Category Archives: Shakespeare

ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY TO MONITOR HEART RATES AT ‘TITUS ANDRONICUS’ ·

(Andrew R. Chow’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/5; via Pam Green.)

Is a screening of a play just as powerful as the play itself? The Royal Shakespeare Company plans to use heart monitors to try to find the answer.

Starting Wednesday night, the company is to monitor the heart rates of 10 selected audience members at its blood-soaked production of “Titus Andronicus” in Stratford-upon-Avon, and then do the same for a cinema screening of the production in August. The theater’s aim is to measure the emotional experience of each viewing method and explore whether Shakespeare still shocks modern audience members, who are perhaps desensitized to violence onscreen.

Becky Loftus, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s head of audience insight, said that “Titus Andronicus” lends itself particularly well to this experiment, given the intensity of scenes showing the title character Titus’s hand being chopped off and the aftermath of the rape and mutilation of Lavinia, another character.

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SHAKESPEARE’S CURE FOR XENOPHOBIA ·

William Shakespeare. Portrait of William Shakespeare 1564-1616. Chromolithography after Hombres y Mujeres celebres 1877, Barcelona Spain

(Stephen Greenblatt’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 7/10-7/17; via Pam Green.)

What “The Merchant of Venice” taught me about ethnic hatred and the literary imagination.

I attended university in a very different world from the one in which I now teach and live. For a start, Yale College, which I entered in 1961, was all male. Women were not matriculated until five years after I had received my B.A. degree. Among the undergraduates, there were only a handful of students from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and very few African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Hispanics, unless one counted a couple of prep-school-educated heirs to grand South American fortunes.

The Yale that I attended was overwhelmingly North American and white, as well as largely Protestant. It was difficult for the admissions office to identify Catholics, but applicants with conspicuously Irish, Italian, or Polish names were at a disadvantage. For Jews, there was a numerus clausus, not even disguised by the convenient excuse of “geographical distribution.” And the whole system was upheld by a significant number of legacies, along with a pervasive air of privilege and clubbiness. To display too much interest in one’s studies or a concern for grades was distinctly uncool. This was still the era of what was called the “gentleman’s C.”

(Read more)

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/10/shakespeares-cure-for-xenophobia?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ShakespearePlus12Jul2017&utm_content=version_A&promo=

SIMON GODWIN’S ‘MEASURE FOR MEASURE’ AT THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE–ONLY UNTIL JULY 16 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

In his staging of Measure for Measure, from Theatre for a New Audience, now playing at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center until July 16, Simon Godwin takes his time in getting to the Bard. His production opens the problem play (Shakespeare places us in  a decadent Vienna), written circa 1603, with a brothel tour, one curated seriously, as if it’s part of a downtown gallery exhibit (the scenic and costume design is by Paul Wills; the light designer is Matthew Richards).  The director comes at us from a different direction, later, too, by placing the audience in a country-western bar, where an up-and-coming Linda Ronstadt might be singing. (Jane Shaw composed the music and designed the sound; the musicians are Drew Bastian, Robert Cowie, and Osei Essed.)  Whether he is laughing behind our backs or not, trying to prick the bourgeoisie, by letting subscribers peruse, among others, dildos, ben wa balls, S&M masks, handcuffs, and even a Donald Trump sex toy, Godwin is not merely a smooth, hip director. 

He also allows the audience to see the play’s confrontations with serious intellectual intent, as he explores Shakespeare’s scene work, as well as his language and storytelling—asking us to find our way into them, unrushed, almost in the way he might have asked himself and his actors to analyze and interpret during rehearsals.  Unpretentiously, they have found original, defensible characterizations, which may seem completely new.  Notable among them is the work of Thomas J. Ryan, who shows Angelo to be a boring, awkward bureaucrat (he may even be banal and evil)–yet his likes are found in thousands of offices every day—here, the character compulsively grabs for the Purell.  Jonathan Cake is not the partying jock he played as the lead in Antony and Cleopatra at the Public in 2014—now he is paler, a wild aristo before decline, hiding behind glasses that are too big.  Perhaps his character will remind of Hal in  Henry IV, Part 2–a work that is believed to be written earlier than this one, in 1596.   More recently, Prince Harry has stated, relevant to this discussion, that no one in his family really wants to be King, “but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”  That, of course, is the story of  the aforementioned Henry play and Measure for Measure—Cake does play his Duke as a modern British royal, one who is aware of what all his training and position mean (down to where and how to place his feet and hold his hands at the back); he also knows how to find the mellifluous meter of the Bard. Cara Ricketts makes an impressive Isabella because she concentrates on the character’s essence and heart (some consider the character cruel, but does anyone think a nun, the bride of Christ, would enter into the bargain Angelo is asking her to be part of?).

By taking his time with Shakespeare, walking with him and letting him take his own time, Godwin creates new interest in the play, even if he also shows the Bard’s warts and beauty marks.  For example:

  • Information can be repeated (Claudio’s execution)
  • One wonders why there is so much concern with this one criminal and crime, when there must be other, more dangerous activities happening in this depraved city
  • The Duke takes time to act on a problem that he is sympathetic to. Like Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, he could set everything right immediately, but he waits
  • Isabella seems to be allowed to stay away from her convent and keep her own hours, as if there are no internal rules for her order
  • There’s the obvious sexism of the bed trick
  • Among other issues.

Godwin must also deal with the problem of anachronism—Mariana (Merritt Janson) is introduced as a modern, independent woman, but, by the end of the play, she contorts into a submissive wife, as does Kate in The Taming of the Shrew or even Katharine Hepburn in many of her star vehicles. Whatever he can’t do to help Measure for Measure, however, Godwin should be commended for creating a true color-blind production.  Actors of different races may be used to show how progressive a company is regarding diversity, often in order to make a political point.  Although a more practical reason may be that actors of different backgrounds can help the audience keep characters straight, Godwin isn’t holding up casting choices as a shield or to telegraph his political correctness.

Perhaps one of the larger problems the director encountered with Measure for Measure, is the fact that the play insists that every character is obstructed and must be hyper-alive to choices that cannot be postponed.  There is no normal in the drama (perhaps this is what the Duke is trying to figure out)—and there is no one who can be identified as normal either (to put the dilemma in terms of Hamlet, there is no Horatio in this play). What was once considered status quo is no longer, as the Austrian laws have changed for the whole citizenry.  Meeting only those living on the edge, the audience may decide the work oddly reflects the current state of the U.S. and the West, whether they are flag-waving or not (and those who see this Measure for Measure will be able to actually do this if they want).  The play is such a perennial for simplified, unnuanced summer stages that viewers may have become inured to its complexities, dissonances, and differences: Measure for Measure, for example, is Shakespeare where a male spends most of the play in disguise. Godwin, treats the work as unusual, intellectual, suitable only for an unusual production, underplayed and stimulating, sexual or not.  

© 2017 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Visit Theatre for a New Audience: http://www.tfana.org/?gclid=CJnqv7zu8NQCFc1XDQodOtEDpQ

Press: Blake Zidell at Blake Zidell & Associates, Rachael Shearer.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

The Cast

OBERON K.A. ADJEPONG (Provost)

JONATHAN CAKE (Duke Vincentio) 

 KENNETH DE ABREW (Froth/Abhorson/Friar Peter) 

 ZACHARY FINE (Friar Thomas/Elbow/Barnardine, Gentleman). 

 LELAND FOWLER (Claudio) 

 MERRITT JANSON (Mariana)

JANUARY LAVOY (Mistress Overdone/Escala/Francisca) 

CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL MCFARLAND (Pompey)

SAM MORALES (Juliet)

CARA RICKETTS (Isabella)

THOMAS JAY RYAN (Angelo)

HAYNES THIGPEN (Lucio)

DREW BASTIAN (Musician)

ROBERT COWIE (Music Director/Musician) 

OSEI ESSED (Musician) 

 

Creative Team

SIMON GODWIN (Director) 

 BRIAN BROOKS (Choreographer) 

PAUL WILLS (Scenic & Costume Designer)

MATTHEW RICHARDS (Lighting Designer)

JANE SHAW (Composer & Sound Designer)

ALISON BOMBER (Voice & Text Coach) 

 ERIC REYNOLDS (Properties Supervision)

JONATHAN KALB (Production Dramaturg) 

MEGAN SCHWARZ DICKERT (Production Stage Manager)

DELTA, BANK OF AMERICA DROP SPONSORSHIP OF SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK OVER ‘JULIUS CAESAR’ STUNT THAT SHOWS TRUMP ASSASSINATION  ·

(Kate Feldman’s article appeared in the Daily News, 6/11; via the Drudge Report.)

Delta Airlines and Bank of America pulled out of their sponsorship of New York’s Public Theater on Sunday over a production of “Julius Caesar” that reimagines the main character as President Trump.

Shortly after Delta, who was a four-year sponsor, made its announcement, Bank of America yanked its support as well.

The Shakespeare in the Park play tells the story of the leader assassinated by Roman senators over the fear that he’s becoming too tyrannical, but rather than the original setting, the production stages Caesar (Gregg Henry) and his wife, Calpurnia, (Tina Benko) with Donald and Melania Trump lookalikes.

(Read more)

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/theater-arts/delta-ends-sponsorhip-julius-caesar-shows-trump-death-article-1.3239341

SENATORS STAB TRUMP TO DEATH IN CENTRAL PARK PERFORMANCE OF SHAKESPEARE’S JULIUS CAESAR ·

 

(Aidan McLaughlin’s article appeared on Mediaite, 6/6; via the Drudge Report.)

Shakespeare in the Park, an annual summer program by The Public Theater that puts on plays by William Shakespeare in Central Park, kicked off May 23 with a performance of Julius Caesar.

But this rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy comes with a twist — Caesar is played by a character that bears a striking resemblance to President Donald Trump.

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http://www.mediaite.com/trump/senators-stab-trump-to-death-in-central-park-performance-of-shakespeares-julius-caesar/

Photo: Public Theater

LONDON: LOST PLAY OF SHAKESPEARE DISCOVERED IN FAMILY HEIRLOOM ·

(from World News Daily Report; via Pam Green.) 

London| The team of experts from the auction house Christie’s, have confirmed this morning that a 16th century book found recently in the personnal collection of a recently deceased English Lord, is indeed an authentic printed version of William Shakespeare’s lost play, The History of Cardenio.

The book was discovered last year by employees proceeding to a successorale inventory, after the death of the Sir Humphrey McElroy, a rich baron and antiques collector from Brighton. It was at first treated as a possible fake, but all the analysis that were realized since have suggested otherwise. The authenticity of both the ink and the paper have now been confirmed, and it seems it is indeed, a late 16th print.

The History of Cardenio, often referred to as merely Cardenio, is known to have been performed by the King’s Men, the London theatre company to which William Shakespeare was associated, in 1613. It was attributed to both Shakespeare and John Fletcher (the same collaborator as in The Two Noble Kinsmen) in a Stationers’ Register entry dated of 1653, but no copy of the play had ever been found.

The content of the comedy is based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote involving the character Cardenio, a young man who has been driven mad and lives in the Sierra Morena.

(Read more)

http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/london-lost-play-of-shakespeare-discovered-in-family-heirloom/

SHAKESPEARE, ECOLOGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT ·

(Randall Martin’s article appeared on Folger’s Shakespeare & Beyond, 4/18; via Pam Green.)

What does Shakespeare say about ecology and its politically engaged cousin environmentalism? Neither term appears in his work—unsurprising since they hadn’t been coined yet. Nevertheless, we see Shakespeare thinking ecologically in ways that resonate with our own perceptions of the environmental challenges we face today.

He was writing when early capitalism, globalized trade, and colonialism were beginning to extend Western and masculine ideals of conquering nature around the world. Responding imaginatively to these developments, Shakespeare recognizes the limits nature imposes on human exploitation, the necessity of conserving the bio-integrity of ecosystems for human and non-human benefit, and the earth’s absolute power to overrule human attempts at domination.

(Read more)

http://shakespeareandbeyond.folger.edu/2017/04/18/shakespeare-ecology-environmental-earth-day/?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ShakespearePlus19Apr2017&utm_content=version_A&promo=

(Photo: Legal Insurrection)

SPY REPORT THAT CRITICISED MARLOWE FOR ‘GAY CHRIST’ CLAIM IS REVEALED ONLINE ·

(Andrew Dickson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/30.)

A controversial document in which the playwright Christopher Marlowereportedly declared that Christ was gay, that the only purpose of religion was to intimidate people, and that “all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools” is to go on show online for the first time.

The so-called “Baines note”, a star item in the British Library’s Renaissance manuscript collection, offers tantalising evidence about the private life of Marlowe, one of the most scandalous and magnetic figures of the Elizabeth period.

Compiled in May 1593 by the police informant and part-time spy Richard Baines, it claims to record a conversation between the two men in which the playwright airs a long list of what Baines describes as “monstrous opinions”.

Among them, Marlowe casts doubt on the existence of God, claims that the New Testament was so “filthily written” that he himself could do a better job, and makes the eyebrow-raising assertion that the Christian communion would be more satisfying if it were smoked “in a tobacco pipe”.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/31/christopher-marlowe-spy-baines-note-gay-christ-british-library-online

***** SHAKESPEARE: ‘THE ROMAN TRAGEDIES’ FROM IVO VAN HOVE (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/19.)

Hans Kesting is about to give his funeral oration as Mark Antony. He stumbles towards the lectern, wild-eyed and dishevelled. He suddenly throws away his carefully prepared notes, slumps in front of the stand, loosens his tie and appears to spontaneously address the crowd. But is it an honest, grief-stricken response to the death of Julius Caesar? Or a cleverly staged, managed and calculated piece of performance designed to enhance his own political ambitions? One that is conveniently caught on camera and broadcast on screens everywhere.

It’s one of several electrifying moments in Ivo van Hove’s lean, clean, condensed six-hour version of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra which returns to the Barbican where it was first staged in 2009. My, it’s still in great shape, the ensemble playing ferocious and purposeful. Jan Versweyveld’s designreframes Barbican’s stage as a bland, modern international conference hall, complete with pot plants, screens displaying the action, news bulletins and interviews with the lead actors, and an LED displays bringing news from the outside world – reminding us that in an era of instant communication and 24-hour news it is as easy to be misinformed as well informed. Unsurprisingly, in the opening minutes some screens briefly show a clip from Donald Trump’s inauguration.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/19/the-roman-tragedies-review-barbican-ivo-van-hove-barbican

TEEN STARRING ON CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE STAGE ·

(Catey Sullivan’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 3/6.)

At 14, Wilmette’s Aaron Lamm has the kind of an acting career many adult performers dream of. The New Trier freshman has credits at the biggest Equity theaters in Chicago. He’s signed with an agent. And through March 26, he’s playing a major supporting role in Chicago Shakespeare’s production of “Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

As Moth, the cheeky page and the smartest character in the room in “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” Lamm is stealing scenes and getting major laughs at the Tony-winning Navy Pier theater.

(Read more)

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/wilmette/lifestyles/ct-evr-go-aaron-lamm-tl-0309-20170306-story.html

Photo: chicago Tribune.