Summer Shakespeare Plays and Festivals

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0272  Thursday, 6 June 2013

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

Date:         Thursday, June 6, 2013

Subject:     Yet Another of Hardy’s Ideas


Dear SHAKSPER Subscribers,


A thought occurred to me the other day. Let me explain the context. 


More than 20 years ago, when I was working with Louis Marder as a Contributing Editor to The Shakespeare Newsletter, one of the jobs I was tasked with doing was to compile a list of summer Shakespeare festivals and performances. Louis’ idea was that making a list of Shakespeare plays and festivals for the summer season available with addresses and contact information might provide interested persons the opportunity to attend generally accessible Shakespeare productions, frequently in outdoor, inexpensive or even free venues. 


So I thought why not update and expand this idea using SHAKSPER’s approximately 1,100 members as a pool of potential reviewers who would provide brief accounts of summer Shakespeare productions they attend, sharing these accounts with each other on SHAKSPER, and thus having them available in the Archive for anyone who might in the future find the account helpful. 


I am not proposing a formal apparatus. I am not suggesting there be reviewer selection or peer review of performance accounts. I am simply suggesting that if a SHAKSPER member attends a production this summer and wishes to do so that she send the review/account to the list as just another possible subject for discussion. 


There is no need to discuss this idea, no need to establish a structure, no need to do anything other than provide a review/account of productions you see this summer. 


As one athletic company’s motto goes, “Just DO IT!”






The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0271  Wednesday, 5 June 2013


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

Date:         June 5, 2013 3:50:19 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Petruchio


What’s in a name?


Love this discussion about Petruchio. 

There are several others in the play named and not necessarily seen. 

Like Antony and Potpan and Nell and Susan Grindstone amongst the Capulet servants. 

All of them knaves according to Capulet’s commands. 


Also the son and heir of old Tiberio and the afore-mentioned young Petruchio. 


The party guests named in the letter the servant can’t read. Illiteracy and literacy being sharply delineated by the Petrarchan love of Romeo and the grounded first true love of Juliet. Artifice vs Nature. 


‘Signior Martino and his wife and daughters;

County Anselme and his beauteous sisters; 

the lady widow of Vitravio;

Signior Placentio and his lovely nieces; 

Mercutio and his brother Valentine; 

mine uncle Capulet, his wife and daughters;

my fair niece Rosaline; Livia; 

Signior Valentio and his cousin Tybalt, 

Lucio and the lively Helena.’ 


A fair assembly indeed as in the ball took place and one assumes they are among the mingling guests, 


Valentine the absent brother of Mercutio.

And just where the hell is Rosaline, except on about five or six key characters lips and on the invitation. A Capulet and Juliet’s cousin. Sister to Tybalt, no; Lord Capulet’s side of the family and fair? 


Then those musicians first, second, and third: Simon Catling, Hugh Rebeck and James (Jack) Soundpost. Usually assigned character descriptions as 1st 2nd 3rd Musician when they are readily identifiable and have specific monikers. The music of love in the play being firmly grounded in words and not music, as in the callous musicians hanging out for a free meal while the supposedly dead Juliet lies upstairs. No music with her silver sound for heart’s ease unless you pay for it. The Friar had promised them a gig he knew would not be going through.


It’s funny that the servant names are very English and not very Italian. 


The watchmen likewise first second third. No names but there are more than just two companions commanded by the first: 

‘go some of you whoe’er you find attach’ suggests several to search the immediate vicinity and arrest suspects,

‘go tell the prince’ is to Paris’ page

‘the Capulets’ 2nd watchman

and ‘the Montagues’ 3rd watchman

and then some others search. 

Who's left? The ghosts of Mercutio and Tybalt?


So how many are there?


The citizens too who are sick of the feuding and interrupt the first street brawl.

All help to populate this civic fiction, this two hours traffic of our stage.


My favourite bit of aurally nominally truthful text is Juliet’s:


My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words

Of that tongue’s utterance, yet I know the sound:


and indeed their recently spoken and shared sonnet amounts to about 90 words for Romeo.


Art thou not Romeo and a Montague?


What’s in a name?


Sound and fury signifying nothing. Or everything. Or something.


Musingly yours,

William S-)


Whedon’s Changes in His Modernized Version of Much Ado About Nothing

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0269  Wednesday, 5 June 2013

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

Date:         Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Subject:     Whedon’s Changes in His Modernized Version of Much Ado About Nothing


Mike Jensen regularly shares with a group of Shakespeare and film aficionados news about that topic. 


In his most recent mailing he wrote about another article sent to him by Jeffrey Kahan about changes Joss Whedon made in his soon to be released modernized version of Much Ado About Nothing. My thanks to both Jeff and Mike.


The article “4 changes Joss Whedon made to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing” appeared in Yahoo! News’ The Week on Tuesday June 4, 2013, and is by Scott Meslow: http://news.yahoo.com/4-changes-joss-whedon-made-shakespeares-much-ado-135900783.html


[ . . . ]


At a time when some are lamenting the end of the romantic comedy, Whedon has delivered one of the sleekest and funniest in ages, which is all the more impressive for being filmed in just 12 days at his personal residence. However, he modestly gives most of the credit to Shakespeare himself. “[Shakespeare is] basically pulling apart the idea of the rom-com. Which he is inventing,” said Whedon at a recent post-screening Q&A at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “That, to me, is impressive.”


On the surface, Whedon’s film takes a number of liberties with Shakespeare’s original play. It’s safe to assume that the Bard wouldn’t have imagined the play’s 16th-century Messina setting as a modern mansion packed with cars, guns, snazzy suits, and fizzy cocktails. Or constables Dogberry and Verges as dumb-guy cops who would fit right in with the Reno 911! crew.


But in both text and tone, Whedon is admirably faithful to Shakespeare’s play — with a few key exceptions. What alterations distinguish Whedon’s modern film version from Shakespeare’s original text?


1. Conrade is a woman
Why did Whedon cast Riki Lindhome as Conrade, a character traditionally played by a man? Simply enough, “there was nothing in the text that [prevented me from doing it],” explained Whedon, who slotted the Garfunkel & Oates member and onetime Buffy the Vampire Slayer guest star into the role. The gender swap also influenced Whedon’s staging of Don John’s soliloquy from Act 1, Scene 3, which he recast as a speech Don John gives while seducing Conrade. 


2. Hero witnesses her own “funeral”
Whedon’s other major piece of original staging comes during Hero’s funeral, which Claudio attends without realizing that Hero is really alive. In Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Hero watches the ceremony from afar, and witnesses Claudio grieving her death. The scene “just helped us get to the idea that [Hero] and Claudio could be together and not make you roll your eyes,” said Whedon. “You see her seeing him being truly penitent. Then she can forgive him. And we can.”


3. Benedick’s anti-Semitic reference has been cut
On the whole, Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is doggedly committed to Shakespeare’s original text. (He even managed to turn Claudio’s anachronistic, wildly offensive promise to marry his mysterious bride even if she were “an Ethiope” — which Whedon described as “pure Michael Scott” — into one of the film’s biggest laugh lines.) But there was one major off-color line Whedon admitted to changing. “I don’t have Benedick saying, ‘If I do not love her, I am a Jew,’” explained Whedon, quoting a line from the original play. “I thought, ‘Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to come back from that one. That’s not going to sell.’” (In the film, Benedick instead says, “If I do not love her, I am a fool.”) 


4. Hero spends 100 percent less time twirling
Hero, who spends much of Much Ado About Nothing as a passive victim, is a tricky character for any actress — but Whedon did his best to tone done some of her more ridiculous qualities for actress Jilliam Morgese. “[Morgese] is one of the few people who watched [Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation] before we shot, and she said, ‘Apparently I’m supposed to twirl a lot,’” said Whedon. “I’m like, ‘We’re actually going to take that out.’ It is in the text, ‘Enters twirling’ […] You do what you can. It’s Hero. She doesn’t have many lines, and she’s no Beatrice. But I wanted people to get the feeling that she’s definitely someone Beatrice loves, and would hang out with, and is her cousin. Not just, you know, twirly/wilty.”


Oregon Shakespeare Festival Archive


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0270  Wednesday, 5 June 2013


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

Date:         June 4, 2013 9:33:50 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Oregon Shakespeare Festival Archive


As a by-the-way . . . .  The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, working with Blackstone Audio Books, has released excellent recordings of three Shakespeare plays based on recent productions: Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and Romeo and Juliet. They are done as true audio dramas, not as captured stage performances. 


Shakespeare and Star Wars


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0268  Wednesday, 5 June 2013


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

Date:         June 5, 2013 1:50:49 PM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare and Star Wars


Dear SHAKSPER community,


My name is Ian Doescher—I am a former SHAKSPER member and Hardy has graciously allowed me to chime in again to tell you about a project that may be of interest. I’ve written a book that will be published next month through Quirk Books, called William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. The book is a retelling of the original (1977) Star Wars movie as though it were a play by Shakespeare: in iambic pentameter, in five acts, employing allusions to several plays and Shakespearean literary devices, etc. (I have also written a study guide for high school and college classes that will be available for download online.)


I am hopeful that the book will be well-received among Shakespeare scholars. (My own college Shakespeare professor, Murray Biggs, reviewed the manuscript during the editing process.) My greatest hope for the book is that it might be a gateway through which future high school and college students come to appreciate Shakespeare.


The website for the book is here: http://www.quirkbooks.com/shakespearestarwars


Given my past participation in SHAKSPER, I wanted to make you all know about the book. If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and thank you!


Ian Doescher


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