Some Love For Dame Judi

Shakespeareans already have plenty of reasons to love Dame Judi Dench – but a few more never hurt. This article takes a quick trip through her career, sprinkling in some behind the scenes stories that just make her all the more awesome. My favorite? During Antony and Cleopatra, when her Antony (played by Anthony Hopkins, by the way) died in her arms whispering “You do act five, I’ll be having a nice cup of tea.”
Bonus points for the comparison to Sarah Bernhardt – who I just mentioned earlier today, and I swear I had not read this article when I did that. Small universe.

Washington Shakespeare Company To Repeat Klingon Performance

In case you missed it this past fall, the Washington Shakespeare Company is going to repeat their very popular night of Klingon Shakespeare:

“It’s very entertaining,” said Chris Henley, artistic director for the Washington Shakespeare Company. The company will act out scenes translated into Klingon from both “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

I gained much appreciation for this project when I realized that Mark Okrand – the guy who actually invented the Klingon Language – is chairman of the WSC board :). That’s a match made in heaven. 🙂

Coming Soon : The Secret Confessions of Shakespeare's Wife

In this book of historical fiction, Anne Hathaway Shakespeare isn’t the forgotten wife left behind to raise children as her playwright husband lives a theatrical life. In Ryan’s version, Hathaway makes her own mark on the London art scene and writes some of her husband’s plays – but without getting the credit.

Such is the description given for Arliss Ryan’s “The Secret Confessions of Shakespeare’s Wife”, which it should be clearly noted is a work of fiction, people. Fiction. Relax and enjoy.

Compare with Shakespeare’s Wife, by Germaine Greer if you want something more in the biography genre :).

Gender-Reversed Hamlet?

Helen Mirren just did it for Prospera in Taymor’s Tempest, so why can’t Yvonne Flack do the same with The Suffragette Hamlet, her own “truly new play” that gives her a chance to take on what she considers to be “every classical actor’s dream, and secretly, every actress’s.”

I just never seriously thought I would be able to take on the role until [director Darcie Flansburg] approached me with the idea of a reverse-gender Hamlet.

What boggles my mind is that these students of their art – Ms. Flack’s “entire dissertation is based around non-Western adaptations of the play” – seem not at all interested in mentioning Sarah Bernhardt, the legendary actress who portrayed Hamlet 100 years ago. Does this woman truly believe that a woman can’t play a man’s role?
NOTE – Do NOT miss that Sarah Bernhardt link, where we actually dug up some extraordinarily rare footage of Ms Bernhardt’s fight scene with Laertes, in 1899! How often do you get to see THAT?

Taymor's Tempest, Coming to DVD

It was just recently that I was speaking with Christine, a fellow Shakespearean, about Shakespeare movies. Coriolanus, Gnomeo, The Tempest. “Who am I kidding,” I told her, “It’s The Tempest. I may not have loved it but I’ll almost certainly get it on DVD when it comes out.”

Well, it’s coming out September 13. Will you be getting it? Apparently one of the extras is “Julie Taymor interviewing Russell Brand, as William Shakespeare.” Having now read that, I may break it into little pieces shortly after watching it. We shall see.

I'm Gonna Make Cordelia An Offer She Can't Refuse

Wait, wait, wait… The Godfather was supposed to be a modern version of King Lear?

Ten Academy Awards nominations and the winner of 3 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay; the top-grossing film of the year, and a $134 million box-office hit; set in the mid to late 1940s NYC to the mid 1950s, a 10 year period, with Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, head of the crime family; it was filmed as a modern version of Shakespeare’s King Lear (featuring a king and three sons: hot-headed eldest Sonny, Fredo and Michael); the ‘honorable’ crime “family,” working outside the system due to exclusion by social prejudice, was threatened by the rise of modern criminal activities – the “dirty” drug trade. Family loyalty and blood ties were juxtaposed with brutal and vengeful blood-letting, including Corleone’s attempted assassination in 1945 after he refused to bankroll a crime rival’s drug activities…

[ Spotted on Filmsite.org’s history of the Oscars ]
Anybody want to discuss that? Beyond the “king separating his empire among three children” bit I’m not sure how long it holds up. Is this a legitimate comparison, or more like how Lion King is supposed to be Hamlet?

Oh, There You Are, Gnomeo. At The Top Of The Chart?!

In case you missed this, our dear animated Shakespearean gnomes are now sitting at the #1 Box Office spot!
Granted, box office charts are an incredibly relative measure and based entirely on what else opened that weekend. But still! Three weeks in, and this kids movie is still hanging in there. That means more people have the chance to go see it. I still contend that’s a good thing.
On the same subject, check out this article at Jim Hill Media which speaks of Disney’s own happiness at the success of this one, and how honestly they had no idea. What to do now that their next kids’ movie, Mars Needs Moms, comes out next week? Where should the advertising budget go? Decisions, decisions…

Do Over! Definitive Cinematic Versions. Go.

Ok, fine, nobody was willing to claim that any film could live up to the title of being the definitive interpretation of a play. I have to concede.
But I’ll take Alexi’s idea and open up a more specific topic — definitive cinematic versions. Will that make everybody happy? What is the definitive cinematic version of, say, The Tempest?
What’s a better definition for “definitive” in this case – would you call it the one you’d recommend to a friend as their first exposure to the story? Or would you go the other end of the spectrum and say, “No matter how many film versions of X you’ve seen, you simply must see Y.”

Definitively. Maybe?

Today, Ian said to me that Taymor’s The Tempest was far from the definitive film version of that play. Which made me think of a question.
What are the definitive versions?
Choose a Shakespeare play, and tell me what you feel is the definitive film version of that play. Availability of the film in question is not relevant – if ever in your life you get a chance to see Chimes At Midnight, you must see it. Please explain what your working definition of “definitive” is.
If we need some form of common ground to start the discussion, let me offer this – the definitive version is the one you would recommend to someone who has little/no experience with the play. This film will be their first exposure to it, therefore you want their experience to be as close to Shakespeare’s ideal vision as possible.
Feel free to debate that, too. 🙂 But no fair saying “go see it live”, this is specifically about the ability to share a film, and to know that you can see a film, recommend it to a friend, and then have the experience of that film in common with others. That’s near impossible with live theatre.

Private Romeo

Private Romeo is about to add to the list of modern Romeo and Juliet retellings. This time the story takes place in a boy’s military academy, and takes the form of, what was it that Bardfilm told us to call it, a meta play? Where the plot has them acting out Romeo and Juliet the play, while simultaneously their lives mirror the story?
If “boys military academy” didn’t give it away for you, I’ll say it up front – this is a gay version of the story – or is it homosexual? I’m not sure what the preferred was is to say that, and I’m copying “gay Romeo and Juliet” right from their homepage so I’m assuming it’s ok. I mentioned Were The World Mine, a gay version of Midsummer, to the creators of the movie who swear to me that theirs is nothing like that.
Judge for yourself, there’s a very well-produced trailer on the site. I like the way they mix up the verse with the story, and am very very pleasantly surprised to see Queen Mab playing a big role. What I can’t figure out from the trailer, though, and maybe this is deliberate – where is the “two households” bit? All I see is boys at a military academy. So, what, is it two different schools? Two different grade levels? I honestly have no idea, I can’t tell which is a Capulet and which is Montague. Is this just a case of the gay gentlemen trying to survive in a world of straights?
Take Juliet out of the picture for a moment, an R&J is one heck of a male bonding story. You’ve got best friends goofing around, you’ve got enemies, you’ve got fights, you’ve got watching each other’s back, you’ve got loyalty. If you want to make a bunch of that take place on a basketball court, why not? Of course, somebody has to play the Juliet role. I think that how they pull that off will be crucial to the success of the storytelling. This is not going to be a case where they name one of the boys Julian or something like that and we’re supposed to figure it out — Juliet is called, by name, multiple times in the trailer. So somebody’s playing that role, as that role.
Now, I wonder if their soundtrack will be as killer as Were The World Mine? 🙂