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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: August ::
Popular Culture
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1792  Monday, 26 August 2002

[1]     From:   Richard Burt <
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 >
        Date:   Wednesday, August 14, 2002 2:23 PM
        Subj:   Lifetime Movie with MND

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Aug 2002 04:59:16 -0400
        Subj:   Shakespeare in Unpopular Culture

[3]     From:   Richard Burt <
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 >.net>
        Date:   Sunday, August 18, 2002 7:38 PM
        Subj:   The Bard of Avon is Teaching Corporate Leaders Their Business


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, August 14, 2002 2:23 PM
Subject:        Lifetime Movie with MND

In a typically bizarre Lifetime movie called Someone to Love that aired
Sunday August 11, a character played by the guy who played Noel on
Felicity rapes his girlfriend after she sends too much time rehearsing
for A Midsummer Night's Dream.   Signs for the production are shown as
is the curtain call, but none of the play is actually cited (during the
last hour, at least--I missed the beginning).  There is no apparent
connection between the plot of the film (date rape, a missing father
figure) and the play.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 19 Aug 2002 04:59:16 -0400
Subject:        Shakespeare in Unpopular Culture

http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/shakespeare/

SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS

Sammie Byron, inmate: "The death scene with Othello and Desdemona was
almost a reenactment of the crime I committed."

An amazing project.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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 >.net>
Date:           Sunday, August 18, 2002 7:38 PM
Subject:        The Bard of Avon is Teaching Corporate Leaders Their Business

Once more into the breach, dear CEOs: The Bard of Avon is teaching
corporate leaders their business

http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis/web/vortex/display?slug=shakespeare18&date=20020818

By Misha Berson
Seattle Times theater critic

"Oh for a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!"

VANCOUVER, B.C., The man declaiming the hallowed opening verse of
William Shakespeare's "Henry V" in a theater here recently spoke the
lines cogently, resonantly, with full conviction.

This 40-year-old Englishman, with his tousled black hair and trim beard,
was, after all, Richard Olivier, son of famed actress Joan Plowright and
the most revered Shakespearean actor of the past century, Laurence
Olivier.

But the audience hanging on to his every word was not your standard
matinee-theater crowd. Instead, Olivier was delivering some of the Bard
of Avon's most stirring lines to a group of 50 bank and credit-union
managers and social-service, arts and university administrators, not for
an afternoon's entertainment, but for lessons in organizational
leadership.

And when he intoned, "Once more into the breach, dear friends!" Henry
V's familiar exhortation to his troops during a battle with France,
Olivier reshaped it into a cry to galvanize today's employees to greater
glory.

Should we be surprised by this use of the Bard's words? After all, his
phrases and face have already been stamped on countless consumer items,
from sweat shirts to tote bags, screen savers to coffee mugs. There is
Shakespeare beer, a Shakespeare credit card.

And Richard Olivier is not the first to sell Shakespeare as a management
guru. Such reputable schools as Columbia University offer business
courses based on the Bard's wisdom, and at least a dozen how-to books
expound on the theme, with titles such as "Shakespeare in Charge: The
Bard's Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage" and
Olivier's own tome, "Inspirational Leadership: Henry V and the Muse of
Fire."

Such appropriations of history's most esteemed English-language
playwright strike some as crass commercialism.

"I'd default these management books and courses as a dilution, a
dumbing-down of Shakespeare into bite-sized homilies," says Richard
Burt, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
and editor of  the book "Shakespeare after Mass Media."

"It's very clear from the Enron and WorldCom business scandals that this
aesthetic, virtuous approach to business has little use at all," Burt
argues. "It's certainly no replacement for good government regulations."

Relating plots to modern woes

But Olivier, a trained actor and stage director who has worked full time
as a teacher-consultant for the past several years, cheerfully defends
his "mythodrama" program. He sees no contradiction in prizing
Shakespeare as both a literary genius, and as a guide to enlightened
modern management.

And he has mined the plays' themes aggressively. Serving a "balanced
portfolio" of corporate, government and nonprofit organizations,
Olivier's firm offers courses using "Julius Caesar" (workshop subtitle:
"Emotional and Political Intelligence: How to Avoid Getting Stabbed in
the Back at Work"), "Hamlet" ("Managing the Edge of Chaos: How to Avoid
Going Mad at Work") and "The Tempest" ("The Art of Leading Change: What
to Do When Everyone Feels Shipwrecked") in addition to his "Henry V"
sessions.

Coming soon: a "Macbeth" workshop. And will it relate the wisdom of that
great Scot CEO who murdered his way to the throne, then was toppled in a
bloody coup?

"We teach people about the leadership mistakes in Shakespeare, too,"
quipped Olivier.

Attendees at the B.C. workshop, hosted by Bard on the Beach (Vancouver's
resident Shakespeare theater) clearly shared Olivier's belief that the
Bard could be a meaningful business guide. They paid up to $365 Canadian
for the half-day class with the London-based Olivier. And some paid more
for a post-workshop dinner, and a performance of Bard on the Beach's
staging of "Henry V."

Spicing his lesson with humor and interactive exercises, Olivier broke
Shakespeare's saga of Henry V, a 15th-century British monarch who led
the nation in an uphill victory against France, into a "journey" of plot
points and management dilemmas.

First came Henry's "call to the imagination" and "visioning of the
future" (yes, the vision thing), followed by his troubled "dark night of
the soul" and incognito "walkabout" among troops before the key Battle
of Agincourt. Finally, Henry "achieves the vision" (the outnumbered
Brits won the day with only 25 casualties to France's 10,000) and turns
the "battlefield into a garden" by uniting the two nations.

Olivier often linked young Henry's challenges to the more mundane
problems today's managers face. For instance, apropos of the conspiracy
and criticism Henry had to fend off, Olivier devoted part of the
workshop to dealing with dissension in one's staff ranks, and how to
distinguish among, and deal constructively with, a "traitor," a
"naysayer" and a "critic."

Sprinkling inspirational quotes from Henry Ford, Nelson Mandela and Carl
Jung into his presentation, and referring to color-coded handout charts,
Olivier also outlined four "leadership archetypes," to suggest how
administrators can reach lofty goals by "allocating inner resources"
more effectively.

To demonstrate several types of leadership styles, he had participants
engage in a frisky game of "steal the paper," break into small
problem-solving groups and get to know each other better by lounging on
throw pillows, conversing and munching on chocolates.

An idea comes to fruition

Is this blend of pop psychology, literary analysis and gritty advice a
spiel corporate CEOs and bank directors can buy into? Yes, said Barb
Rosenthal, a manager at B.C.'s Surrey Metro Savings. "It's so rich and
helpful, such great advice," she commented during a break. "And I think
it's the genius of Shakespeare that really brings it alive."

Gaye LePage, a Canadian Food Inspection Agency manager, concurred: "The
theater is a great simile for leadership. What's wonderful about
Shakespeare is how universal his themes and stories are, how much they
apply to so many situations."

Clearly, Olivier's ready charm and family pedigree also helped. He
candidly shared, for instance, the difficulties of being a member of a
famous acting clan and finding his own "France to conquer."

"My siblings and I all tried working in theater," Olivier related in an
interview. "I became a director, and was very involved in getting the
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre built and under way in London. But I became
aware just after my dad's death (in 1989) of my growing interest in
psychology and mythology.

"I started working with (psychologist) James Hillman and (poet) Robert
Bly. And as I met a lot of people who felt very burned out or used up by
the organizations they worked for, I got an inkling of the impact I
could have helping decision-makers do what they do."

But the idea didn't jell for Olivier until 1997, while he was at the
Globe directing "Henry V", a play, incidentally, that his father
triumphed in onstage, then starred in and directed in an Oscar-winning
film version.

With Globe artistic head Mark Rylance, Richard Olivier "got together
some  business leaders and managers in a rehearsal hall, and told them
Henry's story. We focused on his leadership decisions and actions, and
asked what they'd do in his place. Later, these people told us they'd
learned more
from the play than from 10 years of management workshops."

So Olivier Mythodrama Associates was born.

Given the executive-suite scandals at top U.S. firms recently, Olivier
sees more need for the Bard's wisdom than ever.

The Bard's universal reach



 

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