Friday, January 27, 2006

Mad Polish Monarch in Warsaw

What makes a man, an artist with decades of international success behind him, up and start out on a new life? Perhaps that is overstating the latest twist in Andrei Konchalovsky's 45-year career, but it seems a fair assessment of the filmmaker's recent love affair with theater.

Sitting still briefly just minutes before his latest stage production opened in Warsaw -- a meticulous, sweeping rendition of Shakespeare's "King Lear" starring the renowned Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski -- Konchalovsky didn't even bother to ponder the question of whether he has turned his back on film: "Oh, it doesn't interest me," he said perfunctorily, as if stating the obvious. "I've got 12 plays I want to do now," he added. "All of Chekhov, of course. Three Shakespeares. 'Antigone.' A few others."


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A 'Measure' Of Greatness At the Folger

Aaron Posner's Elegant Solution to 'Problem Play'
By Peter MarksWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, January 25, 2006

Rarely are the lust-driven crimes and punishments of "Measure for Measure" catalogued as deliciously as in Aaron Posner's captivating production for Folger Theatre. Out of Shakespeare's thorny tale the director fashions a taut, acidly funny, starkly moving play about public pieties and private appetites.

Posner's sleek version of this Shakespearean "problem play" -- forever poised between comedy and tragedy -- is easily one of Folger's most riveting offerings in recent years, a production that represents top-drawer work by a maturing theater artist. With masterly control of techniques borrowed from Hollywood, Bertolt Brecht and even Broadway's "Avenue Q," Posner unfolds a carefully honed vision that does justice to the play's ambiguous characters and wondrous poetry. Without question, the production is a watershed of the season.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Acting Company's Bermuda Production of Macbeth is Dark and Powerful

The Acting Company production of Macbeth at City Hall on opening night presented a gripping psychological thriller of one man's lust for power and his tragic downfall.

William Shakespeare's play contains some of the most sublime poetry in the Bard's cannon and Matt Sullivan's rendering of the title role did not fail to express the beauty of his language.The memorable soliloquies delivered by Mr. Sullivan resonated with passion and exuberance.

Directed by Eve Shapiro, the opening scenes of this drama unfold with a vibrant and frenetic energy as the audience is introduced to the principal characters who become complicit in an orgy of violence and foul deeds.With a minimalist stage design, the supernatural is resurrected when the witches (Deb Heining, Megan McQuillan and Kaitlin O'Neil) appear shrouded in billowing black attire to deliver their prophecy to Macbeth.

Michael Chybowski's lighting effects evoke a feeling of dread and foreboding as the cast emerge from shadows and dark corners to send a chill through the theatre and Fitz Patton's sound design also added authenticity to the intrigues of this Scottish kingdom. It didn't require much manipulation or skulduggery from the witches for Macbeth to hatch his diabolical plan to kill king Duncan played by William Brock.

The question was raised as to what extent Macbeth is a victim of powers beyond his own control but here, Macbeth appeared more inclined to explore his dark side.
Shakespeare comes to South Africa

"The Maynardville open-air theatre in the South African capital of Cape Town is on a par with New York's Central Park or London's Regents Park as a dramatic location.

It is hard to think of many more pleasant ways of passing a warm evening than a well-performed Shakespeare play in beautiful surroundings, and that is just the experience that all of these deliver.

However, unlike Londoners and New Yorkers, the residents of Cape Town don't need to wait until June to guarantee weather good enough for enjoying a relaxing picnic before the show.

Shakespeare in Maynardville, at the junction of Church Street with Wolfe Street, runs from January 19th until the end of February, and started in 1956 with the raucous early comedy, The Taming of the Shrew.

More recently things took a bloodier turn, as the organisers tried their hands at tragedy with Macbeth in 2004, but things got lighter again last year with the banter between two of the Bard's most well known lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, in Much Ado about Nothing.

This year it's the turn of one of the most enduring and cherished comedies ever written, Twelfth Night.

Cross-dressing, crooning and a touch of crassness come together to create a true classic in one of the top city destinations in the world. "

There's 'Nothing' like a mod Shakespeare

When Kenneth Branagh located his film of "Much Ado About Nothing" in sunny, sensuous Tuscany, he was not the first to move Shakespeare's witty comedy to other climes and times.

Recent productions of "Much Ado" have set the 1598 play in Latin America, the British Raj, post-World War I Sicily, Spain through the ages, a ship called the S.S. Messina and in a small-town America where Rough Riders cavorted with Keystone Kops.

The mod London of the '60s is the motif for Aquila Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."La Jolla Playhouse closes its 2005-06 season with a transplant of its own, the Aquila Theatre Company's "Much Ado," set in the mod-mod world of '60s London spy chic.

"This idea of the 1960s 'Avengers' spy thing came about when we asked ourselves what world best suits Shakespeare's play. Elizabethan England was full of intrigue like that, and the play is all about eavesdropping. We wanted the spying and the sartorial elegance," says Peter Meineck, the transplanted Londoner and former Green Beret who founded Aquila 13 years ago.

"The actors get to wear these amazing clothes from (New York design house) Beau Brummel. Posing and preening works for the play and hides what people are really thinking."

(Those "people" include Shakespeare's wittiest couple, reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick, whom Aquila has outfitted like Emma Peel and John Steed from "The Avengers" TV series. Also on hand: the melodramatic lovers Claudio and Hero, and assorted nobles and soldiers just returned from war.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Edges of Rome: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre 2006
In his first year as Artistic Director of the Globe, Dominic Dromgoole has announced a bold programme for 2006. Four Shakespeare plays – Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra and The Comedy of Errors - together with two pieces of new writing – Simon Bent’s Under the Black Flag and In Extremis by Howard Brenton - will form Shakespeare’s Globe 2006 Theatre Season.
The season’s theme, The Edges of Rome, explores the story of the Roman Empire, its reimagining in the age of Shakespeare and its continuing influence on today’s world. These four Shakespeare plays and two pieces of new writing mark a year of thrilling new beginnings for Shakespeare’s Globe.

5 May – 13 August Production photocall: 9 May at 11amPress Night: Wednesday 10 May at 7.30pmDirected by Dominic DromgooleDesigned by Mike Britton

Set against a background of strife between the powerful aristocracy and hungry citizens of the early Roman republic, Coriolanus is a visceral and politically sharp-edged play. At its centre is Caius Martius, fresh from victory over the hated Volscians, dismissive of the Roman people and, following exile, hungry for war and retribution. Brusque, muscular language conveys insistent questions about the meaning of the heroic ideal and one man’s emotional blindness.The production will employ Jacobean staging, clothing and music.

Titus Andronicus
20 May – 6 OctoberProduction photocall: 24 May at 1pmPress Night: Tuesday 30 May at 7.30pmDirected by Lucy BaileyDesigned by Rae Smith

A brutal play, with both macabre verbal wit and moments of tender poetry, Shakespeare’s first and great bloody tragedy has revolted some with its bad taste and mesmerised others with its startling confrontation of violence in all its shocking extremes. With nightmarish energy, Titus Andronicus is a story about war, mutilation, rape and murder, and the savage consequences of revenge. The production will employ Elizabethan staging, clothing and music.

Antony and Cleopatra
25 June – 8 October Production photocall: 28 June at 11.30amPress Night: Wednesday 5 July at 7.30pmDirected by Dominic DromgooleDesigned by Mike Britton

The work of a dramatist at the height of his powers, written in language of awesome poetic intensity, Antony and Cleopatra is a story of a middle-aged love affair set against a panoramic political and geographical backdrop. Following the demise of the Roman Republic and the assasination of Julius Caesar, the triumvirate of Antony, Lepidus and Octavius has emerged. But as Antony falls under the influence of the beguiling and ambiguous Egyptian queen, political tensions emerge which threaten the fate of the Roman Empire. Against a vast political stage unfolds a civil war, and one of literature’s great love tragedies.

The Comedy of Errors
22 July – 7 OctoberProduction photocall: 26 July at 11amPress Night: Tuesday 1 August at 7.30pmDirected by Chris LuscombeDesigned by Janet Bird

A Renaissance spin on a Roman story by Plautus, The Comedy of Errors is a short and boisterous comedy about ‘Errors and Confusions’. A trade war between Syracuse and Ephesus is the background to the chaotic story of estranged twin brothers (both called Antipholus) and estranged twin servants (both called Dromio). Mixing extremes of farce and romance, the increasingly hectic action is a frenzy of storms, shipwrecks, losses at sea, conjugal conflicts and creditors chasing debts, before the final restoration of sanity.

World Premiere
Under the Black Flag: The Early Life, Adventures and Pyracies of the Famous Long John Silver before he lost his legBy Simon Bent
9 July – 12 AugustProduction photocall: 13 July at 11amPress Night: Tuesday 18 July at 7.30pmDirected by Roxana SilbertDesigned by Laura Hopkins

A new play by Simon Bent (Accomplices; The Associate), Under the Black Flag is set around the historical pirate republic of Rabat, following the execution of Charles I and the installation of Cromwell and the new Commonwealth. This wild tale of high seas and low politics exposes the class hatreds and religious hypocrisy of the 17th century as John Silver and his motley crew of disaffected radicals seek freedom on the seas, under a pirate flag.The production features bare flesh and filthy language.

World Premiere

In Extremis:The Story of Abelard and HeloiseBy Howard Brenton
27 August – 7 OctoberProduction photocall: 30 August at 11amPress Night: Tuesday 5 September at 7.30pmDirector and designer details to be confirmed

Written by Howard Brenton (The Romans in Britain; Paul), In Extremis uses the love affair of Abelard and Heloise to explore the relationships between logic and religion, humanism and fundamentalism, faith and power. Set in 12th century France, the play focuses on the exploration of two types of Christianity – the mysticism and austerity of Bernard of Clairvaux, and the challenge set by a new rational philosophy extolled by the erudite, sensual and dangerously independent, Peter Abelard.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


SHOCK and dismay was voiced this week at a decision by the Royal Shakespeare Company that’s claimed will deprive Stratford of at least £4 million a year in tourist spending.The RSC announced to a stunned meeting of the Stratford Community Forum last Thursday evening that it will be closing the 450-seat Swan Theatre throughout most of the two-year-plus redevelopment of its main house.

Originally it was envisaged that the Swan would close “for a short time” during the refurbishment of the main house. But an RSC spokeswoman said that because the two theatres were “so linked together” it was expected that the Swan would have to close for two summer seasons—2008 and 2009.Work on the main house is due to start some time after April 2007 and be completed ready for re-opening in early 2010.

Meanwhile, the 1,000-seat temporary “Courtyard Theatre”—now being erected at the back of The Other Place in Southern Lane—will operate from July this year until the RST refurbishment is finished.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Honorary OBE to Shakespeare Theater's Gaines

You can't call her a "Dame." But Barbara Gaines, founder and artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, is about to be awarded the next best thing -- an Honorary OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), by decree of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The prestigious award, to be presented in a Feb. 10 ceremony at the Washington residence of Britain's Ambassador to the United States, will be bestowed on Gaines for "her unique contribution strengthening British-American cultural relations," most notably overseeing the creation of "a dedicated Shakespeare company with a prominent, [$25 million] permanent home."

Gaines, who began her theater company in 1986 in a pub in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, has since overseen its growth into a massive, multifaceted operation housed on Navy Pier, with a current annual budget of $12 million.

As part of the theater's exchange program she has brought many British theater artists (among them Edward Hall, Mark Rylance and Simon Callow) to the Midwest. Her company's production of "Pacific Overtures" traveled to London's Donmar Warehouse, and Gaines serves on the artistic directorate of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.

The Chicago Shakespeare production of "Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2," to be directed by Gaines, will be part of this summer's Royal Shakespeare Company presentation of the playwright's complete works in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Hedy Weiss

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dromgoole announces season of bold drama at the Globe London Theatre Guide

Dominic Dromgoole, the new Artistic Director at Shakespeare’s Globe, has marked the start of his tenure with a brave and controversial programme for 2006. In addition to four of the Bard’s own plays, the season will also include two entirely new plays by modern writers.

“I think boldness is at the heart of this place,” said Dromgoole. “I think it is a necessary risk – it’s important for the culture of writing.” Explaining his decision to take this artistic route, Dromgoole drew on the origins of the plays themselves. “Shakespeare was once a nervous writer who did not know how his plays were going to be received, and it’s important to retain that aspect in the work we do today.”

On his predecessor’s legacy at Shakespeare’s Globe, Dromgoole hailed the theatre’s history of daring productions as an unprecedented success. “Mark [Rylance, the former Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe] has gone down some extraordinary routes in the past, such as a three-person Tempest, performed to a near capacity audience,” he said. “Mark was never cynical with the audience – there has always been a commitment to Art. It has never been about heritage or putting on plays just because we know people will come to watch them. I think this is the most radical theatre in London.”

Based on the theme, The Edges Of Rome, the programme promises to explore the story of the Roman Empire and how it was portrayed in the age of Shakespeare, as well as its continuing influence today. “These plays possess a collection of social and political resonances that are pertinent to the present day,” said Dromgoole.

Coriolanus, the first production of the new season, is making its maiden performance at Shakespeare’s Globe. Directed by Dromgoole himself, this sharp political drama is set in the early Roman republic and follows the story of Caius Martius, a malcontent warmonger.
Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s first and great bloody tragedy, is the second production of the year, and another debutante at Shakespeare’s Globe. This production promises to be a spectacle of brutish energy, examining subjects such as war, rape, mutilation, murder, and the savage consequences of revenge.

Antony And Cleopatra returns to the venue in the summer, offering a new perspective on the infamous love affair and taking a fresh look at the political tensions that threatened the fate of the Empire. This production will be followed by the first new play at Shakespeare’s Globe this season, Under The Black Flag, by Simon Bent. This fantastic romp is the story of the historical pirate republic of Rabat and is told via the exploits of Long John Silver and his motley crew.

A Renaissance spin on a Roman story by Plautus, The Comedy Of Errors comes next, and will be directed by Chris Luscombe, who Dromgoole describes as “a comedy genius”. The final production of the season is In Extremis, by Howard Brenton, and is the second of the new plays. Set in 12th century France, this love story uses the relationship between Abelard and Heloise to explore the relationships between logic and religion, humanism and fundamentalism, faith and power.

On the cast list for the season, Dromgoole said: “I cannot give any details yet, as we have just started casting, but I can say that we are just about to land one or two very big names”.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Take the 60-second Shakespeare challenge"

Is anyone in your class a potential radio director, or a budding film maker? The BBC is looking for UK school students to take up the challenge of creating their own 60-second interpretation of Shakespeare in film or audio versions.

Whether you interpret a scene or a whole play, keep it classic or make it modern, it's up to you.

If your entry fits the criteria, the BBC will post your work on their website, where it can be seen and shared with other schools, and it may also broadcast a selection of work on BBC television and radio.

It's a chance to share your work with hundreds of other schools across the UK, and maybe even have it shown by the BBC. Plus, you'll be boosting your digital media skills as you work on the project, and learning exciting film and audio production skills - all while you and the class are getting to grips with the Bard in a thrilling and fun way.

Website resources include celebrity tips through Shakespeare photostories to video tutorials on editing and acting.

Teachers have until spring 2006 to work on the 60-second Shakespeare submissions. Movies and audios are accepted until 26 May 2006 for publication on the site.

Online advice guides teachers through organising classroom sessions around directing the filming or recording of entries. Would-be musical directors can find links to copyright free sounds and music on the website.

Visit the website for the full set of rules

Stoppard plays Hamlet

Ed Stoppard, son of infamous playwright Tom Stoppard, will take the title role in the English Touring Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which will run at the New Ambassadors theatre from 13 February.

Stoppard takes on one of the stage’s most challenging and famous roles in playing the Danish prince haunted by the ghost of his murdered father and obsessed by revenge. He is joined by Olivier award-nominated actress Anita Dobson (most famous for playing Eastenders’ Angie), as Hamlet’s mother Queen Gertrude and Alice Patten, the actress daughter of former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, as the tortured soul Ophelia. Ben Warwick plays Laertes and David Robb is Claudius.

The production toured the UK with the same cast in the autumn of 2005, and begins previews at the New Ambassadors from 13 February, opening on 20 February.

Stephen Unwin, artistic director of The English Touring Theatre, directs the production. In 2003 Unwin won the Shakespeare’s Globe Sam Wanamaker Award, which is given to those who have helped increase the understanding and enjoyment of Shakespeare. ETT’s first production of Hamlet, 12 years ago, starred Alan Cumming and Eleanor Bron and also transferred to the West End.

Ed Stoppard has recently appeared in Age, Sex, Location at London’s Riverside Studios and added to his Shakespeare back catalogue with The Merchant Of Venice at the Chichester Festival Theatre.