Wednesday, January 29, 2014

And Now . . . In his Triumphant Return to the Stage . . . Philostrate!

A Midsummer Night's Dream. Dir. Kari Steinbach. Jonathan Munby. Perf. Mason Henderson, Jonathan Horn, Jessica Johnson, Alec Leonard, Austin Lewis, Marisa Jacobus, Lydia Wildes, Matt Groen, Ben Witt, Mitch Geiken, Russell Scharper, Bridget Russell, Sharayah Bunce, Isaac Lind, Allison Preiss, Julia Olsen, Gabriella Abbott, Meghan Sly, Mikaela Kase, Elaina Holmes, Timothy Lawrence, Ian Stuyvenberg, Dawson Del Ehlke, Meghan Sly, and Keith Jones. University of Northwestern Theatre. St. Paul. 26 February—1 March 2014.

I've read Shakespeare extensively for many years. I've taught Shakespeare whenever and wherever I've been able to. I've kept a blog on all sorts of Shakespeare-related material for years. I've even directed four Shakespeare plays for a grade school.

Although I was in three musicals during my high school years, I've never been in a Shakespeare play. Ever.

That changes now.

The director of my university's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream asked me if I would take on the role of Philostrate, and I was thrilled to accept.

Philostrate, for those of you keeping score, is the Master of the Revels to Theseus, the Duke of Athens. He gets to introduce the Pyramus and Thisbe play-within-the-play to the Duke—and he then gets to try to persuade the Duke not to see that play.

I'm excited enough just to be in a Shakespeare play, but this production is already shaping up to be magnificent. The set is extremely interesting in its design, and the overall vision of the play is intriguing. The Athens scenes are generally black and white—with occasional black and white television news reports cutting in—while the scenes in the forest are in high technicolor (as indicated in the poster above).

More bulletins as events warrant. In the meantime, where's my Equity Card?

Links: Ticket Sales.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Quality of Mercy and A-Rod

Weis, Lonnie, dev. and prod. Hidden Shakespeare Trick. Perf. Seattle Mariners, incl. Alex Rodriguez. Circa 1997.

A little while ago, Shakespeare Geek alerted his Twitter Followers (SGTFs—if you're not one, why don't you become one?) to a Shakespeare-related commercial put out by the Seattle Mariners.

On one level, the commercial is very clever in a new trick to play on a base runner. Instead of pretending to throw the ball back to the pitcher and waiting for the runner on second to step off the bag to tag him out, Shakespeare is used instead.

With the news of Alexander Rodriguez, a.k.a. A-Rod, being suspended from Major League Baseball for one year, the commercial accretes a new line of thought. In the commercial, A-Rod uses Portia's "Quality of Mercy" speech to distract the runner. Could it have occurred to A-Rod to try the same speech on Bud Selig?

I also find the reaction of the ersatz Red Sox player interesting. He seems both knowledgeable and willing to hear Shakespeare, and he appreciates the speech so much that he becomes lost in a reverie. Even though, as a Cardinals fan, I have a complicated relationship with the Red Sox, I admire this player. Even though he was tagged out, he wasn't tricked by something as simple as the hidden ball trick. He was—as who among us has not?—distracted by the words of Shakespeare.

Ain't Shakespeare great?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Note: A Mystery of Errors

Hawke, Simon. A Mystery of Errors. Forge: New York, 2000.

I have a few minutes between classes and meetings, and I thought I'd use them to mention a Shakespeare-related book I read over the break.

If you're familiar with A Comedy of Errors, you'll start to think that you're piecing together parts of the plot of this novel—which is part mystery, part comedy, and part historical fiction. But you may not actually be doing so in the right way! But I won't provide any spoilers on that front for those who want to read the book for themselves.

The plot involves a young Will Shakespeare, on his way to London to become an actor—or, perhaps a playwright, if that's what they need and if that's how he can best connect to the theatre. Will isn't our main character, however, and I think that's a very wise choice. Instead, we mainly follow another London-bound traveller named (improbably enough) Symington Smythe.

The interaction between Smythe and Shakespeare is probably the best part of the book. It's not corny or affected. It doesn't have an axe to grind about any biographical details of Shakespeare's life. It doesn't pretend to specific historical accuracy—though it does a good job with the general history of the period. It doesn't present Shakespeare as an untouchable genius. Instead, it paints a compelling portrait of a man who wants to act and his journey to do so.

The book's dust jacked says that A Mystery of Errors is "the first book in the Shakespeare & Smythe series." Unfortunately, it looks like we're still waiting for the second book.

Update:  There are two other books in the series, but they're only available from the UK version of Amazon.  The titles are The Merchant of Vengeance and The Slaying of the Shrew.  Stay tuned as I try to track these titles down.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest