Sarah Dustagheer exposes the innovation of The Tempest, Shakespeare’s ‘first’ play in two parts

Posted to General with 1 Comment on 14.11.12 by Harry Jelley

The Tempest: Shakespeare’s ‘first’ play – part 1
It is 1611.  You are sitting in the Blackfriars theatre, north of the river Thames, near the City walls.  It is a small hall space, very different from the large amphitheatres such as the Globe just across the river.  No need to worry about being rained on here.  You look around…as usual the audience have decided to come and show off the latest London fashion under the candlelight which lights the theatre: the auditorium shimmers and glitters with expensive materials and jewels.  Some of the wealthier women have used crushed pearl to paint their faces, as is the trend, and their skin glistens in the light.

The place is packed – every seat is filled and, unlike the Globe, there is no standing.  You have chosen one of the seats on stage – you don’t mind paying a little more to be close to the action!  Today the King’s Men perform a new play by their leading playwright, Shakespeare.  He’s written for the Blackfriars since 1609 when the company took over the venue: they use it for the winter and return to their longstanding home, the Globe, for the summer months.  But although Shakespeare has written other plays for this space, rumour has it that today’s play is the first to fully exploit the playing possibilities of the Blackfriars.  So you are looking forward to see what all the fuss is about.  The concert performed just before the play finishes – music works so well in this small indoor space, a whole range of instruments are played here that you just would not be able to hear at outdoor playhouses.  It is little wonder that so many playwrights like to use lots of music in their Blackfriars plays.  The sounds of the concert are still in your ears but, then, suddenly, rudely, this is disrupted – the loudest noise, thunder, lightning, you are in the midst of a storm….. The Tempest has begun Continue Reading

Will’s World by Muriel Mewissen

Posted to General with 0 Comments on 08.11.12 by Sarah Ellis

Will’s World is a  JISC Discovery project in which EDINA aims to demonstrate the value and principles of aggregation as a tactic. The concept behind this project is that assembling online data sources relating to one topic will add value and improve the discoverability of these resources; making it easier for developers and service providers to build services and ultimately providing an easier access for all to the data itself and enriched content based on it.

Will’s World applies this concept to the world of William Shakespeare. Our project is designing, building and populating a Shakespeare Registry of metadata of digital resources relating to Shakespeare, covering anything from its work and live, to modern performance, interpretation or geographical and historical contextual information. The Royal Shakespeare Company is one the online resources contributing to Will’s World.

Development work to build the Registry has been on-going over the summer. We are now busy adding great data to the Shakespeare Registry and are keen to encourage some creative use of the data.  Following our successful participation in the Culture Hack Scotland event in April, we are currently considering the organisation of an online hack event.

This twist on the traditional in person 24 hours format provides a lot of flexibility. There is  no need to travel, no limits on number of participants or venue size, participants can schedule their participation around their other commitments and used their familiar setup.  Ensuring excellent communication will be key and the use of social media technologies will help us achieve this.

Do you think it is a good idea? Do you have previous experience of similar events to share? How can we support participants? Take part in our survey and tell us your opinions.

Feedback so far has been very supportive, see our post Can one desire too much of a good thing? We are now hoping to go ahead with organising this event in early December.  Put it in your diary and get in touch if you want to be involved!

Cia Elevador de Teatro Panorâmico talk about translating As You Like It

Posted to General with 1 Comment on 26.09.12 by Sarah Ellis

The Brazilian theatre group Cia Elevador de Teatro Panorâmico was founded in 2000 by their artistic director Marcelo Lazzaratto. Ten years later the group undertook the translation and performance of As You Like It. The following is taken from an interview given on 21 June 2011 when their translation was completed and the show was playing at the company’s theatre. The interview appears as transcribed in the book of their translation, published by Balão Editorial. At the interview was Marcelo Lazzaratto (actor and director), and the actors Carolina Fabri, Gabriel Miziara and Pedro Haddad Continue Reading

Teaching Shakespeare online by Lesley Stanford

Posted to General with 0 Comments on 08.11.12 by Sarah Ellis

Teaching Macbeth virtually…it can be done!  Despite qualms about the viability of teaching Shakespeare to young elementary students in a virtual classroom, I have, successfully proved that it can be done. For the past six months, I have taught two on-line Literary salons; ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to 8-11 year old students from all over the world for Stanford University’s Education Program for Talented and Gifted Youth, (EPGY)

Similar to a book club, the Literary Salon classes meet weekly in the virtual classroom for eight consecutive weeks to discuss a variety of texts. Students are presented with pre-class reading assignments and activities so that they are prepared for the weekly discussions.

Using the Carel Press Shorter Shakespeare Series version of both plays, and a variety of film sources to supplement the text, these young students gain an understanding and appreciation of the material, in a context where they can discuss with, and learn from their peers. Each class ran well over the one hour set limit as these enthusiastic and sophisticated students discussed the nuances of our tragic hero and his manic wife. They wanted to keep talking as they delved deeper and deeper into the Macbeths’ arrogance, madness, and death. They argued about the most effective way to portray fairies if they were directing ‘The Dream.’ They laughed at the 1909 silent movie version of ’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, but thought that the Mechanicals depicted in this version were much better than those in the 1981 BBC’s version of the play.

The enthusiasm for this class continued well after the end of the course. The students wanted more! After much discussion with these opinionated young people, they decided to create a final project for inclusion on the ‘myShakespeare’ blog. Since these students hail from a variety of countries and states, they decided to create a visual representation that connects the play ’Macbeth’ with their home country. “It is a global project after all,’ they told me.  Some contributed videos and others photographs. You can see their results posted on the ‘myShakespeare’ blog, and I think you will agree that the enthusiasm both impressive and infectious.

The Dean, was impressed with the caliber of the discussion and the intensity of the on line learning experience.  Below you can see the students’ work.  The Literary salon classes are still a new addition to our department’s schedule of offerings and the next one;  ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is now online this autumn.

Lesley Stanford

Instructor at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Hunter’s project

Sander’s project (above image)

Jim’s project -

Daytona’s project -

Ira’s project -

Peyton’s project (above image)


Gavin Ewan Responds to Ben Power’s A Tender Thing

Posted to General with 0 Comments on 16.10.12 by Harry Jelley

Having viewed a recent performance of Ben Power’s A Tender Thing, Gavin Ewan, a retired GP, reflects on the play’s impact and the memories evoked.

Sitting  alone, for this particular show, before the cyan tinted pillars and lintel as a backdrop and the bare boarded stage in the foreground – empty save two chairs, one fallen over,  and a mysterious beach– I was reminded of the previous summer trip to RSC Stratford where, accompanied by my wife, we saw Romeo and Juliet in Iraq. That booking had a nuance attached for I had remembered my wife studied Romeo and Juliet at A level and I secretly booked the tickets last winter as a surprise; but in my electronic haste omitted to realise the language was Arabic with subtitles. That only added to the novelty. How was a modern adaptation of the same classic story going to fit into the whole picture, especially with the ages of the players cranked well up?

Continue Reading

The Art of Impartiality by Nicky Hand

Posted to General with 0 Comments on 16.10.12 by Sarah Ellis

Several of Shakespeare’s plays are widely acknowledged for their ‘troubling’ elements. You don’t need to look very hard to find examples of what could now be considered anti-semitism, racism and misogyny scattered through his texts for apparent comedy value.

For a student studying Shakespeare’s work, the importance of historical context is often emphasised. But what about the theatre audience? Settling down for an evening’s entertainment doesn’t exactly require advance study or contextual consideration.

This Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend bought tickets to see The Taming of the Shrew, expecting it to be a slightly old fashioned 10 Things I Hate About You. Little did he know, The Shrew bears only a passing resemblance to the American teen drama it inspired all those years later. Continue Reading

Hedda Bird Discusses Staging the Complex Character of Hamlet

Posted to General with 0 Comments on 01.10.12 by Harry Jelley

Wokingham Theatre is an Amateur company putting on 8 varied shows a year. This blog is about the rehearsals for their production of Hamlet.

With four weeks left till first night, the cast have broadly understood the text, established their characters and learnt most of their lines. Now we have some time to dig deeper. Our production has focused around Hamlet’s question “Am I a coward?”. Earlier this month we looked cowardice in Hamlet’s relationship with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. In 2.2 we discovered that Hamlet writes his relationship off with R&G very early, not because they have been sent for – he seems to forgive them for that as soon as it is admitted – rather for what happens next: the short exchange over “What a piece of work is man…”. We tried playing it as a rather pretentious student conversation, then as an accusation against R&G for not being more honourable and open about why they had come, until finally we hit on playing it as Hamlet seeking solace. When Rosencrantz fails to empathise, offering only the rather shallow diversion of the Players, our Hamlet walks away, unable to tell them what is on his mind. Continue Reading

Being Precious by Jake Orr

Posted to General with 2 Comments on 06.09.12 by Sarah Ellis

I was recently reading an extract from Charles Saatchi’s book Be The Worst You Can Be in the Evening Standard. He relayed how during his Sensation Exhibition in 1997, a painting by Marcus Harvey, which controversially depicted the portrait of Myra Hindley with children’s handprints, was defaced by protestors. Three art restorers gave their expert advice on trying to restore the painting, all options costing thousands and would take months. Harvey however took the painting home, scrubbed it with cleaning fluids and had it returned to the exhibition the next day.

The thing that struck me about this incident is how Harvey was unafraid to confront the actions of the protestors. He rolled up his sleeves and scrubbed his painting, which, given that Saatchi deemed it worthy to feature in his exhibition is quite a feat. Harvey wasn’t precious, he rose to the challenge, even if that meant potentially damaging the work he had poured hours over. Continue Reading

Listening to the audience by Sylvia Morris

Posted to General with 4 Comments on 24.08.12 by Sarah Ellis

The 2012 Olympic Games have been a fantastic success which it’s hoped will change the perception of sport in the UK and increase participation at all levels. But what will be the legacy of that part of the Cultural Olympiad, the World Shakespeare Festival? Will we see a change in the way Shakespeare is perceived, and might it lead to audiences feeling more involved? Continue Reading

Miriam Weiner’s Shakespeare’s Seasons

Posted to General with 2 Comments on 23.08.12 by Sarah Ellis

SHAKESPEARE’S SEASONS is an illustrated children’s book created by me and my  collaborator (and friend), Shannon Whitt. It was inspired by reading to my two-year-old son, Abel. Discovering the rhymes and poetry of Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss and the sound and silliness of the words was a joyful experience for him. He was intrigued by the idea that specific words describe specific things: Nape–it’s not just a neck,  it’s the back of a neck. Continue Reading