Monday, October 31, 2005

Royal Shakespeare Company and British Library Launch First CD Set

A two CD set, The Essential Shakespeare Live, featuring scenes from Royal Shakespeare Company performances from 1959 to 2003, recorded by the British Library Sound Archive and personally selected by RSC Associate Director Gregory Doran, is made commercially available for the first time on Wednesday 26 October 2005.

The CDs cover a period of over four decades of Shakespeare performances including the earliest live Royal Shakespeare Company recording held by the British Library Sound Archive - Peter Hall’s Coriolanus with Laurence Olivier at Stratford-upon-Avon, in April, 1959, recorded by then stage manager Hal Rogers - Paul Scofield in an excerpt from Peter Brook’s King Lear at the Aldwych Theatre in 1964 and Judi Dench in All’s Well that Ends Well in 2002. Other celebrated productions included in the collection are the now legendary Wars of the Roses from 1963 and John Barton’s Richard II with Richard Pasco and Ian Richardson. Actors represented include Peggy Ashcroft, Alan Howard, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, Alan Rickman, Antony Sher, Donald Sinden, Robert Stephens, Patrick Stewart, Janet Suzman, David Oyelowo and David Warner.
William Shakespeare, Millionaire

"My love’s more richer than my tongue," Shakespeare wrote in "King Lear." The playwright did just fine in the material world, too: In his lifetime the savvy businessman was able to amass enough money to buy, among other things, the second-largest house in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon.

But as heirs of writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, Theodor (“Dr. Seuss”) Geisel and Charles Schulz are well aware, a scribe's real income can come years after death--assuming the estate is handled by an active, savvy, manager. The Bard's heirs are long dead, and there is no copyright on his work, so that's not possible. But what if it were?

We asked experts in the publishing, licensing and agenting world to try to imagine what a Shakespeare estate could expect to receive annually. Their conservative estimate: $15 million a year. The bulk of that would come from publishing royalties on the 37 plays Shakespeare wrote before his death in 1616.

Because Shakespeare's works are in the public domain--in the U.S., copyright on intellectual property generally expires 95 years after its creator dies, and international laws are similar--any publisher in the world can print his plays. And they do: Eighty-nine new editions or translations of plays were released last year alone. In all, millions of anthologies, single plays and acting copies of plays are sold to individuals, schools and theaters every year.
Experts say Bard portrait may not be him
LONDON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Weeks after claims emerged William Shakespeare may have been a phony, comes a new charge that the most famous portrait of the Bard isn't really him.

The famous Grafton Portrait painted in 1588 is the most iconic image of Shakespeare, Britain's Sky News reported.
National Portrait Gallery experts now say there is doubt the anonymous painting really is of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare was 24 and the father of twins when the portrait was painted and was unlikely to have been able to afford the high fashion clothing seen in the portrait, the gallery reported.

A book released earlier this month claims Shakespeare's plays were actually written by Elizabethan diplomat Henry Neville.

"The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare" says Neville merely used Shakespeare as a "front man."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets:
a play by Enzo Condello

byJoanna Clyne
Brighton Secondary College

While the themes of Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets are complex and confronting, the text expresses them with a simplicity which would make it suitable for year eleven or twelve students. It would lend itself well to being studied in conjunction with a Shakespeare play such as Hamlet by providing students with an introduction to the prime themes and unique language of Shakespearean text.

Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets relies on historical fact to present the reader with an interpretation of William Shakespeare’s life and character. As a modern tribute to the bard, Condello’s play could effectively inspire discussion on how Shakespeare has influenced contemporary literature. The play addresses the many facets of characterization, as the text features a protagonist figure enacted by two different performers. This raises many issues of realism, transformation, symbolism and dual casting. The characters are dramatizations of historical figures, imbuing students with some fundamental information and a basis for further research. Additionally, the play could be used to introduce students to the many theatrical conventions which are often prevalent in text, such as time-shifting and the ‘play within a play’.

Both the language and themes are formulated in the authentic style of an Elizabethan text, and address the almost omnipotent power of the storyteller. Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets is crafted from the perspective of Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare. Texts written from the perspective of the wives of famous men, have gradually become a defined genre. Consequently, this play could be studied in comparison with works such as ‘Ahab’s Wife’ or ‘The Mistress of Lilliput’.

In the play, Shakespeare suffers the indignity of becoming a character himself, influenced by his own writing and manipulated by the whims of his author wife. The characterization of Shakespeare is an interesting concept, which could be further investigated through films such as ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Stage Beauty’. In many ways, this play subscribes perfectly to Shakespeare’s own thesis that: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”, as he becomes a pawn of this own themes and text. It is well-constructed and could be used alone or to complement classroom texts.

Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets is clever play which could effectively help engage students with the dense and often intimidating text of Shakespearian plays.

For information about this play, contact Enzo Condello at

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre's Caesar: a clear and compelling political thriller
BBC Develops Interactive TV Apps for Shakespeare Productions

The BBC is planning to offer a red-button interactive TV application, dubbed "Shakespeare's Stories," to accompany four "modern-dress" productions of Shakespeare plays that will air on BBC One later this fall. (Note: the productions--of the plays "Much Ado About Nothing," "Macbeth," "The Taming of the Shrew," and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"--are part of a BBC initiative, dubbed "ShakespeaRe-Told," that is designed to bring Shakespeare's work to new audiences via TV, radio and the Web.)

According to the Corporation, viewers who press the red button after each production will receive an introduction to the app's interactive experience from actor, David Oyelowo. The app will allow them to view a scene from each of the plays in the original text, and examine the story from four different angles: they will be able to explore the original language in a glossary; view behind-the-scenes interviews with each play's actors, directors and writers (the plays have been extensively adapted to modern contexts); examine the original context of the plays, and access information on Shakespeare's life (this section of the app will include interviews with noted British director, Sir Peter Hall, and with TV Shakespeare expert, Michael Wood); and explore the themes and moods of the plays.

The application, which was developed by BBC Interactive Drama and Entertainment's ITV team, will be available on all the UK's major digital television platforms, and will also be available via broadband on the BBC's newly revamped TV Web site (see article in this issue

Sunday, October 23, 2005

'Shakespeare'; 'A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare': Straight Out of Stratford - New York Times

by John Simon
TIME was when we knew little about the life of Shakespeare. Like the good Victorian he was, Tennyson exulted: 'The less you know about a man's life, the better. I thank God day and night that we know nothing about Shakespeare.' Like the true skeptic he was, Mark Twain jeered that writing a biography of Shakespeare was like reconstructing a brontosaurus skeleton from 'nine bones and 600 barrels of plaster of Paris.'

Thursday, October 20, 2005

1599: Shakespeare on the Cusp

Is there a single year in the life of any individual, famous or obscure, that marks the turning point in the person's life?

James Shapiro believes that if the answer is yes, then the year for William Shakespeare was 1599.

"That is the moment in Shakespeare's life that I'm most interested in," says the Columbia University professor and author of the just-released "1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare," who will talk at the Harvard Bookstore on Oct. 26. "That's Shakespeare on the cusp."

James Philpotts outside Anne Hathaway's Cottage: development would alter the character of the village
Shakespeare's courting village takes on developers

Residents of the village where William Shakespeare courted his wife are to force a public referendum in an attempt to prevent developers doubling the size of their community.

Stratford-upon-Avon district council voted on Monday to allow 700 homes to be built in Shottery, the site of Anne Hathaway's Cottage. The move has infuriated residents and they are to approach the town council, which incorporates the parish council, to hold a public vote on the issue, in which all of Stratford's 22,000 residents will have a say.

Shakespeare becomes tech-savvy in India

I hope that Measure for Measure will be unrecognisable by the time we return to the UK," wrote British theatre director Simon McBurney in an e-mail to Prithvi theatre's Sanjna Kapoor. Complicite, McBurney's 31-member theatre company, will perform a unique blend of Shakespeare and technology in Mumbai on November 3. The play will move from the technologically equipped Jamshed Bhabha theatre to meeker Prithvi theatre and then, the expansive Rangashankara theatre in Bangalore.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Shakespeare silenced by blackout

People were turned away from the Royal Shakespeare Company's theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon after the town centre was plunged into darkness.

The lights went out on Wednesday evening, forcing the company to cancel its performances at the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres.

A spokeswoman for power suppliers, Central Network, said 19,000 customers were without power for over an hour.

Power lines came down on the A46 and the road remained closed on Thursday.

A spokesman for the RSC said a full refund is available and the 1,400 members of the audience had been extremely understanding.

He said the company had no choice but to cancel the performances as the electricity went off about 50 minutes before the plays were due to start.

It decided to cancel because Central Networks could not guarantee when the power would be restored.

The power company is investigating why the power lines came down and emergency work is being carried out to make the A46 safe.

It is expected to remain closed until at least Thursday evening.


Shakespeare Festival/LA, The Center for the Arts Eagle Rock and Congressman Xavier Becerra combine to present a Will Power To Youth production of William Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT. This special presentation utilizes the talents of thirty economically and culturally challenged youths in the Will Power to Youth program. Congressman Xavier Becerra was instrumental in obtaining a $98,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund the project. Truancy prevention is one of the department’s pet projects. The Will Power to Youth program helps keep kids in school by involving them in the full aspects of play production, thus teaching them commitment and responsibility.

Will Power to Youth is the educational outreach program of the Shakespeare Festival/LA, a non-profit theatre organization. It provides artistic training, employment, accredited academic enrichment, and life-skills experience to low-income at-risk youths, ages 14-21. Guided by professional theatre artists, 30 youths rehearse and present a play based on one of Shakespeare’s texts. Through preparation and performance, the youths learn all facets of production. The end of each session culminates in performances at Shakespeare/LA’s permanent theatre space, the rustic 500 seat Sylvan Amphitheater. Will Power to Youth utilizes theatre as a tool for intellectual and emotional development. The kids, under the direction of Chris Anthony, are employed to explore human relation issues through dialogue as they study, adapt, produce, and perform TWELFTH NIGHT. They are mostly students from Franklin High School in Eagle Rock.

TWELTH NIGHT-Will Power to Youth presents a unique adaptation of William Shakespeare’s durable comedy. Weds & Thurs, Oct 19th & 20th at 10:30 AM, Fri & Sat, Oct 21st & 22nd at 7 PM at The Sylvan Amphitheater in Yosemite Park, 1840 Yosemite Drive, Eagle Rock, Ca. 90041
0041. Call (213) 483-2273 ext 20 or visit for reservations and information. Admission is free.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tom Stoppard cuts Shakespeare down to size for schools

Playwright Tom Stoppard has taken a red pen to The Merchant of Venice, transforming a comedy that normally nudges the three-hour mark into a 30-minute play. The mini-Merchant is one of 12 plays abridged for the Schools' Shakespeare festival.

"I didn't feel good about cutting out parts of very famous speeches," Stoppard said. "You think you somehow need all of it or you get none of it, but that's not true."

The shortened Merchant is the subject of a BBC documentary on Thursday, which follows the National Youth Theatre's staging of Stoppard's abridgement, directed by Paul Roseby.

Stoppard came across the festival at a Downing Street reception, where children were performing excerpts from abridged plays: "They were just knockout. There was a real engagement between the mind and the ability of the children and this long-dead genius and his work, and it was very moving." He chose Merchant, he said, because it reminded him of a humiliating incident from his own youth, when he was forced to play Narissa, the heroine's female sidekick, in a school production.

The festival, which runs for the next fortnight in theatres around the UK, gives 11 to 15-year-olds the chance to put their twists on Shakespeare's plays in half-hour productions. Offerings include a football-themed Macbeth and a Midsummer Night's Dream that recasts the Mechanicals as presenters from Changing Rooms.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Spacey on Shakespeare

With Kevin Spacey starring as Richard II in Trevor Nunn's production at London's Old Vic theatre, he talks about falling in love with Shakespeare as a teenager, playing the king and not playing the fool.
Southwest Shakespeare offers sweet 'Dream' in its new Mesa home
by Kyle Lawson
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 2, 2005 12:00 AM

If a thing is worth doing, do it well.

After years of performing in high schools and outdoor amphitheaters, Southwest Shakespeare Company moved into its new home at the Mesa Arts Center on Thursday.

It has pulled out the stops with its first production, A Midsummer Night's Dream, a work the company has done before, but never quite so nicely. The sets of Patrick Walsh and Jared Sakren, the costumes of Lois K. Myers and Gail Wolfenden-Steib and the lighting of Paul Black achieve a level of quality that would do any troupe proud. Sakren's direction is inventive, particularly in the slapstick scenes, and there are fine performances from an ensemble that includes some of the Valley's leading players.

That would be reason enough to see this Dream, but the real attraction is the play itself. After all these hundreds of years, it remains a delightful piece of comic construction. The interaction between fairies and humans, the misunderstandings of a quartet of young lovers and the play-within-the-play performed by a group of "rude mechanicals" still tickle an audience's funny bone. The poetry? Well, this is Shakespeare. He set the standard then, he sets it still.

Sakren has taken the material and built a production that sometimes teeters on the edge of farce but never slips out of hand. With the help of his designers, he constantly reminds the audience that it's viewing a magical dream, yet caters to Shakespeare's belief that such dreams are real - momentary escapes into another world from which the sleeper awakes wiser for the experience.

The director, who learned his classics at the feet of John Houseman and the legendary Acting Company, is at his best in the comic moments. When Puck inadvertently sends the young lovers' plans awry, Sakren orchestrates the ensuing scenes into non-stop hilarity, with funny bits of business tumbling over themselves. Later, when the rustics present their play, there are so many goofy moments that the audience is almost constantly convulsed.

The cast is up to the challenge. Bob Sorenson is in rare form as Bottom, a weaver who ends up as the donkey toy of Titania, the fairy queen, when Puck turns him into an ass. He's just as marvelous as Pyramus in the rustics' play, carrying on a daffy love affair with Thisbe (played by the equally adept scene-stealer Peter Good).

Maren Maclean's Helena, one of the lovers, is reminiscent of Carole Lombard, blending drop-dead looks with knock-about silliness. If she is the best of the quartet, it's not because Kyle Sorrell, Jason Barth and Jennifer Banda don't give her a run for the title. Among them, they put the merry in this Dream's merry-making.

If these folks are the cream, the rest of the ensemble is hardly low-fat. At the final bow, there was a deserved ovation. The actors lend a freshness to the play that makes it seem as if their characters are contemporaries, not residents of ancient Greece. That's as it should be. Shakespeare wrote to engage the audiences of his day. Modern revivals should do no less.

Toasting Shakespeare in Armenia
William Shakespeare may have been born in the English town of Stratford-on-Avon but, as the actor Gareth Armstrong discovered at a theatre festival in Armenia, some literary giants belong to the world.