Friday, December 15, 2017

Musical Version of Bottom's Dream

"Bottom Dreamed a Dream." Pyramus! Unproduced Off-Broadway Musical.

Most years, I write a song that will help students review the material in my Shakespeare course.

Past hits include Bob Dylan singing the plot of Measure for Measure (for which, q.v.).

The current piece is one I put together last year—and then ran out of time to record. Students had to be satisfied with a live version.

But now we can all enjoy (?) this piece. Imagine, if you will, a new musical based on the play-within-the-play of Midsummer Night's Dream. It's called Pyramus! And this is just one of its many show-stopping numbers.

Note: In case the video above fails to embed properly, I'm attaching a blog-native version here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Calvin, Hobbes, and Hamlet

Watterson, Bill. "Blecchhh." The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. 3 vols. Vol. 3: 1992-1995.  Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005. 6 March 1994. 308.

With everything that's going on, I seem to be averaging one post a month.

Since that's the case, I might as well leave November in the very capable hands of Bill Watterson.

Watterson offers up a serving of Hamlet's soliloquy—in one of the most daring adaptations yet seen.

In his version, Hamlet's too, too solid / sullied / sallied flesh seems to have melted away entirely, leaving a bemoaning residue on the plate.

Let's tune in to see what happens (click on the image below to enlarge it).

Bonus image for those who have scrolled down this far.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Shakespeare in passing in The Avengers

The Avengers. Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth. 2012. Blu-Ray.  Walt Disney Video, 2012.

Sometimes, it's the briefest allusions that help make the film.

Surely, you'll agree that, without the lines in the clip below, The Avengers would not be as aesthetically pleasing—though it probably would be as popular—as it is.

It also lets us know that Joss Whedon is unlikely to forget about Shakespeare.

And it lets us know what Robert Downey, Jr. has been up to since he played Rivers in the Ian McKellen / Loncraine Richard III.

No one's fooled by Downey's attempt at fake Shakespeare ("Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?")—we know he knows the real Shakespeare and how to deliver his lines. 

The dismissive "tourist" at the end is just the icing on the cake.

And I'm not sure, but I think I can make out a diagram of the Globe Theatre on the helmet display—just for a second.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Note: Too Too Solid Flesh

O'Donohoe, Nick. Too Too Solid Flesh. Seattle, Wizards of the Coast, 1989.

This is another of the books that I tackled so that you can run far away from it into the end zone.

I kept trying this book on and off throughout the summer. It took a long time because there were always books that were better, more gripping, and more attuned to the Shakespeare vibe I hope for in a work of modern Shakespearean fiction.

Too Too Solid Flesh takes us to a future in which all the acting is done by androids—and most of the audience appears to be androids as well.

There's also a murder. Someone high up in the echelons of those who program . . .

You know what, never mind. It doesn't matter, and I didn't pay that close attention.

We have an android Hamlet and an android Horatio (only he's actually a human disguised as an android to investigate the murder).

Here are the only two pages I thought interesting enough to pass along. At one point, they conjure up android (or possibly hologram) Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman—just to have a chat with them.

Later, Shakespeare himself shows up. Well, an android version of him does. Here's what happens when he does:

As you can see, there's just not much here. Steer clear.

Click below to purchase the book 
(despite those last two words of warning)
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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book Note: Something Wicked

Hart, Carolyn G. Something Wicked. New York: Bantam, 1988.

And sometimes I just read them so you don't have to.

I don't remember quite how I found out about this book, but I requested it from my library and decided to give it a try.

You shouldn't bother.

In the book, a rag-tag band of actors is putting on a production of Arsenic and Old Lace, but someone is sabotaging the production.

Enter Scooby-Doo and friends.

Actually, that part didn't happen, but it was a close thing. I felt that the Mystery Machine was going to pull up at any moment.

And there's not much Shakespeare in it at all.

I went in thinking that one of the productions the company was going to put on would be by Shakespeare. Instead, we get a very dramatic moment where an actor quotes from the Scottish play in the middle of a rehearsal. I'll give you that scene:

That's very early in the novel—pages 26 and 27—and that's about all the Shakespeare we get for the rest of the generic murder mystery.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Note: The Labrador Pact

Haig, Matt. The Labrador Pact. New York: Viking, 2004.

Matt Haig's The Dead Father's Club (for which, q.v.) revisited Shakespeare's Hamlet, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. When my students told me that he had written another book—this one grappling with 1 and 2 Henry IV, I was intrigued.

Having read the book, I'll admit to being a bit disappointed. My complaint is the same as always: Not enough Shakespeare! I thought the novel might retell the plays—or, if not the plays, at least elements in them.

Instead, the novel is a clever account of a dog named Prince, who, in an attempt to care for his family, ends us breaking the Labrador Pact, the most sacred rule of that particular breed of dogs:  Duty over all.

The opposing breed is the Springer spaniel, whose motto is "Pleasure not duty."

In terms of Shakespeare allusions, the boy of the house is named Hal; another character is called Simon Hotspur. There's also a foul-mouthed bully of a dog whose name is Lear. And the mother of the family is called Kate, but I don't see the relevance of that choice.

The main Shakespearean part is, I suppose, the relationship between Prince, our Labrador protagonist, and Falstaff, the fun-loving dog of a woman who has recently moved in to the neighborhood. The pages below provide the first time Adam, the father of the family and Prince's master, and Emily, the new woman, meet. It's also Prince and Falstaff encounter each other.

The long and short is that there's not much Shakespeare here—apart from names and personality traits. As a side note, be aware that this is not a young adult novel—the foul-mouthed Rottweiler is only one aspect that may be inappropriate for younger readers.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Richard III at the Great River Shakespeare Festival

Richard III. Dir. Doug Scholz-Carlson. Perf. Caroline Amos, Benjamin Boucvalt, Christopher Gerson, Alex Givens, Stephanie Lambourn, Katie LeSuer, Melissa Maxwell, Duncan McIntyre, Christopher Peltier, Silas Sellnow, Jason Michael Spelbring, Emma Bucknam, and Adeline Matthees. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2017. 

This year's Richard III was one of the best plays I've seen at the Great River Shakespeare Festival—and you know that I've seen a lot of great plays there over the years.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of season left to see the show—and there's not a lot of time in my schedule to tell you everything you should know about the production. This post, therefore, will have to consist of a few highlights or points of note.


First, the lighting was superb. Take a look at the image above. That's from the opening of the second half. The brightly-lit spheres on sticks are wire skull-like structures that were gradually added to the back of the playing space and donned with hats whenever characters died in the course of the play. Later, they were brought forward to represent the ghosts cursing Richard to "Despair and Die" and Richmond to have victory. The silhouette is Richard, replete with forearm crutches, creeping creepily forward like some kind of bottled spider. The screen at the back changed color and had horizontal lighting effects that were extraordinarily effective. Below is another shot to show the change in lighting:


That image can lead us to talk about the set design. R. Eric Stone has done a marvelous job keeping the staging simple but having it hold significance and weight. The branches on the left of the image could swing like a door. I think both it and the screen of vertical branches at the back (which could be raised and lowered) are a visual representation of a speech given by Richard in 1 Henry VI—one that is often imported into productions of Richard III (though not, interestingly enough, this one):
And I—like one lost in a thorny wood,
That rents the thorns, and is rent with the thorns,
Seeking a way, and straying from the way;
Not knowing how to find the open air,
But toiling desperately to find it out⎯
Torment myself to catch the English crown;
And from that torment I will free myself,
Or hew my way out with a bloody axe. (3 Henry VI, III.ii.174-81)
It was beautifully done.


The GRSF takes the text of Shakespeare seriously, and this play was no exception. We got the entirety of Act I, scene iv—the two murderers meeting Clarance—played for its full comic effect. At first, it made the audience uneasy, but then they started to roll with the comic, clownish, almost slapstick characters . . . which made their sudden and dramatic murder of Clarence all the more unnerving. We also got the Three Citizens discussing the affairs of state, which is usually cut. Since these were not excised, the production had a roundedness others sometimes lack.


Related to the above, the play retained its remarkable and macabre humor. The production had a lot of fun with Richard and his play, both on and off stage. For example, here's a video they produced about Richard's intended rise to the throne:

They also supplied this program note—a genealogical table with Richard's notes and to-do list included:

There's a lot of good fun there.

And Then There's Richard

Christopher Gerson's Richard is mesmerizing. He's funny, engaging, charismatic, and utterly repulsive and horrifying. 

He uses arm crutches, making me think of Anthony Sher's portrayal, described in his The Year of the King (for which, q.v.). As a result, he spends nearly the entire play at a seventy- to eighty-five-degree angle. And he uses it effectively. Here's an image that shows the general angle well:

And here's an image that shows him using that angle to get in, in this case, Elizabeth's face:

It's threatening and unsettling, intimate and horrific in equal measures. I loved it. And it also gives him both the suggestion of a bunch-backed toad and a bottled spider—creeping along the outskirts of the stage and suddenly pouncing at various characters.

Gerson's range is delightful. He's pathetic and romantic, furious and insane, and conflicted and confident. This image is from his "I am not in the vein," delivered to Buckingham:

If you didn't know that you don't want to be Buckingham before, you know it then. Even Buckingham knows it then!

Gerson pointed out to me that Richard seldom speaks in straight blank verse after his encounter with Elizabeth in IV.iv. He used that to play Richard's deterioration through the end of the play. The night I watched, the audience seemed to be generally complicitous with Richard in the jocular, humorous opening scenes. But by the time the verse starts to break down, they had turned against him.

And the Rest

The rest of the cast was also tremendous. Margaret was vindictive and great. Anne was regretful and great. Stanley was awkward and great. Buckingham was conspiratorial and great. Clarence was fearful and guilt-ridden and great. I wish I had time and space to detail the way this show gave every role—each one would stand up to close scrutiny.

The Play as a Whole

The production had great unity, passion, and force. The Great River Shakespeare Festival has, once again, provided exceptional theatre to its audiences.

Links:  The Great River Shakespeare Festival. An album of photos from the show.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Masterful Comedy of Errors at the Great River Shakespeare Festival

Comedy of Errors. Dir. Melissa Rain Anderson. Perf. Alex Givens, Maya Jackson, Stephanie Lambourn, Katie LeSuer, Melissa Maxwell, Duncan McIntyre, Chris Mixon, Christopher Peltier, Silas Sellnow, Jason Michael Spelbring, and James Queen. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2016. 

The Great River Shakespeare Festival provided a fast-paced, farcical Comedy of Errors this season. It differed greatly from the 2010 production (for which, q.v.), which was presented more seriously. This show was all about the ridiculous, the ludicrous, and the farce.

The setting is something of a mix of 1920s flapper parties, Chicago-style underworld, and vaudeville. Before the show, we were treated to a piano, string bass, and vocal trio who were singing sultry songs that seemed to have the theme of magic: "Witchcraft," "I Put a Spell on you," "(You Give me) Fever"—perhaps included for its references to Romeo and Juliet ("Thou givest me fever . . . Fever, yea, I burn, forsooth"), and others.

The characters were straight out of the commedia delle'arte tradition. The two Dromios are prefect clowns, with ridiculous outfits—complete with enormous shoes. Their clowning was perfectly timed and impressively physical. Their confusion at, wonder about, and childlike admiration of the chaos unfolding around them was hilarious, and they worked very well with their respective Antipholuses (Antipholii?). The speech about the kitchen wench Nell was particularly stunning in that regard. Tarah Gerson as Dromio of Syracuse delivered the line "She is spherical" with a kind of overwhelmed awe that brought the image of the off-stage Nell before us all and made her a figure of majesty and amazement.

We also have the henpecked husband, the shrewish wife, the lovelorn sister all filling their places in the play—which doesn't mean they stay there. Shakespeare provides depth and roundedness even to characters that might otherwise be merely stock characters, and the actors play the roles with a healthy sense of that three-dimentionality.

The Great River Shakespeare Festival never fails to please—and it does so at the highest level, with the highest level of professionalism and production values.

And I'm off to see what they're going to do with Richard III . . .

Links: The Great River Shakespeare FestivalAn album of photos from the show.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Will on TNT

“The Play's the Thing.” Perf. Laurie Davidson, Olivia DeJonge, and Reid Anderson. Dir. Shekhar Kapur. Will. Season 1, episode 1. TNT. 10 July 2017.

The much-touted Will—early promotions alluded it it as Shakespeare with Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll—debuts tonight on TNT. But if you can't wait, you can watch it right here, right now. Note: You can watch the first of the two episodes that will debut tonight; you'll have to watch the other live.

I've been watching it in bits and pieces since early this morning. Without risking spoilers, here are some things the show made me think about.

Although the beginning seems to be the usual country-lad-comes-to-the-big-city narrative (one that's a bit heavy on crypto-Catholic plots), it still has some interest. First, there's more color in this than in most 1590s London recreations. And that first vision of London is accompanied by The Clash's "London Calling," a very effective choice for setting the stage.

A Sampling of the Colours of London in the 1590s

We also have a street urchin who offers to guide the Country Bumpkin Will around the city. He seems very much like a Puck figure.

The show gives us some lines from Edward III, a play by Thomas Kyd (with, quite conceivably, some help from Shakespeare) that was first published in 1596. Shakespeare declaims the lines to Burbage Senior's daughter:
So, John of France . . .
Had you done at first as now you do,
How many civil towns had stood untouched
That now are turned to ragged heaps of stones!
How many people's lives mightst thou have saved
That are untimely sunk into their graves!
We get some "upstart crow" and some "Shakeshaft," and, in a scene reminiscent of Shakespeare in Love, we get a scene where Burbage promises the audience a new play by Christopher Marlowe entitled Tamburlane's Ghost. We get Kit Marlowe, spy, searching for secret Catholics. And we get a poetry slam between Shakespeare and (I'm pretty sure) Greene.

There's also a scene where an actor keeps asking "What am I holding the mirror up to?" that becomes both comic and touching.

Will on Stage

The main artistic critique I have may just be in the nature of a first episode of a series: things wrap up too tidily. The poetry slam is won pretty handily; a play that is about to fail is rescued very neatly.

Additionally, historical accuracy is sacrificed for the sake of the drama. But it isn't as if Shakespeare didn't do that himself—constantly and continually!

All in all, it's an interesting show, well worth watching (though readers should note the rating). Give it a try tonight . . . or at the link above.

Note: More episodes have become available, and I'm less sanguine about the show. It's a very dark show, with an unseemly emphasis on torture. It also presents Kit Marlowe as increasingly weird and psychotic. Also, despite a good bit of Midsummer Night's Dream in a later episode, there's not enough Shakespeare!

Links: The Show at IMDB. A review by the New York Times. The show at TNT.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Questioning Heaven: A Bangzi Opera Version of King Lear

Questioning Heaven. Dir. Po-Shen Lu. Perf. Hailing Wang and the Taiwan Bangzi Company. 2015. 7 April 2017. Shakespeare Association of America Convention.

In 2011, the Shakespeare Association of America brought the Taiwan Bangzi Company to Bellevue to perform Bond, a Bangzi Opera version of Merchant of Venice (for which, q.v.). I was able to purchase a DVD of that performance (for which, q.v.).

This year, the SAA provided a screening of Questioning Heaven: A Bangzi Opera Version of King Lear by the same company. A commercially-available DVD—or, indeed, any YouTube clips of the performance—has proven elusive enough that it could currently be counted among the Shakespeare and Film Holy Grails. And that's a shame because the performance was both stunning and fascinating.

Questioning Heaven gives us a Queen Lear. She enters with pomp and music, singing about how she has ruled the land on her own for eighteen years.  “Unceasing wars have aged me, worn me down,” she sings.  Later, she adds, “And now, at last, the land is unified.” Everyone seems satisfied to join in these self-congratulatory speeches.

But when she sings the line “Xuanyuan Empire will cut in three,” everyone looks worried. It's an especially insightful moment—the singing to that point has celebrated unification; how can the Queen not see that she now intends disunity and division?

The plot runs along the lines of Shakespeare's play.  We learn that Wei, the third daughter, was born after her father died. Much dance and celebration with the “hundred knights” fill the opening scenes. The fool (who is quite brilliant) jokes about how the Queen should “Give me some land, too.” And we eventually get Edgar in disguise as a mendicant monk.

I wish I could provide a representative clip. Instead, I can only point you toward some photos of the set design; they provide a sense of the grandeur of the production.

That's all I can find for now, but I'll keep my radar scanning for a DVD release of this magisterial film.

Links: The Taiwan Bangzi Company.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Shakespeare in Star Trek: Beyond

Star Trek: Beyond. Dir. Justin Lin. Perf. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban. 2016. DVD. Paramount, 2016.

Just when you think you've assembled every single Shakespeare reference, allusion, and quote in all of canonical Star Trek, they release a new film with a new quote.

This time, it's quite a good one, though it is obscure.

First, the scene. Reboot Spock has been injured. Reboot Kirk is worried. Reboot McCoy has found some ancient medical equipment that he hopes will help.

The word hope is the cue for Reboot Spock to quote some Shakespeare:

The quote Reboot Spock chooses is one Measure for Measure's Claudio delivers while he is under sentence of death: "The miserable have no other medicine / But only hope" (III.i.2-3). If Reboot Spock had had the strength, he doubtless would have concluded the line: "I have hope to live, and am prepar'd to die" (III.i.4).

Reboot Bones is nonplussed, but only for a moment. Either he recognizes the quote or he figures that Reboot Spock is more likely to quote Shakespeare than . . . say . . . Dryden.

I'd like to read more into the quote than the surface connection of hope and medicine. In the film, Reboot Spock and Reboot Uhura have decided not to pursue a romantic relationship; Claudio and Juliet have had the decision not to pursue a romantic relationship thrust upon them. Claudio without Juliet is as miserable as Reboot Spock without Reboot Uhura. 


Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gerard Manley Hopkins and Shakespeare

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. W. H Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970. 

I recently had occasion to dip into my volume of Gerard Manley Hopkins poems. As I searched for the poem I had in mind ("Spelt from Sybil's Leaves," to those who have a keen interest in the minutiae), I started to wonder whether Hopkins had written any reflections on Shakespeare.

Hopkins was certainly a well-educated man, and Shakespeare was undoubtedly a part of that.

Indeed, I learn from an article entitled "Hopkins, Hamlet, and the Victorians: Carrion Comfort?" that "Hopkins' notebooks are littered with obscure and disjointed notes, lines, and phrases from Shakespeare which he seems to regard less as integral parts of a particular play's meaning or insights about experience and more as fodder for specific passions" (414).

What I found in the volume was unexpected. Hopkins spent some time working with songs from Shakespeare, rewriting them . . . in Latin and Greek.

As I have small Latin and less Greek, this was a bit disappointing. It's more academic. Still, there's an interest and a beauty to the songs he translated from The Tempest, though I'm not sure where the Hecuba comes in to "Come unto these yellow sands"—what's Hecuba to Ariel or Ariel to Hecuba? And something is lost from "Full Fathom Five"—and not just the alliteration—when it's translated into Greek.

Here are three of the songs for those who have additional interest. In the meantime, I've found a number of articles about Hopkins and Shakespeare, and I'll be glancing at those in my copious free time over the next few months.

Works Cited

Wormald, Mark. "Hopkins, Hamlet, and the Victorians: Carrion Comfort?" Victorian Poetry 40.4 (2002): 409-31.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

King Lear at the Guthrie in 2017

King Lear. Dir. Joseph Haj. Perf. Nathan Barlow, Thomas Brazzle, Shá Cage, Sun Mee Chomet, J. C. Cutler, and Nathaniel Fuller. Guthrie Theatre Company. Minneapolis. 11 February—2 April 2017.

What better day could there be to see a production of King Lear than April 1?

The only problem is that it was the penultimate day of the show's run, so I didn't feel much pressure to review the play right away.  Still, now that I'm able to catch up on some missed opportunities, I'd like to make a few notes on the show.

First, the most impressive part of the production—indeed, of any production I've seen at the Guthrie thus far—was the lighting. I don't always notice the lighting (which may be the point of a subtle lighting design), but this one was transcendent. The stage was also the largest I've seen—a huge expanse of what is usually backstage space was opened up, and the lighting filled it in a number of fascinating and fabulous ways. Transitions were masterful; shadows were dramatic and purposeful; colors matched moods exquisitely.

Next, the rest of the production, which was underwhelming in the extreme. Some people reported to me that it was the worst Shakespeare play they'd ever seen—but it wasn't as abysmal as that. All the same, it wasn't good. The acting from all parties lacked backbone. There was no verve. Most of the players had a distinct two-volume delivery: Audible and Shouting.

Haj made some interesting individual directorial decisions, but they didn't every coalesce into a whole. If any of these decisions had been built into themes, provided supporting decisions, or made integral to the characters, they would have done something to the play. As it was, they seemed like notes from a preliminary brainstorming session. "What if . . . ?" "How about having . . . ?" "Oh, we could . . ."

Let me give you a few examples.

For the blinding scene, Cornwall spooned out Gloucester's first eyeball and dropped it in a cocktail glass—I think it was a highball glass.

Say it with a Cockney accent, and you'll get the joke.

Not unexpectedly, it turned the blinding of Gloucester into a joke as well. There is admittedly a fine line between horror and humor in this scene in many productions, but it was an unworthy choice.

Next, after Cornwall was hurt by his servant, Regan took off her high-heeled shoe and poked out the other eye of Gloucester. With a stronger Regan, that might have been brilliant. Diana Rigg (for whom, q.v.) could have carried it off with the right mood of cool calculation. But this Regan had been giggly and shouty by turns, and there's no way it could have been anything but ridiculous.

The Fool in Lear disappears after Act III, scene vi. Any given production can provide an explanation for that disappearance or provide the explanation the text gives: None. Trevor's Nunn's production, for example, shows its Fool captured and hung by the soldiers of Lear's enemies.

In this production, Lear, in his madness, stabs the Fool during the trial scene, killing him.

That's an interesting choice. But the production does nothing with it. And nothing will come of nothing. Not only does the Fool's murder / homicide under insanity not make its way into the rest of the play, it barely registers in the scene itself! The text, of course, doesn't allow for reflection on the Fool's murder, but the production could have found a way to bring it back in—presenting Lear with a bloodstained fool's cap during his recovery, for example. As it is, it was a scattered, unconnected idea in a scattered, unconnected play.

The play at the Guthrie's website.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Note: Year of the King

Sher, Antony. Year of the King: An Actor's Diary and SketchbookLondon: Nick Hern, 2004.

I've had this book around for awhile, but I only got around to it recently. It's Antony Sher's account of his being offered the role of Richard III in the 1984 Royal Shakespeare Company production.

Actors and theatre lovers will find this fascinating. The thought processes, the planning, the drama within the drama, the errors in rehearsal, the terror of opening night—it's all here. And Sher was, by most accounts, brilliant in the role in this brilliant production.

I found the work to be a bit solipsistic, but it is a diary, after all. The author may be expected to be self-centered and a bit pedantic.

Here are a couple sample pages. They'll give you an idea of the sketches and the revelatory nature of the prose.

Does the second sample provide some nascent thoughts about the Ian McKellen production and later film?

I haven't been able to track down any video of Sher's Richard III, but YouTube has provided an audio recording of Act I, scene ii of the play:

Actors, I'm especially interested in knowing what you think. Is Sher's book an accurate account of what you go through when contemplating and executing a role?  Chris Gerson, is this the kind of thing that's been going through your mind as you prepare for the Great River Shakespeare Festival Richard III?

Sher has also written on his playing Falstaff in Year of the Fat Knight. It will soon appear on my bookshelf, eventually to be read. 

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Public Service Announcement: Do Not Attend the Great River Shakespeare Festival

Richard III. Dir. Doug Scholz-Carlson. Perf. Caroline Amos, Benjamin Boucvalt, Christopher Gerson, Alex Givens, Stephanie Lambourn, Katie LeSuer, Melissa Maxwell, Duncan McIntyre, Christopher Peltier, Silas Sellnow, Jason Michael Spelbring, Emma Bucknam, and Adeline Matthees. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2017. 

Comedy of Errors. Dir. Melissa Rain Anderson. Perf. Alex Givens, Maya Jackson, Stephanie Lambourn, Katie LeSuer, Melissa Maxwell, Duncan McIntyre, Chris Mixon, Christopher Peltier, Silas Sellnow, Jason Michael Spelbring, and James Queen. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2016. 

Normally, I would be the first to tell you to go to the Great River Shakespeare Festival. For example, look here . . . or here . . . or even here.

Not this year.

The extremely detrimental effects Shakespeare can have, especially on the youth of a community, has made it impossible for me to recommend the festival.

Indeed, I've created this Public Service Announcement that details the reasons a community should avoid Shakespeare. It's what Doug Scholz-Carlson, pictured above, would surely say in his saner moments.

Watch, learn, and avoid the Great River Shakespeare Festival.

Links:  The Great River Shakespeare Festival.

Note: In case the video above fails to embed properly, I'm attaching a blog-native version of the PSA here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Holy Grail of Shakespeare and Film

Untitled. N.d. N.p. N.d. N.m. N.p., n.d.

You're interested in Shakespeare and film. That's why you're here. And you've been frustrated in your search for something in the Shakespeare and film world—I know you have. And I want to know what it is.

What is the "Holy Grail" of Shakespeare and film for you? What is too expensive, too rare, or too obscure? What is now unobtainable, though it once was available?

I have two lists that spring to mind.

Things that don't exist (though we wish they did):
  • A film version of Orson Welles' 1937 production of Julius Caesar.
  • A full film of Peter Brook's 1970 stage production of Midsummer Night's Dream. A few clips do exist (for which, q.v.), but the whole thing was never filmed.
  • Orson Welles' so-called Voodoo Macbeth. There's actually a lot of Orson Welles that could go on this list . . . his lost Merchant of Venice, for example (some footage here) . . . but it would be great to have more of his 1936 Macbeth than we do.
Things that exist, once existed, or were once promised (but that are hard to track down):
  • Johnny Hamlet. I did manage to find a copy, but that was after years of searching, and it was very expensive. I've never seen another copy for sale. Read about it in this post.
  • A fully-restored Prospero's Books. I've been hearing rumors one way or another about a quality DVD (or even Blu-Ray!) release of this film, but it's yet to come. The DVDs that are out there are largely transferred from VHS tapes. For a film that explored so many different media possibilities, it's distressing that it is so hard to track down. In the meantime . . . 
  • Prince of the Himalayas. We've been waiting for a US release of this film since at least 2011.
  • DVD releases of all thirty-eight of the plays produced in different languages in London in 2012 in conjunction with the Olympics. I'd like every one on the list, but the list particularly includes . . .
  • Othello: The Remix. I saw this for a limited time when it was available for streaming on-line. But I know this would be a big seller—consider Hamilton for just a moment!  People would snap this up—so do yourself and us a favor and make a DVD available, please!
  • Te Tangata Whai-Rawa o Weniti (the Maori Merchant of Venice). I once had hope that I would be able to see this, but that hope is starting to wane. There are rumors of warehouses full of this DVD in New Zealand . . . but that export has been forbidden.
  • Charles Warren's Macbeth with Michael Jayston and Barbara Leigh Hunt. I've been told that this is the best Macbeth ever. Though it's an HBO production, it's hard to find.
  • Celestino Coronado’s 1984 or 1985 film of a stage production of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Lindsay Kemp and David Haughton. This may have been broadcast on television; copies are not to be found.
Those are some of my holy grails. What are yours? Tell us about them in the comments!

Note: If you came here looking for the Shakespearean subtitles to Monty Python's film, try this post instead.

Links: The Monty Python Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the Monty Python film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Shakespeare in Sherlock

"The Lying Detective." By Steven Moffat. Perf. Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Una Stubbs. Dir. Nick Hurran. Sherlock. Season 4, episode 2. DVD. BBC Home Entertainment, 2017.

One of Sherlock Holmes' catchphrases is "The game's afoot."

But the fact that he's quoting Shakespeare is not always recognized. It appears in Henry V—at III.i.32 to be precise. Henry uses it to urge his army to a renewed attack on the town of Harfleur.

One of my favorite instances is (as long-term readers of Bardfilm will know) when Data from Star Trek quotes it while pretending to be Sherlock Holmes (for which, q.v.).

More recently, Sherlock—the one with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman?—had its Sherlock Holmes deliver the phrase . . . but with a great deal of context—an edited-down version of "Once more unto the breech."

Without spoiling too much, Sherlock has gone a bit off his crumpet. His delivery of the speech is marked by mania (if not actual psychosis):

Thrilling, isn't it?

I mean the Shakespeare . . . but the Sherlock is pretty good, too.

In the episode immediately before that one ("The Six Thatchers"), there's a briefer reference to Shakespeare.  I provide it here as a bonus:

Bonus Video: A Brief Quotation from Macbeth in Season 4, episode 1.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the season from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Bonus Image: The Game's Afoot
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