2/26/15

Poster for the New Cymbeline Movie

ComingSoon.net has released the first poster for the new Cymbeline movie. Apparently, the title has been changed back from Anarchy (thank goodness).


2/13/15

Fifty Shades of Grey's Dakota Johnson as Imogen in the New Cymbeline Film

Dakota Johnson as Imogen, disguised as a boy
in the soon-to-be-released Cymbeline movie.
This weekend, crowds will line up to see Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, but some of us are more excited to see her play Imogen in Michael Almeyreda's film version of Cymbeline. The movie was recently retitled Anarchy, presumably to capitalize on the presence of the Sons of Anarchy star Ed Harris in the title role.

2/12/15

New York Times Columnist on the Value of College Shakespeare Courses

In the New York Times, Frank Bruni responds to politicians, like Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who think college should be primarily about "work force needs":
What’s the most transformative educational experience you’ve had?  
I was asked this question recently, and for a few seconds it stumped me, mainly because I’ve never viewed learning as a collection of eureka moments. It’s a continuum, a lifelong awakening to the complexity of the world.  
But then something did come to mind, not a discrete lesson but a moving image, complete with soundtrack. I saw a woman named Anne Hall swooning and swaying as she stood at the front of a classroom in Chapel Hill, N.C., and explained the rawness and majesty of emotion in “King Lear.”

2/4/15

Balcony Scene Smackdown

Who does it best?


Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in Franco Zefirelli's 1968 film:


Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer in George Cukor's 1936 version:



Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in a 1966 performance of the balcony scene from Sergei Prokofiev's ballet (1935-36):


(Alas, Fox has blocked Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes's performance from Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film.)

1/26/15

Into the Woods and King Lear


What could Into the Woods possibly have in common with King Lear?

For one thing, both have fairy tales as sources. In Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine mainly use "Little Red Riding Hood," "Rapunzel," "Jack and the Beanstalk," and "Cinderella." In Lear, Shakespeare at one point quotes "Beanstalk"—or another giant-killing tale—and for his main plot uses a legend that parallels "Love Like Salt," a Cinderella-ish story that appears in Grimms' Fairy Tales as "The Goose-Girl at the Well," in Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales as "Cap o' Rushes," and in Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book as "The Dirty Shepherdess." (That last one sounds like pornography, but it's a good version for kids because of Lang's engaging narrative and H. J. Ford's iconic illustrations.)

The Dirty Shepherdess gives in to
a sudden urge "to dress herself in
her robes of splendour." 
H. J. Ford's illustration from
Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book.
Though "Love Like Salt" has many variations—D. L. Ashliman prints several on a single web page—it basically goes like this. A king (sometimes simply a rich man) asks his three daughters how much they love him. The older ones pile on the flattery, but the youngest says that she loves him as meat loves salt. Her answer infuriates her father, who throws her out of the castle. She disguises herself—as a servant, goose-girl, shepherdess, etc.—and grinds away at menial tasks until one day she dresses in her old princess clothes to go to a ball or just for the heck of it. A prince sees her and falls in love, but she returns to her disguised life of drudgery, and the prince struggles to find her. He does this without help from a slipper, though in some versions he gets help from a ring. In "Cap o' Rushes," it's his ring; in "The Dirty Shepherdess," it's hers. When the ring ends up in prince's gruel or bread, he finds and marries the princess. They invite the princess's father to the wedding feast, and the princess tells the cook to keep salt out of the king's food. Appalled by the bland cuisine, the king finally understands his daughter's answer. He laments disinheriting her, she reveals herself, and the two are reconciled.

1/20/15

Summary of A Midsummer Night's Dream

1.1
In battle, Theseus, duke of Athens, has won Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Theseus is impatient for the wedding, and Hippolyta assures him that the four days until then will pass quickly. Egeus enters with his daughter Hermia and two young men: Demetrius, who has Egeus's permission to marry Hermia, and Lysander, who has won her heart. The law dictates that Hermia must marry her father's choice or be executed. Theseus provides a third option—she may enter a nunnery—and says she must make her decision by his wedding day.

The First Midsummer Night's Dream Movie: "So Awake When I Am Gone / For I Must Now to . . . Penelope?"

In 1909 the Vitagraph Company shot the first Midsummer Night's Dream movie in the wilds of Brooklyn, using a forest and the architecture at a waterworks and park entrance (Halio 85). The actor Charles Kent may have directed the film alone or with Vitagraph's cofounder, J. Stuart Blackton. Like many of Blackton's films, the Vitagraph Midsummer is filled with stop-action effects, but Kent, who didn't use ordinarily use these effects, may have adopted them to make the film's fairy scenes more magical.

1/1/15

Trailer Released for the Horrible Histories Shakespeare Movie

In March, the BBC's Horrible Histories cast will appear in Bill, a comedy about Shakespeare. Digital Spy writes that the film "centres on what really happened during Shakespeare's 'Lost Years'—how hopeless lute player Bill Shakespeare leaves his family and home to follow his dreams in London. The film will see 'murderous kings, spies, lost loves, and a plot to blow up Queen Elizabeth'."

Here's the trailer:

12/17/14

Martin Freeman Describes the Challenges of Playing Richard III

Martin Freeman as Richard III.
Image from The Telegraph.
In the Philadelphia Daily News, Martin Freeman describes the challenges of playing Richard III, the role he took on after he finished playing Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's Hobbit:
"Just the physical toll of speaking those many words, that many lines, is hard. Then there's the [disfigured] body, and the limp, and the using one arm, and killing your wife and all that - just punching out that many lines is a challenge, and doing that eight times a week . . ." Freeman paused to consider the tone of his remarks, then laughed. "It's all well worth it, of course."
Freeman said he marvels that his older "Hobbit" co-star and Shakespearean specialist Ian McKellen was able to play Richard at a later stage in life. Freeman played Richard at 43, McKellen at 53.

12/15/14

Radical Tempest Revision in New York

In today's New York Times, Ben Brantley raves about a radical revision of The Tempest by "the most truly revolutionary troupe in town," the Italian Motus Theater Company:
Motus is . . . channeling the pent-up lifeblood of two slaves out of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” chafing at their bondage to an imperial magician named Prospero. 
Ariel and Caliban, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.  
“Nella Tempesta,” which runs through Sunday at the Ellen Stewart Theater at La MaMa, is a full-throated cry to the young and disaffected to get off their collective duffs, shake off their shackles and do something. Conceived and directed by Daniela Nicolò and Enrico Casagrande, this production turns a cast of six and an assortment of blankets into an 80-minute youthquake that seems likely to leave even cynical audience members shaken and stirred.