Prospera The Sorceress and Company

It was announced some time ago that Julie Taymor (visionary director of Titus, Across The Universe, and Broadway’s The Lion King) is embarking on a new Shakespearean movie project: The Tempest. Only this production has Helen Mirren as the lead character of Prospero.

Changing a character’s gender is old news, there’s not much of a story there (except that it hasn’t really been done on film yet. I can’t really tell what that means if it will be any different than in a theatrical production). What I would like to throw out there for discussion is what different themes and ideas are present with a female prospero? The whole overbearing father bit is now absent, but in modern times perhaps the idea of an over-powerful magical mother might be appealing – just like it Desperate Housewives… but with magic.

More of the cast has been rumored or announced, and includes such screen favorites as Geoffrey Rush, Alfred Molina, Jeremy Irons, and more. An article announcing this news on shows how excited the author is about this cast, calling it “The best cast ever!”. Well, it certainly looks promising.

A Mid-Autumn Night’s Dream

Now for a little more about what I’m doing. The next project I’m embarking on will be directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s just such a fun show, I couldn’t resist.

This past week was audition time and I’m pretty pleased with the talent that I saw. Definitely a good way to start off the project. Unlike the common school-play way of doing it with everyone having a part and a billion fairies I’m keeping it to a medium sized cast of 13 or 14 actors. I want to keep things simple, and doubling up parts will be helpful in organizing the actors. There are also interesting parallels to be drawn between characters when the same actor plays both, even if they don’t seem similar.

We’ll be performing in a park which is always fun and challenging but sometimes theatre outside of a theatre is rather liberating. Especially for a show that takes place mostly in the woods. And the best part: pre-show picnics!

I didn’t really have a lot to say about this at this time, though I’ll keep you updated on notable challenges and discoveries that arise during the rehearsal process. Stay tuned!

Even Shakespeare Stephens on US Elections

Shephen Colbert and Stephen Greenblatt on the Colbert Report talk about paralells between the current Presidential candidates and Shakespearean characters. Colbert knows his Shakespeare!

Video from Comedy Central’s Indecision 2008 Blog.

The Shakespeare Papers

If you like Shakespeare (as I percieve by your being here none of you hates him) you must check out The Shakespeare Papers. Each of these 16 page marvels are a wonderfully designed exploration into a specific theme of Shakespeare’s works, and worth having.

To give you an example of the sorts of things covered, the first issue covered the motif of “…Morning and the diverse ways Shakespeare describes it to us, sometimes without ever using the word.” Each page includes a couple quotes involving morning from various plays. But it’s not just a random list… they’re all beautifully poetic passages that you may not fully notice or appreciate when reading or seeing the play as a whole. The Shakespeare Papers are kindly asking you to stop, take a look at the little things that make up the whole of Shakespeare’s canon… you will be amazed and know not what to say.

Also included in the first issue is an explanation of the quotes. In fact, each issue includes some sort of analysis of the topic covered… you’re getting some scholarship too in a great looking packet. I should mention that the graphic design is really well done. It’s nice to have something this good looking beside the bland scholarly journals that I receive.

Speaking of scholarly journals, that’s not what you’re getting and it’s a great thing! Too much scholarship can take the fun out of Shakespeare, so you get just enough info to educate you on a small subject. These are very easy to follow along in (it’s only a few pages!) and if you want more, you can get extra tidbits through email every now and then if you’d like. I only wish I could get more issues more often!

It’s very easy to got lost in the forest of knowledge of Shakespeare’s works, the Shakespeare Papers is a wonderful guide to exploring the beauty contained in each tree. At $38 a year for 6 booklets, I would strongly recommend getting a subscription for yourself and one for a friend.

Starting Shakespeare In Modern English

I’d like to share a link that was so kindly shared with me. The website is for“The Inessential Shakespeare”, a project to reword Shakespeare’s plays into simpler, more modern English for the purpose of introducing youngsters to it.

“Translating” Shakespeare is, as you may remember, a topic that I have mixed feelings about. However, I cannot easily deny the merits it has in certain situations. Shortened Shakespeare is an excellent way to introduce the stories to youngsters. The 3rd grade play can easily be a simplified Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This version of the text isn’t vastly different from some other shortened texts I’ve seen but it is kept nicely concise and simple, it does away with many obscure references that other editors decide to leave in for some odd reason.

For those of you who work with or have kids of your own, this is for you. Look it over and give me your thoughts. Also, from your experiences, what makes a good kids version of Shakespeare in your opinion?

Shakespeare Blog Carnival #7

Welcome to this edition of the Blog Carnival! I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat in antici…

pation. Unfortunately I’ve only received one submission that I can post so we’ll do this a little differently. Pick any number of quality posts that you’ve read or written over the past month and post a link in the comments! It’ll be a help to me too, I’ve been somewhat distant from the Blogosphere for the past month.

The one link that I have for you is from Fiona Veitch Smith, who write a review for Bill Bryson’sShakespeare: the World as a Stage.

So find some good posts and write up up in the comments! And don’t forget to submit some links for next time!

To Be Aware or Not To Be?

No one can seem to make up my mind about it. People debate, scholars pontificate, directors interpret but there is no consensus…

Does Hamlet know Polonius and Claudius are listening in?

Specifically, when he’s delivering the “To be or not to be” speech. Or does he figure it out later in the scene. If so, when?

I’ve heard it argued that Hamlet knows that Polonius is a crafty spy (he employs Reynaldo to keep track of Laertes’ actions in France) so Hamlet might suspect that Polonius is watching, or maybe overhears the previous conversation about the plan to plant Ophelia there. But this would mean that the soliloquy is not a soliloquy at all. He’s “acting crazy” for the unseen old men.

The alternative is that Hamlet doesn’t know they’re there and he delivers to the audience some of his thoughts on death. I feel that the speech loses something if it’s Hamlet acting for the hidden auditors. It seems to me that if Hamlet realized it later on in the scene — sometime before “where is your father” — it would be more dramatic.

So what do you think? Does Hamlet know he’s being watched from the start, or does he realize it later? And what evidence do you have in the text? In performance it could probably work either way and still be interesting.


In My Life

Guess who hasn’t blogged much lately? Me. It’s a busy time of year, I need to get better organized so I have time to post. I don’t usually do this, but I think I’ll update you on my theatre-related endeavors. And in case you were wondering, the title is meant to be the same as the song in Les Miserables. I saw a production of the show last night. Quite good.

The last you heard of my life I was playing Feste in a production of Twelfth Night. That ended rather quickly, but it was a wonderful role. I just finished this past weekend playing Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I spend so much time with Shakespeare, I almost get confused when there’s no meter to the text. Feste, in fact, only speaks in prose as well. I need to remember that not everyone is in verse. Studying Shakespeare has so much to do with his verse, we can’t forget to acknowledge the prose!

Starting this week I’ll be dialect coaching a production of Our Town, and concurrently sitting in on a production of As You Like It, not really with any assigned job, but I’ll be hanging out with the Voice/Text coach and I’ll help out if I can, of course.

It’s been pretty non-stop for me this summer and these two shows open in October… so I’ll be busy till then. I’ve been trying to do a little more reading in my few moments of spare time with limited success. There are some books I’d like to discuss here. I’ve got a few product reviews to write up and post here that are long overdue. I’ll do my best to post those along with any other insights or questions I come up with.

My organizational skills are really being tested right now with the things I mentioned and much more. And now I have work to do. That’s all from me for now!