Monday, December 31, 2007

Santa Brings Stories from Shakespeare

This year, Santa brought my kids a book called Stories from Shakespeare, by the Usborne company.  By strange coincidence, my wife had been to an Usborne bookselling party a few months prior :).  Anyway, we just started reading it the other night.  I like that my 5yr old asked if King Lear was in it.  Alas, it's not.  She's intrigued by the witches on the cover, which (ha!) I tell her are from Macbeth. 

At first I was worried that this was just a copy of Lamb's Tales (which is public domain) with a new copyright slapped on it.  Luckily that's not the case, these appear to be new translations.

The plays included are:  "Twelfth Night", "Macbeth", "Romeo and Juliet", "The Taming of the Shrew", "The Tempest", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "Hamlet", "The Merchant of Venice", "As You Like It", and "The Winter's Tale".  An interesting mix.  No King Lear, but also no Much Ado About Nothing.  But yet they include Taming of the Shrew.

We started with Twelfth Night.  Since this book has pictures (and when I tell them the stories, I do not), both 3 and 5yr old were immediately intrigued.  Unfortunately that also means that I lost my 3yr old early, as she was so busy wanting to know the identify of every person on every page that she was not getting the story.  My 5yr old hung in as best she could, but I could tell she was confused.  Interestingly she perked up at the mentions of Sebastian and Antonio, two names she recognized from The Tempest :). 

I think the level of mistaken identify was a little much for her.  These stories, unlike my own translations, seem like they're trying to cover every aspect of the original script in as linear a translation as possible.  So, for instance, they did the whole subplot with Sir Toby, Andrew, Maria and Malvolio.  I think that, were I telling this one to my kids off the top of my head, I would have just left it completely out.  I know, I know, sacrilege - but I'd rather have her understand a portion of the story at this age than be confused and not get any of it.

I think she wants Macbeth next, because of the witches, but I don't plan on introducing that one until I've at least read their translation first.  I teased Midsummer's to her, saying that it was about fairies.  5yr olds dig fairies. :)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Here's the Story....

Ok, maybe The Brady Bunch isn't popular around the world, but here in the United States it's firmly ingrained into our pop culture subconscious.  Mom always said, don't play ball in the house.

Anyway, anybody with a little trivial knowledge of the show has probably heard that Robert Reed, who played the dad, hated the show.  He fancied himself a serious actor and would often refuse to play certain scenes if he didn't like the way they were written.

What I didn't know was that he was in the habit of writing lengthy memos to the producer detailing what he didn't like about them.  And the best part?  He actually uses Shakespeare as the foundation of his argument.  In the linked memo he ultimately is complaining about an episode in which  Bobby, the younger boy, has sold some weird "hair tonic" to Greg, the older boy - and it turned Greg's hair green.  So naturally, Reed makes the connection to Hamlet:

Their dramatis personae are noninterchangable. For example, Hamlet, archtypical of the dramatic character, could not be written into Midsummer Night's Dream and still retain his identity. Ophelia could not play a scene with Titania; Richard II could not be found in Twelfth Night. In other words, a character indigenous to one style of the theatre cannot function in any of the other styles.

In the quoted site (TVSquad) I've already brought up Falstaff, though perhaps that is not the best venue to discuss it. :)

Master of Puppets

[Once I catch up from the holidays I'll have several book reviews, as well as details on what was under the Shakespeare tree.  This is just a quickie.]

My daughters got a puppet theatre for Christmas, with puppets from Wizard of Oz.  So my daughter is putting on a show for us, which at 5yrs old consists of her holding up one puppet at a time, getting to the part where she says "What?  A bad witch?  Ahhhhh!" and then running away, and bringing out the next puppet.

I couldn't resist.

"Well run, Dorothy!"  I yelled.  "Well roared, Lion!"

"Thank you, Daddy," replies my daughter from behind the curtain.

"Well shone, Moon!"

The whole family looks at me, confused.  There's no Moon in the play!

Oh, well. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bill Bryson : Shakespeare, The World As Stage

Ok, so, maybe I'm a little neurotic about some things.  A friend got me the above-mentioned book, and I'm skimming the liner notes.  There's a reference to Delia Bacon that says "who thought her namesake, Francis Bacon, authored the plays."

Excuse me?

Delia Bacon did indeed think that Francis Bacon wrote the plays, but to the best of my knowledge they were no relation.

So naturally, rather than read the book, I began the hunt for her section.  There's neither index nor table of contents in the book, so I had to jump and skim to the logical place where she'd be mentioned.  Sure enough, it again called Francis Bacon her "namesake", although in context it does mention that there is "no genealogical connection" between the two.

Ok.  Phew.  I can actually read and enjoy the book now.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Shakespeare Geek At The Improv

So this weekend we went to one of those Improv Asylum shows, where the audience feeds information to the actors on stage as they build a scene.  Think "Whose Line Is It Anyway", with Chinese food.

Anyway, we end up at the front and center table, so you just know we're gonna get called on.  Last game of the night, they're doing tv styles, and asking for suggestions.  Then he says movies, then he says playwrights.

"Well, Shakespeare," I call out.

"Shakespeare's a good one," the leader says.

"Kinda obvious," I reply.

"Any others?" he asks the crowd.  "Any readers in the audience?"


"Miller?  O'Neill? Ianesco?" I offer.

"One guy who reads.  Ok, we'll just stay on him then."

They then go off and do the scene, which is entirely tv and movies until they throw in a little Shakespeare at the end.

Afterward the leader comes by the table and says, "Thanks for being the only person here that reads."

"It's kinda my thing," I tell him.  "I sit here all night waiting for you to say playwright so I can yell Shakespeare!  Woohoo!"


Friday, December 07, 2007

How Not To Link An Image§ion=all&title=undefined&whichpage=1&sortBy=popular

I grabbed this right away, as I'm a sucker for Shakespeare cartoons.  Romeo and Juliet as told by instant messages has been done a million times, but hey.

Does anybody see the glaring problem with the above link?  It's a shopping cart link for a poster sized print of a New Yorker cartoon that originally appeared in 2002.  Fine. can't read the image.  So, if you never saw the original, you have no idea what you're supposed to be buying.

Or am I missing something?

Shakespeare Crossword

Not really too much to say.  A crossword puzzle where almost all of the clues are Shakespeare references.  Sponsored by One Night Castle for their new performance "Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet", there are several clues about the director of the play (and the playhouse) as well.


Sonnet 18, "Consultant" Style

I like it.  I agree with the commenter that a true consultant's presentation would be crammed with bullet points.  The emphasis on visuals is actually fairly easy to understand (at least the first few, it starts reaching at the end).