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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cymbeline Review

Cymbeline Review
by Jason Via

Michael Almereyda’s movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline hit theaters this past weekend in a limited release. Cymbeline involves the only daughter of a tyrannical king marrying against his wishes. The low-born husband is banished, and one of his friends makes a competitive little bet, which leads to misery for almost everyone involved. Unfortunately, the movie adaptation disappoints the avid Shakespearean.

Almereyda’s modernization sets the characters in a biker gang named the “Britons”, led by the ruthless Ed Harris (as the eponymous character), in a small-town “Rome”. The setting transplant was rather transparent, and could have easily gone with other names. After some lengthy text exposition, the movie begins at the end, with shots of each of the main characters in the climactic moments of their arcs, and then returns to the beginning.

Much of the lackluster feel of this adaptation resides in the editing and direction. The script is cut in odd places, so that the audience only scrapes along with the surface plot, but fails to engage in the depth of the characters or their rich emotionality. Instead, their decisions seem impulsive and almost implausible because their motivations remain murky. They act as shallow caricatures, and many decisions go unexplained.

Another critical choice was the pacing and energy. The movie refused to settle into one scene, instead jumping at breakneck speed to other characters. It attempted to evoke a moody, brooding sort of tragic romance (the sort a pre-teen entering middle school might enjoy), which was quite contrary to the source material, and even its own marketing, which attempted to sell the movie as a thrilling crime drama.

It had the feel of a film trying to be too “artistic”, particularly when characters would do nonsensical actions, like Anton Yelchin’s Cloten, who dumps a trashbag of Hershey kisses onto the table during a high stakes negotiation. Sadly, he and many of the other good actors are wasted and lost in the attempt to satisfy some Oscar-winning fantasy. Often the actors are blank, and devoid of emotional expression, which leeches the lifeblood out of what is truly a story of high passion. Combined with the miserable pacing, the audience-goer feels devoid of stakes or investment in the shallow characters, feeling as blank as the male protagonist’s constant expression.

Penn Badgley portrays a skater Posthumus more emotionally flat than concrete – disturbingly, this is an accurate representation of how adolescent boys are taught to control their emotions, rather than expressing them. So in a sense, it’s a win for post-modern accuracy, just a loss for the viewer.
In a true blow, the movie cuts portions of both Imogen’s and the Queen’s speeches and scenes, robbing the audience of some of the best parts of the play. No, this is an adaptation for the patriarchy, in which all the conflict and solution is derived from the male characters.


Hamstrung by pacing and editing, this would-be lost gem of Shakespeare’s canon falters as it leaves the gate, and the audience is forced to watch it limp over the finish line.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Cast List

Directed by Kat Knoerl 

Assistant Director Bethany Bennet

Cast
Rosencrantz: Libby Miserendino
Guildenstern: Zach Hurst
The Player: Barclay Sparrow
Hamlet: Carter Shirley
Ophelia: Isabel Steven
Claudius: Jeremy Lawrence
Gertrude: Lucy King
Polonius: Gerhard Jansen
Alfred/Horatio: Matthew Spears-Heinel

Tragedians: Molly Earner, Tom Kalnas, Riley Cruickshank, Alison Gerhard

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Shakespeare Jubilee


Let's talk about David Garrick and my passionate love-hate relationship with him.

David Garrick will rank, easily, in any list of influential Shakespearean actors.  But Garrick was more than an actor. He was a well known producer, playhouse manager, playwright and (as we shall see) poet.  In short, Garrick was one of the most active and well known figures of the English theater scene during the mid-18th century.

We have him to thank for the three-day-Shakespeare's-birthday-orgy in Stratford in 1769.  I'm only half-kidding when I say this was an orgy.  The Shakespeare Jubilee, as it is called, was the closest you could get to an orgy in 18th century England.

I cannot overstate the cultural importance of the Shakespeare Jubilee for the English speaking and reading world. This event highly influenced the growing cultural obsession with Shakespeare as an author and national figure.  He was rapidly achieving god-like status in the minds of English and this mentality has traversed centuries, oceans and a revolution to reach us in our 21st century American classrooms. This movement came to be called "bardolatry". As you can see this is just the words "bard" and "idolatry" put together.  No further definition required.

To illustrate the tone of the Jubilee,  I will post part of an ode to Shakespeare written and recited by Garrick especially for the occasion.

It's not at all subtle.  And the emphasis on "rapture" and "pleasure" increases in frequency as the poem continues. This poem, and the subsequent reactions by a few hysterical females in the audience, indicate the  religious and semi-sexual undertones of bardolatry culture.

I have bolded a few choice words and phrases.

An Ode Upon Dedicating a Building, and Erecting a Statue, to Shakespeare, At Stratford Upon Avon.


To what blest genius of the isle,
Shall Gratitude her tribute pay,
Decree the festive day,
Erect the statue, and devote the pile?

Do not your sympathetic hearts accord,
To own the ‘bosom’s lord?’
’Tis he! ’tis he!—that demi-god!
Who Avon’s flow’ry margin trod,
While sportive Fancy round him flew,
Where Nature led him by the hand,
Instructed him in all she knew,
And gave him absolute command!
’Tis he! ’tis he!
‘The god of our idolatry!’
To him the song, the Edifice we raise,
He merits all our wonder, all our praise!
Yet ere impatient joy break forth,
To tell his name, and speak his worth,
And to your spell-bound minds impart
Some faint idea of his magic art;
Let awful silence still the air!

From the dark cloud, the hidden light
Bursts tenfold bright!
Prepare! prepare! prepare!
Now swell at once the choral song,
Roll the full tide of harmony along;
Let Rapture sweep the trembling strings,
And Fame expanding all her wings,
With all her trumpet-tongues proclaim,
The lov’d, rever’d, immortal name!
SHAKESPEARE! SHAKESPEARE! SHAKESPEARE!
Let th’ inchanting sound,
From Avon’s shores rebound;
Thro’ the Air,
Let it bear,


The precious freight the envious nations round!

I'm forced to admire Garrick's pluck and textbook fangirling. 
But I'm also deeply concerned about what his hard-core-nerding-out did to the English psyche.

Shakespeare was rapidly becoming too great for his own good.  He could no longer be spoken of as a man, even a profoundly gifted and inspired man: he was a god.  This distinction drew a line between SHAKESPEARE, and the rest of us mere mortals. This rhetoric totes along a few troubling implications:


  1. artistic greatness is a commodity; and possessed by a privileged, elite, few
  1. artistic greatness is only attainable for those who have access to the right education, the right social contacts, and the right kind of cultured experiences.
I will attempt to unpack these points, as they relate to Shakespeare's legacy and our own experiences as artists, in a future post.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Romeo and Juliet: Romance or Red Flag?

So I found a quote on the Internet, as you do, that references one of the greatest controversies to ever grace 9th grade English class. A gross oversimplification is: are Romeo and Juliet in love or crazy?

What do you all think?

Does the fact that their acquaintance only span 3 days delegitimize the strength of their love? What kind of love would prompt suicide and is this self-sacrifice admirable or troubling?

I actually found this quote on a canvas tote bag.  So if there is a dearth of Shakspeare apparel and ephemera in your life, go forth and purchase. Here is the link: http://www.gisforgift.com/a-romantic-milan-fashion-week/#.VNJnvp3F-HQ


Spring Proposals Due TONIGHT

Remember, spring play proposals are due at midnight.  Please email them to shakespeare@email.wm.edu.


I have little to no justification for this cat meme.  Except that I imagine this is how Shakespearean actors feel when they wake up in the morning.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Welcome Back!

A very enthusiastic "Welcome Home" to you all!

As we kick off the new semester, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Shakespeare love you...always
  2. Get pumped for Henry IV Part 1!!!!
  3. Bear in mind that proposals for the Spring show are due February 4th

In other news, a cursory internet search of the words "shakespeare cat" yielded....
funny pictures memes

Monday, December 1, 2014

Henry IV Part 1 Cast List

Henry IV Part 1
Directed by Bruno del Alamo and Zach Hurst


Matt Black: Glendower/John of Lancaster/Ensemble
Henry Hines: Bardolph/Ensemble
Kirsten Koch: Mortimer/Francis/Ensemble
Jeremy Lawrence: Harry “Hotspur” Percy
Kirsten Linder: Westmoreland/Peto
Libby Miserendino: Falstaff
Honora Overby: Gadshill/Vernon
Karen Smith: Northumberland/Host/Ensemble
Max Sorger: Worcester/Sheriff
Paul Soutter: Poins/The Douglas
Barclay Sparrow: Sir Walter Blunt/Lady Percy
Isabel Steven: Prince Hal
Catherine Strycharz: Henry IV
Mary Turgeon: Hostess/Ensemble