about 70 to 80 people.
My own work with cutting Shakespeare’s plays is inspired by Henri Matisse’s practice of scraping away paint in the final stages of his compositions. You can see this practice quite clearly in his portrait of Yvonne Landsberg: Matisse flipped over his paintbrush and used the wooden tip to scrape away lines of paint, leaving arcs of white space that evoke the presence of Landsberg.
There is art in subtraction, in the white spaces between brushstrokes, between paragraphs, between words. Script cutting, especially when applied to a traditional idol of the Western literary canon, can be viewed as sacrilege, a removal of art. I would much prefer to see cutting as an art in itself, a concentration rather than a reduction of the existing script. Jen Bervin’s Nets is another splendid example of the art of selection: Bervin treats Shakespeare’s Sonnets as the grayed out backdrops for her own found poetry.
In that spirit, I present here a gallery of Improbable Fictions’ cuts of Shakespeare.
Coriolanus, MIT, adapted by Joey Gamble, Spring 2013
These scripts were adapted from the editions of Shakespeare available at MIT’s The Complete Works of Shakespeare and at Folger Digital Texts, the latter of which is is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.
This work, too, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. You’re free to adapt this work for your own noncommercial purposes, but please remember to give credit to the appropriate adapters and to MIT or the Folger for their Shakespeare editions.