Friday, September 27, 2013

Well, That Turned Violent Quickly

While getting ready to send my oldest off to middle school this morning, the following conversation took place:

Daughter : "Daddy, I was talking to one of my friends about Shakespeare at school yesterday..."

Me : "Oh?  What about?"

Daughter : "She said she read a book and she doesn't think Shakespeare wrote Sh..."

Me : "You punch her!  You punch her right in the face!"

Daughter : <starts laughing hysterically>

Me : "I am completely and totally serious, you say 'This is from my Dad!' and then BOOM, right in the nose.  And then when her hands go up to protect her bloodied and broken face?  BOOM! You give her the ol' upper cut to the solar plexus."

DISCLAIMER : Do not punch Oxfordians in the face. They've already got enough personal problems without having to worry about their health insurance premiums increasing.

I did go on to offer at least the basics of the authorship issue (which we've certainly covered in my house before), suggested that she almost certainly read a book about Oxford (to which my daughter bless her geeklet heart said, "I thought it was Francis Bacon?"), and that she could explain to her friend should the conversation come up again that there have been about 77 contenders for the Shakespeare throne, and if it's all the same with her, we'll stick with the guy whose name is on the front of the book.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Actors’ Shakespeare Project Launches 10th Season with Romeo and Juliet

Actors’ Shakespeare Project Launches 10th Season
Romeo & Juliet  by William Shakespeare at Dorchester's Historic  Strand Theatre
October 2 – November 3, 2013 

Actors’ Shakespeare Project (ASP) will open its 10th Anniversary Season with a new production of Shakespeare’s universal and timeless love story Romeo & Juliet October 2 – November 3, 2013 (press performance October 5 at 8pm) at The Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Road in Dorchester.  Co-directed by ASP Resident Acting Company member Bobbie Steinbach and ASP Artistic Director Allyn Burrows, Romeo & Juliet will focus on fate of the two young lovers as it rests on the dramatic intersection of intransigence, revenge, and the clash of generations.
Continuing its partnership with the City of Boston and The Strand Theatre, ASP will be using the main orchestra for audience seating and adding 80 seats on the stage to immerse those audience members in the flow, poetry and action of this piece.  According to Burrows, "The audience will also represent those who witness tragic events like these on an ongoing basis . . . the never-ending cycle". 
The Romeo & Juliet cast features Julie Ann Earls (Juliet), Jason Bowen* (Romeo), Ken Baltin (Capulet), Paige Clark (Benvolio), Miranda Craigwell (Lady Capulet), Paula Langton* (Nurse), Antonio Ocampo-Guzman (Friar Lawrence), Omar Robinson (Tybalt), Ben Rosenblatt (Paris/Prince) and Maurice Emmanuel Parent*(Mercutio/Apothecary). *ASP company member

The creative team includes Bobbie Steinbach (Co-director), Allyn Burrows (Co-director), Janie E. Howland (Scenic Designer), Jen Rock (Lighting Designer) Kathleen Doyle (Costume & Mask Designer), Susan Dibble (Choreographer), Arshan Gailus (Sound Designer), Trevor Olds (Violence Designer), Annie Thompson (Vocal Coach), Cassie M. Seinuk (Stage Manager), and Erin Baglole (Assistant Stage Manager). 

Performances are Wednesday October 2 at 7:30pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm (no matinee October 5) and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $15 (student rush) - $50 and available at Student matinees are at 10am on select days. Please visit for discounted prices and calendar.  Post peformance talkbacks are held following all student and Sunday matinees. 

Direct link to OvationTix or call 866-811-4111

Anniversary Giveaway! Receive A Free Copy Of My Book, "Hear My Soul Speak : Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare"

My wedding anniversary is coming up on Monday (September 30).  Happy Lucky 13th Anniversary to my beautiful and ever patient and supportive wife Kerry!  Love you!

My book, Hear My Soul Speak : Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare , was not available when I got married.  I wanted Shakespeare in my wedding, but I was just so tired of Sonnet 116 that I did my own thing, whispering Sonnet 17 into my new wife's ear during our first dance.  Why 17?  I liked the bit about the eyes.  I love my wife's eyes.

I wondered how many people recite Sonnet 116 entirely because that's the only romantic/ wedding/ marriage Shakespeare quote they've ever heard?  Thus was our idea born.  I collected every quote I could get my hands on that might be useful in a wedding.  There's a section on readings, on giving toasts and speeches, even for the guests on what  you might like to write in the guest book.  A little something for everyone.  Most importantly, I think, is that I sat down and explained all of them.  There are plenty of quote dictionaries you can grab that do little more than search the complete text for the word "love" and spit back the quote at you, but how useful is that?  I wanted a book for people who wanted to quote Shakespeare because they love Shakespeare and want to get closer to the subject.

In celebration of my own wedding anniversary I'm offering free copies (Kindle edition, MOBI format) of the book to my readers!  If you like the book, please please please consider coming back to Amazon and writing a review?  Those make all the difference in the world and are tremendously appreciated by authors like me.

How Do I Get It?

Honestly I'd rather have your Amazon review than a retweet so I'm not going to make this complicated.  Between now and end of day on Monday, Sept 30, 2013 (eastern standard time for those that plan on coming in under the wire) just email me.  Simple.  Email me, remind me that you're emailing me because you want the book, and when I get the whole list together I'll send them out early next week.

You would be doing me a tremendous favor if you helped get the word out by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, or the social network of your choice.  Tell your family and friends.  Surely you know somebody that knows somebody that's getting married in the near future.  We want some Shakespeare in that wedding.

I wrote, in the introduction, "I believe very much that life is better with Shakespeare in it," and I truly truly mean that. If you read the book, like the book, and maybe even use the book, please drop me a note and let me know. The idea that there's more Shakespeare in people's lives because of something I created gives me endless joy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Everybody's Watching The Hollow Crown, Yes?

Part 2 of the Hollow Crown series, Henry IV Part 1 (got that?) is this Friday.

I feel like I don't know where to begin with this monumental Shakespeare event, and quite truly can't get my own head around it. I've never really studied the history plays, and now here they are played out in front of me with pretty much every modern Shakespearean actor I could imagine (including Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, some guy named Patrick Stewsomething, and many many others). I started watching Richard II earlier , but became so engrossed in it so quickly that I had to remember that I had a family who had no idea what they were watching. So instead I promised myself an evening of nothing but the bliss of watching hour after hour of Shakespeare after they've all gone to bed.

Know what I did do? I broke out my First Folio, and started reading Richard II. I don't know why people say "Don't read the plays, see the plays" because the combination of the two is insane. You see it, and then you read it, and it's like your own personal recorder fires up inside your brain and starts replaying the movie for you, whenever you want. Love it love it love it.

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?

Well, He Did Say He'd Be Back

Many people over the last few days sending me the link to William Shakespeare Presents Terminator The Second , which takes Arnold's blockbuster and retells it using lines from our dear friend Shakespeare.

Now for bonus points, how many of my faithful readers remember when we covered this Kickstarter project back in April 2011?

I wonder how you get the rights to something like that?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Skype Me

The reason I started this blog, way way back in 2005, was because I wanted to talk about Shakespeare and didn't have people in my life with whom I could do that.  Well, I mean, I could, but all they'd do is smile and nod politely and then make for the exits.  So I decided that every time I wanted to talk about Shakespeare, I'd post.  Sometimes you nice people even write me back!

Sometimes, though, a more one-to-one conversation is in order.  A blog is not a conversation, it's more like a cocktail party conversation where people are constantly coming and going and you're never really sure who even heard you or was listening, until and unless they respond.  Sometimes what you need is a dedicated, focused conversation between two people were you have some reasonable expectation that the person is listening to you and probably going to respond.

With that in mind, here's my Skype info.  If you want somebody with whom you can randomly chat about Shakespeare, hit me up.  I'd love to have some more detailed conversation with those of you who've been following and commenting for years!  I can't promise how often I'll be around, but who can?

"Now, Do The Eye Business." - Peter Brook Directs King Lear

How am I the last to know that ORSON WELLES DID A KING LEAR DIRECTED BY PETER BROOK AND ITS AVAILABLE ON VIDEO???  Why does nobody tell me these things?

The subject line comes from the behind the scenes look provided by the trailer, courtesy Rotten Tomatoes.  They act out the obvious scene with the eye business, so Orson Welles himself is not present.

Absolutely fascinating to me, I didn't know this existed.  Immediately goes onto my must watch list.

Streaming Shakespeare

Just how much Shakespeare is, literally, at your fingertips?  I was thinking about this the other day while searching my Netflix account for keyword "Shakespeare".  And then I thought, "Yes but I also have Amazon Prime.  And what about YouTube?  People upload full versions of movies to YouTube all the time. You can watch 10 Things I Hate About You right now, actually."

Apparently I'm not the only one thinking along these lines, because Can I Stream It? exists and looks to be pretty awesome. Go ahead, type in "shakespeare" and watch what happens.  All the Shakespeare movies, along with a button telling you where you can get them.

Oh look, I can rent Josh Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing on Amazon for $1.99.

There's also a feature where I can sign up for notifications, and get a message when it's available for streaming on Amazon Prime or Netflix (or any of a number of other services that you may have, that I do not).

It could be a smidge better - I'd like the option to filter out certain services.  Why get my hopes up that a movie is available for streaming on Hulu if I don't have Hulu?  But I can understand why they leave it in.

Ok, so, here's the game.  Play around with search.  Report back on your most interesting finding, the one that makes you say, "Oh, wait, ______ is available online?  Freaking awesome!"

I found a 1981 Cymbeline that's only available on Netflix DVD, so I guess I'll wait on that one.

I found a Shakespeare Conspiracy movie from 2000 starring Derek Jacobi? Has he always been on the wrong side of the authorship argument? I thought (hoped?) they just paid him off for that last movie.  No link for authorship movies :-P.

You can rent Sir Ian's Acting Shakespeare, but I added that one to my "alert when streaming" queue.

Oh hey cool, Fiennes' Coriolanus is available for streaming on Netflix!  And Sir Ian's King Lear is on Amazon Prime!

Ok, that's enough from me.  What have you found?

UPDATE  : Ok, I spoke too soon.  Behold King Lear, a Jean-Luc Godard film starring Burgess Meredith, Molly Ringwald and Peter Sellars.  WTactualH?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Who Needs a Shakespeare Domain?

No, not one of mine! :)
I was on one of the domain registration sites today for a different project and for kicks and giggles I just typed in "shakespeare".  Of course and all its variants were taken, but what I found interesting was the list of suggestions on the side.  Check it out!

Some of those look pretty good if somebody's up for a project.  LoveShakespeare?  Virtual Shakespeare? ShakespeareNotes?    Personally I've already got too many projects and not enough time (as the above links will attest to), so I'm not rushing to do little more than add $$ to my hosting costs every year.
If you grab one (and plan to do something with it!) let me know!  I'd love to help drive traffic to the finished product.
UPDATE : I also noticed that while "" is taken (and on the auction block for over $2000!), "" is wide open.  So if somebody'd liked to camp on that and set it up as a home for the movement to change "Shakespeare's Kind of Birthday But Definitely The Day He Died So We Just Tell People He Was Born and Died On The Same Day To Make It Easier Day" to "Shakespeare Day" in the hearts and minds of the people, you go right and and go for it, you know I'll be the first one to sign the petition.

Wait, Is Richard "Selfish Gene" Dawkins a Shakespeare Denier?

Spotted the headline Richard Dawkins Criticizes Shakespeare for Lacking Elite Education this weekend and thought, "Aw man, here we go again.  And I liked Dawkins' work, too."  And by "liked" I mean, "Read The Selfish Gene in college."  I have no personal experience with his well-known views on atheism.
Well, here's the quote in question:

Sorry to be boringly predictable, but Shakespeare. Who are you? And how did a humble country boy like you become the greatest genius, and part creator, of our beloved English language. Might you have been even better if you’d studied at Oxford or Cambridge?

That's it?  Hmmm.
The Atlantic Wire article I'm linking to goes on to say stuff like, "It remains unclear what Dawkins could have meant by 'even better'."  Really?  How unclear is that?  Are we arguing now that Shakespeare truly achieved perfection and that to even suggest that he could have been better is sin? Would he had blotted a thousand!
Seriously, though, the article is attacking Dawkins' reference to Oxford (where he himself went) and the insinuation that Oxford or Cambridge alone would of course have made even Shakespeare that much better.
At least he doesn't go off the deep end and suggest that without this education Shakespeare couldn't have existed.  If anything this seems to me like a positive quote, doesn't it?  Here you've got an Oxford-educated man who willingly admits that the "mystery" fascinates him, and he wants answers.  He's spent his life with the belief that only those with elite education can change the world, and yet Shakespeare is the obvious exception to that rule, and Dawkins wants answers.
I suppose if you're in a grumpy cynical mood you can read between the lines and argue that this is indeed an authorship attack, and that the sentence following the quote above could easily be, "Perhaps you weren't a humble country boy after all, perhaps you did study at Oxford..."
What do you think, does Dawkins go into the Denier camp, or is he just being attacked for daring to approach the question?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Let's Talk Cymbeline

[So, how was everybody's summer? Sorry I haven't been posting as much as I used to, many projects have pulled me in many directions that are not Shakespearean.  I shall try to return to a better pace now that the kids are back in school.]

Who's excited about the new Cymbeline movie?  It's getting primarily billed as Ethan Hawke's project, and I know that when we hear Ethan Hawke we think Hamlet(2000), a movie I still haven't been able to sit through.   But it appears young Mr. Hawke is quite the up and coming Shakespearean - not only did he tackle Macbeth, he documented his research for PBS's Shakespeare Uncovered series.  And now Cymbeline.  Maybe he's just doing it backwards?  Maybe he should have worked his way up to Hamlet? :)

Now let's look at the supporting cast.  Ed Harris!  I love him in just the right supporting role.  Apollo 13 ("We've never lost an American in space, we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option.")? The Truman Show ("Cue the sun.")? The Rock ("You've been asked by an old friend.  You're being ordered by a superior officer. Now you're being given your last chance by a man with a gun.")?  He always gets the best line in the movie, and nails it every time.

And how about John Leguizamo?  He's got some Shakespeare under his belt, having playing Tybalt to Leo DiCaprio's Romeo.  Whether you liked that movie or not, I think most people will agree that Leguizamo can bring the villain out whenever he needs to.

The funny thing is I know nothing about Cymbeline.  I know there's a king, but that king is Ed Harris and is a relatively minor role.  So, rather than have me look it up on Wikipedia or Sparknotes, how about somebody tells us the story?  I'll ask the same questions I skim for whenever I'm about to watch a play for the first time:
  • High level plot overview.  Everybody needs some plot.
  • Famous quotes or moments the play is known for?  I learned the importance of this when I saw As You Like It in the park.  The crowd was all noisy and buzzing, like crowds are, until Jaques boomed, "All the world's a stage..." and it was like you could hear a pin drop.  As if the entire crowd in unison said, "Oh hey, I recognize that!" and started listening.
  • Important scenes / subject to interpretation that will make for interesting "Why did they do it that way?" discussion afterward.  Every production of every Shakespeare play is different, and that's why we love them.  Once you're an expert in any given play you can pick out every last detail - but when you're seeing it for the first time you're not going to have much to compare it against.  So we pick some scenes to stick in our memory.  For instance I once saw  a King Lear who actually bargained with the storm in his big scene, if you can believe it. I'll never forget him cowering from the thunder while he gave his big speech as if he was complimenting nature on how big and powerful she was.
So who knows their Cymbeline?