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Image from Shakespeare’s Globe

As I mentioned in my post, “Oh, to Be in England” on May 3,  Shakespeare’s Globe is presenting a marathon of 37 plays with acting companies from around the world. But if you can’t get to the Globe to Globe Festival, there is now an alternative. A UK site called The Space is running  full-length videos of them for free. And the best part is, you don’t need to stand in the cold and rain as the audiences seem to be in these videos.

Here are the ones available at this posting:

Image from The Space

  • Twelfth Night by Mumbai’s Company Theatre is a colorful and musical version, filled with dancing, performed in Hindi with scene descriptions in English. Lyn Gardner in London’s Guardian wrote, “The beguiling, melancholy heart of the play is ignored in favour of non-stop jokes. Fun? Definitely. Accessible? Completely, even if you didn’t speak the language.”

Image from The Space

  • Measure for Measure is performed in Russian (with English subtitles) by Moscow’s Vakhtangov Theatre. Critic Veronica Lee said of this production in The Arts Desk, “What a joy this once-in-a-generation season is. From Moscow comes this free-wheeling production of Shakespeare’s great morality play.”

Image from The Space

  • Pericles is performed in Greek with scene description in English. “Thanks to a slapstick production courtesy of the National Theatre of Greece, and the Globe’s ambiance (helped by the fact that the rain stayed off), better than you might imagine – not least because London’s Hellenic community seemed to be out in force to watch it,” wrote Alex Needham in The Guardian.

Image from The Space

  • Venus and Adonis is performed in a variety of languages by the Isango ensemble from Cape Town, South Africa. Spoken in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, SeSotho, Setswana, Afrikaans & South African English, the production is musically and visually thrilling. While this is not a play but a narrative poem, it counts as number 38 for the Globe.

Image from The Space

  • Richard III is  performed in Mandarin (with scene descriptions in English) by the National Theatre of China. According to the Year of Shakespeare Blog, “the production was preceded by Dominic Dromgoole, the Globe’s Artistic Director, announcing that all of the production’s equipment was in a shipping container stranded somewhere between Beijing and London.  The costumes and props we were about to see, he explained, had been cobbled together at the last minute from the Globe’s stores.”

Image from The Space

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream is performed in Korean (with scene description in English) by the Yohangza Theatre Company. According to Adele Lee, “Performed in a mixture of Korean theatre styles, including song, dance, mime, acrobatics and martial arts, the production was vibrant, energetic and immensely enjoyable, and the cast did a great job of overcoming the language barrier and forming an excellent rapport with the predominantly English-language speaking audience. “

So far that’s all the videos that The Space has posted, but if you want to see the rest of the Globe’s season, keep checking it out. And if you do watch any of these full-length productions, be sure to add your comments below.

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It all started with a Blog entry I posted here last week called Shakespeare in Other Words.  Suddenly,  Howard Sherman @HESherman and Peter Marks @petermarksdrama took that post to a new direction and began a heated  session on Twitter about the use of modern translations in Shakespeare productions. Before I knew it, Sherman organized a Tweet Convocation:“Soul of Shakespeare: Plot vs Language” #pmdhes for today at 2:30 with w/guest tweep Michael Kahn from DC’s Shakespeare Theater.

The confab lasted well over an hour and lots of folks joined in. Here are just a random few of the Tweets:

“Soul of Shakespeare” twitter convo arises from unplanned debate over whether it’s still Shakespeare when language is altered.

Above all, let’s have fun. After all, how many opportunities r there for live national multi-participant discussions of Shakespeare?

Doing our finger stretches, getting ready for today’s  Twitter conversation at 2:30.

@mikelomo was writing abt Shax in classrooms, not on stage, but it’s led to fascinating convo.

I am not bothered by some language changes. Murder, instead of murther, for example.

You don’t call Shakes ‘Ovid & Holinshead altered’ so why would you call very-much altered Shakes ‘Shakes’

But, if you change Mamet’s words is it still Mamet? No one argues he’s a poet not a playwright.

The depth of character in Shakes comes from what they SAY about what they feel & do

Aren’t we talking ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ of Shakespeare? Yes, language was distinct, but so was his vision, scope, style collusion etc

Have all the conceptual productions and severe cutting of text made it too ok to change language?

Greatest approach to teaching #Shakespeare at any age and especially in high school – GET THEM ON THEIR FEET AS THEY READ!!

But I don’t think ppl go to Shakespeare to see the same production that they had seen at another time. At least I hope not.

In schools, are students given free rein to imagine different settings, concepts? Would that help them “relate” better?

That’s what we do in schools. They produce their own scenes in any style they want, using the words.

“Where would you put this scene?” “What situation does this sound like to you?” imagination/relatability is key

Yes, good teachers allow that sort of higher-level thinking.

When productions modernize a play, etc., but keep the language – does the audience relate more?

My parents has Lambs’ TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE,. Suggested I always read before going to see when I was young.

When I was 5, my Russian immigrant mother read me the real Shakes. I fell in love w/it like you did with the Lambs.

I resisted the Lambs’ summaries completely. Stodgy, dull and I wanted to discover the stories for myself.

In my Shakespeare class in college I felt like we were discouraged from taking risks. Stick with the safe, they said.

I had BBC Shakespeare: Animated Tales after finding R&J at 8yo. Devotee ever since. All orig. lang.

In high school…only a handful of the plays are in most curriculums? Does that limit appeal?

I just don’t think Shakespeare is FOR everyone. And I think there are (a few) langauge barriers that cannot be overcome.

Any and all textual changes are GAME ON. As long as there’s transparency.

Make a good production & Shakespeare automatically is accessible. Concept should illuminate, not be used to “dumb down.”

many prods say they put lang center. alas, few really do

I knew director who watched all rehearsals from balcony w/ eyes closed to “listen to language. but it’s not a radio play

I love some plays, dislike others, avoid yet others entirely. But I don’t need to rewrite them.

I think it’s outrageous when Shakespeare is watered down. It’s outrageous when any author is paraphrased.

Why not go back to all male actors if we want to be extra faithful? (said w/ a wink)

Soliloquies are subtext made verbal.

I really have no problem with non-English additions. It’s the watered-down English I deplore.

Yay for us geeks!

Good god, was that an hour? Thanks @HESherman @petermarksdrama @ShakespeareinDC for the lovely confab!

You can go to Twitter and search #pmdhes to see the rest. But the discussion raised lots of questions. Feel free to answer some of them in the comments section below.

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This summer my nieces and nephews have been to dance, cheerleading , basketball, science, and EVEN computer animation camps!  They play acting too, singing/dancing playing pretend, etc (my nephew played the son in The Winter’s Tale at school through Shakespeare Steps Out!).

BUT AS A FAMILY spending a Saturday morning during the summer at the library was not something she thought would go over well until I told her about our family series, Shake Up Your Saturdays!

The girls anticipate learning an Elizabethan dance, the boys look forward to their First Folio scavenger hunt, and my sister is enthusiastic AND encouraged. It’s free! 🙂

Join us this Saturday, August 6, for a Folger family program on Shakespeare and the First Folio. It’s from 10am – 11am and geared towards kids ages 6 – 12. To reserve your spot, call 202.675.0395 or e-mail educate@folger.edu.

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After a summer with hundreds of outdoor performances everywhere, from Central Park where Al Pacino starred in The Merchant of Venice to the Parking Lot which featured Julius Caesar and Love’s Labor’s Lost, Shakespeare is back and he’s alive and well and living  in NYC. Here are some highlights:

  • Not only is Shakespeare back, but so is Al Pacino, but this time The Merchant of Venice has moved to Broadway. In addition to Pacino, the show features Lily Rabe as Portia,  Byron Jennings as Antonio, the Merchant and Jesse L. Martin as Gratiano.
  • The Public Theater, which produced Merchant, recently introduced their Mobile Unit, which will bring free Shakespeare to audiences with little or no access to the arts. For their first production, the Mobile Unit will tour Measure for Measure, directed by Michelle Hensley, to correctional facilities, homeless shelters, facilities for battered and abused women, drug rehab facilities, senior centers, centers for youth-at-risk, and other social service organizations that support the disadvantaged, underserved, and marginalized.
  • Meanwhile at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), there will be lots of Shakespeare. In March, Edward Hall’s all-male  troupe, Propeller, will bring The Comedy of Errors to the Harvey Theater. Then in April, England’s Cheek by Jowl’s Macbeth comes to BAM, directed byDeclan Donnellan, and starring Will Keen in the title role. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE:  later in April, Sir Derek Jacobi takes on the title role in King Learin a major new production from director Michael Grandage and the renowned Donmar Warehouse.
  • I know it’s along way off, but BAM has also announced that Kevin Spacey will star in the title role of Richard III in February 2012. R3 will be directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes with whom Spacey worked on the film American Beauty.
  • But the really big event doesn’t happen until next summer when the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 44 member acting ensemble will perform five plays in six weeks at Park Avenue Armory as part of Lincoln Center Festival. The event takes place July 6 through August 14, 2011. All five productions are currently playing in repertoire to critical praise at the Company’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Included are: As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Winter’s Tale. These five plays will be performed on a specially-built thrust-stage based on the newly transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where the audience is wrapped around three sides of the action bringing actors and audiences closer together (see below).

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Orson Welles had a love affair with Macbeth.  Many teachers know him from the 1948 feature film which he both directed and played the title role. Sure it’s in black & white, and yes he rearranges scenes, seems to make up bits of dialogue , and even leaves the witches out of act 4, scene 1 (we only hear their voices), but the film has enough originality to make it still work today.

Here’s the opening minutes:

But perhaps lesser known was the 1936 stage version, commonly called Voodoo Macbeth.  The play was part of the W.P.A. and opened in Harlem before moving to Broadway and later going on a national tour. Here’s one of the few videos from that groundbreaking production that survive:

If you want to read more about this production, I’d suggest two books. The first is simply called Orson Welles on Shakespeare edited by Richard France. In addition to an excellent foreword by Simon Callow, it includes the entire script that Welles used.

Weyward Macbeth:Intersections of Race and Performance is a more recent book that touches on that production in some depth. 

The collection of excellent essays was edited by Scott Newstok and Ayanna Thompson who devote an entire section of the book to this fascinating episode in the American theater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



So I wonder: does anyone still use the 1948 Macbeth film when teaching the play? And does anyone discuss the Voodoo Macbeth with students? I’d love to hear from you if you do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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