Archive for July, 2013

photoLast week teachers gathered in midtown Manhattan for Hamlet Set Free, a play in a day workshop presented by the English-Speaking Union and the Folger Shakespeare Library.  The workshop was lead by Michael LoMonico, Senior Consultant on National Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library.  Throughout the day, educators learned how to make the Bard’s most cerebral play come to life in their classrooms.  They discovered its printing history, enacted the dumb show (the play within the play)  and learned how to engage students as video experts with different film versions.

Here are some fun facts about Hamlet that the teachers learned:

  • It contains 4042 lines (almost double most of the plays).
  • Women have played the character of Hamlet on stage and screen too (including actors Sarah Bernhardt, Sarah Siddons and Diane Venora).
  • Good, come, king, love and speak are the five most frequently used words in the play.
  • There are three different versions of the “To be or not to be” speech (Quarto 1 from 1603, Quarto 2 from 1605, First Folio from 1623).
  • The play has been referenced everywhere from Sesame Street to Start Trek (and all places in between).

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Learn more about Hamlet Set Free and our Shakespeare Set Free Institutes.

Buy Shakespeare Set Free:  Teaching Hamlet and Henry IV, Part 1 (used at this workshop)

Watch a Hamlet Mash Up on YouTube (also used at this workshop)


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The New York Times asked the question today:

What rhymes with honorificabilitudinitatibus?

According to Jason Zinoman of the Times:

The word, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “honorableness,” is the longest in all of Shakespeare. (That show-off James Joyce also used it in “Ulysses.”) It appears in the fifth act of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” the linguistically rich comedy that is being turned into a musical for Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater.

Any suggestions?

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Teachers up on their feet at the New York City Shakespeare Set Free Institute.

The Shakespeare Set Free Institute for educators is happening in midtown Manhattan this week. This program, a partnership between the English-Speaking Union and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, is celebrating its 4th year in the Big Apple.  Right now English and drama teachers are learning performance-based methods of teaching the Bard’s works.

Teachers are being treated to a variety of scholarship, curriculum and drama sessions. Michael LoMonico, Senior Consultant for National Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library, engaged teachers in choral exercises they could do with even their shyness students. Dr. Sid Ray, English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Pace University, outlined how they can break free of generalizations and misconceptions that often cage the study of Shakespeare; ex.  let’s not limit Macbeth’s complexity to just the fatal flaw of ambition. Emily Davis, teaching artist at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and People’s Theatre Project, got them up on their feet, using tableau (creating a still, “living” picture) as a way to get their students thinking about blocking.  Dr. Gail Kern Paster, Former Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, discussed the bodily connections to language that are found throughout the canon.

Teachers also braved the heat yesterday to attend an outdoor production of The Tempest in Battery Park.  New York Classical Theatre’s moving, panoramic version of the play utilized the park’s views of New York Harbor well. Today Sean Hagerty, the director of the production, joined them for a talk-back.  Among the discussions, the choice of using three actresses to embody the spirit Ariel.

Up Next:  A one-day workshop on Hamlet with Michael LoMonico (Folger Shakespeare Library) tomorrow.

Find out more about the local Shakespeare Set Free and Hamlet Set Free at: http://www.esuus.org/newyork/about/Shakespeare_Set_Free/

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Name that location.  As promised the New York Shakespeare Exchange Sonnet Project has been posting Shakespeare’s poetry performed on the streets of the City.  Please enjoy Sonnet 146 on this summer day.

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,Bull1

[….] these rebel pow’rs that thee array,

Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,

Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?…

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Shakespeare at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.  Photo courtesy of Theater Mania.

Outdoor Shakespeare at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. Photo courtesy of Theater Mania.

Summer weather brings Shakespeare out of the city’s theaters and into the most unlikely of places…

A parking lot

A monument

A plaza

A playground

A harbor

And (of course) lots of parks:  shakespeareinthepark.org  smithstreetstage.org   boomerangtheatre.org  hiptohip.org

Best of all, most of these local outdoor productions are FREE.  So dress light, bring water and enjoy some sweaty good fun.  After all, in the summertime, we’re all hot for Shakespeare!

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Inspired by ESU Shakespeare champ Xavier Pacheco, Good Day New York’s Greg Kelly and Rosanna Scotto get up on their feet to perform Shakespeare! Watch them play the Bard’s star-crossed lovers in the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet:  Good Day New York 6/28/13

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As you escape the NYC heat, don’t forget that Seeing Shakespeare outdoors evokes age-old tradition

If it’s summer, it’s time for Shakespeare.

Just about anywhere you go in western New York — and some farther flung places within a day’s drive — you can catch al fresco productions of the Bard’s works from June through August.

Summer is also one of the best times to catch indoor Shakespeare festivals, such as the ones in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, and Lenox, Mass.

And locally: Summer in New York City Means Free Outdoor Theater

Ian Harkins is about to launch into a historically dubious biography of William Shakespeare in the Hudson Warehouse production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (through June 30) when he is suddenly silenced by the overhead buzzing of an NYPD helicopter. This is one of the many hazards (weather, mosquitoes, lost tourists) of producing theater outdoors. But any real thespian will know how to turn an obstacle into an opportunity and Harkins does not disappoint. He looks to the sky, shrugs his shoulders, and shoots a self-effacing grin at the audience that elicits a burst of laughter.

Complete Works is an irreverent condensation of every Shakespeare play into just 100 minutes, as performed by three actors.

BTW, doing Shakespeare in a parking lot costs: N.Y. Charges Shakespeare Troupe for Parking-Lot Venue. Or, maybe not.

Speaking of Shakespeare outdoors, often articles focus on actors or directors. This one focuses on the set designer: Setting a Rat Pack scene for ‘Two Gentlemen’ on the Common

Beowulf Boritt is an Obie Award-winning set designer who has worked with such theater luminaries as Harold Prince, James Lapine, and Susan Stroman. He currently has one show running on Broadway — “Rock of Ages” — and he has several other New York productions in the works. A Vassar College graduate with a master’s degree in theater design from New York University, he is well known for his whimsical gymnasium set for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on Broadway and elsewhere. He has designed for storefront theaters, off-Broadway and regional theaters, and huge arenas. In 2007, he designed the set for Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and he is back to design its production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which begins performances Saturday on Boston Common.

In upstate NY, at  the Saratoga Shakespeare Co., you can Get the lowdown on Congress Park play, ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’

And yes: New York area’s best day trips and overnight jaunts – Who knew so much fun was so close by?

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (www.hvshakespeare.org) presents “King Lear,” “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “The Three Musketeers” from June 11-Sept. 1. Tickets vary from $31 to $63 with discounts for students, children and seniors. Boscobel House and Gardens (www.boscobel.org) boasts 60 acres of lovely grounds and gardens, 1.25 miles of scenic trails with breathtaking views, and a decorative arts museum inside the Federalist Era house. For more Hudson Valley points of interest, visit www.hudsonvalley.org.

If you want to stay local, you might want to read this: “All the World’s a Stage”: One Woman’s Survival Guide to Waiting in Line for Shakespeare in the Park

So, what’s it like, live, outside, in the City? Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Performing in New York’s Shakespeare in the Park Comedy of ErrorsProduction—Rain or Shine

Perhaps one of the production’s most enthusiast participants,Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson—an actor who, at this point in his career, simply refers to the theater as “home”—returns to the park yet again as one set of twins separated at birth in Daniel Sullivan’s delightfully modern revamp of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. VF Daily caught up with the actor on a rainy New York morning to chat about the challenges of playing two roles at once, the modernization of this production, and performing in the rain. Highlights below:

Want a overview of the Bard in the State? From Time Out: Shakespeare in the summer – With the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park underway, we present a rundown of the many companies taking on the Bard this season.

As Broadway prepares for a season of Shakespeare, this is set to open on my birthday — hope that’s an auspicious sign: Christian Camargo, Justin Guarini, Rosyln Ruff Join Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad in Broadway’s Romeo and Juliet.

Did you know this: Frank Langella to do Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ in the U.K. then New York

Speaking of BAM, those of us who remember the Cheek by Jowl production — goodness, was it really 1991? — are looking forward to this: Additional Casting Announced for Broadway’sTwelfth Night and Richard III, Starring Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry

Additional casting has been announced for the upcoming Broadway runs of Twelfth Night and Richard III, a pair of all-male repertory revivals originally produced by Shakespeare’s Globe. As previously announced, two-time Tony Award winner Mark Rylance heads the companies as Olivia and Richard III, with Tony nominee Samuel Barnett as Viola/Cesario and Queen Elizabeth, and Golden Globe nominee Stephen Fry as Malvolio.

Joining the trio at the Belasco Theatre will be members of the Shakespeare’s Globe and subsequent West End casts, including Liam Brennan (Orsino and Clarence/Lord Mayor), Paul Chahidi (Maria and Tyrell), John Paul Connolly (Antonio and 1st Murderer/Cardinal/Ratcliff/Halberdier), Peter Hamilton Dyer (Feste and Brakenbury/Catesby), Colin Hurley (Sir Toby Belch and King Edward IV/Stanley), Terry McGinity (Sea Captain/Priest and Scrivener/Rivers/Blunt), Jethro Skinner (Fabian and 2nd Murderer/Messenger/Halberdier), and Angus Wright (Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Duke of Buckingham).

An interesting article from the San Diego Jewish: Not Shying Away from Shylock

It’s been a long time since the Globe’s last “Merchant” production (1991), but Edelstein hopes the next one will come sooner; he wants to take another crack at it.

“It’s a masterpiece,” says the author of two books on Shakespeare, “one of the greatest of his plays, written around 1598, when his talent was really exploding.”

Edelstein offers three reasons for his love of “The Merchant.”

“No. 1: Shakespeare’s mastery. Before ‘Henry IV,’ Parts 1 and 2, there would be five or six people in a scene, all speaking with the same kind of voice. Then, Shakespeare really figured out how to distinguish individual personalities and voices.

“The Globe Theatre [the model for our Globe] opened in 1599, and you get the sense that he had developed a set of muscles just in time for this palace, the showplace of his career.

“No. 2: It’s one of the most controlled plays, from a tonal point of view. It shifts on a dime, from slapstick comedy to high lyricism to violent rage to political material. He was in complete control of his medium.

“And No. 3: It’s one of a small handful of Shakespeare plays that are really interested in how humans live together in a city. Sixteenth century Venice, where he set the play, was a huge center of international trade, a home to cultures from all around the world. Shakespeare was demonstrating an understanding of commerce, business and the confrontations and compromises made among different types of people. It’s all about how human beings do — or don’t — get along.”

Goodness, what hath Joss wrought? From the National Post: Speaking Shakespeare: Joss Whedon’s Much Ado reveals the secret to making the Bard’s lines sound modern

One of the great things — actually the greatest thing — about Joss Whedon’s film of Much Ado About Nothing is how natural it sounds. All the reviews have enthused about the capacity of a group of youngish Hollywood actors, not best-known for their classical expertise, to get their tongues around Shakespeare’s language with a minimum of apparent effort, and the maximum of point, wit and flavour. Up here, we can get quite complacent about our overall competence in these matters. I’ve been saying for years that the relative permanence and stability of our companies at Stratford have long left standards in the U.K. in the dust. The theatrical ecology in Britain, not least at National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company level, is hand-to-mouth. As for America: It is to laugh. Or so we patronizingly thought.

What doest though thinkest of this?  Random House Project to Rewrite Shakespeare

Jeanette Winterson will be reworking ‘The Winter’s Tale’ and Anne Tyler will be tweaking ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ as part of the new series, to be called the Hogarth Shakespeare. The first two volumes will be released in 2016, in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, New York Times said.

Speaking of updates: Turtleman inspires playwright in ‘Shrew’ update

“There are three times in the script they liken Petruchio to an animal tamer,” Hepp-Galvan says. So as she started writing Tamed, which opened this week at the Danville theater, she says, “It was scary how easily it fell together.” 

The play opens in the final weeks of a fictional reality show called Who Wants to Marry a Southern Gentleman? Bianca must choose between Richard Riche and Theodore Boring. But that’s the TV show’s problem: It’s boring. The ratings are falling through the floor, and something need to happen quickly to spice things up. 

Enter Bianca’s sister, Kate, a combative hip-hop artist. The TV show’s producer declares that for their final challenge, Bianca’s suitors have to find someone to marry Kate.

Trying to get the younger generation hooked on Shakespeare? Try this: The Shakespeare Alphabet Book

The Shakespeare Alphabet Book pays tribute to the lyrical genius of William Shakespeare. The authors and illustrator have created a fun and unique perspective on Shakespeare from A to Z, pairing each letter with some of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters, such as: “A is for Ariel, waiting to be released;” and “B is for Bottom, turned into a beast!” 

Playful and elegant illustrations bring the characters to life as a menagerie of animals, all whimsically dressed in Elizabethan fashion. Shakespeare aficionados will appreciate some of the book’s more subtle aspects. For example, the Weird Sisters are represented by three birds, which are mentioned in the play Macbeth.

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