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Review: ‘Something Rotten!’

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.197  Monday, 20 April 2015


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

Date:         April 19, 2015 at 8:26:53 AM EDT

Subject:    Review: ‘Something Rotten!’


In ‘Something Rotten!,’ if Music Be the Food of Farce, Play On

By Charles McGrath

APRIL 16, 2015


“Something Rotten!,” which opens Wednesday, is about a pair of brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, Elizabethan-era playwrights who are more or less learning on the job. Unable to get anywhere in a theatrical world dominated by Shakespeare, they consult a soothsayer, who informs them that the next new thing will be the musical, and with mixed results they set about trying to write one. An early number they drop, for example, is a celebration of the Black Death.


The real-life brothers behind this concoction, Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, would be the first to admit that when starting out they were almost equally clueless. Unless you count high school in Baton Rouge, La., they had no musical theater experience at all — which makes it all the more surprising that their maiden effort is coming to Broadway, with a $14.5 million budget and a blue-chip cast but without the benefit of an out-of-town tryout.


By now there’s a long tradition, going back to “The Boys From Syracuse” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” of Shakespeare-inspired musicals. (Meat Loaf starred in the short-lived “Rockabye Hamlet” in 1976, and “These Paper Bullets!,” which matches “Much Ado About Nothing” with music by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, is scheduled to open Off Broadway later this year.) “Something Rotten!” is a little more antic than most, making fun of Shakespeare even as it steals from him, and at the St. James Theater, where the show is in previews, a kind of very cheerful anarchy prevails — an Elizabethan willingness to try anything.


Wayne Kirkpatrick, at 53 the older, shorter and shyer of the two, is a successful Nashville songwriter. He’s made some records himself — in a sweet, bluesy tenor — but is probably best known for songs like the Grammy-winning “Change the World,” recorded by Eric Clapton, and “Wrapped Up in You,” made famous by Garth Brooks. Karey Kirkpatrick, 50, the more talkative, made his name in the film business, helping to write and direct animated movies like “Chicken Run,” “Over the Hedge” and “James and the Giant Peach.”

Whenever they got together, the brothers said recently, they used to knock around ideas for a musical. For a while, they worked on one based on the Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee play “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.” But it never happened, Wayne Kirkpatrick explained, because they were too dumb to secure the rights.


They didn’t know a whole lot more about Shakespeare than they did about show business, Karey Kirkpatrick said, but that didn’t stop them from bouncing around 15 years’ worth of jokes based on the idea of a Shakespearean-era musical: What if there were a pair of agents back then called William and Morris, and a law firm called Rosen, Krantz & Guildenstern?


The plot took on more shape in 2011, when John O’Farrell, an English humorist, novelist and nonfiction author who had worked with Karey Kirkpatrick on the script for “Chicken Run,” came on board and began writing a real book for the show. Mr. O’Farrell was no Shakespeare scholar either, but that didn’t stop him from shamelessly ripping off the Elizabethans. In following the rivalry between the Bottom brothers (Brian d’Arcy James and John Cariani) and a puffed-up Shakespeare (the Tony winner Christian Borle), “Something Rotten!” now borrows or alludes to just about every Shakespearean convention you can imagine. There’s a soothsayer, a Jewish money lender, a female character disguised as a man, a pair of star-crossed lovers and lots of misappropriated lines from “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Richard II.”


This is all highly appropriate, according to James Shapiro, a Shakespeare expert at Columbia University. Shakespeare was himself a magpie, Mr. Shapiro explained, borrowing and copying from others; not only that, but also the notion of an Elizabethan musical is not as far-fetched as it seems.


“Look at ‘As You Like It,’ ” he said. “It has several songs, including one by Thomas Morley, one of the leading musicians of the day, and a big grand finale. You sense Shakespeare sort of feeling his way toward something like a musical, and by the time it gets revived in the 18th century, it’s really a full-fledged one. So these Bottoms are really on to something. They didn’t need to go to a soothsayer.”


[ . . . ]


Review: ‘Hamlet’ as an After-Party

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.196  Monday, 20 April 2015


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

Date:         April 17, 2015 at 8:51:34 AM EDT

Subject:    Review: ‘Hamlet’ as an After-Party


Review: ‘Hamlet’ as an After-Party That Got Out of Hand

By Charles Isherwood

April 15, 2015


A lavish tiered wedding cake stands sentinel throughout the new production of “Hamlet” that opened Wednesday at the Classic Stage Company, with Peter Sarsgaard in the title role. As the presence of this big pile of pastry suggests, the concept behind this stylish-looking modern-dress production directed by Austin Pendleton essentially presents the action as a long dramatic hangover after the wedding celebrations for Claudius (Harris Yulin) and Gertrude (Penelope Allen).


A bar with top-shelf liquor sits in one corner of the theater, a cocktail table in another. At center stage for most of the drama is a round table set for a celebratory dinner, surrounded by black cane chairs, the kind that gnaw into your back at formal functions. (The all black-and-white set design is by Walt Spangler; the formal-wear costumes, in the same palette, are by Constance Hoffman.) Unfortunately, by the end of this respectable but sluggish production, which runs over three hours, you may feel as you do after attending one of those overblown weddings that seem to go on for days, and sometimes do. In other words, dazed and ready for bed.


Mr. Pendleton is an accomplished actor and director who staged three of this company’s uneven cycle of Chekhov’s major plays (Mr. Sarsgaard appeared in his “Uncle Vanya” and “Three Sisters”), and recently the fine production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s “Between Riverside and Crazy.” He also has a distinguished reputation as an acting teacher. It’s the spirit of the pedagogue – a slightly overindulgent one – that seems to get the upper hand during the more ponderous expanses of the production, when bits of business that could easily be dispatched more quickly are belabored.

Even minor characters are given license to make the most of their moments in the spotlight, as when the Player King (Jim Broaddus) and Queen (Scott Parkinson) perform the murder of Gonzago with such sustained emotional intensity that you’d think the play really was the thing, and not Claudius’s angry response to it. (It doesn’t help that Claudius is seated with his back to about half the audience, so many of us don’t get to witness that reaction.)


Mr. Sarsgaard, with his head shaved (he holds Yorick’s bare skull up beside it, in an effective bit of business during the graveyard scene), delivers an emotionally intense and lucid Hamlet. But his Hamlet doesn’t seem tortured by indecision and the weight of his particular responsibility; rather, he seems generally cranky and angry at the world, prone to fits of sarcasm and petulance – as well as the occasional snort of cocaine.


The decision to excise the ghost of Hamlet’s father from the production – the most radical change here – points to the possibility that Hamlet’s pursuit of vengeance may stem from his own psychological problems. Perhaps Hamlet conjured the ghost himself as a pretext for working out his mommy and stepdaddy issues? Mr. Sarsgaard’s performance, which rises to tantrum-level anger in the second act, bears out this interpretation. (There’s also rather too much sawing of the air with his hands, which Hamlet famously anathematizes in his speech to the players.)


There are virtues in his always watchable if rarely penetrating interpretation. Mr. Sarsgaard speaks the verse in an easily digested colloquial style that fits snugly within the production’s modern-dress context. And his Hamlet remains mordantly aware of the semicomic nature of his predicament; his eyes glint with slightly nasty humor when he taunts Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for being pawns of Claudius, and he brings an unusual dry humor to the graveyard scene.


But the emphasis on making Hamlet our contemporary has its drawbacks. There’s little sustained lyricism in his reading of the verse; all the poetry seems to have leaked out, replaced by fractured bursts of tempestuous feeling. The trouble is, the beauty of Hamlet’s language is a direct expression of his soul’s depths and the fine intricacy of his mind. When the lyric flow of that language is slighted, the character inevitably becomes more shallow.


[ . . . ]

Gail Kern Paster April 20 at 3:30

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.195  Monday, 20 April 2015


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

Date:         April 16, 2015 at 3:55:30 PM EDT

Subject:    Gail Kern Paster April 20 at 3:30


On Monday, April 20 at 3:30, Gail Kern Paster will be giving a talk titled “Bodies without Borders: King Lear, Lady Macbeth, and the Ecology of Their Passions.” The talk with be held in Tawes 2115 and is part of the Marshall Grossman Lecture Series. This paper has overlapping interest with affect theory, the subject/object divide, and poetic form.


Gail Kern Paster is the editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, the former director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Professor Emeritus of English at The George Washington University. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles and three books— Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (2004), The Idea of the City in the Age of Shakespeare (1986), and The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (1993), as well as the co-editor of the Bedford Books’ Midsummer Night’s Dream: Texts and Contexts (1998), editor of Thomas Middleton’s 1607 comedy, Michaelmas Term (2000), and co-editor (with Mary Floyd-Wilson and Katherine A. Rowe) of Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion (2004).


Best Wishes, 

Jeffrey B. Griswold

PhD Student 

Department of English

University of Maryland

Call for Papers: ESTS

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.194  Monday, 20 April 2015


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

Date:         April 20, 2015 at 5:43:29 AM EDT

Subject:    Call for Papers: ESTS


The Bibliographical Society has kindly agreed to fund four “Bibliographical Society Studentships” for the conference “Users of Scholarly Editions: Editorial Anticipations of Reading, Studying and Consulting”, the 12th annual meeting of the European Society for Textual Scholarship (ESTS), to be held in Leicester, England, on 19-21 November 2015.


The Call for Papers for the conference is copied below.  The best four proposals for papers by post-graduate applicants will each receive a 60 GBP bursary to defray their costs in attending the conference to give their papers. Applicants should mention in their proposals that they are post-graduate students.




Gabriel Egan

Conference organizer


"Users of Scholarly Editions: Editorial Anticipations of Reading, Studying and Consulting"


The 12th Annual Conference of the European Society for

Textual Scholarship (ESTS) will be held at the Centre

for Textual Studies, De Montfort University, Leicester

England 19-21 November 2015


The ESTS returns to Leicester where it was founded in 2001 to stage a major collective investigation into the state and future of scholarly editing. Our focus is the needs of users of scholarly editions and proposals for 20 minute papers are invited on topics such as:


* Are users' needs changing?

* How does edition design shape use?

* Stability in print and digital

* Where are we in the study of mise en page?

* Facsimiles and scholarly editions

* Collaborative and social editing

* Editorial specialization in the digital age

* APIs and mashups versus anticipation

* The logic of annotation

* Is zero the best price point for editions?

* Readers versus users

* Can we assume a general reader'?

* Indexing and annotation versus search

* Editors, publishers and Open Access

* Is technology changing editing?

* Digital editions or digital archives?

* Are editions ever obsolete?

* Scholarly editions versus popular editions

* Any other topic related to the use or users of scholarly editions


Plenary Speaker (subject to confirmation) include:


Hans Walter Gabler (Munich University)

David Greetham (City University of New York)

Tim William Machan (Notre Dame University)

Gary Taylor (Florida State University)

Elaine Treharne (Stanford University)

Andrew Prescott (Glasgow University)


Hands-on workshops will be given on setting movable type, letterpress printing, and getting started with XML.


Proposals (max 300 words) for 20-minute papers should be emailed to Prof Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it > by 15 May 2015


See for information and registration

CFP: Postgraduate Shakespeare Conference on “Waste”

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.193  Monday, 20 April 2015


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

Date:         April 18, 2015 at 1:26:31 PM EDT

Subject:    CFP: Postgraduate Shakespeare Conference on “Waste”




Would you be so kind as to send this Call For Papers for a postgraduate Shakespeare conference on the topic of “waste” (that I am helping to organize) at the Rose Theatre in Kingston on Saturday, 23 May?


We are also beginning a new Shakespeare seminar for postgraduates, in coordination with the London Graduate School entitled “Kingston Shakespeare Seminar in Theory” (also advertised on that page). 



Kingston Shakespeare Seminar (KiSS)


Kingston Shakespeare Seminar in Theory



Kingston Shakespeare Seminar (KiSS), part of the London Graduate School, announces the launch of Kingston Shakespeare Seminar in Theory (KiSSiT): a series of seminars and conferences for postgraduate students and early career scholars with an interest in Shakespeare, philosophy and theory. The program will be committed to thinking through Shakespeare about urgent contemporary issues in dialogue with the work of past and present philosophers – from Aristotle to Žižek.


It is intended that one-day KiSSiT conferences will be held three times a year at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames, which was developed by the great director Sir Peter Hall to be a ‘teaching theatre’, where actors and academics would work together. KiSSiT events will be free and open to all.


The inaugural KiSSIT conference will take place at the Rose Theatre on Saturday 23 May, 2015, on the theme of SHAKESPEARE AND WASTE (see CFP below). Auditors are also encouraged to attend. Confirmed speakers include Scott Wilson (Kingston University) and Peter Smith (Nottingham Trent University).


Although there is no attendance fee, seating is limited, and registration is necessary: see email contact below.


Reduced-price tickets will be available to all participants for the evening performance at the Rose Theatre of Jonathan Miller’s acclaimed production of King Lear, starring Barrie Rutter




The Oxford English Dictionary lists three main senses for ‘waste’ in the English language:

  1. Waste or desert land
  2. Action or process of wasting
  3. Waste matter, refuse

The conference invites abstracts for 20 minute papers which fit under these broad headings


Papers might consider, but are not limited to, the following areas and questions:

  • The early modern association between waste and idleness
  • The link between waste (land) and wilderness
  • Waste paper
  • Economic concerns relating to Shakespeare
  • Do waste products of the body suggest a leveling and/or intensification of social hierarchy?
  • The relationship between human waste and abjection
  • The concept of human waste associated with digestion, purging, emetics, and / or blood-letting
  • The concept and processes of ‘catharsis’ in relation to waste
  • Waste in King Lear
  • What does the imagery of contamination by human waste (muddy fountains / cisterns, stains, filth) suggest about the relationship between racial and ethnic groups?
  • Human waste as the traditional Protestant symbol of money; conversely, money as the denial of feces and its evocation of the human body as pure physicality

Organizers: Johann Gregory, Paul Hamilton, Anne Sophie Refskou, Timo Uotinen, Richard Wilson.


Please submit abstracts and brief CVs, or register as an auditor, by emailing the organizers at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it before 1 May, 2015 (auditors may register before 15 May)


Please indicate whether you would like to book a ticket for King Lear in your mail.


Best Wishes, 

Paul Hamilton

Shakespeare Institute 


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