A Prince


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.072  Monday, 20 February 2012


From:        Harry Berger Jr <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 19, 2012 1:14:19 PM EST

Subject:     My kingdom for a crupper


During his stringent and persuasive review of the 1964 Hamlet at Elsinore Charles Weinstein complains about “a crupperful of bad performances.” That’s an interesting figure, but it puzzles me: how do you fill a crupper?


Prison Shakespeare


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.071  Monday, 20 February 2012


From:        Colette Gordon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 20, 2012 6:05:15 AM EST

Subject:     Prison Shakespeare


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0352  


Jack Heller < This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">jackThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

December 15, 2011 

Re: Radio Show


Dear Jack,


I know that NPR covered work with Hamlet done by the ITMSA (Independent Theatre Movement of South Africa) Shakespeare Literacy Project.  I believe that this is the only SA prison project so covered and think a Romeo and Juliet would be unlikely in any South African prison or youth detention centre.  


I’m working with the ITMSA on extending its work with Shakespeare in prisons. We're seeking similar projects in Africa and elsewhere, so I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, http://theprisonartscoalition.com/ and especially prisontheatreconsortium.blogspot.com/ are good resources.  



Colette Gordon


Department of English

University of Cape Town


CFP: This Rough Magic


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.070  Monday, 20 February 2012


From:        Michael Boecherer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 19, 2012 1:37:13 PM EST

Subject:     CFP: This Rough Magic


This Rough Magic (www.thisroughmagic.org) is a journal dedicated to the art of teaching Medieval and Renaissance Literature. We are seeking academic, teachable articles that focus on, but are not limited to, the following categories:



•Genre Issues

•Narrative Structure









•Philosophy and Rhetoric







We also seek short essays that encourage faculty to try overlooked, non-traditional texts inside the classroom and book reviews.  For more information, please visit our website www.thisroughmagic.org or contact Michael Boecherer (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Faculty and Graduate Students are encouraged to submit.


This Rough Magic is affiliated with the following academic institutions:


•Bridgewater State University

•The Catholic University of America

•Newman University

•State University of New York - Stony Brook

•Suffolk County Community College


Michael Boecherer

Department of English

Suffolk County Community College - Riverhead Campus

Telephone: 631-548-2587



Shakespearean Productions


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.069  Sunday, 19 February 2012


From:        Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Sunday, February 19, 2012

Subject:     Shakespearean Productions


A few days ago, I wrote,


>I have alluded to my preferences regarding production values and matters 

>of class and to theater spaces, but I would like to mention here involves 

>what I see as issues related to language and acting styles. 


>As one might imagine, I see Shakespeare’s language as being foremost in 

>productions. I like it clear, fast-paced generally, and understandable to me 

>and to the actors delivering it. Language is my foremost production value 

>and influences the choice of space in which it is delivered.


>Today, I would like to mention the relationship between language and acting. 

>I prefer presentational acting to representational acting for Shakespeare. For

>this reason, I feel that actors should eschew the method for performing 



This morning I read the following commentary on Spacey’s Richard III at BAM in the New York Times.





February 16, 2012

Theater Talkback: Kevin Spacey, Ham

By Charles Isherwood


 . . . let’s all admit that there are times when we crave something comfortingly, even flagrantly unhealthy, like a big ham sandwich.


The same holds true, in my view, for theatergoing, and in particular the aesthetics of acting. When it comes to performing onstage, subtlety and delicacy are to be prized far higher than showy displays of obvious emotion. To cite an exemplar of this most respectable kind of acting, I’d guide you right now to “The Road to Mecca.” Rosemary Harris is irradiating the American Airlines Theater with a performance that draws you into the troubled heart of her character with such natural grace that it is easy to forget that she is giving a performance at all.

But there are also occasions when I succumb to the pleasures of a performer serving up more ham than you’d ever find between slices of bread at the Carnegie Deli. A current case in point would have to be Kevin Spacey’s audience-devouring turn as the title character in “Richard III,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater as part of the Bridge Project. In contrast to previous productions from the company, a venture led by Sam Mendes that combines American and British casts in classical (mostly Shakespearean) productions, this is indubitably a star-driven vehicle, and for not one moment during the production’s daunting three-and-a-half-hour running time are you likely to forget it. (I concur with my colleague Ben Brantley in his observation that with a couple of exceptions, “basically the ensemble is only scenery for Mr. Spacey to gnaw upon.”)


Mr. Spacey delights in particular in turning his character’s monologues into intimate colloquies with the audience, in which Richard invites us to partake willingly of the unseemly pleasure Richard takes in executing his own evil designs. And, boy are we eager to sign up. Despite the humpback and the draggy leg, Mr. Spacey all but capers through the role with a kind of glee that’s infectious.


Flashing out comic asides and even indulging in that greatest of actorial no-no’s, upstaging another actor with a look or a gesture, he had the audience I watched the show with feasting on the performance as if it were a big bowl of macaroni and cheese sprinkled with truffle oil. Standing ovations at the Brooklyn Academy of Music all too often strike me as self-congratulatory displays of the audience’s discerning taste at supporting the latest in fancy-pants European theater. But in this case the leap up was clearly inspired by a lusty appreciation for Mr. Spacey’s daredevil performance, which includes a stagy bit of business at the end that was like the last scoop of that gooey macaroni and cheese.


Does Mr. Spacey’s take on the character illuminate the character’s twisted psychology in any new ways? Not really. His Richard comes across as a snarling dog foaming at the mouth in some scenes, a silken seducer in others, a bratty child deprived of his Halloween candy in others, but there is never a point at which the character’s dark deeds are felt to be grounded in truly plausible human feeling. When the late-coming confessions of haunted remorse arrive, Mr. Spacey delivers them with due deference, but it’s the prancing evildoer we really find convincing, and irresistible.


So while there is nary an understated note struck in the performance, those three-plus hours flew by mighty quickly. I can’t say I entirely respected Mr. Spacey’s endlessly ingratiating performance, but I definitely enjoyed it, as you enjoy indulging in something that you know is bad for you but cannot resist. For once Lady Anne’s quick turnabout from bilious hate to pondering a wedding dress seemed if not rational, then at least faintly believable. Mr. Spacey’s Richard really does resemble the kind of guy a woman knows she shouldn’t go near — but somehow she ends up hopping on the back of the motorcycle anyway.

Mr. Spacey’s Richard has leapt to the top of my list of shameless performances I have no shame in admitting I enjoyed, but I’d be curious to hear about yours. Surely there’s a guilty-pleasure star turn in the past that you’ve secretly (or not) delighted in, even as you’ve sorrowfully concurred with the critics that it’s outlandishly over-the-top?



I am wondering if others would care to comment upon Shakespearean acting, the Spacey Richard III, or the number 42?


Also, we have had many conversations about production recently, is there anyone who would like to take the conversations into a different realm?


Best wishes,



PS: Yesterday, I renewed my subscription for the next season at the Shakespeare Theater. 


Shakespeare’s Coriolanus


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.068  Sunday, 19 February 2012


From:        Ellen Moody <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 19, 2012 8:40:30 AM EST

Subject:     Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, a film by Fiennes, featuring Redgrave


Dear all,


A review. Do what you have to do to see this film. Don’t miss it. It

speaks home to us about our world. It’s Shakespeare all right too, a

truly great film adaptation, performances, mise-en-scene. It seemed to

me to break with conventions of such films




Ellen Moody


[Editor’s Note: I took the following from Ellen’s blog. –Hardy]


I suppose my reader knows the play’s story; if not, here’s a synopsis. This, so I can cut immediately to what makes the film so riveting and important: the acting and how Shakespeare’s core story was made a parable for our times combined with the directing in the context of its mise-en-scene. I’ve just read Stephen Greenblatt’s review in the NYRB (59:4, March 8, 2012, 4, 6) It’s unfair to Fiennes. How irresistible it is to ridicule, especially when a character role demands no humor from the actor — though Fiennes managed a moment here and there, as when in exile we see him like today’s homeless people, sitting in front of his tent, looking cold, hungry, slightly puzzled, staring at his stuff.


Fiennes’s directing (the blocking) and acting were (as they say) pitch perfect, uncannily so. I’ve seen him as good before and unlike many other actors he can take on many types (from the bullying dense duke of The Duchess, to the sensitive diplomat of Constant Gardener [the film is dedicated to Simon Channing-Williams who directed CG], to Heathcliff, to the neurotic, yes seeming tall, thin and tortured in an early Prime Suspect). Here he actually managed to project sensitivity now and again amid the crazed militarism of Caius Marcius. The towering fits of rage where he spits out intense hatred and scorn for ordinary people and most of his peers are brought on by something in him that is a nervous wreck, neurotic, but not intimations of Hamlet because there is something dark in his eyes, obtuse, and he is edginess itself. Fiennes may have meant to evoke Marlon Brando in Apocalypse; he was Kurtz looking out at the world and his reasons for refusing to condescend to ask for votes, to taken on the role of suppliant had also to do with an appalled horror at the world he lived in, his own values somehow, not just patrician disgust. (In Tinker Tailor Colin Firth also channeled as they say Brando, but as in The Godfather.) So Shakespeare’s basically conservative message was altered to fit our era, especially perhaps this year, say since 9/14/08, the real year the world changed: when Lehman Bros came near default and the economic and political systems we endure began to be laid bare before us. If there was some music from Apocalypse Now I didn’t hear it. The film had sequences of no-music in the background a lot.


I haven’t seen Vanessa Redgrave in so great a part, one worthy, giving room for abilities in years. (The Merchant-Ivories didn’t.) It’s hard for older women to find great parts. If possible, she was even better than Fiennes. Utterly plausible. Not some scold, not a domineering termagant, but sure of herself with her son. The best scene in the movie was a longish one of her rubbing his really woundered body all over with her hands, binding his wounds with gauze, all around his body, his arms lovingly, as he places himself intimately within the folds of her body. This is followed by a silent one of him lying looking in pain but resting in bed, with Virginia (Jessica Chastain) coming up to him, and gingerly lying down alongside him. This actress does seem to have been chosen because she looks like young actresses all do recently: super-skinny yet large breasted, curvy thickish lips, a jutting kind of face: the way Julia Roberts looked when young, and Cate Blanchet is attempting to keep up nowadays. Chastain can weep, look as if she’d like to escape all this, and has a scene gathering her boys’ toys — naturally a plastic sub-machine gun and other implements of death by his bed. Redgrave (bless her), like Emma Thompson, has not gone super-thin; she still has her regal body, smooth if aging face. Her smiles gave me the creeps, but I think she is not blamed for what happens. One danger of this play is it may be read simply as see what mothers do. No. Fiennes was his own man, the product that belongs to the world around him.


[ . . . ]


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