William Shakespeare

LuPone Strikes Back! Grabs Texter’s Phone at Shows for Days – Playbill.com

LuPone Strikes Back! Grabs Texter’s Phone at Shows for Days – Playbill.com.

In light of this story and the recent one at Hand To God where a patron climbed up onto the stage to plug his cellphone in, I am reposting an old blog I wrote about whether Twitter may be the new version of Shakespeare’s groundlings.

Ask yourself, is Twitter The New Groundlings?

One thing for sure is, we need to educate people on proper theater etiquette.

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Eyes Like Stars: A book review

Eyes Like Stars cover

Few books move me the way that Lisa Mantchev’s debut novel Eyes Like Stars did.

First off, fair warning, Mantchev is an old friend of mine from the mid 90s. However time and space and life being what it is, I fell away from many friends from that time in my life. Then Facebook came and a couple of months ago, I reconnected with this old friend, found out she was a published author and her book was about a magical theater.

Well, I’m an actor, a director, and a playwright and this seemed like the sort that would be right up my alley. But I resisted. I wasn’t sure why but I did. Perhaps the gods of the theater weren’t smiling on me? Perhaps Puck or Thespis or Ariel were conspiring against me. I’m not sure. I kept suggesting the book to everyone I met but not reading it myself.

I then bought it one day on Amazon. I had some credit left on a gift card and decided to use part of it on this.

I’m glad I did.

Few books move me the way this book did.

I repeat that for dramatic reasons but also because it’s true.

Eyes Like Stars is about the magic of the stage, about the power of writing, about a young girl finding her way and her place in the world, and is also about a girl finding her mother.

I love the theater, as I’m sure you know, and found my “home” on the stage, just as Beatrice Shakespeare Smith did. I am a playwright and director, just like Bertie. And I’m adopted.

I suppose at this point I should give somewhat an overview of the book. Eyes Like Stars is the story of Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, an orphan girl who lives at the Theatre Illuminata, a magical place where every character in every play ever written resides and performs. However after an a accidental mishap, Bertie, as she is known to her friends, is told she must make an invaluable contribution to the Theatre or be forced to leave forever. Bertie, with help from a pirate from The Little Mermaid, and four of the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, decides to become a Director and restage Hamlet in Ancient Egypt. But what follows is something unexpected and original.

This isn’t Twilight transposed to the theater, this is wholly unique. This is…well it’s magic. It made this writer of theater believe in the power of theater again. It made me long to see the stars in the eyes of young actors as they discover the power of theater too.

Also Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed are awesome!

Read this book! Not because Lisa is a friend of mine, but because she is an amazing writer who has told an amazing story filled with rich characters. And if you don’t believe me, how about this quote from Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games:

“All the world’s truly a stage in Lisa Mantchev’s innovative tale, EYES LIKE STARS. Magical stagecraft, unmanageable fairies, and a humorous cast of classical characters form the backdrop for this imaginative coming-of-age.”

I highly recommend this book for all ages. You can buy it using the link below.
Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I

Wednesdays With Will: Richard III (1995)

In 1995, Ian McKellen was not a well known actor. He had performed in a few major releases for the US market, and quite a few productions for the UK market in his 30 years of performing. 1995 would not be his breakout year (that would come a couple of years later with his critically acclaimed turns in Bill Condon’s God’s And Monsters and Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil and his star making turns in Singer’s X-Men and Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings.) But in 1995, McKellen starred in this adaption of William Shakespeare’s Richard III.

This production features lush visuals and and a 1940s setting with Nazi imagery. This works extremely well in translating Shakespeare’s classic world of greed, power, and corruption.

The film is also wonderfully cast with Ian McKellen heading things up. He is joined with Annette Benning as Queen Elizabeth, Jim Broadbent as the Duke of Buckingham, Kristen Scott Thomas as Lady Anne, and a young Robert Downey Jr as Lord Rivers. It is a true reminder of how good Downey has always been despite his personal problems he was experiencing at the time.

Richard III is currently streaming on Netflix.

Directed by

Richard Loncraine

Produced by Stephen Bayly
Lisa Katselas Paré
Written by William Shakespeare (play)
Ian McKellen
Richard Loncraine
Starring Ian McKellen
Annette Bening
Jim Broadbent
Robert Downey Jr.
Kristin Scott Thomas
Maggie Smith
Adrian Dunbar
Dominic West
Music by Trevor Jones
Cinematography Peter Biziou
Editing by Paul Green
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s)
  • December 29, 1995
Running time 104 minutes

Wednesdays With Will: Pericles Prince of Tyre

Pericles: Prince of Tyre

In the early 1980s, the BBC did the task of filming all 39 of Shakespeare’s plays. The result ended up giving us filmed versions of some of Shakespeare’s lesser known works that we might not get otherwise.

Pericles: Prince of Tyre is one of these plays. It is one of The Bard’s lesser plays, in fact there is quite a bit of dispute about how much, if any, part of Pericles Shakespeare actually wrote as it was not contained in the First Folio. Nevertheless it is part of the Thirty-Nine, so it counts.

Why Pericles? Well today is September 19, 2012 and the tenth anniversary of Talk Like A Pirate Day and Pericles is one of the few Shakespearean plays to utilize pirates, so it seemed like a natural fit.

Pericles: Prince of Tyre tells the story of Pericles who is, as you may have guessed, the prince of Tyre. The play opens in the court of Antiochus, king of Antioch, who has offered the hand of his daughter to anyone who can solve his riddle. Failure to do so will result in the courtier’s death. Pericles hears the riddle and instantly figures it out; Antiochus is having an incestuous affair with his daughter. If Pericles brings this to light, he will be killed but failure to guess will also result in his death. He asks for time to think about the riddle, and granted forty days but Antiochus sends an assassin to kill him.

Pericles flees home to Tyre but while there is advised to continue to run. Pericles does so and runs to Tarsus, where a famine is going on. Pericles is generous, sharing his grain that is on his ship and then he moves on. After one of Shakespeare’s famous storms, Pericles washes ashore and is rescued by some fishermen.

Cutting 5 acts down, Pericles wins the hand of a beautiful princess, Thaisa, goes back home to Tyre, loses his wife to another storm, and has his daughter kidnapped by pirates. He discovers his daughter working in a brothel (where she has managed to maintain her virginity) and after a visit from the goddess Diana, discovers his wife is still alive.

Okay, so now that the synopsis is out of the way, what did I think? Well I hate to say this because it’s a production from the famed BBC and has some great acting, but frankly it was boring. A play that features pirates, kidnapping, Greek goddesses, incest, assassins, and three shipwrecks is boring, but this one is. I wouldn’t recommend this production.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

 

 

Wednesdays With Will: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

In an effort to be more productive on my webpage, I’m going to devote Wednesdays and Fridays to the history and craft of theater. Why? I feel that as a dramatist it is important to look and study the works that came before. Wednesdays will be spent with William Shakespeare, probably the greatest English playwright of all time, if not not the important playwright in the history of the world. To accomplish this, I’m going to be spending time watching and reviewing various filmed on stage or filmed versions of The Bard’s plays. Fridays will be general theater . I may be reading a reviewing a play, or watching a filmed live on stage performance, or even going to a show and sharing the experience of watching it live on stage. I may be relating the experiences of working on a show or acting in a show. Fridays will be kind of a free for all.

So without further aideu, lets begin!

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (abridged)

So why did I choose this particular work for my premire Shakespeare review? Well let me abridge it for you, it’s great.

Still with me? Good. Now I might be a little biased, as I performed this in the summer of 2010 with one of my best friends. I’ve seen this show probably a dozen times, either on DVD or in person. And it never fails to make me laugh. I know almost every word of every line said. But the reason I think it’s an important piece comes because I have performed this show. In order to fully deliver the lines properly and know what makes them funny is because you have to know what Shakespeare is saying. You don’t have to know Shakespeare to appreciate it, because you can always laugh at someone mixing up Shakespeare with Hitler or a guy dressing in drag and throwing up on audience members. But what this show has is a genuine love of Shakespeare and that is what makes it important.

If you don’t know the show, well then you should watch it and as soon as possible, but let me give you a summery of the show. You have three guys who attempt to perform all of Shakespeare’s shows (and sonnents) in an hour and half. The results are often hilarious (Titus Andronicus as a cooking show! MacBeth in “genuine” Scottish accents! Hamlet…backwards), but also has moments of beautiful acting.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) stars members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin, and Adam Long. Tichenor and Martin shift roles playing the straight man to Long’s antics. But they have their moments of comic timing (example: Tichenor’s delivery of the line “I Love My Willy” in perfect dry wit, or Martin’s ability to keep up with Long during Romeo and Juliet).

The original script was written by founding RSC members Adam Long, Jess Winfield, and Danial Singer with Martin and Tichenor contributing additional materials and shows an ability to condense Shakespeare’s prose and the meaning behind those words with timeless jokes and sight gags that wouldn’t be out of place in a vaudeville show. Winfield has gone on to write a Shakespeare themed novel entitled My Name Is Will that continues to demonstrate his love of The Bard.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) is a must see for fans of William Shakespeare or fans of laughter and comedy. More information about The Reduced Shakespeare Company, how to purchase their DVDs (their The Complete History of America (abridged) has also been released on DVD and may be a future review for my Friday post), or where they are performing can be found at their website.