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Staging the York Plays: Toronto 1977

StagingScholarly Debate [ Length | RulesAnalysis [ Stations | Plays | Observations ]  Results  |  Conclusion

2-3: Toronto 1977 Videotapes

The third source of new data is the actual performance times of the 1977 Toronto production. The tapes also shed some light on how much time it would take for production members to strike and move the wagons; they also allow us to time how long it actually takes to perform each play, so that line-count estimates become less important to time studies.

Toronto: Striking Sets

The archive tapes unfortunately do not record the whole process of striking, moving, and setting up that takes place between the end of one play and the beginning of the next. A closing credit sequence runs superimposed at the end of each videotaped play. Occasionally the wagons have begun to move before the credits end and the next play begins on the tape, but usually the tape cuts off before the striking process is complete.

My observation of the tapes suggests, however, that the stagehands were not moving as quickly as they might have. The audience politely applauded mediocre productions for fifteen or twenty seconds; better productions received about thirty seconds worth. For the "Road to Emmaus" play, which ends with a reference to "prossesse of plaies that precis in plight," the actors began striking the set while still speaking the closing lines. The wagon was moving within fifteen seconds of the utterance of the final line. More complex plays would of course require greater numbers of stagehands to effect such a quick strike, but the "prologue advance" theory discussed above would allow the actors from the following play to begin speaking while the previous play was still breaking down. A note on Peter Meredith's rehearsal notes from the 1975 Leeds production reads: "took very much less time [than the allotted three minutes] to clear & move on -- ? cd. be done in a minute altogether but 2 mins at most if nothing to delay the waggon". I have not yet incorporated the feature into my program, but I hope to let the PSim user adjust the amount of "down time" that the stagehands would require to set up and break down the wagons. A minute seems more than adequate. See the following section for a discussion of the videotapes of the 1977 Toronto production or see a video clip that shows actors ending a play and pushing the wagon away quickly.

Toronto: Timing the Videotapes

All previous time studies of the York cycle depended on line counts. Timing the plays as recorded on the videotapes can help clear up some of the guesswork, but the timing process was not exact. For the most part I began timing the play from the first obvious stage business (usually a spoken line) until the moment the audience began to applaud, and rounded to the nearest five seconds. In some cases, the actors had some business connected with an entrance; other times the videotape begins rather abruptly with actors already present on stage and business already in progress; and still other times, the plays "began" with an unscripted musical interlude or an unnecessary procession -- frippery that I imagine should be minimized, given the time constraints involved. In an electronic mail message to me, Professor Rogerson wrote, "Peter Meredith from the University of Leeds has told me that he has verified my estimated performance times over the years." In addition, a copy of Meredith's rehearsal schedule for the Leeds 1975 performance (provided to me by G. R. Rastall of Leeds) shows that Meredith had incorporated Rogerson's estimated run-times into his rehearsal schedule, suggesting that he accepted her figures. I have been unable to obtain sufficiently detailed accounts of the actual performance times for the plays remounted for the Leeds production to include that data in this simulation.

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