Friday, April 21, 2017

A Return to Slings & Arrows for a Thematic Overview of Macbeth

“Rarer Monsters.” By Susan Coyne and Bob Martin. Dir. Peter Wellington. Perf. Martha Burns, Paul Gross, Don McKellar, Mark McKinney, Oliver Dennis, Susan Coyne, Stephen Ouimette, Catherine Fitch, and Geraint Wyn Davies. Slings and Arrows. Season 2, episode 3. Movie Central: Canada. 11 July 2005. DVD. Acorn Media, 2006-2007.

In my Shakespeare and Film class this year, I had occasion (and time) to put together a set of clips from the Macbeth season of Slings & Arrows. It was partly diversionary (the show is such enormous fun), but the more pedagogically-sound purpose was that it provides a quick overview of some of the thematic concerns of Macbeth that directors, actors, and readers of the play need to consider.

Links: Episode List at IMDB.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Shakespeare in The [American] Office

"Free Family Portrait Studio." By B.J. Novak. Perf. Ed Helms and Catherine Tate. Dir. Greg Daniels. The Office. Season 8, episode 24. NBC. 10 May 2012. DVD. 

Ricky Gervais occasionally has a bit of fun with Shakespeare. Witness his "One Man Romeo and Juliet." Or look at his brief exchange about Tom Bosley as Lear. Alternately, you can ponder how he got Patrick Stewart to give us some Prospero.

None of that is strictly relevant to this post, since I'm talking about the American version of The Office, which starts off a bit like The Office Gervais brought to the BBC but then takes a different direction (for the most part).

As my Grandmother Jones used to say, I told you that to tell you this. I found a bit of Shakespeare in a late-season episode of The Office. Here, the Catherine Tate character is about to be called on the carpet by the Ed Helms character for the way she mistreated him when he was out of power. Now he's back in power, and he's about to enjoy the sweetness of revenge. Except his plans are altered. Note: The clip contains some NSFW language, depending on what you consider S where you W. It's bleeped out, but I thought you should be aware of it nonetheless.

Yes, Tate's character plays "the bard card," giving Portia's speech from the courtroom scene in Merchant of Venice to avoid the vengeance that she knows is coming.

I'll keep an eye out for any other Shakespeare in The [American] Office, but if you already know of some, let us know about it in the comments!

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trevor Noah and Shakespeare

Trevor Noah: African American. Dir. Ryan Polito. Perf. Trevor Noah. DVD. Inception Media Group, 2013.

At the 2017 Shakespeare Association of America Convention in Atlanta, I was in a seminar called "Global Othello." My own paper was on Janet Suzman's production of Othello—the one made in South Africa under Apartheid (for which, q.v.).

On the plane on the way down, I decided to try the comedy stylings of Trevor Noah, whom I learned about on an NPR broadcast the previous week. Trevor Noah was born in South Africa in 1984; his mother was white, and his father was black. He writes about feeling illegal at a child in Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

I knew there was a connection to South Africa, but I didn't expect an additional connection to Shakespeare.

In the DVD, Noah's routine is all about navigating being black in America. At one point, he starts talking about African-American language use—and he ends up with Shakespeare.  Here's that section.  Note: Some of the language here is NWFW, depending, of course, on where you W.

Trevor Noah and Shakespeare both seem to admire and employ interesting language use.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

More Shakespeare, Jack Benny, and Ronald Coleman

"Jack's Scrapbook." The Jack Benny Program. CBS. 16 January 1949. Radio.

A Shakespeare scholar on one of the LISTSERVs to which I subscribe brought up the issue of Ronald Coleman and his association with Shakespeare.

I couldn't resist calling the group's attention to the time Ronald Coleman and Jack Benny exchanged speeches from Othello on The Jack Benny Program (for which, q.v.).

And that reminded me of the time Ronald Colman did a Lucky Strike advertisement based on Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy.

I started with my memory of a line from the speech: ". . . or to smoke a Lucky and so to feel thine level best." I was slightly inaccurate in my memory, as you'll see.

I thought I could narrow down the era by figuring out when that Lucky Strike campaign began. With the help of a reference librarian, I learned that the campaign begin in 1949. In scholar's terms, that gave a terminus a quo. It was then a simple matter—well, actually, it did take some time—to track down the guest appearances of Ronald Coleman on The Jack Benny Program from 1949 on. And when I started up the first of them (from 16 January 1949), I knew I had the right one.

The premise of the show is that Jack and Ronald have switched roles; in this sequence, Ronald is dreaming that he is Jack Benny. I've provided the audio in the clip below (you can find the full show here (scroll down to find "Jack Benny Program 49-01-16 (678) Jack's Scrapbook.mp3")—and I recommend it as one of the best shows); the video comes from Derek Jacobi's Hamlet from the BBC Hamlet. Again, it's a bit surreal, but it's the easiest way for me to get an audio clip to you.

Transcribed, the speech is as follows (I haven't tried to break it into verse, but you may feel free to experiment along those lines):
To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to enjoy a Lucky and so to feel thy level best. To smoke—to puff—perchance to blow a smoke ring: ay, there's the thrill. Come, let me light thee. Art thou not round and firm and fully packed? Art thou not first again with friends, Romans, countrymen? Art thou not a noble creation, your praises tripping lightly from the nimble tongue of Speedy Riggs? Ay, Horatio: the tobacco's the thing that makes a Lucky fitting for a king.

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