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'The Spanish Tragedy' at The Mobtown Players

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.318  Monday, 14 July 2014


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

Date:         July 13, 2014 at 9:53:14 AM EDT

Subject:    'The Spanish Tragedy' at The Mobtown Players


[Editor’s Note: This production might be of interest to people in the Maryland and DC area. –Hardy]


‘The Spanish Tragedy’ at The Mobtown Players

by Amanda Gunther on July 12, 2014


Revenge. A dark, twisted and sinister emotion run afoul from the depths of scorn and tragedy; a human emotion vocalized when things go wrong. And despite springtime flooding costing them their theatrical space, The Mobtown Players are surging forward with the powder keg of revenge tragedies. The first of its genre, TMP proudly presents the Baltimore area premier of Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. Adapted by Joshua and Kat McKerrow, this deeply moving tragedy is the first of its kind to bring violence and gore to the stage from the Elizabethan/Jacobean Shakespearean era.


Simplicity is the friend of Director Joshua McKerrow in keeping to the basics as far as scenic design and effects of lighting and sound. It is Costume Designer Kat McKerrow that really hones the focus on the originating time period of the performance with her elaborate, highly detailed, and intrinsically textured outfits. McKerrow—and her army of nearly a dozen costume construction crew—build fascinatingly authentic period pieces for everyone in the cast. Between Don Andrea’s chainmail and worn banner flags of battle, to the stunning full hooped gown in scarlet and black, McKerrow leaves no detail unattended to in regards to outfitting the characters of the show. Even the simple costumes, like the nighttime dressing gowns saved for Isabella and Hieronimo are tailored to the style of the era. McKerrow’s work grounds this production in its time and makes it authentic for those watching.


Joshua and Kat McKerrow’s adaptation of the play is a unique one. Trimming the production down to the bones, it keeps the essence of revenge without the entanglement of side plots and excessive expository moments. This keeps the play running smoothly with a modest pacing scheme to the scenes. The play’s only major downfall is that the size of Saint Mary’s Great Hall is truly enormous and at times the voices of the performers are swallowed up in its magnitude. This happens mostly when characters turn from the audience and their mouths are not facing to project outward. These moments aside, the show is well guided to move swiftly and deliver the idea of revenge without hesitation.


The acting all around in this production is solid. Hieronimo (Frank Vince) who inherits the notion of this ‘inverse/reversed’ Hamlet of stories creates a shockingly grounded presence on stage. Captured inside the emotional turmoil of the character, Vince expounds upon the plight of Horatio at great lengths; a display of true Elizabethan acting. His moments of madness (justifying the lesser used title of Hieronimo is Mad Again) are create a palpable sense of distress in the air. His lamentations are articulated and executed with precision, easily landing the tricky canter of the time’s meandering meter.


Abused and thwarted by various and sundry is dear Pedringano (Jeffrey Gangwisch.) With the physical mannerisms of a servant, Gangwisch embodies this turncoat character with an unusually awkward gait, making the character’s end even more jarring than average. Played the fool to the very end, Gangwisch’s demise is as tragic as the title of the show implies. Other physical and vocal performances of note include the King of Spain (Daniel Douek) who is a pillar of determination and calm, bursting only into an emotional storm near the end of the production. Isabella (Jennifer Hasselbusch) has a similar moment, appearing briefly save for her tumultuous outcry over her son Horatio’s death. Hasselbusch and Douek both have reserved characterizations that allow their momentary eruptions of feeling to punctuate the plot with emotional fortitude.


Lovers in a dangerous time does not being to describe Horatio (Rob Vary) and Bellimperia (Kat McKerrow.) Vary is only allowed a brief time in which to grow his character but the choices made make him a strong and suitable lovebird for the lovely Bellimperia. His violent skirmish in the garden sparks the pilot light for Bellimperia’s personally motivated revenge. McKerrow crafts an exceptionally striking presence upon the stage; at times horrifically creepy— particularly near the show’s conclusion as she stares with a lost burning in her eyes out over the audience, looking practically possessed. Her ability to manipulate the emotions of the character, fine-tuning them to the situation at hand and pulling them through a narrow needle-eye of a story arc creates for fine theatrical drama. Her ability to transition from magnetic chemistry with Vary’s character quite quickly into repulsion and disgust at Balthazar (Matthew Purpora) is also worthy of note.


Purpora, making up one half of the villainous knaves in this production, albeit the lesser though more arrogant half, delivers his princely intentions with something akin to charisma. Blended into the backward workings of Lorenzo’s (Bill Soucy) schemes, his attempts to woo Bellimperia are classically narcissistic and haughty. Soucy, as the rakish knave, serves as a master conductor to these proceedings. Laying the track work for villainy and loathsome practices, Soucy’s brand of evil is translated as a disgusting event and by the end of the performance it easy to be seething with distaste for his character. His sharp textual delivery and vocal intensity enhances the negative attributes of his character’s existence, creating the epitome of sadistic evil captured inside a human body.


The carefully laid framework of the production involves Don Andrea (Megan Farber) and Revenge (Shelby Monroe) as guiding narrative forces; a unique hybrid between a protagonist and an observer. Farber’s opening monologue is delivered from a hallowed place within her; a silence radiating through her figure that creates a vocal stillness in her woeful tale. This moment sets the tone for the play and invites the audience to the perilous journey of revenge that lies ahead. Monroe, a physical embodiment of an emotion called forth from the bowels of hell, takes a terrifying and yet titillating approach to the character. There is nothing more easily possessed by revenge than a teenage girl, and Monroe makes that evident in her presence, delighting as these wicked deeds unfold before her eyes. At first her cheerful delight seems curious, but the longer it exists the creepier it grows until it is thoroughly disturbing. Though speaking only a handful of lines, her character’s importance and effect are strongly felt throughout the entire production; the lingering remnants of maniacal bliss in the face of death and destruction far too revolting to ignore.


Quite the impressive performance, particularly with the all the blood to be shed, The Spanish Tragedy has a limited number of performances so be sure to grab your tickets quickly.


Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes, with one intermission.


The Spanish Tragedy runs through July 26, 2014 at The Mobtown players playing in The Great Hall at Saint Mary’s of Baltimore—3900 Roland Avenue, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets may be purchased at the door or online.

Searching for Shakespeare Stateside

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.317  Monday, 14 July 2014


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

Date:         July 13, 2014 at 9:51:44 AM EDT

Subject:    Searching for Shakespeare Stateside


[Editor’s Note: This article is from the Stratford Observer online. –Hardy]


SHAKESPEARE is hitting the road Stateside.


A Shakespeare on the Road team on July 4 - which also happens to be American Independence Day - started on an epic road trip all around North America in a unique project to discover and document the untold story of the Bard in the USA.


The project - a collaborative venture by The University of Warwick and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - aims to capture, for the first time, a comprehensive picture of Shakespeare’s place in contemporary American culture through the voices of artists and audiences across the continent.


And one thing they are guaranteed to find is a passion for the Bard.

The amount of Shakespearean theatre-making in America dwarves that of any other country, the UK included. Every summer from sea to shining sea – from spit-and-sawdust performances in local parks to slick professional productions in reconstructed Elizabethan playhouses – the Bard busts out all over the USA.


Nearly every state - including Hawaii and Alaska - has its own seasonal festival devoted to the playwright.


There are actually more dedicated Shakespeare companies in California alone than there are in the whole of the UK. Shakespeare may not have been born in the USA, but from the founding of the republic to the present day, he appears to be immensely at home there.


Project leaders Dr Paul Prescott, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, and Rev Dr Paul Edmondson, Head of Research and Knowledge at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, explained their aim.


"We will be visiting 14 Shakespeare festivals across the length and breadth of North America starting on July 4 in Kansas City and ending in Washington DC in early September. Over 60 days, we’ll travel roughly 10,000 miles, see dozens of Shakespeare productions and meet hundreds of the people who – year in, year out – give fresh life to Shakespeare across the country.


"Our ambition is to take the pulse of Shakespeare’s presence in American culture in the 450th anniversary of his birth.


"Along the way, we speak to actors, audience members, creatives, community organizers, philanthropists and hot-dog sellers about what Shakespeare means to them and their community.


"Why, in the face of patchy funding and an often indifferent mainstream culture, do they keep doing Shakespeare? What does the ubiquity of Shakespeare in the USA say about American attitudes to Britain and British culture?


"All too often, Americans are expected to make the pilgrimage to the UK – and especially Stratford-upon-Avon – to pay homage and to learn how Shakespeare ‘should be done’. We want to reverse the direction of pilgrimage and showcase how much the rest of the world has to learn from the rich and varied versions of Shakespeare produced annually in North America."


Visit to follow the unfolding journey. 

Globe Julius Caesar Review

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.316  Monday, 14 July 2014


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

Date:         July 12, 2014 at 12:28:35 PM EDT

Subject:    Globe Julius Caesar Review: Blood on Their Hands


[Editor’s Note: This review is from the most recent TLS. If you do not have a subscription and would like a copy of the complete review, please email me. –Hardy]


Blood on their hands 

Lois Potter 


William Shakespeare 

Julius Caesar 

Shakespeare’s Globe, until October 11 


The scene in the foyer of the Globe might make one fear the worst. An actor tries to read a condensed version of The Rape of Lucrece (“by Bacon, or Oxford, or someone, I don’t know”) in competition with noisy actors celebrating the feast of Lupercal with football songs. Meanwhile, the audience inside the theatre sees workmen building a triumphal arch for Caesar’s entry (modelled, the programme says, on one for James I, who entered London on the Ides of March, 1604) and the Lupercalian mob carry their celebration into the theatre itself, shouting for “Caesar!” The tribunes confront them, succeed in shutting them up, and the play begins. 


Once it gets everyone’s attention, however, Dominic Dromgoole’s production turns out to be a thoughtful reading of one of Shakespeare’s most thoughtful plays, and one in which groundlings are not encouraged to emulate the bad behaviour of the Roman mob. The play’s basic (and unanswered) question – is it better to leave a strong man in power or to remove him and risk civil war? – has such obvious contemporary relevance that Dromgoole does not need to underline it. The costumes are Elizabethan, with white togas added only for the Senate. I was struck by how much these clothes helped the actors. Dressed like an Elizabethan malcontent rather than a philosopher, Christopher Logan’s waspish Casca could convincingly move from the cynicism of his first scene to the superstitious terror of his second. He was also helped by the production’s emphasis on Roman religion. At the start of the second scene, someone flings down a dead deer and the Lupercal runners dip into its blood, anticipating Antony’s later comparison of the dead Caesar to “a deer, stricken by many princes”. From the start, it is clear that Romans are used to getting blood on their hands. 


Dromgoole’s semi-memoir, Will and Me (2006), is absolutely clear about how to play Shakespeare, “keeping it light and fast, and not signposting intentions, just speaking”. This is what we get: the production moves rapidly, with overlapping entrances and exits, and the constant shift of sympathies that is built into the play. George Irving’s mesmerizing Caesar dominates all his scenes. As his procession moves through the yard, the great man presses a purse into the hand of a beggar and the whole crowd shares the recipient’s joy at the arbitrary generosity of the absolute ruler. In some productions Calpurnia is shown to be humiliated when Caesar publicly asks Antony to perform a ritual touching that will make her fertile; here, when Antony does it, she and Caesar embrace, excited about the prospect of a child. 


[ . . . ] 


The play is designed to let Antony take over at its halfway point. He is not played with hindsight about his future in the still unwritten Antony and Cleopatra – which, perhaps deliberately, opened at the Globe before its predecessor. And this seems right; the two Antonys are differently imagined and this production’s emphasis on living in the moment enables Luke Thompson brilliantly to be both the light-hearted figure of the opening scenes and the heartlessly casual triumvir in the second half of the play. In the Forum scene, his notorious claim, “I am no orator, as Brutus is”, made some spectators laugh, coming as it did after he had whipped up the Romans to a frenzy. Yet it was justified by the hesitant and emotional opening of his speech and by his apparent spontaneity throughout. Only in the few seconds in which he remained onstage alone was there the possibility that he realized what he had done, or even that he had planned it from the start. 


[ . . . ]

Romeo and Juliet in Harlem . . .

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.315  Friday, 11 July 2014


From:        Aleta Chappelle (AletaFilms) < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         July 9, 2014 at 5:41:02 PM EDT

Subject:    Romeo and Juliet in Harlem . . . 


My name is Aleta Chappelle and I wrote the screenplay adaptation and I’m the director of ROMEO AND JULIET IN HARLEM. The film has been accepted at the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival and it will screen Wednesday, July 16th at 7PM.


We would love to get the word out to the Shakespeare community, not only because we’d love to have them come to the screening but also we’d love them to follow our progress on Facebook.


Here’s our Facebook page;


Here’s more info about the screening and tickets;


Our “new” shorter ROMEO & JULIET in HARLEM Trailer:



I know it’s short notice but I hope you can help us. This is a unique production with a total cast of color and our goal it to keep Shakespeare’s works alive as we perform his text in a modern day urban setting.


Please contact me if you have questions or need more information.


Thank you,


Shakespeare Digital Challenge

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.314  Friday, 11 July 2014


From:        Alexa Huang < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         July 9, 2014 at 5:55:44 PM EDT

Subject:    Shakespeare Digital Challenge


From Alexa Huang, Chair of the MLA Committee on the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare 




The New Variorum Shakespeare Digital Challenge: The Second Round


The MLA Committee on the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare (NVS) is sponsoring its second digital challenge to find the most innovative and compelling uses of the data contained in one of the NVS editions. This year the MLA is making available the XML files and schema for two volumes, The Winter’s Tale and The Comedy of Errors, under a Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0 license.


Scholars can freely download the XML files and schema from GitHub:


The committee seeks entries featuring new means of displaying, representing, and exploring this data in the most exciting API, interface, visualization, or data-mining project. It is especially interested in entries that combine the NVS data with another Shakespearian project, such as Folger Digital Texts, Internet Shakespeare Editions, or Open Source Shakespeare. The goal is to see the possibilities of the NVS in digital form and, in particular, the innovations in scholarly research that might be enabled by opening up the NVS’s code. Projects will thus be judged both on the quality of the interface they provide for the NVS and on the insights produced by the mash-up.


The deadline for entries is 1 September 2014. The committee will assess the submissions and select the winner no later than 1 October 2014. The prize of $500 and an award certificate will be given at the 2015 MLA convention in Vancouver.


Entries may be sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Questions about the NVS Digital Challenge should be addressed to Kathleen Fitzpatrick, director of scholarly communication, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


For more information about our partner projects, please contact Michael Best ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), of Internet Shakespeare Editions, or Eric Johnson ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), of Open Source Shakespeare and Folger Digital Texts.


Please note that our partners are available to answer questions about the resources, not to provide technical support.


For more info and to see winners of the first round, visit:

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