Archive for the Performance Category

“Enough with the Goddamned Shakespeare Already”

Posted in Performance, Shakespeareana with tags , , on 2014/04/17 by mattermind

Public Radio International

While it’s safe to say that not everyone loves Shakespeare, few would go as far as to suggest that the modern theater is being undermined by too great an appreciation for the Bard.

Yet according to this NPR story, an internet meme has gathered momentum proposing that very thing. A closer examination, however, reveals that any aspersion cast by the opinion has more to say about theater managers than about the indisputably greatest playwright who ever lived.

And to an extent it makes sense; by overrelying on a singular cow to deliver the cream, theater houses are not only dulling audiences with steady doses of the already familiar, they are also neglecting all the other works that rarely get performed as a result.

I suppose the same argument holds in arenas like classical music where Bach, Beethoven & Mozart tend to crowd out all the rest. But is there any other field where one titanic individual dominates his rivals to such an extent as Shakespeare? Should he be throttled back to allow other neglected voices to shine?

It’s an interesting idea to say the least. You can read more and comment on it yourself HERE.


The Hollow Crown

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , on 2014/04/03 by mattermind

In order to boost my page hits and thus (I hope) internet popularity, I have decided to take off the gloves and begin relentlessly posting the whereabouts and personal endeavors of Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch.

No, not really. But I have noticed that women seem to flock to these two men in inordinate numbers and with all-consuming passion. Must be nice (I guess) for those guys. But they’ve certainly created a mini cottage industry on the pop-culture front.

Mind you, I have nothing against either one of these gentlemen. And women certainly have the right to gush over whomever they choose. I find it funny, though, as an aside, how men are habitually taken to task for objectifying attractive females, while packs of howling females are encouraged with Oprah-esque fist bumps and “you go, girls.” What do I know. Maybe in the end that helps restore balance in the cosmic order.

I already sense what’s coming…I’m going to hear all about how talented these two thespians happen to be…and how female fans have been won over not by physical assets but by profound inward qualities, a reserved thoughtfulness, a je ne sais quoi.

Be that as it may. I’m not here to argue or to criticize. Nor am I actually going to start inserting hunk-of-the-days randomly into blog posts. I just happened to stumble upon what looks to be an utterly fantastic BBC series called “The Hollow Crown,” adaptations of Richard II, Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V.

Yeah, you could say this is fortuitous timing. Now I just have to find a way to get ahold of them in a hurry. 🙂

So call it coincidence, then, that one of the series’ big stars happens to be, ahem, Mr. Hiddleston. Go ahead, ladies, I won’t mind if you swoon. Heck, if he brings (or brought, the series already ran) a bunch of new eyeballs to Shakespeare’s lesser-adapted history plays, sobeit.

Turnabout is, after all, fair play. I’ll adjust, I suppse, to such Amazon reviews as “I’m only watching it for the beautiful men.” Yes, I get the point.

It’s a brave new world, with age-old gender barriers and stereotypes crashing all around us. Though I wonder sometimes how much really changes beneath the surface – I believe we are to a great extent biologically driven and intellectually/spiritually modified – nobody paying a modicum of attention to what’s happening around us can deny that women are redefining norms faster than we understand what they’re being replaced by. Western culture is definitely in transition.

Oh, by the way…Sam Mendes (of American Beauty and Skyfall fame) executive-produced the Hollow Crown series. Just in case, you know, you might feel the need to still justify that next Hiddleston indulgence.

Just sayin’.

No Shakespeare Before Its Time

Posted in Performance with tags on 2014/03/25 by mattermind

Orson Welles was one of those rare human beings who had an idiosyncratic way of doing everything. I’m convinced he brushed his teeth more intensely than anybody else who ever lived. He lived, loved and laughed as heartily as they come.

While I don’t always care for his particular stamp on Shakespeare, I never fail to be intrigued by it. The man could not have been boring unless he tried. Even then he would have done it with gusto. Perhaps that’s why so many took offense to his genius and he had to spend most of his career making movies outside the studio system.

Be that as it may, you can listen to Orson Welles’ Classic Radio Performance of 10 Shakespeare Plays HERE.

You’ll know if it’s time.

Camp Shakespeare

Posted in Performance with tags , on 2014/03/24 by mattermind

When I was a kid, going to summer camp triggered associations with a zany, Role Models-type Bill Murray film called MEATBALLS and an offbeat Dr. Demento tune called HELLO MUDDAH, HELLO FADDAH.

Much more wholesome and productive associations can now be made by young people eager to pursue their interests in Shakespeare – which hopefully doesn’t rule out smores, Marco Polo and campfire songs.

A Noise Within (ANW), the acclaimed classical repertory theatre company, presents Summer With Shakespeare– a three-week Pasadena summer camp, June 23rd to July 12th, 2014, (Monday-Friday 10am -4pm) for youth aged 10-18. This conservatory-style program of acting, improvisation, stage diction, text analysis, kinetic exercises, and stage combat is led by classically trained, professional actors, choreographers, and designers. ANW also holds the week-long day camp All the World’s A Stage, for younger children ages 6-9, July 21-25.

Summer with Shakespeare participants gain an appreciation for Shakespeare’s verse and exposure to a variety of his comedies, tragedies, and history plays. This three-week, intensive camp challenges to be both scholars and performers of The Bard by enhancing their acting and public speaking skills, building their self-confidence on the stage, and gaining experience in theater craft. Summer with Shakespeare includes 3 fun-filled weeks of acting, stage-combat, costuming, and more, where kids can: 
          Demystify Shakespeare with classes led by professional acting coaches.
          Meet fellow young artists through ensemble scene work.
          Master the language of the Bard through monologues.
          Get crafty with the art of mask making and more.
         Take charge of the stage in stage-combat workshops.
         Perform on ANW’s main stage, just like the professionals.

For more information on Summer with Shakespeare, click HERE.

To watch a video (it sure looks like a lot of fun!), click HERE.

Hamlet’s Day Off

Posted in Hamlet, Performance with tags , , on 2014/03/21 by mattermind

Ferris Bueller

It will be awhile until I get to Hamlet. But performances, of course, are going on all the time.

I’m drawn to a new interpretation with an 80’s twist…or, as the article calls it, “Shakespeare meets John Hughes.”

I’m a big fan of everything Mr. Hughes ever did. He had a magic touch for capturing contemporary teen angst in a way most adults either quickly forget or never understood to begin with.

The angsty teen? Hamlet. The jock? Laertes. The waifish wallflower? Ophelia.

I’m not quite sure about bringing that same sensibility to a play with such heavy ethical and metaphysical overtones as Hamlet. Then again, Shakespeare has already been subjected to every permutation under the sun and somehow managed to survive. He, like everyone who actually lived through the 80’s, will humbly move on.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that each generation fuses its own iconic era with the evergreen qualities of Shakespeare. I chuckle aloud imagining his plays filtered through such 80’s classics as Say Anything, The Breakfast Club and Footloose.

Only one of these was created by the genius of John Hughes. But there really was a certain innocence and idealism to that decade which has long since given way to a hip, ironic, jaded sensibility.

The world is much too with us, as another famous poet once said. I would love to experience what Shakespeare looks and sounds like through Mr. Hughes’ heartfelt, iconic point of view.

For more info and a fun read on this version of Hamlet, click HERE.

A Drinking Club with a Shakespeare Problem

Posted in Language, Performance with tags , , on 2014/03/20 by mattermind

When I was in college learning German, students were given the opportunity to participate in an informal gathering called Stammtisch. What it amounted to was a group of students and teachers meeting informally at a local pizza joint (I love you, Track Town) to drink vast quantities of beer (a short walk from campus) and speak volubly without any inibriation inhibition.

For those at home wondering, it worked more or less. There’s nothing like a little buzz among friends to open up lines of communication in a foreign tongue. Or even your own. Especially kids made self- conscious by a profound language with incredibly long nouns and multiple-clause sentences with the verb stuck all the way at the end.

Which is not to endorse alcohol in academic pursuits – or any pursuits for that matter – other than an honest good time.

I was reminded, sigh, of those nostalgic college years as I stumbled upon news of Drunken Shakespeare. While I have no doubt that the Bard imbibed from time to time, I assumed (accurately, it turns out) that the title may have more in common with my collegiate German obsession than Shakespeare’s personal drinking habits.

Thus, I promulgate the news that Drunk Shakespeare is on tap to unleash a new round of dramaturgical shenanigans. A self-proclaimed “drinking club with a Shakespeare problem,” they mix alcohol and acting to no doubt outrageous effect.

Here is a LINK to the full description. But for those desiring a li’l nip, here is a reasonably sober description:

” For over four-hundred years, the Drunk Shakespeare Society has been meeting and drinking. And drinking, and doing DRUNK SHAKESPEARE.

The membership invites audiences to join them for a meeting in their society lounge. The evening begins with one actor drinking more than a sophisticated amount of alcohol before attempting to lead the cast through a Shakespeare story in sixty minutes. The results are messy, outrageous, and the evening devolves into debauchery.”

Sounds like the prefect prescription for those who take their Shakespeare a wee bit, ahem, too seriously.

The Empire Striketh Back

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on 2014/03/19 by mattermind

Just when I had wrapped my head around Verily, a New Hope comes word of the release of The Empire Striketh Back.

While either a Star Wars or Shakespeare purist might beg to differ, I personally can’t get enough of this stuff.

Sorry it’s just a trailer for the book. If the Force leads you to a longer version, please send it with a droid and I’ll make sure it gets to Obi.

London’s Globe Theatre Is Bringing Shakespeare To North Korea

Posted in Hamlet, Performance on 2014/03/17 by mattermind

Verily, a New Hope

Posted in Performance with tags , , on 2014/03/14 by mattermind

I’ve wanted to post this for awhile but was looking (in vain) for a longer excerpt.

Star Wars and now The Empire Strikes Back have been rendered into Shakespeare-ese. It’s quite hysterical, especially when viewed as performance art.

Because Star Wars has become so ingrained in the modern imagination, we need no footnotes to take enjoyment from the “translated” text. Though Shakespeare, I’m sure, would have been a bit more deft had he done the writing himself, that doesn’t diminish the madcap lunacy of it all.

If anybody knows of longer examples, please let me know and I’ll pass them along. For now, here’s a LINK to more info about the release of The Empire Striketh Back.

Hope you like them. And may the Force be with thee.

The Life and Work of an Audiobook Narrator

Posted in Actors, Performance on 2014/03/09 by mattermind

I am a satisfied member of  Each month I download two books for a paltry sum measured against the wealth I receive in return.

I mention this in full disclosure considering this LINK to a fascinating dialogue in Slate between an author and the man who narrates his books – considered by many to be one of the best in the business.

It’s an up-close-and-personal discussion on the joys and responsibilities of becoming the voice of a novel or work of non-fiction, how that process looks from the inside out.  I found it riveting and relatable, especially considering the number of titles I enjoy each year.

I hope you like it too.  I’ll be back with King John bright and early tomorrow.