Category Archives: Shakespeare

HOMEGROWN SHAKESPEARE: ‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM’ (RIVER’S EDGE THEATRE CO, NY) ·

HOMEGROWN SHAKESPEARE:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Directed by Jessica Irons

Shakespeare never looked so sustainable! Earth conscious actors are assigned their roles 30 days before the performance. Forbidden to rehearse with one another, each actor must craft their own character, costume, and props in the privacy of their own home with sustainability in mind. Nothing can be purchased. Use of recycled materials is encouraged. Coming together for the first time on the weekend of the show, these actors perform onstage in front of a live audience. NO HOLDS BARD! Recommended for ages 8 and up.

July 20th at 4pm and 7pm

July 21st at 4 and 7pm

Bethany Arts Community, Ossining (INDOORS)

Tickets: $20 seniors and students/$25  general admission

10% of Ticket sales go to Groundwork Hudson Valley. a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating sustainable environmental change in urban neighborhoods through community based partnerships.

​This project is made possible with funds from Arts Alive, a regrant program of ArtsWestchester with support from the Office of the Governor, the New York State Legislature, and the New York State Council on the arts.

TICKETS HERE.

PEEK-A-BOO

(an immersive theatrical romp)

By Meghan Covington

Welcome, guys and gals, to the 1920s in Tarrytown, NY. You are invited to the Peek-a-boo flats, a paltry little club nestled on the banks of the Hudson. Here you may imbibe the potions, delight in the dancers, and let your senses run wild, but try not to get too spellbound. Once you walk in you might never find your way out again. Spooky local history and immersive theatre unite in this torrid tale of love and longing on the Hudson River. Mature audiences only.

Oct 17-20th and 24-27, 7:30pm

Bethany Arts Community, Ossining

Tickets: $30 seniors and students/ $35 general admission

Tickets on sale soon!

O, CANADA! THE BARD IS RIBBED AND REVERED AT ONTARIO’S STRATFORD FESTIVAL ·

(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/28; Photo: God, I hate Shakespeare … Mark Uhre as Nick Bottom in Something Rotten! Photograph: Ann Baggley.)

The side-splitting Something Rotten! fondly mocks Shakespeare and musicals at the annual arts jamboree celebrated for both. It is a witty accompaniment to fresh takes on Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Cymbeline

Something is rotten in the province of Ontario. It is the second number of the tentpole musical at Canada’s Stratford festival, the Shakespeare jamboree that has celebrated the British Bard of Avon for more than 70 years. This is a town where a street, a school and a pet hospital are called Romeo. But what’s that I hear? “God, I hate Shakespeare!” fumes the fellow on the revolutionary thrust stage of Stratford’s Festival theatre, asking how “a mediocre actor from a measly little town” managed to become “the brightest jewel in England’s royal crown”. The sacrilege rages on as the showboating Bard himself strides on to hog the spotlight for the song Will Power, and the “sultan of sonnets” brandishes a huge quill like a mic and shamelessly flirts with fans.

Bawdy, barmy and almost incessantly hilarious, Something Rotten! is the standout show of the 2024 Stratford season, fusing the festival’s two major traditions of Shakespeare and musical theatre. This Renaissance tale of budding playwright brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Mark Uhre and Henry Firmston), toiling in the shadow of the all-conquering Shakespeare (Jeff Lillico), picked up 10 Tony award nominations on its premiere in 2015 including best score (for brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick) and best book (co-written by longtime Guardian columnist John O’Farrell). Despite such success, it has inexplicably taken almost a decade for it to receive a UK premiere – but now a concert version will be staged for two nights at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane in August.

It is perfectly at home in Canada’s Stratford – settled in 1832 and surrounded by farmland – which has a theatrical reputation to rival its British namesake. There are irreverent gags galore about musical theatre as the Bottom brothers take advice from a soothsayer who assures them it’s the next big thing – cue fond mockery in a brassy, high-kicking, dizzyingly meta number that breaks down the genre’s key ingredients with references to Les Mis, Annie and scores of other shows. A Hamilton-style rap battle finds rhyming couplets fired across the stage and the show has a touch of The Producers, too, as the Bottoms workshop the song The Black Death (opening line: “What’s that coming up the Silk Road?”) complete with a chorus line of grim reapers.

(Read more)

 

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY, 7/2/2024 ·

On 7/2/2024, director Frank Farrell and playwright Bob Shuman went for a 1:00pm meeting with Dream Up Festival director, Michael Scott-Price, at Theater for the New City (TNC) to have a walk-through of the space (with other groups who will also present shows).  The stage where their project, Tongs and Bones Shakespeare, will be playing, for approximately five performances (between 8/26 and 9/15), is the Community Theater, a mid-sized space within the TNC complex–of the dimensions they had been hoping for.  You can see it below, as it is,  before they attempt to create an uninhabited (by human life) island for “From a Cloven Pine,” a prequel to The Tempest; the forest of Arden in “The Coxcomb’s Wedding,” inspired by As You Like It; and a fairy bower for “The Wanton Wind,” based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The first idea that came to mind for the creators was, “Can we get another ladder? 
  
 
Jotting down notes on pre-sale discount codes, press releases, and lighting (with Michael and Clara, their tech contact), they were then taken to a downstairs storage area for sets, props, and costumes, to meet  Susan Hemley, the volunteer, veteran  mistress of the above.  When Bob mentioned a gorilla mask, she did not bat an eyelash. The team is to gather on “pull days,” for which they will receive notification, to tape index cards to the properties they would like to use for their project, and even arrange shares with those who would like the same items (apparently blocks and cubes are highly prized). How amazing to see the imagined become tangible.  Like Christmas in July.

 

Follow the progress of the staging of Tongs and Bones Shakespeare weekly on Stage Voices.

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY

Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director

155 First Avenue
(between 9th and 10th Streets)
New York, NY 10003

‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN; DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL)

Stage Voices Web site (www.stagevoices.com) will be following the course of the production with information and rehearsal updates.  To bring this ambitious project to life, we are seeking the generous support of our community.  To start, we are beginning a GoFundMe campaign: Please consider donating, as the cast, in keeping with those in Shakespeare’s plays, is rather large—there are, of course, costume and rehearsal space costs, as well; a long list of expenditures.  Your contributions, no matter the size, will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this production—and we give many thanks for your help.

Please use the following GoFundMe link for the crowdsourcing platform to donate.  

(c) 2024 by Bob Shuman. 

‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ BY BOB SHUMAN:  TALKING WITH . . . ·

In May, when director Frank Farrell began working with playwright Bob Shuman on staging Tongs and Bones Shakespeare–coming to Theater for the New City, as part of the Dream Up Festival (at the end of August and beginning of September [final dates to be announced])–their correspondence began with finding answers.  Here is the start (Farrell’s writing and questions are in bold); the entire interview will be published on Stage Voices Web site during the next several weeks.   

FRANK FARRELL:  I have a few questions I want to ask. They will help me figure out how to direct this production. 

When you wrote the five plays* did you write them with the intention of them all being performed together? 

* For the production at Theater for the New City, three plays are being staged, due to length.

BOB SHUMAN: They were written because I wanted to cover “other” or “hidden” stories within the texts.  I could start to see them in the Shakespeare plays, so I hoped to highlight them, as if I were finding pentimento in paintings.   

I wrote them for myself.  They are exercises, really, because I was interested in learning more about Early Modern English.  At one point, I had started to look up words I did not know, from As You Like It, to define and post on my Web site, Stage Voices.

What effect would you hope each play will give to an audience? What are you hoping they walk away with at the end of each play? At the end of all five plays?

That I found interesting or untold stories within the plays. They were my crossword puzzles.                   `        `       

Is it true that each of the five plays is a mixing of various texts including Shakespeare, other sources and your own dialogue? Am I reading some contemporary wordage in the text?
Yes, Shakespeare is the common element, but I, for example, am drawing on Virginia Woolf, Euripides, and Boccaccio, too—and there are more.

What do you think we can achieve with Tongs and Bones Shakespeare in the time we have? Tell us about the title. Are you interested in having dancers on stage to express what the actors are saying while they say it? 

The reason I call it Tongs and Bones Shakespeare is because I wanted rawness and fluidity.  Sure, it can dance. “Tongs and bones,” according to Oxford, are “makeshift musical instruments, used by people on the streets or in taverns.”  My plays were relying on imagination and literary improvisation; they’re based on the great work of the Bard—made disharmonic, noisy, visible, and boisterous!

Follow the progress of the staging of Tongs and Bones Shakespeare weekly on Stage Voices.

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY

Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director

155 First Avenue
(between 9th and 10th Streets)
New York, NY 10003

‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN; DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL)

Stage Voices Web site (www.stagevoices.com) will be following the course of the production with information and rehearsal updates.  To bring this ambitious project to life, we are seeking the generous support of our community.  To start, we are beginning a GoFundMe campaign: Please consider donating, as the cast, in keeping with those in Shakespeare’s plays, is rather large—there are, of course, costume and rehearsal space costs, as well; a long list of expenditures.  Your contributions, no matter the size, will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this production—and we give many thanks for your help.

Please use the following GoFundMe link for the crowdsourcing platform to donate.  

(c) 2024 by Frank Farrell and Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. Art: Fuseli.

 

‘THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR’ OFFERS STRONG EVIDENCE THAT SHAKESPEARE WAS NOT ITS AUTHOR ·

(Jacobi’s and Anderson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/13; Photo/ illustrations: Relentless in his self-satire … Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Photograph: Alamy.)

Derek Jacobi and Margo Anderson on how local lore and biographical specificity found in the comedy point to the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, as its writer

Michael Billington says Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor offers clues to the Bard’s identity (Need proof who wrote Shakespeare’s plays? See The Merry Wives of Windsor, 20 May). “It could only have been written by someone who understood the intricacies of a close-knit, provincial community,” Billington writes.

We wholeheartedly agree. The action in Merry Wives centres on an inn in Windsor, the only town in England with a whole Shakespeare play devoted to it. Local geography and lore are faithfully reported, including accurate references to the nearby village of Frogmore, the laundry place at Datchet Mead and Windsor Castle’s Great Park.

This, we suggest, is for good reason. The author of The Merry Wives of Windsor is drawing from personal experience of having once lived in Windsor.

When he was a young adult in 1570, the downwardly mobile Elizabethan court poet and playwright Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, recuperated from an illness at an inn in Windsor. Around the same time, he was wooing Anne Cecil, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s chief adviser William Cecil. Around that time an overachieving young go-getter in Cecil’s orbit, Philip Sidney, was also seeking kindly Anne’s hand. But De Vere ultimately got the girl. And his 1571 marriage to Anne soon spiralled into fiery disarray, brought about in part by the outraged De Vere jealously accusing her of infidelity.

And it’s all right there in The Merry Wives. The author of this play, relentless in his own self-satire, had a more modern artistic consciousness than critics traditionally allow. It’s as if he split portions of his life story into three and set these triplet strands of memory and clashing personality traits chaotically into motion.

The author’s three protagonist avatars – Fenton, Ford and Falstaff – represent the wooer, the jealous husband, and the wild gadabout. In Merry Wives, Fenton’s chief rival for the hand of “sweet Anne Page” is a milksop called Slender, whose pointed correspondences to the historical Philip Sidney zing with specificity. Sidney, like Slender, had a power broker of a kinsman who pressed Anne’s family for the marriage; Sidney, like Slender, could lay claim to a £300 annuity; Anne in Merry Wives as well as the historical Anne Cecil both had £700 inheritances awaiting them.

(Read more)

ANNOUNCING: ‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN; DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL) ·

Get ready for a theatrical experience like no other, based on characters from the plays of Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and The Tempest)!  The highly anticipated Tongs and Bones* Shakespeare: Tempestuous Amusements, Interludes, Noises, and Drollery is coming to Theater for the New City from August 25th through September 15th (final dates are forthcoming). Written by Stage Voices’ own Bob Shuman, the play is directed by theatre veteran Frank Farrell, whose most recent show, Walt Kelly’s Songs of the Pogo, won Best Ensemble at the 2024 New York City Fringe Festival (Farrell wrote and directed that play).

Tongs and Bones Shakespeare takes audiences on a captivating journey into the world, and heart, of the Bard. It even tracks what he had no more room for in his great plays. Find out, for example:  

What became of the Little Indian Boy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

How did Jacques, in As You Like It, lose his mirth?

And why did Ariel need to be freed, even before meeting Prospero, in The Tempest?

Plus, more unexpected answers. 

Support This Artistic Endeavor

Stage Voices Web site (www.stagevoices.com) will be following the course of the production with information and rehearsal updates.  To bring this ambitious project to life, we are seeking the generous support of our community.  To start, we are beginning a GoFundMe campaign: Please consider donating, as the cast, in keeping with those in Shakespeare’s plays, is rather large—there are, of course, costume and rehearsal space costs, as well; a long list of expenditures.  Your contributions, no matter the size, will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this production—and we give many thanks for your help. Please use the following link for the crowdsourcing platform.  

Thank you, Readers.  Rejoice with our opportunity to work in Off-Off Broadway’s finest theatre.

Best,

Bob Shuman

Stage Voices

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY

Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director

155 First Avenue
(between 9th and 10th Streets)
New York, NY 10003

* Tongs and Bones: Makeshift musical instruments, used by people on the streets or in taverns (Oxford University Press)

Photo by Miguel Garzón Martínez presented as part of the FRIGID New York Little Shakespeare Festival.

CASTING CALL – SHAKESPEARE CHARACTERS PLAY ·

Seeking: Non-union male actors, of any race, aged 45-60 for a play about Shakespeare characters. Experience with Shakespeare plays is helpful but not required.

Production:

Play to be performed at Theater for the New City in late August through early September 2024

Produced by Stage Voices Productions

Please email electronic headshot photo and acting resume, including your e-mail address, to Bob Shuman at Bobjshuman@gmail.com

Actors from the Riverdale section of the Bronx are preferred, and general area, or those able to travel there for auditions

Actors need present a memorized 1-minute Shakespeare monologue at the audition

Specific audition dates and location to be announced  

About the Play:
This new play explores the lives and personalities of various characters in Shakespeare. It blends drama, comedy, and fantasy as these characters interact in unexpected ways. Strong acting skills and the ability to handle and memorize Shakespearean language is a must.

Audition Notice Expiration: June 30, 2024

Please share this notice with any interested actors meeting the age range and requirements. We look forward to receiving your submissions!

NEED PROOF WHO WROTE SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS? SEE THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/20.  Photo Lucy Tregear as Meg Page, Richard Cordery as Sir John Falstaff and Claire Carrie as Alice Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Old Vic, London, in 2003. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

Set for revival at the RSC, this perfectly structured revenge comedy has an earthy vitality that no aristo or scholar could have created

I have a question for those theatrical luminaries (and I’m looking at you Sir Mark and Sir Derek) who doubt the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Do they seriously believe that a capricious aristo such as the Earl of Oxford or a legalistic scholar like Francis Bacon could have written The Merry Wives of Windsor? In case they have forgotten, this brilliant comedy – about to be revived by the RSC – shows the middle classes getting their revenge on a knightly predator, Sir John Falstaff. It could only have been written by someone who understood the intricacies of a close-knit, provincial community.

What strikes me about the play is its quintessential Englishness, and you see this in myriad ways. One is in the earthy vitality of the language. There is a classic example when Anne Page, offered the prospect of marriage to a preposterous Frenchman, says: “Alas, I had rather be set quick i’th’earth / And bowled to death with turnips.” It is an extraordinarily vivid image and one of the play’s rare excursions into verse: 90% of it is in prose. But the language throughout has a localised vigour that stems from a writer steeped in English life. At one point Mistress Ford urges her servants to take the buck-basket containing Falstaff and “carry it among the whisters in Datchet Mead.” The “whisters” were the bleachers of linen who could be seen by any English river bank including the Avon.

That Englishness also takes the form of running gags at the expense of language-mangling foreigners: something today we may find mildly offensive but, if we are honest, a constant strain in English stage, film and TV comedy. In The Merry Wives, Dr Caius is the archetypal funny Frenchman who, invited to join a small, select twosome, blithely announces: “I shall make-a the turd.” Shakespeare, who had a fascination with the Welsh – think of Fluellen and Owen Glendower – here creates a voluble parson, Sir Hugh Evans, finally dismissed by Falstaff as “one that makes fritters of English”. A reminder that even today we use the language as a test of assimilation.

But how to represent this Englishness on stage? Broadly, there are two approaches. One is to treat the play as a realistic slice of Elizabethan life: the other is to find modern equivalents. Terry Hands – who deserves credit for putting the play back on the map and who directed it for the RSC in 1968 and 1975 and at the National in 1995 – and Trevor Nunn who directed it for the RSC in 1979 were both slice-of-life men. From Nunn’s production I remember half-timbered houses, mullioned windows and choirboys playing conkers. But both directors realised that it is the jealous bourgeois, Ford, who drives the play as much as Falstaff. In Hands’s RSC productions Ian Richardson displayed a sustained frenzy that made the jealousy of Othello and Leontes look like very small beer. In Nunn’s version Ben Kingsley exuded a wheezy jollity in the scenes where he accosts Falstaff in disguise, only to let out a manic scream of rage the second the fat knight left the room.

(Read more)

‘THEY’RE TEACHING ME’: GREG DORAN ON STAGING SHAKESPEARE’S UNLOVED TWO GENTS WITH STUDENTS ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/10;  Photograph: Geraint Lewis.

The theatre director, now teaching at Oxford after years running the RSC, thinks The Two Gentlemen of Verona is perfect for a young cast to argue over. We go into rehearsals

Which is Shakespeare’s least loved play? The Two Gentlemen of Verona would come high on many people’s lists. It is clearly apprentice-work. It has had few significant revivals. And it also raises problematic issues since the treacherous Proteus threatens at one point to rape Silvia who is betrothed to his best friend, Valentine. For these and other reasons it is no one’s favourite play.

This could, however, be about to change. Greg Doran – now officially Sir Gregory – is staging a production at the Oxford Playhouse with student actors. After 35 years as an actor and then director with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Doran is this year’s Cameron Mackintosh visiting professor of contemporary theatre at St Catherine’s College. It is a seductive post – whose previous occupants include Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Miller, Deborah Warner and Adjoa Andoh – which involves giving lectures and workshops. But Doran has had the bright idea of using his tenure to direct the one play in the First Folio that has so far eluded him: The Two Gents. After spending time watching him at work, I have a hunch that he may have cracked some of the problems posed by one of Shakespeare’s early works.

“It is an ideal play,” says Doran, “to do with students. It is about young people leaving home, falling in love, discovering their identities. It even brings back memories of my own experience of leaving Preston to study at Bristol just as Shakespeare’s characters quit Verona to go to Milan. But working on the play has been genuinely collaborative. It’s been a funny old couple of years since the death of my husband [Sir Antony Sher]. I’ve filled it with various displacement activities such as going round the world studying existing copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio. What this production enables me to do is get back into a rehearsal room and to pass on what I have learned to the next generation. They are also teaching me. There’s a scene where Launce and Speed, two comic servants, discuss the attributes of a milkmaid. One of the actors said to me that it was exactly like a Hinge profile. I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about until he explained that it was a dating app.”

How, though, do you cast a play when you are unfamiliar with the students’ work? “Well,” says Doran, “80 initially sent in videos. I saw 40 of them in person and cast 20. What is extraordinary is the range of experience. Half the cast are undergraduates: the other half are doing DPhils or master’s degrees in subjects that include neuroscience, the history of art and professional theatre in the Soviet gulags. Three of the cast I’ve discovered also do drag acts.”

(Read more)

HENRY V (LISTEN NOW ON BBC DRAMA ON 3–LINK BELOW) ·

Henry V

Listen 

Drama on 3

by William Shakespeare

A new production of Shakespeare’s hugely popular history play.

As King Henry’s ambitions lead him to invade France, he finds himself facing daunting challenges, battling to win not only the throne but the hearts and minds of his followers. Henry soon discovers, for all his fine words, that an imperfect world can call for imperfect actions.

The Chorus/Alice ….. Penelope Wilton
King Henry ….. Ben Lloyd-Hughes
Exeter ….. Nicholas Farrell
Fluellen/Bedford ….. Steffan Rhodri
Westmoreland/Governor of Harfleur …. Roger Ringrose
PIstol/Grey ….. Lloyd Hutchinson
Nym/Cambridge ….. Ben Crowe
Bardolph/Scroop …. Ewan Bailey
Hostess ….. Jessica Turner
The Boy ….. Billy Jenkins
King of France/Bishop of Ely ….. Steve Toussaint
The Dauphin/Williams ….. Luke Newberry
Katharine ….. Freya Mavor
The Constable/York ….. John Lightbody
Orleans/Bates/French soldier ….. Charlie Anson
Montjoy/Gloucester/Messenger ….. Ian Dunnett Jnr
Canterbury/Erpingham ….. MIchael Bertenshaw
Burgundy/Salisbury ….. Nicholas Murchie

Chorister, George B of The King’s School, Gloucester and Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Music composed by Jon Nicholls
Production Co-ordinator, Ben Hollands
Technical Producers, Peter Ringrose and Ali Craig
Director, Sally Avens