Archive for the Performance Category

Can Shakespeare Rescue Syria’s ‘Lost’ Generation?

Posted in Influence, Performance with tags on 2014/02/26 by mattermind

This blog is not just about Shakespeare and his works, but also about the impact both he and his works have had on the world.

In that spirit, I am most moved by this PIECE in the Christian Science Monitor about one man’s courageous attempt to make a real difference in the lives of others using Shakespeare.

Syria is a hot-button issue these days. Regardless where you or I stand, we probably both agree that too many innocent people get caught up in forces beyond their control or understanding.

It takes compassion and selflessness to step into the void and try to help the most vulnerable. But rather than listen to me, why not click on the LINK and find out for yourself.

You won’t be disappointed.


Oregon Shakespeare Fest to Set Comedy of Errors in Harlem

Posted in Performance, The Comedy of Errors on 2014/02/11 by mattermind

Antipholus and Dromio live in the rural South and travel to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s in this season’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival staging of The Comedy of Errors.

Director Kent Gash explains his reasoning for the novel setting in this video:

In what has the makings of a hysterical double bill, the festival will also host a performance of the Marx Brothers’ “Cocoanuts.” I’m tempted to add, “Because sometimes you feel like a nut” except few people will catch the reference and both plays are equally nutty.

I mean that in a good way.

For more on the 2014 Oregon Shakespeare Festival, here’s the SCOOP from the Oregonian.

Richard III: the Devil You Know

Posted in Performance, Richard III with tags , , , , , on 2014/02/06 by mattermind

Maybe it’s the recent discovery of Richard’s decomposed body in a Leicester car park, but performances of Shakespeare’s Richard III seem all the rage these days.

I’d like to mention a notable review which stands out to me for bringing up the growing understanding that Richard may have been the victim of one of the greatest political hit jobs in history.

This raises a crucial and complex issue of whether historical accuracy ought to affect our performance or appreciation of the play – or any fictional work that purports to be lifted from a true story.

Granted, Shakespeare never makes that claim. And the facts in this case are far from definitive. Nevertheless, it occurs to me that we watch fictional cotton candy like Shakespeare in Love or Amadeus and don’t complain. Should it be any different with Richard III?

I think of movies like JFK and Lincoln as well. We post-modernists have mixed up our creative liberties with our historical veracity. Or are we simply more lenient when it comes to dramatizations?

I’m confused by what our expectations ought to be. Novels, plays and screenplays will always demand the condensing of time, space and character within the parameters of the medium. We don’t really expect a film like Gladiator or 300 to portray actual life in Sparta or ancient Rome, do we?

Maybe it matters more to the extent our educational institutions fail us. These days, popular entertainment often provides the only snippets of information we will ever know about certain subjects. Yet, as with most topics, the more you learn about the real Richard, the harder it becomes accepting the cruel character assassination that most people have casually accepted as fact.

I’m not sure how to disentangle this complex riddle. But I am thrilled to see a recent critic kick the hornet’s nest regarding the issue.

The review begins:

In theater’s greatest hit piece, Richard remains the devil we know.

To read it in its entirety, please click HERE.

The Super Bowl, Forsooth

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on 2014/02/02 by mattermind

Illustration Credit: National Public Radio

Right Idea.  Wrong Super Bowl.

It’s practically a national holiday in the United States, when people gather from across the land to witness a clash between sporting titans.  I won’t call it “football,” since we Americans are practically alone in naming our version of that game “soccer.”  But rather American football plays its championship this evening and hundreds of millions of fans will sit down to watch.

For some, the commercials will prove once again more entertaining than the game.  For others, it will be the grand spectacle of America’s greatest stage that draws them in – one of the lone remaining truly communal events left in this scattered, electronic, virtual age that can knit a whole society together.

For diehards, there will be, of course, the game itself, this year pitting the team with the highest-powered offense (Denver Broncos) against the team with the stingiest defense (Seattle Seahawks).  Unstoppable force vs. immovable object.  Modest, future-Hall-of-Fame quarterback (Peyton Manning) vs. braggadocios, cock-sure cornerback (Richard Sherman).  Larger-than-life personalities in a society that values over-the-top displays.

What does this have to do with Shakespeare?  Aside from the fact that nobody will be paying any attention to this blog (for good reason: if not for the Super Bowl, then for the Puppy Bowl or Lingerie Bowl…I mean, c’mon), I may as well wave the white flag and surrender.  Even if I’ll later be posting on the documentary Looking for Richard and the novel, The Daughter of Time as my personal pre-game warmup.

Nevertheless, I present at minimum a loose (aka sketchy) Shakespearean reference.

Awhile back, National Public Radio featured a broadcast on the Super Bowl by the legendary Sports Illustrated columnist Frank Deford.  If nothing else, it proves how difficult it can be trying to write with Shakespeare’s flair in a modern idiom.

Click HERE to listen to the complete broadcast.

Continue reading below for a sample.

And for the rest of you, wherever you are, stay safe, enjoy the game.  May the commercials be funny, the camaraderie heartfelt.  And may the better team win in the end!  Hoo-ray.


The Players: Sideline Wench, a reporter for the Duchy of Fox; Kornheisercranz, herald; Wilbonstern, herald; Brady, a fair-haired boy; Eli, a boy; reporters, bloggers, correspondents, cameramen, soundmen, hangers-on, sycophants, small children throwing rose petals.

Our drama begins as a slovenly mob of sports journalists enters the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium. A fetching reporter, the Sideline Wench of the Duchy of Fox, steps forward.

Sideline Wench: Since none of my sex ’tis allowedWithin the network booth on high,’Twill be my one sweet distaff voiceMidst these growling sports-page lowlifesWhich will, upon my sideline nunnery,Dare confront the pretty Brady.

Two heralds, Kornheisercranz and Wilbonstern, wearing hideous matching ESPN doublets, elbow the Sideline Wench aside.

Click LINK for more.

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Posted in Performance with tags , on 2014/01/31 by mattermind

It’s not exactly subtle or politically correct. But the wordplay is sharp and the Shakespearean references are a hoot.

What am I talking about? “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” by Cole Porter from the musical Kiss Me Kate.

Here are the lyrics (as presented with chords @ LINK):

The girls today in society go for classical poetry
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Aeschylus and Euripides
One must know Homer, and believe me, Beau
Sophocles, also Sappho-ho
Unless you know Shelley and Keats and Pope
Dainty Debbies will call you a dope

But the poet of them all
Who will start ’em simply ravin’
Is the poet people call
The Bard of Stratford on Avon

Brush up your Shakespeare
Start quoting him now
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow

Just declaim a few lines from Othella
And they’ll think you’re a hell of a fella
If your blonde won’t respond when you flatter ‘er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopatterer

If she fights when her clothes you are mussing
What are clothes? Much ado about nussing
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they’ll all kow-tow


With the wife of the British ambessida
Try a crack out of Troilus and Cressida
If she says she won’t buy it or tike it
Make her tike it, what’s more As You Like It

If she says your behavior is heinous
Kick her right in the Coriolanus
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they’ll all kow-tow


If you can’t be a ham and do Hamlet
They will not give a damn or a damlet
Just recite an occasional sonnet
And your lap’ll have honey upon it

When your baby is pleading for pleasure
Let her sample your Measure for Measure
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they’ll all kow-tow – Forsooth
And they’ll all kow-tow – I’ faith
And they’ll all kow-tow


Better mention “The Merchant Of Venice”
When her sweet pound o’ flesh you would menace
If her virtue, at first, she defends—well
Just remind her that “All’s Well That Ends Well”

And if still she won’t give you a bonus
You know what Venus got from Adonis
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they’ll all kow-tow – Thinkst thou?
And they’ll all kow-tow – Odds bodkins
And they’ll all kow-tow


If your goil is a Washington Heights dream
Treat the kid to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
If she then wants an all-by-herself night
Let her rest ev’ry ‘leventh or “Twelfth Night”

If because of your heat she gets huffy
Simply play on and “Lay on, Macduffy!”
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they’ll all kow-tow – Forsooth
And they’ll all kow-tow – Thinkst thou?
And they’ll all kow-tow – We trou’
And they’ll all kow-tow

For an idea how it looks and sounds in performance, try this:

The Love of the Irish

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on 2010/02/11 by mattermind

At first I was wondering if somebody in South Bend reads the blog and wanted to get a head start on my Valentine’s Day project.

Then I realized that couldn’t possibly be true, and I settled into a dreamy stupor, wondering what it would be like to have the Fighting Irish cheerleading squad read the sonnets aloud.

Then I realized I picked the wrong school to do my undergrad. These folks know how to celebrate right.

Valentine’s Day began a little early at Notre Dame with words of love, courtesy of William Shakespeare.

“Sonnet Fest” kicked off Wednesday as students, faculty and staff gathered to read all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets as a tribute to the love and beauty behind his poetry.

Shakespeare enthusiasts, and even Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins, took turns reading, as the crowd listened to the moving and powerful language.

“It’s just a celebration of a tremendous artist and a framer of the English language. His art was meant to be public, and this is a public celebration of some beautiful poetry that is profound and moving,” said Father Jenkins.


UPDATE: Yeah, sure, it all sounds so wholesome and educational. But what inquiring minds want to know is… how did these noble, well-intentioned, academic-minded Catholics skirt the bawdy bits? The lusty parts? The country matters? The titillation? Did they employ selective editing? Give ’em the ol’ wink wink, nod nod, don’t ask, don’t tell policy?

We of course won’t do that here on the blog!

State of the Arts: Pasadena, CA

Posted in News, Performance with tags on 2010/02/10 by mattermind

I previously posted the sad news that the venerable Pasadena Playhouse was closing. Its final curtain fell — at least for now — on 07 Feb 2010.

Even if you’ve never attended a performance there or live continents away, I mention it because it’s a troubling statement of the struggles of many artistic institutions to stay afloat in our times.

But I was saddened even more to gain the inside perspective of the founder and artistic director of the Pasadena Shakespeare Company in this LA Times opinion piece (excerpted here) about how little support she received from the city.

What’s the opposite of the current catchphrase — “good times?”

SOURCE: Pasadena’s arts-friendly reputation is undeserved

The lead paragraph of The Times’ Feb. 7 article, “A shifting canvas in Pasadena,” states that the “city has carried out a tradition of giving back in the form of art.” As the founder and artistic director of the defunct Pasadena Shakespeare Company, which performed 37 critically acclaimed productions over nine seasons, my experience is not consistent with the oft-repeated claim that Pasadena is supportive of the arts (at least in any meaningful way). Indeed, it comes as no surprise to me that the artistic canvas to which The Times refers is shifting — or in imminent danger of sinking beneath the waves.

One of the most frustrating things about the years that I struggled to keep the Pasadena Shakespeare Company afloat was the lack of interest or support from the city. Our productions drew audiences from all over Southern California, received great reviews and won numerous awards. But though I personally sent several opening-night invitations to the mayor, City Council members and other officials over the years, most never responded. A few council members attended our shows.

One day, when I was looking for a new home for the company, I was speaking with the head of the city’s cultural planning division. He called over the city’s director of planning and development, who happened to walk by, introduced me and explained our dilemma. This worthy said, “I wouldn’t even be talking to you except for him” — and he didn’t ever again.

Please follow the link above to the LA Times for more.

For NYers: A Midsummer Night’s Dream!

Posted in Performance with tags on 2010/02/08 by mattermind

Ahhh… we left coasters can only sigh with envy:

From the NY Times:

Shakespeare enthusiasts, get thee to the Armory: the Royal Shakespeare Company will hold court in Manhattan in the summer of 2011 for an unprecedented six-week, five-play residency. The troupe will occupy a newly constructed theater inside the Park Avenue Armory as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, officials from the three organizations announced on Monday.

One of the most famous classical theater companies in the world, the Royal Shakespeare Company will bring 44 actors, 23 musicians and about 30 other artists to New York from its Stratford-upon-Avon home for 45 performances of Shakespearian works in repertory from July 6 to Aug. 14, 2011. The five plays will be chosen from the company’s current lineup: “Antony and Cleopatra,” “As You Like It,” “Julius Caesar,” “King Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Winter’s Tale.”