Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Novelty Shakespeare ... Why?

A day doesn't go by as of late that I'm not sent a link to either the Star Wars Shakespeare thing (which I still need to post myself), or the recently posted Shakespeare Terminator 2 thing.  Of course we can go back even farther (further?) and include Two Gentlemen of Lebowski on this list as well.   I've taken to using the term that Bardfilm used, "novelty" Shakespeare.

Here's my question:  what's the point? Who is this for?

On the one hand you've got the audience that easily recognizes T2 and can spout all of Arnold's best lines, but probably has no clue about much Shakespeare.  "Wow!" thinks said audience member, "Shakespeare is old and difficult but we all know how brilliant it is, so to retell an entire movie like T2 in nothing but Shakespeare lines must be an amazing accomplishment!"  So this person goes to the show, "sitting through the Shakespeare to recognize the T2 references" to steal a phrase from Orson Welles.  Is anybody learning anything about Shakespeare from this?

On the flip side are the Shakespeare geeks who are excited about the idea of Shakespeare's words being used to tell a "new old" story, old in that we know the story, new in that we don't yet know how Shakespeare would tell it.  Kind of like J.J. Abrams directing a Star Trek movie. And we go, and we listen to John Connor shout "Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!" and we laugh and we clap and we turn to the person next to us and whisper, "Julius Caesar.  Act 3, Scene 1." because yay we recognized that one. Are we paying attention to the T2 story? Can our brains let us just cut and paste all the most recognizable quotes and reshuffle them at will like that?

Thus we come back to that word "novelty."  Is that really all there is to this?  People spot it and say, "Oh hey, that's new, I've never seen that before!"  Is that the entire audience?  Because eventually there'll be so much of this that it's not new anymore.  Then what?

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