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Just in case you hadn't heard of this yet:
_William Shakespeare's Star Wars_
by Ian Doescher (2013)

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas's epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare's greatest plays. 'Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome Stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter--and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations--William Shakespeare's Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you're looking for.
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I've had this migraine which has been following me around since the weekend so I am not up for a precise detailed review of this performance, but I do want to say...

Go see it!!

This is one of those Shakespeare plays which I never got around to reading in its entirety because, well, it kind of drags. Correction, it reeeeallly drags.

However, as in the case of their production of "Cymbeline," ASP does a great job of transforming a sow's ear into a very cunning chapeau (it manages to be a few steps up from the matching silk purse).

It starts off with a lively rendition of the Stan Rogers's version of "Barrett's Privateers" (I can identify the version because they even throw in the little whoopss), and numerous other songs help to enliven the setting of a wild stormy stretch of coastline.
The actor who plays Pericles (when oh when will ASP make their Web site accessible??) is extremely charming, delivering many moments of comic timing, and never descending into a totally depressing emo boy during the sad scenes. (Note: the subject matter of this play involves some references and/or portrayals of incest and intended rape, so it may be disturbing for some people.)

This play also manages to toss in some random pirates, which leads to one of the best "What just happened?" moments ever.
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How have I not seen this before? And it all begins with, Prospero's magic book was the _Necronomicon_, to which I can only reply, well, of course, why hadn't that occurred to me before?
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LJ user teenybuffalo and I watched this film yesterday, on a rather cold and rainy Friday. I hadn't seen this film since it was originally released and, although I remembered Richard Grant snarling "I want something's flesh!" I had somehow forgotten his final lines
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I've been known to complain about theatrical interpretations of "The Tempest" which use Caliban as a victim of colonialism, because I think it's been done too often, but I guess it's still pretty controversial in Arizona, so I retract any of those complaints I've made in the past. Also, I love the way censorship is spun as an attempt to quote help unquote eliminate racist speech: reducing racism through censorship has, historically, been so effective, hasn't it?
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A few days ago I was listening to the local classical music radio station and I heard an interview with the director of a Boston-area production of Verdi's opera, "Macbeth." The director said that, in his interpretation, the witches had all the power and that Macbeth was basically a cat's paw to them. I am unfamiliar with Verdi's opera, but this comment made me think of all the versions of "Macbeth" I have seen in which the witches and/or Lady Macbeth, who is sometimes considered to be the fourth witch in the play, seem to manipulate a malleable Macbeth into the violence he commits. I feel torn about this sort of interpretation for, on the one hand, it is gratifying to see strong female characters; however, on the other hand, it is not so gratifying to see these female characters portrayed as femme fatales or manipulators who are made culpable for the evil acts which Macbeth commits. In addition, the female characters are not seen that much in the second half of the play, so how are we to interpret Macbeth's increasingly savage murders?

Thus, I went searching for books which address the various possible meanings of the witches in "Macbeth." Gary Wills's book, _Witches and Jesuits_ (1996), jumped out at me, especially as it also explored the links between "Macbeth" and the Gunpowder Plot. With yesterday being Guy Fawke's Day, it seemed particularly timely.

Early in this short book (Wills originally wrote this as a series of lectures to be delivered at the New York Public Library), Wills addresses how "the Scottish play's reputation for being unlucky is associated with the unbalanced nature of how the title role is interpreted in modern productions. Wills links this difficulty in interpretation to the somewhat ambiguous role of the witches in modern versions, and Wills attempts to overcome this difficulty by linking the witches in "macbeth" to a number of other Jacobean plays which emerged at the same time in the 1606-1607 play season, which came soon after the execution of the man accused of being the leader of the Gunpowder Plot. James I had written and spoken about how he interpreted his narrow escape from the assassination attempt, and in his official interpretation, it was his own expertise in theology and of witchecraft in particular which allowed him to realize the plot in time to save himself. James's interpretation, and the specific language he used, became part of how the event was interpreted, and Wills explores this language closely. He also explores how the use of witches in plays was linked to political plotters and to the Jesuits, with a discussion on what was perceived as Jesuit rhetorical practices of equivocation.

Wills is a Catholic writer who has often found his literary subjects in Catholicism, so he may not be an entirely objective interpreter (if such a person exists at all), but James I was a king who based much of his rule upon theological rather than secular grounds, and Wills interpretation does help to make sense of much that is often confusing about "Macbeth." Perhaps most intriguing is Wills's claim that Macbeth himself is a male witch, and that his invocations of the witches are precisely that: magical invocations. In light of this interpretation, Wills gives a close reading of Macbeth's language as it is concerned with darkness, magic, and time.

While somereaders may disagree with Wills's interpretations, I found this book very useful for clarifying the (intentionally, as it turns out) convoluted language of "Macbeth," and an excellent book for Guy Fawkes's Day.
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Commonwealth Shakespeare's
All’s Well That Ends Well

Date and Time:
Saturday, August 13th at 8:00pm
Sunday August, 14th at 7:00pm)

Admission: Free

Where: Boston Common

Director: Steven Maler

For its 16th season of Shakespeare on the Common, CSC is proud to present the comedy All’s Well That Ends Well—Shakespeare’s globe-trotting adventure story of how far one woman will go to win the heart of her beloved. Helena loves Bertram, but marriage is the last thing on Bertram’s mind. With boundless wit and tenacity, Helena pursues Bertram from Paris to Florence and through a maze of obstacles thrown at her by chance, circumstance, and her fiancé’s recalcitrance, finally emerging victorious.

ASL Coach: Sabrina L.D. Weiner
ASL Interpreters: Tom Bourque , Aimee L.S.Robinson, Christopher S. Robinson
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while practicing a Shakespeare scene, a friend can ask "You wouldn't happen to have a sword, would you?" and I can answer, "I don't know, maybe--let me check," and return a minute later with a wooden practice sword (I think the real swords went to Pennsic).

Not quite as fun as answering the question "But what I want to know is, who are the guys with the sords?" with "That's my landlord--want to meet him?", but not bad for a Friday afternoon, either.
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Yesterday Alexx and I went to see the all-male Propeller Theatre Company's performance of "Comedy of Errors" at the Huntington Theatre .

It was very funny, very high-energy, and very very silly. I'm still not sure I really believe the bit about the naked man with the lit sparkler (needless to say, this is not a performance which I would recommend to the Shakespeare purist--good thing I don't know any of that sort). The musical accompaniment (also provided byt he fourteen member troupe) added to the sense of manic liveliness, and I found that the cheap sound effects added to my comprehension of the action taking place on stage (not to mention increasing the previously mentioned silliness). For those of a certain age, the addition of '80s pop tunes will add to the fun (let me reiterate the part about this not being for the textual purists).

Highly recommended for the Shakespeare fan who does not pale at broad humor and cheap special effects.
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Kes: This is my favorite local Shakespeare company but, sadly, it has one of the least accessible Web sites I've ever experienced, so apologies for not providing more details about where and when the performances are occuring.

Alexx and I went to see ASP's (Actors Shakespeare Project) production of "Anthony and Cleopatra" this past Saturday and I found it to be a very entertaining performance. First, I had never really noticed how many funny bits there are in this play, although many of the funny bits are funny in a dark humor sort of way. Second, Anthony and Cleopatra are not portrayed as giddy young lovers carried away by Cupid's arrow, but as older, experienced lovers whose political careers often place them at odds with having a romantic relationship with one another. Anthony in particular broke my heart, because to some degree he is an old soldier whose code of honor and friendship can no longer exist in the new world the much younger Augustus is creating.
The supporting actors who played Cleopatra's main lady in waiting and Anthony's lieutenant were both brilliant, and the actor playing Augustus did a scarily good job portraying him as something of a psychopath.

What didn't really work for me was some of the set design. When you first walked in, there was a sound of a tinkling fountain, which pretty much made everyone who sat down have to go to the bathroom after five minutes. The bright flourescent lighting for the scenes taking place in Rome were also a poor choice, and I could tell when there was a scene change because Alexx would flinch when the lights flared up. There was also an attempt, according to the program, to highlight Mark Anthony and Cleopatra as media celebrities, but the only scene that really tried to portray this was a weird bit with masked actors using toy boats to portray the sea battle scene, with a laugh track playing in the background.

A wonderful performance, highly recommended. I also feel the need to add a note about a conversation which went on in the row behind me. It seemed to involve appropriate Shakespeare names to give one's cat, and one woman scorned Fulvia, while another added, "And Agrippa." When Alexx returned from the bathroom, I asked, "What is R. & L.'s cat's name?" and he replied that he didn't remember all the cats's names, except for the one named Agrippa. (Perhaps it just takes a certain sort of person with a certain sort of style to have a cat named Agrippa?)
Next Shakespeare play:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
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Kes: The recording of this should be posted to the CMS site at some point later--I'll post a link to it when it goes online.

Join us today at 5pm for a look at...

Theatre and Videogames as Performance Activities

Featuring Clara Fernández-Vara of
the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab (

CMS Colloquium
02.17.11 | 5:00 PM | MIT Building 2, Room 105

From Elsinore to Monkey Island:
Theatre and Videogames as Performance Activities
with Clara Fernandez-Vara, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab
What do Shakespeare and videogames have in common?

Clara Fernandez-Vara, a Comparative Media Studies alumna, explains her journey from researching Shakespeare in performance to studying and developing videogames. Applying concepts from theatre in performance illuminates the relationship between the player and the game, as well as between game and narrative.

Videogames are not theatre, but the comparison gives way to productive questions: What is the dramatic text of the game? How does this text shape the actions of the player? Who are the performers? Who is the audience? These questions will be addressed in the context of adventure games, a story-driven genre where the player solves puzzles that are integrated in the fictional world of the game.
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Yesterday Alexx and I did a double bill of "Cymbeline" in the afternoon and "The Lady's Not for Burning" in the evening, so I am feeling more than a little wiped, which is why I will merely give the link to Alexx's review
of "Cymbeline" and add a few words of my own.

1. Go see this production! Seriously.

2. Once upon a time I read this play and my memories of it were that it was gothic, muddled, and too complicated to keep track of even while reading it. I didn't have much hope that the performance was going tob e very lively. Still, ASP is worth seeing no matter which play they are doing, so I went and found that, even with Shakespeare, sometimes the movie can be better than the book.

3. THe play has over a dozen characters who are absolutely vital tot he story, and the company only had seven actors. Also, they had no costumes, no sets, no special lighting or sound design, and really, no stage, other than a bit of cleared floor space surrounded by chairs. Not only did the company succeed in creating a magical performance, it was absolutely clear to me who everyone was at any given moment, despite the fact that most of the characters have an alter ego and all the actors played multiple parts. The tactic of having the actors announce the beginning of eachnew scene, along with it's setting, provided an easy way to make the play accessible to me, as a blind viewer, and to all the sighted viewers also. The sound effects, created by the actors using simple percussion insruments and cheap electronics--plus a now-infamous slide whistle--was brilliant. If you tnk having only half a dozen actors and almost no budget means you can't do great theatre, go see this production and be astounded.

4. "Cymbeline" is kind of confusing to categorize: I've seen it grouped witht he tragedies, the comedies, and the romances. I announced to my companions before the play began that it was a comedy (mostly because I was in themood for a comedy) and they both looked at me with much doubt. I am smugly pleased to state, however, that this production definitively demonstrated that "Cymbeline" can successly be produced as a comedy, and the final scene will leave you laughing. This is definitely the good parts version.
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Yesterday LJ user alexx_kay and I went to see a matinee of "Henry IV, Part I" produced by the Actors Shakespeare Project, a local company of which we are quite fond as they typically produce quite lively and original versions of Shakespeare's plays and always give us plenty to talk about when we are Shakespeare geeking.

ASP's production of "Henry IV, Part I" did not disappoint. It opened with a ballad, "The Three Rusty Sords" (see more below) sung by, I believe, the same actress who played the servant in ASP's recent production of "Timon of Athens" (sadly, the ASP Web site is not terribly accessible, so it's difficult to locate this information). Then there is a bit from "Richard II" in which we see Richard being forced to relinquish the crown to Henry Bolingbroke, who will become Henry IV. From a blind person's point of view, this play can become rather confusing as it features a lot of characters who are prone to switching sides politically, and this is further muddied byt he fact that many of the actors and actresses double up on playing roles. This may not have been quite so confusing except that the actors don't always vary their delivery styles when they switch parts.

On the other hand, this confusion regarding who is on whom's side complements the action of the play, in which loyalties are constantly buffeted by family affiliations, the changing political winds, and the paranoia of Henry IV, who is disturbed by his own culpability in the downfall and death of Richard II.
continued below cut )
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I realize that this is my fourth post in less than twenty-four hours and that this will seriously send the Snarkometer toward dangerous levels of vitriol corrosive enough to potentially eat through the computer screen, but I really felt that this information could save the lives of those in my community. Or, at least, it could save two hours of your life which, hey, is just about the level of superhero I feel up to today.

The first suspicious sign was when the person taking our tickets said to each individual person, "This is a two-hour show and there will be no intermission."

In retrospect, I realized that this could be interpreted as, "We're afraid that if we let you leave for the intermission, most of the audience will not come back."

Second suspicious sign: when the music being played over the PA system kept getting louder, until it made conversation impossible. It turned out that that was the sign that the play was starting. This actually made me miss those dweeby speeches usually given by the artistic director or someone in marketing.

Third suspicious sign: Letting Hermia sing. I am not musically gifted myself, I respect how difficult it is to sing in front of an audience, but there were wrong notes and wandering keys involved. And the songs were drawn out to signify emotional commitment. I began to miss the PA system.

Fourth suspicious sign: Interpretive dance. 'Nuf said.

Fifth suspicious sign: Murky lighting. I was sorry that lj user alexx_kay didn't get to really enjoy the nudity, but was somewhat amused by the fact that he complained a few times that he couldn't tell the characters apart due to the murk.

Sixth suspicious sign: Murky interpretations. Theseus may have been a vampire. Puck may have been a demon from Hell. Demetrius may have been a werewolf who tore off all his clothes and ran howling throught he forest covered in blood. Okay, I made that last one up, but the rest are true. However, I'm not really certain if these were impressions intended by the actors, as they seemed to pick up and drop tones and delivery styles from one scene to the next. I sensed a lot of "What is my motivation? What is my intention? Why am I wandering around with thisplate of sardines?", and I'm not sure there was even a director for this production. However, when it doubt, yell, even if it makes no sense as to why the actor is yelling at that point. Also, the yelling made Hermia really shrill.

Okay, so that was about the first fifteen minutes.

It did get better after that, kind of, but it was about then that I realized that there would be no rude mechanicals and *no Bottom*. I mean, Bottom is a liminal character who totally binds together the worlds of the mortals and the fairies, and his words are so vital to what I think of as "Midsummer" that it really felt like the heart of the play, the real emotional and poetic core, had been sacrificed.

There was also a *lot* of dead air, and more actors singing inexplicable tunes by the Beatles (okay, only one of the songs was a Beatles tune). But Theseus, Oberon, Puck, and Helena were all good, if sometimes confusing in their delivery, and Puck was female, which was interesting. I really began to like the interpretive dance to tunes by Marilyn Manson and other gothy types.

Basically, if you like your Shakespeare really experimental and can bear having no Bottom in the show, you may be intrigued enough to check this production out.

Lastly, this has nothing to do with the show itself except that it happened on the way to the show: another blind woman's guide dog tried to herd me in South station. Also, the other blind woman did sardonic really well as she said, "Yes, Jody, it's a second blind person..." (I may be misremembering the dog's name).
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Awesome weather: I have officially broken out the tie-dye and the Hawaiian shirts. And tomorrow I get my new eyeballs, hurray! I feel like having a party, so I'm making a date grab for May Day, which I think is on Saturday this year. If I am correct, the party will begin at about 2. Folks are encouraged to wear tie-dye, Hawaiian shirts, or whatever else is all colorful and summery. There will definitely be ice cream and lemonade, and probably barbecue.

I've been meaning to post this since someone sent me the link a couple of weeks ago: it's the link to the DVD of Teller's Macbeth, the one for which some of us made a mad road trip to Jersey in order to see the actual production live
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I noticed that this text recently showed up as a freely available etxt, and thought I would mention it as one of those texts whose wacko theories about Shakespeare still shows up in various fiction and nonfiction texts. There is also a link to the etext of _The Boke of Saint Albans_.

Bacon, Shakespeare, and the Rosicrucians (London: G. Redway, 1888), by William Francis C. Wigston
• multiple formats at Google;
US access only
• multiple formats at
plaintext version

The boke of Saint Albans"

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Yesterday Alexx and I went to the production of "The Taming of the Shrew" being put on by the Actors Shakespeare Project
in the basement theatre of Harvard's Garage. Talk about liminal spaces--even for Boston, this is a strange marginal space--seriously, make certain that you don't need to use a bathroom anytime soon.

I think this was the most enjoyable production of the Shrew that I have ever seen live. It was tumultuous, manic, and yet, for once, I got the feeling that Petruchio's heart went deeper than the depth of his purse.

You have to understand: when the question of which Shakespeare character do you identify with comes up, as it is wont to do in the sort of geeky circles in which I swim, there has never been a doubt in my mind--I am so Kate (but without so much throwing, which is good, because I throw like a blind girl).

As I grow older, however, it has become more and more difficult for me to feel that Petruchio deserves Kate. Most portrayals of the character are pretty shallow, and make him seem more like a used car salesman than a man who really cares about the woman for whom he has bargained. And then there is that final speech of Kate's in the last act--what can you do with that?

This production took on some of those problematical issues, along with the equally problematical Induction scene, and made them work.

When I say that this production is manic and tumultuous, I mean it. Fast-paced with fast costume changes and occasional spoken Cliff notes for the confused Christopher Sly, not to mention the swinging from the rafters, make this one of the most physical productions I've ever witnessed. Also, I have a new appreciation of the stage direction [exeunt, screaming].

Yet, as Alexx pointed out, the players do not go for all the sex jokes. This was an interesting decision as not only did it open up the possibilities of going for unexpected humorous bits, but it made me consider how many of those sex jokes serve to underscore the fact that Kate's worth in the eyes of the males of the story lies only in her being female and thus "made to bear." (men and babies, that is).

A lot of the changed dynamic, I felt, came from Benjamin Evett, who played Christopher Sly and Petruchio. He really uses his voice to give a full range of emotions--something that is given a lot of lip service in acting but is not as often followed through upon--and when he is being honest with Kate you know it. Really, Evett was the sexiest Petruchio I've heard, and the bits he sang from the musical "Kiss Me Kate" didn't hurt, either.

Sarah Newhouse was an awesome Kate, obviously both funny and smart and half-crazy from having to deal with these I forgot to ask if she was a redhead, but she sounded like a redhead.

Agreed, there is still that final speech of Kate's, what can you do with it? but Newhouse delivered it well, and the final few minutes of the play show that Petruchio as well as Kate have managed to pull one over on the rest of the crowd, suggesting that their various performances were both transformative as well as tricksey, and you know how I love those tricksters.

I would definitely go see this production again and I would recommend it as a fast and funny production full of surprises.
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A Web site which refers to itself as "The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Source"
offers a podcasts page
includes the following podcast focusing on The Merchant of Venice:

block quote start
A one-night only reading of Shakespeare's perpetually controversial The Merchant of Venice featuring commentary from premiere West Coast Shakespeare scholar
Denise Battista. Following will be an audience discussion led by a panel of writers and artists including world-renowned Jewish-American author and fantasist
Peter S. Beagle and John Fisher, Artistic Director of Theater Rhinoceros, San Francisco's oldest queer theater company.
block quote end

I should note here that the
Athena Learning's John Barton "Playing Shakespeare" DVD series
includes an entire episode on "The Merchant of Venice" with a lot of serious discussion on the representation of Shylock as a Jew (an episode which includes Patrick Stewart, btw).
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This is actually reposting my most recent LJ post, but I already set up cross-posting so sorry about the redundancy.

This weekend was the calm before the storm as [profile] alexx_kay and [personal profile] herooftheage head into the final week of rehearsals before the big production of Henry V, but that doesn't mean we felt as if we had had enough of Will yet.

On Sunday, [profile] alexx_kay and I watched the last few episodes of
John Barton's DVD series "Playing Shakespeare," which I will be reviewing for Green Man Review. For now, I will merely point the curious to
the Playing Shakespeare page on
and the Playing Shakespeare page at IMDB .
The Athena Learning page is wonderful and includes all sorts of extras and links to other resources, which is handy as I am hoping to find an etext of Henry V to read this week.

On Saturday, [profile] alexx_kay and I watched
Julius Caesar (Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1953), which featured Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, James Mason as Brutus, and John Gielgud as Cassius. Here is a nice long video which includes the scene in which Antony confronts the assassins and, if you wait for it, Antony's "dogs of war" speech

You can read [profile] alexx_kay's review here

Of course, after watching Julius Caesar I had to hear the bit from Free Enterprise in which Bill Shatner performs his version of Julius Caesar, so [profile] alexx_kay found that for me on YouTube

Also scattered throughout the weekend, [profile] alexx_kay read me the first volume of the graphic novel _Lock and Key_ by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. It features a trio of siblings who move to Lovecraft, Massachusetts, after the violent murder of their father, only to find themselves exposed to more violence and a very creepy house where sometimes a door is more than a door. I love the house and the lock and key images, and the monster in the story which promises to provide a source of ongoing threat and mystery.


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