Can a classic be unique? (Dramaturgy, part 2)
Of course each production–indeed, each performance–of a LIVE play will be unique. Its actors are different, its stage, its costumes, scenery and props are specific to that production design, even if the script stays exactly the same. No two productions of any play will ever be identical.
In fact, although Shakespeare’s plays are among the very oldest “classics” that an American audience is ever likely to see, there is as much or more variation in the way his plays are mounted as in any other playwright’s work.
Written works are protected by copyright for only so long (usually 70 years or so). After that, the author is presumed to have made all the money he or she is going to make on that piece of work. In producing Shakespeare, therefore, our budget is helped by not paying royalties to a publisher.[However, since we must either 1) purchase printed copies of the script or 2) print our own, there is still certainly some cost involved. In our Dramaturgy post (part 1), we explained how the script was shortened. But it is still 77 pages long, and in a cast of 17 with several production team members, that’s a lot of printing!]
Shakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet during the Elizabethan era, in England. So should we set the play there and then?