Hal 9000 — one of the most memorable "computer voice" in modern film history, the device that goes berserk, only to be outsmarted by astronaut David Bowman. Behind the voice, the seasoned Shakespearean actor Douglas Rain, who brought an eery, knowing, and menacing calm to the voice, and reminding us of our potentially fraught relationship with computers. This is a great New York Times article on several levels, and very much worth reading.
March/31/2018 14:37 Interpretation | Shakespeare | Macbeth | Performance | Reviews | Stars Playing Shakespeare
Hard on the heels of a favorable review of the latest RSC version of Macbeth, an altogether less kind review, which suggests that success in staging Macbeth is comparatively hard, as opposed to -- say -- Hamlet. An interesting comparison, and a thought provoking review. Two Macbeths currently in production — one at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the other at The National Theatre — get reviewed, and neither fares well
It's always interesting — and sometimes instructive — to see how a story changes when it makes the jump from one medium to another. In this case, The Austin Playhouse is putting on an adaptation for stage of the movie Shakespeare in Love (most recently tainted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal). The review is brief, and gives the adaptation and the performers a solid thumbs up, but acknowledges that it breaks no new ground. A safe, and probably enjoyable evening of theater — just as Shakespeare would have wanted it!
March/29/2018 12:49 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Language | Textual Analysis
Shakespeare Magazine (now 13 issues old) works to bring all things Shakespeare to a broader audience. With varying degrees of success, they surface a number of issues surrounding Shakespeare's works. Another resource of possible interest to teachers, and here we highlight Amogha Sridhar's piece. We particularly like the image of a text, together with the annotation tools she uses to work on Shakespeare's texts - highlighters, pencil, eraser, and sharpener. All still necessary, even in an increasingly digital world.
March/28/2018 15:05 Shakespeare | Shakespeare in Translation | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Star Wars | Humor | Language | Shakespeare Resource | In every day use
Ian Doescher scored quite a hit several years ago by creating a Elizabethan parody of the Star Wars films (more or less every title tacking "etc" to the end of a word or two and giving it a Shakespearean language veneer). With six tomes under his belt, the next in the series is due out July 7, as announced by Star Wars website. Whatever its limitations in terms of introducing readers to Shakespeare's language, it does certainly convey the rhythm and affect of Shakespeare's work, and can surely only help for students who struggle to understand his language.
The first reviews are coming out for Theater for a New Audience's The Winter's Tale, and this one from The New York Times is strongly favorable. Beyond its careful parsing of the production and performance, New York Times writer Jesse Green picks out some Shakespeare linguistic gems (the neologism bed-swerver for unfaithful wife) and also casually uses the word Hoyden — which apparently means a boisterous girl.
Class discussion can often be made more dynamic and energetic by using images from different productions, or even images from a single production. This link to the Royal Shakespeare Company's image gallery of its current production of Macbeth is such a resource. Some questions teachers might ask include (but are definitely not limited to): What does the costuming tell you about the production? Is the blood displayed indicative of a restrained, or hyperbolic production? What modern visual concepts does the director use, and why might he have used them? What ideas might you take from these production images if you were putting on the play? Can you guess the various characters from the way they look?
Well-reviewed in London, we were able to at last see the National Theatre's Julius Caesar performance beamed from London to a movie theater in Manhattan. As a quick comment on the experience — and not to offend ardent theatergoers — a friend of the blog commented that the advantage of watching a "live" play on a screen in a movie theater seems similar to the advantage of seeing a sports game on TV - multiple camera angles, perfect sound, and a greater sense that one is seeing absolutely everything to advantage. The long and the short of it is that watching Julius Caesar via The National Theatre Live program provided an excellent experience, and we recommend it to anyone who might be curious.
Margot Robbie, who has come to prominence through performances in movies such as I Tonya, will be producing ten of Shakespeare's plays with a focus on female perspectives, as well as an Australian emphasis. Yet again, Shakespeare provides the fertile loam for experimenting with story telling in entirely new venues.
A mixed but mostly positive review of the Royal Shakespeare Company's latest offering of Macbeth, with noted Dr. Who actor Christopher Eccleston, ably accompanied by Niamh Cusack as Lady M. As with Michael Fassbender's 2015 movie version, the loss of their child underpins many of the conceits of this production, working sometimes, but not always, in particular in the second half of the production. See the review here.
In this nicely done two minute video, English comedian Rob Brydon runs through some phrases that are in the English language today, that were coined by Shakespeare. How many? By our count, 61. How many do you know? Watch and find out!
One of the sadder Shakespeare related stories from recent history. Shakespeare (indirectly) caused an air crash in 1960. A plane taking off from Logan Airport in Boston was brought down by a flock of starlings. The Shakespeare connection? Starlings are not native to the US, but were brought over by Shakespeare fanatic Eugene Schieffelin in 1860, so that Central Park would be stocked by every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. For more on the story, read a New York Times archive story, and a wikipedia entry on the events surrounding the actual crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 375.
March/19/2018 14:07 Interpretation | Shakespeare | The Winter's Tale | Arin Arbus | James Shapiro | Performance
A three minute interview with director Erin Arbus. She discusses her vision of what Shakespeare may have been thinking and attempting to do with this play, written after his great tragedies had come out. Redemption? Forgiveness. memorialization on the fifteenth anniversary of his son Hamnet's death? Interesting and thoughtful.
March/19/2018 13:15 The Winter's Tale | Shakespeare | Shakespeare Resource | Performance | Interpretation
The Winter's Tale, though of one Shakespeare's more obscure and less performed plays, also claims the dubious honor of "the gaudiest stage direction" in the canon: "Exit, pursued by bear". That's a pity, because the play is memorable for more than just that - for example, the bringing back to life of a dead character through the animation of a statue. The play is also sometimes characterized as one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", that is a play whose type is hard to categorize. It starts off as a dark drama filled with jealousy, fear, recrimination, and child abandonment, and yet works it's way into a "happily ever after" ending. Tragicomedy? Whatever the type, director Arin Arbus with the Theater for a New Audience, has put up an enjoyable version of the play, and well worth seeing if you are in Brooklyn and have an evening to spare!
Almost none of Shakespeare's handwriting survives today — mainly his signature on various legal documents. But this edited script from a play that Shakespeare had a hand in but did not write — The Book of Sir Thomas More — contains some of his handwriting. And what he has to say in it, says something about what Shakespeare believed about the fate of refugees, and mobs that would treat them poorly. A fascinating piece from NPR.
March/16/2018 13:59 Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Julius Caesar | Language | James Shapiro | In every day use
March/15/2018 09:45 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Comics | Humor | Macbeth | Shakespeare Resource | Educational Resource
Shakespeare: profound, far reaching, capable of the deepest insights into the human soul, etc. So how could stick figure cartoons possibly capture even the smallest part of his oeuvre? Well, Good Tickle Brain somehow manages to do this, and more. For young students, this may possibly provide a helpful first step. Adults too, for that matter.
March/14/2018 17:40 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Romeo and Juliet | In every day use
This is a two year old summary video by the New York Times, but it is really good. It examines Shakespeare's pervasive influence throughout our high and low culture, and manages neither to sneer nor fawn in the process. Well worth three minutes, and a great primer for classroom discussion. It includes references to The Simpsons, Different Strokes, Star Wars, The Muppets, Sesame Street, Star Trek, Iron Man, A Fish Called Wanda, Die Hard, The Terminator, The Postman, Lion King, Empire, Sons of Anarchy, House of Cards, Gilligan's Island, and performers such as David Bowie, Beyoncé, Styx, and…Bugs Bunny?
March/13/2018 20:41 In every day use
An unpleasant yet enduring sentiment, here on the side of a Manhattan bus in March 2018, and of course generated by Shakespeare in Henry IV Part II. Yet another confirmation point of Shakespeare's enduring insight into human obsessions.
March/07/2018 13:05 Shakespeare | Authorship | Contemporaries | Hamlet | Scholarship | Textual Analysis
Every six months to a year or so, a claim is made that Will Shakespeare, of Stratford, did not write the plays we generally associate with him. This article is slightly different, since it leaves that aspect of the Shakespeare debate to the end (with a pretty good refutation of the theory that "Shakespeare is not Shakespeare".) The first part of the article suggests that a 1576 copy of a French collection of tragedies (François de Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques) was not only used by Shakespeare for inspiration (specifically, Hamlet), but also has some of his annotations. As always, the debate will rage on!
In the classrooms we have visited over the last few years, we've noticed that Shakespearean insults, and software that generates "Shakespearean-style" insults seems to work well in capturing the imagination of younger students. We recently came across this amusing video of Siobhan Thompson deploying insults in a 21st century context. Cleverly done, and not too insulting…
After the last few days of humorous posts, a more somber one to end the week. At many prisons across the United States, Shakespeare is used as a tool for educating inmates, and re-integrating them into communities. One of the older of these programs is Curt L. Tofteland's Shakespeare Behind Bars program in Kentucky, started in 1991. Their latest production: A Midsummer Night's Dream, a production which uniquely, requires theatergoers to undergo a background check and security clearance.
The Onion pitches in to the distressing state of weapons in classrooms with this humorous piece - the power of the pen over the sword. If only it were ever thus.