Chicken bones

Today, I went to a very entertaining talk on Regency era theater by Lorella Brocklesby, a professor at NYU.

In her very proper British accent, Lorella told us how actors accommodated for poor lighting by acting down toward the front of the stage by the audience, hence downstage.  The wealthiest notables got to sit on stage.  Anyone else was lucky to sit on a rough-hewn bench, and otherwise stood.

The producers put on two or three shows for one ticket price.  So Othello might be first bill, along with a comedy and a light musical.  Jane Austen, who at one  point lived very close to the Drury Lane theater, remarked on taking a carriage (apparently no one walked) and enjoying a 4 1/2 hour evening.  Now we complain if the show has an intermission and lasts longer than 90 minutes.

Still they would think nothing of editing Shakespeare down or having a 15 year old wunderkind play Hamlet.  I wonder if his voice squeaked when he said, “to be or not to be.”  As late as the Victorian era, the Queen was known to grouse about the unhappy endings in Shakespeare’s plays.  In the Regency era, the motto was to leave ’em happy.  Hence ending the performances with musical comedies–certainly my favorite mood elevator.

Lorella commented how polite we all were, attentively and quietly listening to her.  Regency era audiences would catcall, and if they didn’t like a performer or performance, they would throw chicken bones.  I’ve certainly wanted to throw a bone or two at some honkers I’ve seen.  Could a revival of customs be in store?