The following blog post is the third installment from actor John P. Keller, taking on the lead role of Pericles in Orlando Shakes upcoming modern verse production, of his documentation of the controversial project to translate Shakespeare into contemporary modern English.
The Translation, Adaptation, or Re-Writing of Shakespeare’s and Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles. Part II
It’s ok we are not re-writing Shakespeare we are re-writing… “Wilkins?”
Pericles is my favorite Shakespeare play. Perhaps my actor ego plays into that—always believing I would make a good Pericles (the jury is still out, we don’t open for another few weeks). Perhaps it’s because I love a great action adventure in all forms and this play—and maybe Cymbeline—are the closest Shakespeare comes to an Odyssean epic. This play also has one of the most superbly crafted scenes in all of Shakespeare, the dangerous and redemptive Act V boat scene—a superbly crafted moment of unknown identities which surprises with the continual ebb and flow of possible resolution and furthered conflict.
It is a common scholarly belief, based on empirical data, that Shakespeare is not the primary author of Pericles. It is probable that George Wilkins, sometime around 1607 or 1608, wrote the first two to three acts. His novel with the published titled “The Painful Adventures of Pericles, Prince of Tyre” contains whole passages of mirrored text. Most theater companies that produce Shakespeare’s Pericles Prince of Tyre usually contend with the performative hurdle of a play that is written in two pretty distinct voices. The differences in text and poetic flow found throughout the production as well as the challenges of vast changes in geographies and a bountiful cast of colorful characters makes Pericles a very challenging play to produce.
In my first article, I discussed how many artists responded to the initial announcement of the translation project with a mix of disbelief and disgust. However, if the conversation lasts more than that momentary outburst, it works its way around to discussing which plays might actually benefit with some dramaturgical aid. Shakespeare’s full body of work accounts for 39 plays, but, most of us have only heard of around a dozen or so—and probably only 3-5 are widely known in pop-culture. We can assume the success of these well known plays derive from the beauty of the poetry, the fantastical quality of the story telling, and reverberating psychological truisms. So what about the play’s outside of this revered circle? Well, Pericles is one of these outsider plays. Read the rest of this page »