Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ingenious(?) Shakespeare on Film

There's certainly no shortage of these lists, but I haven't linked to one in a while.   Flavorwire delivers their list of Top 10 Ingenious Shakespeare Adaptations, but as always I'm never really sure what criteria these sites use for such a list.

All the usual suspects are on this one, and probably nothing that long time readers hadn't seen mentioned before (Scotland, PA, which I still haven't seen, being the most unknown).  But how do you make a list that includes both McKellen's Richard III and Luhrman's Romeo+Juliet with 10 Things I Hate About You, O, and Strange Brew?

I'd love it if somebody made a list with a constraint that we could all agree upon, like "Shakespeare adaptations as musicals" or something.  Hint hint, content authors.  Get to work.

The Real Housewives of Shakespeare

This hysterical production from the Great River Shakespeare Festival is making the rounds on Twitter.  I gave it a pass at first since I never watched the original tv show and figured that I wouldn't get most of the jokes.


If you've not seen it yet, do what I did -- try to identify all the wives before they're introduced.  They had me at "what is that knocking WHAT IS THAT KNOCKING!?  :) :) :)

P.S. - I'm going to let Juliet's use of "like" slip by...once.  That was like, like, fingernails on a blackboard.

He's Mine, Now.

So this story is only vaguely related to Shakespeare, but anybody that knows me will appreciate it.

See if you can follow this.  I have a "work wife".  This woman and I had worked closely on a team of just three people and it didn't take long for the usual workplace flirting to get kicked high enough into the stratosphere that everybody just started referring to us as a work couple.  No biggie.  I'm married, she's not, my wife knows about my work wife.  It's fun.  Work wife meanwhile has started dating one of the new employees.

Yesterday, out of the blue, one of my coworkers forwards me an event notification for a Shakespeare Open Mic night.  She apparently missed that it happened a month ago.  The particular event was at a cafe in Salem, MA, for Shakespeare's Birthday (I've been to it).  I appreciate the notification.  Like I've said before, I like that people spot Shakespeare things and send them to me.

Anyway, this new employee, who is dating my work wife, suddenly pops his head over the wall and says, "Wait, what's this you're talking about?  Really?  That sounds cool."

I try to decide if I'm being mocked.  He assures me that no, he's into Shakespeare.  He's one of those "really didn't like it in high school until I finally got a teacher that showed us how awesome he is" kids. Now he wants to talk about Shakespeare and asks about where in town he can see a good show.

I give him my usual warning - "You sure you want to open this door?  You've heard what happens when you start me talking about Shakespeare, right?"

At this point along comes work wife to see why the two men in her life are chatting.  I let her know that yes, we're talking about Shakespeare, and I'm not giving him back.  He's mine now.
We start talking about the obvious option, Commonwealth Shakespeare in the Park (doing Coriolanus this year).  I tell him that I go every year, we make a picnic out of it, get some PF Changs, couple bottles of wine, hang out on a nice summer night.  He decides that now it sounds even more convincing.

I came home and told my real wife that this summer we're double dating. :)  How's that for awkward?  Maybe my real wife and my work wife can hang out and chat while I talk Shakespeare with my work wife's boyfriend. :) :) :) :)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Shakespeare vs. HP Lovecraft

Something for the horror fans was waiting in my inbox this week - "Shakespeare v Lovecraft: A Horror Comedy Mash-Up featuring Shakespeare's Characters and Lovecraft's Creatures ."  From the product description:

Prospero, driven dangerously insane by prolonged exposure to the dread Necronomicon, makes a terrible pact with the titanic alien beast known only as Cthulhu. Now only his enchantress daughter Miranda and a handful of history’s greatest heroes are all that stand between humanity and blasphemous eternal subjugation. 
It’s a bloodbath of Shakespearean proportions as Cthulhu and his eldritch companions come at our protagonists from all manner of strange geometric angles in a hideous and savage battle for supremacy. 
Never read any Lovecraft myself, so I can't speak to the subject too much.  But I thought that folks out there might like it.  As a Kindle title it's only a couple of bucks.  Let us know in the comments if you pick it up!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Shakespearean Rosetta Stone

Take a controversial line from a controversial play, and then look at how that line is interpreted in 100 different languages.  That's the goal set by Dr. Tom Cheesman of Swansea University.

The play?  Othello.

The line?  “If virtue no delighted beauty lack, Your son-in-law is far more fair than black”.

Perhaps somebody can explain to me the controversy in that line?

I suppose the idea is interesting, and it brings to mind that old Hamlet in the Bush story (which, until now, I thought was a real thing) where a researcher attempts to demonstrate the universal appeal of Shakespeare by reading the play to a bunch of African natives.  They don't get it.  They don't see the big deal of Claudius marrying Gertrude, because of course the wife of a deceased man marries his brother.  And why did Hamlet even think about listening to the ghost? The only concept of ghost in their language is "demon", so of course it would have been up to no good.  And so on.  Does anybody know if that piece is legit, or was done as a joke?  I'd always assumed it to be real but when googling for it I found it linked on a April Fool's Day site, so now I'm not so sure.

On a related note that combines both those stories I'll point out my own little experiment in this arena.  I ran "To be or not to be" through a translator into a whole bunch of different languages to see how it differed, then made a poster out of it.  I think it came out pretty cool, and it's been one of the better sellers in my shop.

Coriolanus Read By CEOs

Here's an interesting project up in my neck of the woods (Boston) : a staged reading of Coriolanus by local chief executive officers.

Shakespeare and the law has now evolved into Shakespeare and business. On Thursday, a who’s who of Boston executives will take their positions at the Cutler Majestic for a reading of an edited version of “Coriolanus,” and then they’ll participate in a panel discussion about the leadership and management themes raised by the play. The cast/panelists will include Boston Foundation CEO Paul Grogan, Eastern Bank CEO Richard Holbrook, Boston Globe publisher Chris Mayer, Mass. Convention Center Authority director Jim Rooney, Tufts Health Plan CEO Jim Roosevelt and Bain & Co. senior advisor Phyllis Yale.
The project is co-sponsored by Boston's own Commonwealth Shakespeare, who will be performing Coriolanus on Boston Common beginning July 25.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Branagh to do The Scottish Play Next?

I missed this article last week where Kenneth Branagh received the Founder's Directing Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival...

Through the ‘90s, Branagh had a run of films that were met with mostly positive critical feedback, including two more Shakespeare adaptations with “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Hamlet.” In 2000, he hit a bit of a bump with his “Love’s Labour’s Lost” adaptation, an experience that he found humbling, though not debilitating to his career. Branagh explained, “It would be hard to say what exactly is ‘authentic Shakespeare’, but people have an idea of what it might be and they sometimes get disturbed when a strong or dominating or even disruptive idea comes in like setting it as a Hollywood musical in 1939. 
...but I'm glad they took the trouble to highlight the gem of the article for me in the title:
“I would like to make some more Shakespeare films. The film that I would like to make next has a title that I cannot mention in this building. But it’s a play by Shakespeare about a Scottish king.” 
Woohoo!  Branagh Shakespeare movies are always a good thing.

Need New Shakespeare Books?

I wonder if this is a regular thing - Six New Titles on Shakespeare, explaining exactly who wrote each, what they're about, who might like them, and so on.  Something to check out if you're interested in upcoming Shakespeare books but not normally in a position where you get access to this information.

The "Shakespeare's Shrine" one looks interesting, detailing Stratford and how it became what it is today (thanks in no small part to David Garrick, of course).

Must See Movie Event Of The Summer

Did Julie Taymor and Russell Brand leave a bad taste in your mouth?

Christopher Plummer's The Tempest is coming to the big screen!

This looks ridiculously good.

Even better?  Unlike many other Shakespeare films that barely see any widescreen release (ahem Coriolanus), the web site actually lists every movie theatre in every state where it will play!  And it's close to me in Massachusetts!

Note, however, that this is a *one time event* -- Thursday, June 14, 7pm.  Now I just have to hope I can make it!

Would You Buy ...

We have Shakespeare Geek merchandise.  You knew that, right?  Mostly t-shirts, but also some bags, bumper stickers ... the usual assortment.

What I've always wanted, though, is a polo shirt (short sleeve, pull-over, collared shirt in case that term is not well known) that has a little embroidered Shakespeare head as its logo.  I've never seen one for sale.  Since this is more common workplace-wear than a t-shirt, I would have a whole assortment of these in my closet if I could find them.

Logical question, can they be made?  Easier said than done.  I know how to have it done.  The problem is in the embroidery thing.  With a t-shirt you pretty much make a reasonably high resolution graphic and you're all set.  But for embroidery your graphic has to be turned into a pattern, and you need somebody who knows how to do this, you can't just automate it and hope for the best - otherwise your final product looks awful.

This is a service that costs a few hundred dollars to set up.  This is what's always stopped me from doing it.  I want the shirt, but I don't want to pay several hundred dollars just because I want it.

So I'll throw it out there, in something of a poor geek's KickStarter style...  If we were to set up a project to make such a shirt available, would you buy it?  Would you be willing to pre-order such a thing to help with the up-front cost?  How much would you be willing to pay for such a shirt?  You have to understand that this could not possibly ever be a $10 special - these custom things never are.  My best guess is that if it came in under $40/shirt I'd be pleased.  That's just from experience, I have not yet researched the project.

Naturally, if we were going to do it we'd have to make available a variety of sizes and colors.  Who knows, maybe we could even have different lines where some people like a little Droeshout portrait, but others prefer the Chandos.   *pause*  Ok, I just got myself excited.  The idea of having half a dozen of these shirts, each with a different little Shakespeare head on it?  That would be ridonkulously geeky.

If you would be seriously interested, email me and tell me.  I am not going to ask for any money yet, I have nothing set up (which is also why I'm not going to head to Kickstarter).  This is to see who is willing to say that they'd put some money up front for such a line of merchandise.  Honestly, if nobody is willing to do that, then we don't make them, and that's the end of it.  

Worth a shot, right?
Also do note that I am in no way married to the idea of having to make the shirt myself like some sort of business brainstorm.  I just want the shirt to exist.  If somebody out there knows how to make it happen via different means, I'm happy to hear about that.

The 7 Year Challenge

Today I realized that I haven't been in the blogging business *6* years, I'm coming up on *7* years. A little math told me that I've made 2364 posts in 2555 days, for something like a 93% hit rate.  The fact that I did not achieve a sustained 1 post/day average over this time troubles me.  I like round numbers.

So then I thought, can I do it?  Can I celebrate my 7 year anniversary by actually achieving that goal?  By my count that means I need to post 191 stories in the next 21 days.  That sounds impossible.

Doesn't mean I'm not going to try it. :)

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Knock-Knock! The Definitive List of Shakespeare Knock-Knock Jokes (Guest Post)

From time to time, Bardfilm and Shakespeare Geek have tried putting a Shakespearean spin on some of the classic genres of humor. In the past, they’ve tackled light bulb jokes and dealt with why the chicken crossed the road.

Finally, the great challenge of the Knock-knock joke proved irresistible. Here are some Shakespearean knock-knock jokes that you can use to entertain or torment your friends, colleagues, and children.  No, you don't need advanced Shakespeare knowledge to get all of them - but it certainly helps sometimes!

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Oberon who?
Oberon the other bank you might try to catch some fish.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Noah who?
Noah’s the winter of our discontent.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Dogberry who?
Dog bury a bone in my petunias again, dog get sent to the pound.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Julius Caesar.
Julius Caesar who?
Julius, seize her! She’s the one who stole my wallet!

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
The Earl of Oxford.
The Earl of Oxford who?

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Wherefore means.
Wherefore means who?
No, “wherefore” means “why.” How many times do we have to go over this?

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Nay, answer me!  Stand and unfold yourself.
Long live the king?

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Laertes who?
Layer Ts and sweaters to stay dry and comfortable on the ski slopes.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
The Nightingale.
The Nightingale who?
Ha! Fooled you! It’s really the Lark.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Orlando who?
Or Lando or Leia or Luke or Chewbacca will pilot the Millennium Falcon.

Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Tom who?
Tom R. O. and Tom R. O. and Tom R. O.  We creep in this petty pace from day to day.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Shelly who?
Shelly compare thee to a summer’s day?

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Hal who?
Hal long until Henry IV dies and I can become king?

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Gracie Zar.
Gracie Zar who?
Gracie Zar’s Ghost!

Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
Et who?
Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Utah who?
Utah me language, and my profit on it is I know how to curse!

Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
The cause, my soul.
The cause, my soul who?
Let me not name it to you!

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Leon who?
Leon Macduff.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Rosencrantz.  No, wait, Guildenstern! *sigh*—let me get back to you.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Ferris who?
Ferris foul and foul is fair.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Lysander who?
Lie, Sander, and you'll get in trouble, Sander.

Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
Cordelia who?
Oh, that's real nice, Daddy. I come all the way from France with an army to rescue you and that's the welcome I get.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Falstaff who?
[Excessively Loud Belch]

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Will Shakespeare.
Will Shakespeare who?
Will Shakespeare or just stand there holding one as long as I get to be on stage.

Knock, Knock.

Who’s there?
Desdemona who?
Nobody.  I myself.  Farewell.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Riese who?
Riese and not the need.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
The Porter from Macbeth.
The Porter from Macbeth who?
The Porter from Macbeth, who wants to know how you like it! Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Interrupting Chorus.
Interrupting . . .

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Demetrius who?
Just try to Demetri us before we Demetri you!

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Hamlet who?
Ham let Ophee fall in love with him.

Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
Hamlet who?
Hamlet the dogs out!  (woof, woof woof woof...)

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Helena who?
Helena handbasket is where this world seems to be going.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Pericles who?
Well, I know it’s not Hamlet, but it’s not that unknown.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Rosaline who?
Yeah, that’s what Romeo said as soon as he saw Juliet.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Lloyd who?
Lloyd, what fools these moytals be.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Mary who?
Mary, your manhood mew.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare who?
William Shakespeare cans so they explode when you open them.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Interrupting Richard the Third.
Interrupting Richard the . . .

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Amos who?
Amos shapen knave; his mother was a witch, and one so strong that could control the moon!

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Otis who?
Otis too, too solid flesh! I wish it would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

Or . . .

Otis too true! How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Mike who?
Mike Ingdom for a horse.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Arthur who?
Arthur world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Toby who?
Wait—sorry. Not Toby.
Make up your mind! Who’s there?
Toby or not Toby, that is the question.

Our thanks for this guest post to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare.

My Brownie Adventure

So yesterday, I'm happy to say, was my first official "Stand up in front of a group of children not my own, and talk about Shakespeare."  Long time readers will know that I've had a number of false starts along this path, ranging from the time I read The Tempest to a bunch of first graders, to the time that the school principal shot down my plans to stage Dream among the second graders.

This time we went informal - my 7yr old daughter's Brownie (small Girl Scout) troop, which in this instance numbered just 4 girls.  5, if you count my older daughter who hangs out and keeps herself busy.  6, if you count my boy.

Yesterday I posted The Plan.  Aren't you just dying to know how it went?

So, I bring with me a bust of Shakespeare and my pop-up Globe theatre.  Spend some time talking about who Shakespeare was, when he lived, what he did.  I make a timeline on the board, showing them events that they know -- Abraham Lincoln, Columbus, Pilgrims -- and where Shakespeare was on that spectrum.

We then get into Talk Like Shakespeare.  I try to give some examples of the whole thee/thou, ist/wast, stuff like that, but I have no good examples.  I tried to pull some modern song lyrics that we could "Shakespeareize", but I was stuck in that world of not knowing what's appropriate for other people's children, so I had to punt on that one.  I used some simple examples ("Shakespeare would not have had someone say Good morning, how are you today?  He would have had somebody say An excellent morrow to you good mistress!  How art thou this fine morn?")

This led to the first game.  I really hyped on the whole "flowery" language thing, and how you would never just toss out one or two words when you could use a bunch and really sell it.  I have brought with me a hand made version of "The Compliment Game", which is kid-safe version of the more infamous Insult Kit.  I've taken a deck of index cards and written a word on each.  Each card is then labelled A/B/C on both front and back.  I spread out the entire deck (30 cards, total) on the floor around us and tell the kids that the rules are to pick up an A, B and C card, then pick one of your troopmates, start with "Thou", and then pay them a compliment.  Don't just read the cards, really sell it.  Pour it on.

They loved this, found it ridiculously silly.  My daughter was called a pigeon-egg and had no idea how that was supposed to be a compliment.  My other daughter called me a wafer-cake and thought this was just hysterical.  Some of the words were beyond their reading ability, but that didn't stop them from simply asking me to read it.

Definitely a hit, as we went through one round, and they immediately wanted to go again and again until all the cards were used up.  We even had an odd number left and I had to bring in my older daughter to read that one, so that we could keep it fair and not have somebody left with an extra turn.

I then talk about how Shakespeare went ahead and just made up words as he needed them, and show them the word search puzzle I made for them to play with. Since I'd specifically been told to keep them up and active I treat this like "Here's something for you to take home."

This all leads into a discussion of rhyme and meter (after all, why did Shakespeare go through so much trouble to shuffle words around and make up new ones?  Because he needed them to fit a specific pattern).

So I break out my bigger game.  I've taken three famous speeches from three famous plays -- Juliet's balcony scene, the witches spell from Macbeth, and Puck's closing of Dream.  I've printed them out onto refrigerator magnet sheets, and cut them into strips.  I then give the kids the pile of lines, describe the three plays, and tell them to separate the lines into the logical piles.  "Juliet's speech is all about names, and about how things still have value even if you don't call them by the same words that everybody else does.....Macbeth's witches are whipping up a disgusting witches potion, so look for ingredients that might go into it ... Puck is a fairy who tells the audience that i they didn't like the play, they should just think that they dreamed it, so you want to look for words about dreaming, or about forgiveness."

This was the most active bit of the class, with all the girls up at the magnetic white board, reading the strips and trying to move them into the right categories.  Some were easy ("eye of newt?"), some were hard ("Take all myself").  Best moment for me came when one girl read aloud, "By the pricking of my thumbs....oh, wait! I saw something.....Something wicked this way comes. Those must go together."

*shiver*  Yes, my wonderful child, yes they do.  Of all the lines to pop out of this exercise, it had to be that one?  I love it.  That line is already spine tingling as it is.

(Side note -- when speaking of Macbeth I went ahead and told them about the curse, and the Scottish Play.  How if an actor says the M word inside a theatre, the other actors will take him away and he has to perform a magic spell to break the curse so nothing bad happens.  First they wanted to know if this was true, and I said absolutely.  Then they wanted to know what the magic spell was to break the curse, and I said I don't know, I'm not an actor.  But that I had in fact seen an actor say Macbeth in a theatre back in college, and I did indeed see his fellow actors take him away to perform the rite.)

This game was too big and too long, unfortunately.  I probably could have gotten by with one speech at a time (scrambled), rather than trying to separate three.  They started to lose interest toward the end.

So then I broke out my Complete Works and began reading the originals, so that they could see how close they came.  Actually they did very well, at least in terms of which lines went with which play.  Very hard to get them in the right order without a great deal of context.

I tried to do some acting - got one girl to volunteer to be Juliet, had her stand on a table/balcony, and then borrowed my son to be Romeo, hiding him behind a bookcase with instructions to yell "Here I am, Juliet!" when she was done.

Unfortunately this is where I lost them.  I've got one girl reciting, one girl listening, but then the other two drifted off to draw on the whiteboard.  Oh, well.

The witches spell was a little better, because I made them all interact.  We all stood in a circle, holding hands and chanting doing one line at a time (chorus on the "Double doubles").  I insisted that everybody give it their best witches' cackle, and for the most part they played along.  One girl did say that this was her favorite, and that she wanted that speech to use at Halloween.  (Interestingly enough?  Same girl that spotted the Something wicked.... line initially.  She's going to be a dark one when she grows up :))

At this point we were running long so I just read Puck's speech, but their attention spans were shot.  My wife suggested that maybe they could sit down and work on the puzzle, which is what we did, and that became the "wind down until the end of class" project.  Again, though - a big hit. I had not fully appreciated how an entire group of kids will tear into a puzzle, comparing notes and sharing information.

Overall?  Glad to have done it.  Need to come better prepared with actual notes about what to talk about next time - you can't wing that sort of thing, it comes off as really unprepared.  Games and activities have to be kept relatively simple - the compliment game and the word search scored big, the unscrambling of speeches started out strong but ended weak.

I plan to take this experience and roll it in to working with my older daughter's Girl Scout troop.  they are 9-10yr olds, and there are *18* of them.  Holy Toledo.  I've already said we're going to jump straight in to acting with them.  I've got a number of kid-friendly versions of the plays to try out.  That seems the best approach for a group that size and age.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Brownie Shakespeare (The Plan)

So this story broke on Twitter a couple weeks ago.  My wife runs a troop of Brownies (think "small Girl Scouts" if the term is unfamiliar) for my 7yr old daughter.  Last week her plans were scrapped due to rain, and she spontaneously said "Want to do some Shakespeare with them?"


Cue mad scramble for teaching materials that I could use with a small (5 kids) group of 7yr old girls.  I literally had like less than half a day to whip something up.

End result of that little rush was that she came up with a backup backup plan and I was off the hook for such short notice - with plans to reschedule for the next meeting.

And here's the next meeting, tomorrow afternoon!

Thanks to everybody on email and Twitter who sent suggestions.  Here's the rough outline I've got planned:

* Introduce who Shakespeare was and give some quick history / bio stuff.  Born 400 years ago, Globe Theatre, that sort of thing.  Show props.  I have a number of Shakespeare toys, including a pop-up book with the Globe in it.

* Explain the rules of "Talk Like Shakespeare".  Thee thy thou, that sort of thing.  I'd love to play some sort of game of taking modern song lyrics and Shakespearizing them, but I don't have any good examples handy.  (Note to self, register the domain name "" :) )

* Explain, very broadly, the coolness factor involved in writing a full length play that is also a really big poem.  Seque into iambic pentameter, the whole "stand your sentence on its head so you can make the rhyme come out", that sort of thing.

* Break out my game.  What I did was to go get some sheets of printable refrigerator magnet, and print some well known speeches ("Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" / "If we shadows have offended..." / "Double double toil and trouble...") onto them.  Then I cut them up into strips.  I explain to the kids the general idea of the three speeches ("One is spoken by Juliet about her new boyfriend Romeo", "One is a magic spell cast by the witches", "One comes from the ending of a play where a fairy comes out to talk to the audience.")  Then we work on reassembling the speeches, and when we have them right, we act them out.

I expect that, even with the explanation of the speeches, they'll need a lot of help.  I'm thinking about possibly breaking out my First Folio and using it like a big hint ("Does that sound right? Let's check...The Book.")

If I have time between now and then, I've got extra sheets of magnet so I'm going to print off some do it yourself "Shakespeare refrigerator poetry" to let them take home.

My plan, obviously, is to keep some level of speaking it without having to rely entirely on acting it.  I expect such a small group of such young kids won't immediately warm to the idea of playing roles (especially if they have to spout lovey romantic stuff to each other).  But I didn't want to do sonnets because I though those were too far removed from the idea of plot and character.  I can explain each of the three speeches from inside the play.  There are little hiccups - like discovering that there's 1 line in Juliet's speech that has 12 syllables instead of 10, but I think we can work around that.

I will let everybody know how it goes!  

Friday, May 11, 2012

What Have You Seen?

Once again this week I got into the "See it, don't read it!" debate with someone, and my faithful readers know that I weigh in on the "read it" side of this argument for the following very simple reason:

"Hey, I don't know anything about Richard III, I think I'll read it."
 "Don't read it, go see it!"
"Oh, ok.  Is it playing?"
 "...well, no."
And then people immediately jump into the defense of going to rent a DVD, even though you all know perfectly well that if there was a choice between seeing it live on stage and seeing a movie version, you wouldn't even have to think about it.  You only support movies because you know that "go see it as it was meant to be seen" is not a realistic argument, and you'll accept movies as a substitute.

But, I'm not here to make the argument again.  I want to try something.  Tell me, in the comments, which Shakespeare plays you have seen on stage?

I've seen:  Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, Othello, R+J, Shrew, AYLI, All's Well, Dream, Much Ado, Comedy of Errors, LLL, Tempest, Winter's Tale.

14 plays.  You'll notice that the histories are sadly underrepresented.  Now, with more effort I'm sure I could add maybe half a dozen plays to that list, but that still only puts me in the range of about half.  I'd make the case that the only way I'm ever going to see some of those plays is if I make it a primary goal in my life to do so, and am willing to travel extensively to make it happen.

Most people in the world will never have the opportunity to see most of Shakespeare's plays on stage.  Every single literate person in the world has the opportunity to read them.

TL;DR - Read King John.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Character I'd Most Like To _______ With

I saw a "Favorite Shakespearean Character?" thread on another board, and it reminded me how completely unanswerable that question is - it's like asking who your favorite family member is.  Different pros and cons in different contexts.

I think I once asked "Which Shakespeare character would you want to go drinking with?" but didn't get any answers other than Falstaff. ;)

So, a more wide open game.  First fill in the blank, then give a character.  Who would you like to ...

... start a business with?

... go out on a date with?

... get into a mixed martial arts ring with?

... pick as your vice president?

Get the idea?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Loki Does Shakespeare

Good timing for me - just saw The Avengers last night.  Normally it's the good guys - Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo - that get all the press.  But if I say the name Tom Hiddleston would you know who I meant?

Well, trick question, I gave it away in the subject line ;).  Having just wrapped Henry IV for an upcoming BBC release, check out Loki himself giving us something the audience is more likely to recognize, a little Henry V.   Hiddleston plays Hal, alongside such names as Jeremy Irons and John Hurt.  Should be a good one!

Peter Brook, on the Authorship Question

I have to admit, I didn't realize that Peter Brook was still with us.  But I'm glad to have found this article where he discusses his thoughts on the Authorship debate:

Shakespeare was a genius, insists Brook, and “genius can arise in the humblest of backgrounds. No one doubts that Leonardo was truly Leonardo da Vinci, even though he was an illegitimate child from an Italian village.”
Mr. Brook is also the one to credit with a favorite quote of mine:
Each line in Shakespeare is an atom. The energy that can be released is infinite—if we can split it open.
Brook's is a name spoken with reverence for quite some decades at this point.  I first heard his name attached to a legendary 1970 Midsummer Night's Dream that predates my interest in Shakespeare by quite a little bit, although I have seen some clips.

Got any good Peter Brook experiences?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Riddle Me This, Folio Historians

So at long last I'm getting time - granted, 5-10 minutes at a shot, but still - to sit and enjoy my First Folio that I got for my birthday.

Wouldn't you know it, I found something to post about in my very first sitting.

I'm reading Much Ado About Nothing and noticed that on the bottom right corner of every page is a single word (or two), which turns out to be the start of the next page.  At first I thought this was a typo of some sort, and then noticed that it happens on every page.

See that "Bene. That" at the bottom?  Now check out the next page:

This happens all the time, whether it is one person who continues speaking, or the speaker changes.  It does not always have the opening word like that - in fact, in a quick flip through I didn't see any other examples where it included another word.

So my question is, what's this all about?  What purpose does that serve?  Some sort of script clue to the reader about what's about to happen on the next page, so there's no unexpected break in continuity?  That's the only thing I can guess, although using just a single word to do it seems pretty minimal.

(By the way, it does not go unnoticed that the speaker abbreviations are all over the place. Sometimes he is 'Bened', sometimes 'Bene', sometimes 'Ben'.  The computer scientist in me hates that.  Make a rule and stick to it, people!)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

How The Feud Started (Guest Post)

David Blixt has got so many Shakespearean irons in the fire that I don't even know how to start summarizing him, so I'll just let his press bio do it: Author and actor, director and playwright, David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." As an actor, he is devoted to Shakespeare. As a writer of Historical Fiction, his Shakespeare-related novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it."

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

What long time readers may also realize is that David's been one of the earliest contributors to Shakespeare Geek, for instance in this August 2008 post about how Romeo and Juliet is actually "a comedy where people die."

David has a literary (but not literal!) avalanche of new content coming out this week, and he's offered some it here for a sneak peek.  I've chosen something from a piece that I'm somewhat familiar with, as it is integral to the plot of The Master of Verona,  David's earlier novel, which I reviewed:

I clearly didn’t need Lady Montague for the final scene – her husband just told us she’s dead. I flipped back to find her last scene. She’s listed as entering in Act Three, Scene Four, when Mercutio and Tybalt both buy it – but she’s strangely quiet in that scene. Lord Capulet, too, but at least people talk to him. No one addresses Romeo’s mom, even when her son is banished. In fact, looking at it harder, Lady Montague hasn’t been heard from since Act One, Scene One, in which she uttered a mere two lines! 
So this was my quandary – do I cut Montague’s lines at the end of the show? Why not? Here we are, the play is basically over. We’ve just watched the two romantic leads die pitiably, and young, kind, noble Paris croak it as well. Why do we care if some woman we barely remember is dead? 
But it continued to bother me. There had to be a reason she was dead. 
Of course, in Shakespeare’s day, there was a very good reason. The actor who played Lady Montague was probably needed in another role - the exigencies of the stage. Even realizing this, though, I couldn’t let go of the line. My wife is dead tonight. The rules of dramatic structure nagged at me. A death like that is supposed to be symbolic. But of what? Clueless, I shrugged and finished the cuts. I left the line in, hoping my actors could figure it out. 
In the event, they didn’t have to. I was going about my business later that week when it hit me – the Feud! The thing that gets closure at the end of the show is the feud. Montague and Capulet bury the hatchet. They’re even going to build statues to honor their dead kids.
Could Lady Montague’s death be symbolic of the end of the feud? The only way that could work would be – If she were the cause of the feud. I remember stopping dead in my tracks as the idea took form – a love triangle a generation earlier, between the parents! Romeo’s mother, engaged to a young Capulet, runs off with a young Montague instead. That’s certainly cause for a feud, especially if young Capulet and Montague were friends. Best friends, childhood friends, torn apart by their love for a woman. A feud, born of love, dies with love. 
What do you think of that idea?  David's told me that he'll be around, so leave some comments and see if you can't get some discussion going!  If you like this sort of interaction with the author we can do it with more excerpts from his other works as well.  Maybe next time some Macbeth?

For more information on these and all of David's other works, please visit his Amazon author page.