Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ophelia As A Dog?

"...this is a canine version of Hamlet in which a) Ophelia is a dog and b) the story is told partly from “Ophelia”’s point of view."



Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Can We Call Him Puff Shakey? Or Maybe Shake Daddy?

The Globe Theatre is starting a record label?  Different.

The first album, Elizabethan Street Songs, will be released next month. Featuring historically researched tunes performed on sackbut, archlute, hurdy-gurdy and other period instruments, Elizabethan Street Songs is a musical interpretation on the not so genteel world of the Elizabethan street musician and singer.

I could see releasing an album or two, but a whole record label?  Really?  Let the gangsta rap jokes begin.   West side!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Other Side Of The Island

Olympia Dukakis co-wrote and co-directed this gender-bending adaptation of The Tempest where not only does Prospero become Prospera, but Caliban is played as a hermaphrodite and Ariel is a "1950's Stepford housewife."

Romeo and Juliet, by Shannon

I'm not sure how old Shannon is, exactly, but I thought that her retelling of the story was enlightening.  At least until I got to the comments and read where she's never read the play and was just cobbling together from the movie (Luhrman, in this case) and apparently the ballet.  That part's a bit painful.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Yikes, I've been tagged.  The meme is "six unspectacular facts about myself":

1) I don't really care much for Shakespeare.


Nah, just kidding.

1) I watch pro-wrestling.  Always have.  Remind me to tell you all sometime about the match that had Shakespeare in it, and no I'm not kidding.  (See below)

2) I have just one sibling, a brother who lives in New Mexico.

3) My caffeinated beverage of choice is Diet Pepsi.  Never drink coffee, can't stand the stuff.  At my day job last week when there was a particularly early breakfast meeting, I came in and saw that somebody had supplied bottles of Diet Pepsi along with the bagels. :)

4) My daily commute to the day job is 90 minutes - each way.  I drive to a train station, and then walk from the train station to the office.  I have a whole blog on the subject over at

5) I can solve a Rubik's Cube on demand, but I've never read a book on how.  Well, that's half true, I recently got one for Christmas and decided to start researching how to solve it for speed.  I also prefer to do Sudoku puzzles in pen, starting with the hardest ones I can find, and never write down those little cheating hint numbers.  If you don't know for sure that 9 goes there, don't write it down.   If I screw up a number I consider the puzzle failed and move on to a different one.

6) I bite my nails.  Horrible habit.


Who can I tag, let's see.....let's tag Gedaly of, Main Man at, Angela at, Craig at, Christine at  and .... hmmm....  oh what the heck let's see if Alan wants to play at


ObligatoryShakespeareContent:  So there was this character whose gimmick was that he'd graduated Harvard, and was the only professional wrestler to do so.  Thus he was a "heel" (or bad guy), who wandered around telling people how much better he was than everybody else, because of the Harvard thing.  So he's in a match with one of the old veterans, in what they call a "hardcore" match where a garbage can full of props is brought into the ring.  It's not just steel chairs anymore.  Sure enough, out comes a complete human skeleton, which promptly gets shattered and goes flying.  Harvard man picks up the skull, stares at it, then gets down on one knee, holds it up and shouts "Alas, poor Yorick!"   And then the other guy smacked him with a leg bone.

How can you not love it? :)

Hamlet 2 : Electric Boogaloo

The reviews are coming in for Hamlet 2, and they are very very good.  Excellent!  Maybe I'll actually get a chance to see the silly thing.

Is it geeky of me to be bothered everytime somebody says "everybody dies at the end of Hamlet"?   That's not even partially true.  Ophelia and Polonius die well before the end, and Osric, Horatio and Fortinbras are still around at the end. Some interpretations have more bloodbath - didn't Brannagh choose to kill Osric?  And I remember hearing of one production where Fortinbras' line "Bid the soldier's shoot" was actually an order to execute Horatio.

But on the flip side, there already is at least one sequel to Hamlet - somebody wrote a play about Fortinbras and how he is haunted by the ghosts of everybody who died in the first one.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Usain Bolt Stops To Recite Hamlet During 200m

I thought it was funny :). 

For those not watching the Olympics, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt made news of himself this week by running his race so fast that he actually celebrated during the 100m race and still broke the world record.  He then did it again in the 200m, breaking another world record.  The man is quick like a bunny.

There was a story on about the IOC being unhappy with him for celebrating instead of going back to congratulate his opponents immediately upon the finish of the race.  I liked the commenter who said, "The problem with this is that immediately upon the finish of the race, the rest of the racers still had 20 meters to go."

Gnomeo and Juliet News

[Thanks to Angela for commenting on the original as well.  I had this one flagged to post but she beat me to it!]

We have to go all the way back to April 2006 to find reference to Gnomeo and Juliet, Elton John's animated feature that takes place in a world of "tacky garden gnomes."  Apparently the project is alive and well, as The Hollywood Reporter has news of James McAvoy and Emily Blunt in negotiations to do the voices.

I'm not as keen on this project now that my kids have already seen an animated Romeo and Juliet.  If they already know the plot and the characters, but not the original text or the real ending, what can animated gnomes bring to the table?  Anybody think that Mercutio-gnome buys it in act 3?

18 Shakespeare Adaptations

At first I thought this list was going for movies that were other than "original text in a different time and place", but he includes Luhrman's R+J, Ethan Hawke's 2000 Hamlet, and others that I would have considered relatively tame interpretations.

Most are old favorites easily recognized, like Ran, Throne of Blood, Forbidden Planet and so on.  However, I did find a few I'd never heard of, including "Men of Respect" (a gangster Macbeth starring John Turturro) and "Happy Campers", apparently a teen-sex comedy done up as an "airy, Midsummer Night's Dream farce."

Bonus points for mentioning the cult "Tromeo And Juliet", which you'll either recognize immediately if you know the Troma work, or you'll have no idea what's going on.    I never saw that one, but I do remember hearing about a quote that stuck with me - "How about I use your guts to Jackson Pollock the street?"  I remember thinking, "Now, see, there's a creative image."

Quote of the article, re: Prospero's Books...

Among its many virtues: Prospero's Books is a dream come true for those who think that what Shakesepeare's plays most lack are dozens and dozens of shots of male genitalia.

Between that and Ian McKellen's King Lear, what is the fascination with Shakespearean actors getting naked?

"Julius" Coming To The Big Screen

I was going to say "It's been awhile since somebody did a Julius Caesar movie", and then went to IMDB to see exactly how long.  Turns out that somebody's making one due out in 2009, too.  Granted that one is out of Hong Kong and I'd likely never get the opportunity to see it, but still.

Julius is based on a graphic novel from Oni Press about a "London crime king" and the generals who conspire against him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shakespeare For Wee Ones

So I'm thinking it's time to introduce the kiddles (6, 4 and 2, and although the 2 doesn't really count yet...) to a new Shakespeare play.  Thus far we've done:

  • The Tempest.  They love it.  I've told them the story, I've read them "children's" versions, I've shown them picture books, we've discussed details, and they've seen a production.
  • Romeo and Juliet, edited.  They know a version with a happy ending where everybody wakes up.  They have a movie, Sealed With A Kiss, which is an animated feature about two warring families of seals.  It's surprisingly good once you adjust your expectations.  I choose not to expose them to the real ending yet. My 6yr old knows about it in theory, but based on her questions she's not ready to see it for real yet.
  • As You Like It.  I read a children's version of this one to them in preparation for the Boston production this summer, but they did not seem to really get it like they got Tempest.  Perhaps it was because I read it directly from a book with few pictures, where I did the Tempest from memory?
  • Midsummer Night's Dream.  I tried to explain this one to my 6yr old, but she got confused too fast.
  • King Lear, edited.  They know a very slimmed down version of King Lear which reads much like Cinderella.  Namely, "two bad sisters who treat their father poorly, and one good sister who comes back to rescue him from the forest."  I realize it's not even close to the real thing, but I like the idea of my 4yr old daughter naming her dolls Ariel, Genevieve, Cordelia, Regan and Goneril.
  • Macbeth, aborted.  My 6yr old tried to read one of my Macbeth graphic novels and gave up because it was far too violent.

So I'm wondering what to tackle next.  I would like to make progress with Midsummer, but clearly trying to tell it like a bedtime story does not work very well.  I'm toying with the idea of using their Legos and other dolls to illustrate who is who. 

I don't think they'd get much out of Much Ado, the themes are a bit too grown up.  Likewise with Shrew.

What else?  I think the common theme is that they like little to no violence (even in Romeo and Juliet the confrontations are limited to stuff like "Romeo got mad because the Prince made Mercutio fall off the cliff, so Romeo pushed the prince off the cliff" where everybody lands in the water and survives), and mistaken identity makes it too confusing (As You Like It, Dream). 

I'm not as familiar with the late plays (Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, etc...) as I should be.  Is there anything in there that I could translate down to kidspeak?  What is it about The Tempest that is so different from the other plays, and where did Shakespeare repeat those themes?

A Bard By Any Other Name

So I'm over at the Boston Public Library again today, and I notice something.  Somebody correct my knowledge, which I'm pulling strictly out of my brain.  I was under the impression that dear W S never actually spelled his own name as "Shakespeare" the way we do.  Is this correct?  What I noticed at the BPL exhibit is that nearly all of the books, First Folios and Quartos alike, all clearly spell it Shakespeare (sometimes Shake-Speare), with a small handful of exceptions.  How'd that happen, exactly?  When did we standardize on the Shakespeare spelling, and was it while the man was still alive?  I would have believed that the Folios, published after his death, might have evolved the spelling in the years that passed.  But most of the Quartos, published in WS's lifetime, spell it that way as well.

I googled quickly and found this portion of the authorship debate, but truthfully I'm at work and don't have the time or patience to wade through it.  So I turn instead to my audience.  Who's got the scoop?

Peter Brook Wins International Ibsen Prize

Brook’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1970 is considered one of the most important Shakespeare productions of the 20th century. The play featured trapezes, juggling, and circus effects to create a sense of magic and a celebration of the imagination. The production continues to serve as a benchmark for theatre critics and directors alike.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ok, Who's Got The Arden / Parker Gossip?

I'm trying to get all the details on this story, which I've just tripped over. Apparently Arden terminated the contract of Patricia Parker, professor of English at Stratford University, who was working on a new edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream (for something like 10 years!).  Well, people are going bananas, and there's a petition demanding her reinstatement.

Arden's making no public statement on the reason for her termination, but Parker herself says that "failure to meet deadlines" was the reason given to her. 


Normally I'd think that letting somebody out of a contract is no big cause for alarm, but when you realize that she's been working on this thing for 10 years, and then they up and fire her under suspicious circumstances -- keeping her work, by the way, and not saying what will happen to it -- you do have to wonder if perhaps a little more detail should be forthcoming. 


Anybody got more gossip?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Contributor Appreciation Time!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank all my contributors for making ShakespeareGeek what it's all about.  Go look at some of the recent threads on Gertrude, or the essence of tragedy in Romeo and Juliet.  All I do is put a question out there.  Look at the answers.  Look at their length, their detail, and most of all their quality.  Look at the variety of opinions, and the range of experience of the people answering.  I love it.  I learn something new every day.  I'm glad we seem to be getting back into that level of discussion, that's my favorite.

I don't have anything to give away at the moment other than blog time, so that's what I'll give.  Got something to plug?  Let's hear it.  Consider this post an open invitation to link back to the project of your choice (preferably Shakespeare related!).  It's not spam if I openly ask for it.

Who's first?  Don't be shy.

Hamlet's Dad

Picking up on something Main Man said in the "Did Gertrude Know?" thread, let me ask a followup question:

What do you think Hamlet's relationship was with his father?

I bring this up because in one response MM asks, "why is Hamlet at Wittenberg if he is so close to his father (particularly at 30)? Could it be that Hamlet's paternity could be in doubt?"  and then later he states, "He does want Hamlet to avenge "his death," but I do not think they have a good relationship."


I happen to agree.  I've always thought Hamlet's father to be something of a scary man, a very imposing, warlike king.  Impressive to his subjects, certainly - but a loving, affectionate dad?  Maybe not so much.  So I think much of Hamlet's hesitation comes out of a fear to acknowledge his true feelings about his dad.  He wants to be all Fortinbras, mobilizing armies in his quest for revenge, but he ends up more Laertes, saying the words and claiming that he'll do whatever must be done, but then never going through with it.  (It's always been my position that what causes Hamlet to finally act is vengeance over the death of his mother.)

Why Do You Hate Shakespeare? What Do You Hate About Shakespeare?

When I blogged about "Why Is Shakespeare So Hard" based on references in my search logs, it became one of my most commented topics.  I'm curious if that trick will work twice.  The Romeo and Juliet thread made me think of a similar question, as seen above.

What do you hate about Shakespeare?

Now, as a bunch of Shakespeare geeks who are voluntarily spending our time talking about it, I don't expect that the regular readers hate him all that much.  What I'm hoping is that people googling the topic will stop by and enlighten us about why *they* hate him, and then maybe we can do something about it, or at least understand it a little better.

Of course, if you're a Shakespeare pro and you've got some hatred to vent, go for it. 

You Do Realize Romeo And Juliet Is A Tragedy, Not A Romance, Right?

A question from the audience!

What is the cause of the tragedy in Romeo and Juliet?

Is this an open and debatable question, or is it one that has a specific answer that popular opinion gets wrong?  The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is not in the romantic notion "Oh no, it's so sad they couldn't be together!"  It's in the stupidity of the adults who don't see the error of their ways until Fate kills their children for them and says "Now do you get it???"

Or is it?  Discuss.  Or perhaps I've misinterpreted the question about the "cause" of the tragedy?

Bonus question - what do you think happens after the conclusion of the play?  Do you think that Capulet and Montague really do learn their lesson, and the feud is over?  Or are they merely going through the paces (for some reason the images of Heat Miser and Snow Miser from Year Without A Santa Claus just came to mind...), and will be at each other's throats again 5 minutes after the Prince dismisses them?  Oh dear god somebody gouge out my brain for thinking of this, but I blame Disney.....could you imagine Romeo & Juliet : The Sequel?


Factory Hamlet

I think I'd like to see this!

The Factory’s Hamlet is one of the more celebrated fixtures of London’s theatrical underground. Every Sunday, a company of actors pitch up at a different location, each with a selection of learned roles at their fingers ends. Parts are allotted randomly, and each performance develops in response to the given space, with the aid of props brought along by the audience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Did Gertrude Know?

I find it odd that we've never discussed this one (I had to search my archives to make sure).  In the context of Hamlet, do you think that Gertrude knew what Claudius did, or not?  Was she in on it?  When did the relationship with Claudius start - before or after the death of her husband? 

I've always taken the position that she "knows", but she's in a state of shock and denial about it. If she ever stopped to think about it she'd have to admit what she knew to be true, so she gets around that by never thinking about it.  She shows no guilt, like Claudius does ("My offense is rank...."), so it's unlikely that she is consciously aware of just how bad her actions are.  That's why in the bedroom scene her line "As kill a king?" is not so much an "Oh no, Hamlet knows!" moment, but rather the first time that she actually has to consider the reality of what she's been a part of.

But then...if that's true, and she realizes that Claudius is a murderer, she sure doesn't seem to upset by it in the later scenes.  So maybe I haven't thought this through.

Anybody else?  As I write this I wonder if perhaps she does know right along, and really does have no guilt about it, because it was Claudius she loved, so she's happy to have her husband out of the way.

[ADMIN] Back to Academics

As September rolls back around and the school year starts up once again, I'd like to get some more educational / academic content into the mix.  I think some of our best stuff comes from debating questions that don't have one true answer.  I'll keep posting the good links as I find them, but I'd also like to throw discussion topics into the mix periodically as well.  So if anybody's got some good ones they'd like to put out there, let me know and we'll get them rolling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wicked Ninjas

I have to keep up on Savage Chickens more.  He's been sneaking in a Macbeth series on me:

Ninjas are like bacon, everything is made better with ninjas.

Mental Floss : Shakespeare Characters

Too easy, got perfect score.  I link it only because I like the format, where it simply shows a picture, gives a name of a person, and asks you to pick the play.  When the picture is from a recent movie production, it's pretty hard to get it wrong.

Marlowe Seduces....And Then The Faerie Kingdom....Wait, What?

You know, I keep seeing Elizabeth Bear's name, and I keep thinking I've read something by her.  But then I realize I'm confusing her with Greg Bear.

But maybe I've been missing something, if this writeup is any indication of what she typically writes:

This summer sees the release of "The Stratford Man," a long story published as two novels (Ink and Steel and Heaven and Earth) that reimagines the mystery of Christopher Marlowe's death as an event that raises the stakes a secret war between factions of the Elizabethan court and the kingdom of Faerie.

Oh, and Marlowe seduces William Shakespeare, inspiring him to write... well, that would be telling.


But if he's inspired to write Midsummer, or the sonnets, I call shenanigans.  EVERYBODY who writes Shakespeare into their fiction seems to work Dream into it.

Update: There you go, she's got a Hugo-nominated short story up in podcast form as we speak.  She's everywhere.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Shoreditch Theatre Discovered?

It's early and I'm trying to fully understand this.  Apparently archaeologists have rediscovered the original footings of the Shoreditch theatre, where The Lord Chamberlain's Men played before the owners dismantled it and used the timber to construct The Globe.

Any historians in my audience want to fill in some details?  Sounds pretty cool!


UPDATE:  Alan is correct, has much more detail.  Thanks for the heads up!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Some Zeffirelli Love

It's not often these days that you get such a lengthy tribute to the "original" Romeo and Juliet on film, Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey.  Worth a nostalgic look.

(Yeah yeah it's not the original, but it's arguably the definitive screen adaptation.)

The Tempest : Two Versions

I was cruising YouTube looking for video this evening, and I ran across this clip that shows two different interpretations of the first Miranda/Prospero scene from The Tempest.

What caught my attention is that the second clip is Patrick Stewart as Prospero.


Rock Me Sexy Jesus : Hamlet 2 Is Coming....

You guys know where I'll be August 22! :) 

Rock me rock me, rock me sexy Jesus,
We're really amazed, you gotta believe us...

Of course, it does not go unnoticed that a trailer for Hamlet 2 does not have any reference to Hamlet or any other Shakespearean topic.

Don't forget to check out the "enlightened" comments, too.  Those are always good for a hoot:

"Its sad!  No wonder this nation is falling!"
     "The nation is falling due to Rock me sexy Jesus?"

Monday, August 04, 2008

Harry Potter v. Hamlet (again)

I like this comparison of Harry Potter and Hamlet, which basically comes down to "JK Rowling had one of the grandest tragedies ever written shaping up, until she lost her nerve."

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

After ripping it to my ipod for train watching, I have finally finished Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard.  Starring Gary Oldman as Rosencrantz, or possibly Guildenstern, and Tim Roth as Guildenstern, or possibly Rosencrantz.

First and foremost, the acting from the two leads is just off the charts amazing.  The whole essence of the role is that these two characters are just literally dropped into a play in progress, and have no idea where they came from or why they are there (other than "We were sent for" which they cling to for dear life).  The nature of the pair, so similar that they're not even quite sure who is who, is fascinating, even in the little details like watching them walk down stairs in a sort of unintended synchronous march.

There are moments of laugh out loud humor (mostly from poor Rosencrantz, who at times seems an Elizabethan Einstein, when no one is looking), and moments of quiet existential philosophy that would make Hamlet himself say "Huh, never thought of that."

Most of all it is the acting that carries the day.  Richard Dreyfuss wanders through the play as leader of the Players, trying to point out the nature of "tragedy" to ill-fated R & G, who never quite seem to get what he's telling them....not that it would matter if they did, which is sort of the whole point.

I thought it was great.  Glad I finally watched it.  Highly recommended.

What Play Were They Watching?

From my soon-to-be 4yr old daughter this morning, re: The Tempest...

"Who was the tall girl with the white hair?"
    "That was Ariel, remember?"
"No. No, no, Daddy.  Ariel had the big wings, and she was all in black."
   "Well, yes, that was Ariel too.  That was Ariel when he was mad.  Ariel's a boy in this one."
"And then those people tied him up so he wouldn't get away!"

That last one sounds like a non-sequitur for those that didn't see the show.  When Ariel exits, it's almost impossible for him not to get caught in his own wings :).  It looks, to a 4yr old, like he's been captured by the people who were hiding behind him holding a net.


My 6yr old, on the other hand, was disappointed that there were in fact no big dogs to chase Stefano, Trinculo and Caliban from Prospero's cave.  "I don't think they had any real dogs to work with!" I said.

"Daddy," she said in that patient voice of children speaking to adults, "Not real dogs.  But maybe they could have had dog *costumes*, and somebody could have dressed up like a dog."


The 2yr old summed up his experience more succinctly:  "Caliban monster?"  I think he was confused after the show when the actor playing Caliban had come over to talk to us, and the let the kids play with the noise makers.  We had to explain that he wasn't a monster, just somebody pretending to be a monster.


If this were a movie, they would watch it a few dozen times until every detail was memorized (just like with any given episode of Sesame Street). That's the sad part about live theatre, at that age.  If they're at all confused, they have no time to fully process what they're seeing before it is gone.  I guess I'll just have to make sure they see lots of theatre! :)

Shakespeare Day, Boston

So coming back from the Cape we decided to swing by "Shakespeare Day" for the first time.  We got there too early - started at 2, we were there closer to noon - so we hung out and went to the wading pond, had lunch, etc...

Wasn't worth it.  By 2pm there were plenty of tents and performance areas set up, but it looked pretty clear that things wouldn't really pick up for a few more hours.  The schedule said there'd be things like combat class, which seemed like it might be fun to watch.  But at 2pm all we got to see what "Shakespeare karaoke" (where people did monologues, apparently taking it seriously), and "Shakespeare death competition" (where mostly kids acted out death scenes - and it seems like everybody did Hamlet). 

Maybe we just weren't in the mood, maybe we were there too early before the crowds arrived (so it looked pretty lame).  But it certainly didn't do anything for us, and I wouldn't be in a hurry to go back next year.

Tempest On The Cape

So!  I packed up the family, took the day off work Friday and headed down Cape Cod for a "Kiddie Shakes" production of The Tempest.  All my regular readers will know how exciting this was for me - The Tempest being the way I introduced my kids to Shakespeare, telling it to them as a bedtime story for as long as they can remember.  So the idea of that being their first performance (even better, a special kids' version of the show), was too good to pass up.

Took us a little while to find it.  With only the location "Mashpee Commons" in mind, I'm heading into this thinking "Boston Common" - some sort of big grassy lawn where we can spread a blanket, maybe set up some chairs.  When I turned into the area called Mashpee Commons and found what could best be termed an outdoor shopping mall, I was just a little confused.  Eventually security told us "It's between the movie theatre and the Banana Republic", and darn it all, that's exactly where it was.  No grassy area, just a brick courtyard sort of a thingie where they'd set up, god, maybe 30 or so plastic lawn chairs.  There were no signs at all saying what was going on, just a handful of props strewn about the ground.

You know what?


The shipwreck Out came the cast from behind a hastily hung screen in the corner, not even 10 of them.  They were all young - I'd be surprised if any of them had hit their mid 30's.  The cast was mostly female, so Prospero and Antonio were both played by women (as well as Trinculo, who also played the narrator, but it seems to me that Trinculo is often cast as a woman).  The story then became everything that I love about trying to explain Shakespeare to people.  First, Trinculo (whose real name was Tessa) would narrate, in a sort of Dr. Seuss rhyming style.  But then, this is the best part, they switched back over to legitimate performance of the actual text!  Sure they cut bits here and there (more on that later), but the important thing is that they didn't paraphrase.  They didn't give new lines to anybody to make it easier.  That's what the narrator was there for.   So you've got one person talking to the audience saying, "Here's what's about to happen (e.g. Stefano and Trinculo, with Caliban, plot to take over the island), and then you get that scene.  My wife came away saying "Now that one I really liked, I understood every word."

Caliban Since the whole thing ran 45 minutes they certainly cut a bunch, and particularly toward the end it seemed to wrap up very quickly.  For my taste I could have watched them do the whole play this way - it's not like it's that long of a play to begin with.    Gonzalo was completely eliminated, which I was a little sad about, I like him.  They left in his first speech (about an acre of dry land), giving it to a random sailor who never appeared again.  But that was it - nobody tried to kill him as he slept next to the king, and he was not around to be reunited with his friend Prospero.  I happened to be around for the later show (while my kids got ice cream and watched a juggler), and Gonzalo was even edited out of the grown up version.

Fury Ariel The show had clearly been organized to showcase Ariel and Caliban, since they ended up with the most stage time.  All the other humans (including Prospero) seemed more at the whim of the narrator who could cut them off and say "...and then this happens" and that was the end of that.  Caliban, on the other hand, really threw himself into the role, cackling like a fiend and leaping through his scenes all hunched over like some frog-like henchman from a monster movie.  Ariel, in contrast was...hmmm, what's a good adjective for Ariel?  Ariel (played by Ben, whom I'd spoken to online to tell I was coming to the show) was really the center of attention, and I mean that in a variety of ways.  He seemed to tower over the rest of the cast.  And whenever he was on stage he came with special effects, whether noise makers (a drum and a thunder machine, in particular), a chorus of fairies to sing with him (they were quite good), or just a bunch of sheets that served as everything from ocean to stage-within-the-stage (for Prospero's wedding gift to the children) to Ariel's Fury costume.  They did a lot with what they had.  (By the way, is it always that hard to fit "suffer a sea-change" into the rhythm of the song?  Never seems to fit right, both when I've heard it and when I've tried to sing it myself.)

Stefano, Trinculo and Caliban How was the performance?  Given the setting it was darned near "Shakespeare in the wild".  Clearly an act of love for what they were doing.  Shoppers were walking all around, and at least once somebody walked through the set.  But they persevered.   I was in awe, the entire time.  Maybe I'm a special case - here's a bunch of people acting out my children's bedtime stories, something I could never hope to do.  None of them seemed like "seasoned professionals" (although perhaps they all hope to be some day :)), and nobody passed the hat.  I was surprised at that last, I was all set to contribute.  Perhaps it came out later, during the adult performance?  Only one time did I flinch at a directorial choice, and that's when the narrator introduced the monster "Cackle-a-ban", and I was like, "ummm...what?"  Then the actors came out and referred to him as Caliban, and I thought "Perhaps that was a mistake."  No - in narration, they named him Cackleaban, but in the play he remained Caliban.  I don't understand that.

The cast hung out after the show, letting the kids play with the props and asking questions about the story.  As always my kids froze under pressure of being asked a direct question, but hey, I'm working on them :).  We hung out waiting for Ben, which must have come across like we were some sort of fan club - "Hey Ben, there's a guy and his wife and kids out here asking for you!"  I felt awkward not just jumping in and hanging out with the whole cast, but I haven't quite gotten used to just walking up to people and saying "Hi, I'm Duane from" unless I've had some sort of connection with them.  Makes me feel like a newspaper reporter looking for a story or something.  Perhaps I'll have to get used to that however, as Ben came out of the dressing area (out of costume) and said, "You must be Duane from Shakespeare Geek?" and the rest of the cast said, "Oh!  You're the one he's been telling us about!"  So, Ben, my apologies to the rest of the gang if I seemed at all rude.

In all, it was the time of my life.  I'd spend my entire summer going to shows like that if I could.  It fired on all cylinders for me - a show that my family knew and could understand, performed in a small enough venue that we could comfortably watch and enjoy it, keeping "original" text (yes yes, I know), by a cast small and friendly enough to hang out and talk to us after.  So glad I went!  Highly recommended.  Even if you can't get to this particular show, go find your local group that does something similar and go put some butts in the seats for them.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bad Reviews

Following up on some recent threads, here's a question.  A friend, maybe a coworker, somebody you know casually but not well, asks your opinion on a Shakespeare performance that is in town.  Specifically they ask, "Is it worth going?"

What do you say?  Do you ever give Shakespeare a bad as in "Don't go" review?

While As You Like It is in town, several coworkers have asked for my review.  I find myself pained to give an actual go-or-dont-go answer to the question, because the idea of saying "No, don't go to Shakespeare" is something that can't really come out of my mouth.  I realize that it's not for everybody, sure.  But the idea that somebody would choose to not see it at all, based on my opinion, is not really cool with me.  Some exposure to Shakespeare, even if you don't like it, is better than none.