Ron Rosenbaum Interviews Julie Taymor

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.040  Monday, 20 January 2014


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

Date:         January 16, 2014 at 10:03:27 AM EST

Subject:    Ron Rosenbaum Interviews Julie Taymor 


[Editor’s Note: The following excerpt, from the article “Dreaming of Shakespeare by Ron Rosenbaum, appeared in the December 2013 Smithsonian Magazine (pages 27-32, 83-84) and on smithsonian.com:






Why Shakespeare is Julie Taymor’s Superhero

For the renowned director of the screen and stage, the Bard is a fantasy and a nightmare

By Ron Rosenbaum

Smithsonian Magazine


For such a physically slight, ballerina-like figure, Julie Taymor is metaphysically fierce. The fact that she arrives at our rendezvous in a New York bistro buzzing with adrenaline, having just come from the first rehearsal of her new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, only intensifies the impression. She’s on a Shakespeare high, and her enthusiasm for the relevance of Shakespeare is contagious.


Most of the world knows Julie Taymor as the director of The Lion King, the epic, viral Broadway smash that has circled the globe. It’s become a modern myth, virtually Homeric. A wild spectacle that, as she puts it, “got to the DNA” of a vast audience and wrapped their double helixes around her finger.


But there’s another Julie Taymor, lesser known and more surprising: the one who took one of Shakespeare’s most obscure, most brutal, haunting and mystifying tragedies—Titus Andronicus—and turned it into one of the greatest Shakespearean films ever. She made Titus in 1999 on a big budget with Anthony Hopkins playing the tragic title character and Jessica Lange playing Tamora, Queen of the Goths. Taymor took what had seemed to me a play that was a bit stilted on the page and blew it up into a magnificent Fellini/Scorsese fusion of raw bloody Shakespearean fury.


I’m not exaggerating: I watched it again recently at a screening at the Museum of Modern Art and felt like I had been given a metaphysical punch to the gut. I say this as someone who has watched virtually every major Shakespearean film in the course of writing a book on Shakespearean scholars and directors. Titus creates an intensity so breathtaking it makes you forget the rest of the world.


It made me rethink human nature, made me rethink Shakespeare’s nature. How could he have harbored such a horrific and merciless vision so early (he wrote Titus Andronicus when he was not yet 30, at least six years before Hamlet).


It also made me rethink Julie Taymor’s nature. How could the person who created The Lion King, with the theme of “The Circle of Life,” also create a Titus, which might well be called “The Circle of Death”? My mission, I decide even before meeting her, is to get people to see Titus and recognize just how utterly contemporary and relevant it is to the war-torn, terror-ridden world we live in today.


“It was massive!” I say to her as we sit down.


“It was massive!” she agrees. “My first feature. And it was so exciting.”

She takes a sip of prosecco. She reminds me of that line in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” (Well, she’s not that little, but she radiates furious, focused energy.) The wild stories she tells in the big book about her work, aptly titled Playing With Fire, testify to that ferocity: about her time on a fellowship in Indonesia, putting together a theater troupe in the wild outback of Bali, daring the fires of live volcanoes, developing the unique Javanese and Balinese-influenced huge-mask-and-giant-puppet-based theater art that eventually made The Lion King such a spectacle.


I asked her what it’s like to direct Shakespeare, “It seems like the greatest thing for a human being—” I started to say.


[ . . . ]


“The audience is on three sides and it’s basically a magic black box, like a Japanese lacquered black box, that has holes and windows and traps. But we’re using the idea there’s a prologue which is a bed.”


A bed as a prologue?


“This character [who turns out to be Puck, the chief instigator of mischief among the lovers in the play] is sleeping in a bed and from out of the earth trees push the mattress up and it floats, and then the bedsheets get attached and the mechanicals—the real mechanicals, my workmen—pull out the sheet and it becomes a canopy which becomes the sky. What I’m trying to do is what I think the play does so brilliantly—it goes from the poetic to the mundane, from the magical to the banal, kind of gossamer and intangible to the concrete and, you know, gaudy and real.”


She speaks almost as if possessed.


[ . . . ]


“My favorite play is Titus and it will always be Titus,” she says. “I think it contains the truth of human nature. Especially about evil, about violence, about blood. It investigates every aspect of violence that exists. It is the most terrifying play or movie that exists.”


When I ask why, she gives a terrifying answer:


“Because what Shakespeare’s saying is that anybody can turn into a monster. That is why I think Titus is way beyond Hamlet.”


Folger Library’s Elizabethan Theatre Transformed into Arena for R3

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.040  Monday, 20 January 2014


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

Date:         Monday, January 20, 2014

Subject:    Folger Library’s Elizabethan Theatre Transformed into Arena for R3


[Editor’s Note: The Folger Theatre’s upcoming Richarad III, January 28 to March 8, will be staged in the round in the Folger Library’s Elizabethan Theatre. The following YouTube video contains a time-lapse sequence of pictures tracking the theater’s transformation from a proscenium stage to an arena one. –Hardy]


Folger Theatre Time-Lapse for “Richard III”




A time-lapse video of the transformation of Folger Theatre into an in-the-round venue for the very first time for the production of RICHARD III. Features director Robert Richmond and actor Drew Cortese.

 Richard III plays at the Folger from 1/28-14 - 3/9/14


Professor Reg Foakes

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.039  Monday, 20 January 2014


[1] From:        Julia Crockett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 19, 2014 at 4:53:01 AM EST

     Subject:    Reg Foakes 


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

     Date:         January 19, 2014 at 1:52:24 PM EST

     Subject:    Honouring Professor Reg Foakes 




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

Date:         January 19, 2014 at 4:53:01 AM EST

Subject:    Reg Foakes


[Editor’s Note: The following obituary of Reg Foakes by Grace Ioppolo appeared last week in The Guardian. –Hardy]




Reg Foakes Obituary

By Grace Ioppolo 

  • Friday 17 January 2014 12.21 EST


My friend and colleague Reg Foakes, who has died aged 90, was an eminent theatre historian, literary scholar and editor. His research on Shakespeare's original playhouses helped to shape modern understanding of English theatre history. He was also a brilliant teacher and lecturer, an innovator of academic programmes and a founder of departments.


Reg was born and grew up in West Bromwich, attending Black Lane primary and the local grammar school. In 1941, he started his BA degree at the University of Birmingham, but after he had completed one year his studies were put on hold by the second world war, in which he served mainly in India as a Fleet Air Arm radar operator. He resumed his studies in 1946, graduated and completed a PhD under the supervision of Allardyce Nicoll.


In 1951, Reg was one of three founding fellows of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, dedicated to postgraduate study of Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, and now part of the University of Birmingham.


His teaching career then took him to the University of Durham and to visiting positions at Yale University and the universities of Toronto and California, Santa Barbara. In 1963, he founded the department of English at the new University of Kent, where he later became dean of humanities. He oversaw the introduction of programmes in film studies, drama and the history of art, and raised substantial funding to build the university’s Gulbenkian theatre.


Among his many distinguished publications were Illustrations of the English Stage: 1580-1642 (1985), Hamlet Versus Lear: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art (1993), Shakespeare and Violence (2002), and editions of plays, including the Arden King Lear, all of which emphasised his belief that drama should be studied holistically and in the context of original and later performance.


His extraordinary 1961 edition (reprinted in 2002) with RT Rickert of Henslowe’s Diary led Reg to further groundbreaking research on Shakespeare’s playhouses. He was a major contributor to the Henslowe-Alleyn digitisation project, which aims to conserve priceless material related to theatre in the time of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson.


Reg and his first wife, Barbara, were married from 1951 until her death in 1988. They had four children: Frances, Martin, Rachel and Andrew. His second marriage, to Mary, who died in 1996, also brought him happiness. Reg is survived by his children and five grandchildren.



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

Date:         January 19, 2014 at 1:52:24 PM EST

Subject:    Honouring Professor Reg Foakes 


[Editor’s Note: Paul Edmondson’s tribute of Reg Foakes appeared in Blogging Shakespeare: http://bloggingshakespeare.com/honouring-reg-foakes Other tributes by Stanley Wells, Michael Dobson, Kate McLuskie, Carol Rutter, and others appear in the Blog. -Hardy]


Paul Edmondson

Blogging Shakespeare

Honouring Professor Reg Foakes


Professor Reg Foakes, who died at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon just before Christmas, was a wise, liberal-minded, influential and much-loved Shakespeare scholar and teacher. His career spanned over sixty years at the universities of Birmingham, Durham, Yale, Toronto, Kent and Los Angeles. He was born and grew up in West Bromwich. His degree at Birmingham was interrupted by the Second World War while he served in the Royal Navy and installed radar in night fighters. After his degree he undertook post-graduate study at Mason Croft with the renowned Professor Allardyce Nicoll. In 1951 Reg, along with John Russell Brown and Ernst Honigmann, was a made an Assistant Lecturer in the then newly-founded Shakespeare Institute. All three went on to become eminent Shakespearians and remained good friends for life.


Reg lived with his wife Barbara in a bed-sit in Mason Croft where, he recalled, ‘we ceremoniously boiled or fried our one egg a week and our two ounces of bacon’ (war-time rationing was only just beginning to relax). Whilst teaching and completing his Ph.D., he assisted with the annual Shakespeare Survey and co-organised the prestigious international Shakespeare conferences.


As a scholar he is cherished for his edition of Philip Henslowe’s Diary and his excellent editions of Troilus and Cressida, Henry VIII, and The Comedy of Errors. In her recent post his friend Sylvia Morris remembers Reg working on his landmark edition of King Lear at The Shakespeare Centre Library, ‘although he was a highly-respected academic his unassuming personality and willingness to discuss his work made him popular.’ His scholarship also includes work on Romantic and Victorian poetry.


At Kent, Reg was founding professor of English and with his vision and perseverance co-founded the successful Gulbenkian Theatre which opened in 1970. Stanley Wells, Honorary President of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said Reg was ‘admired and respected by generations of students and colleagues both in England and in America.’ Among his former students was Professor Carol Rutter of Warwick University, who praised his ‘detailed performance memory going back seventy years.’ When he moved to the University of California in 1982 he also put down roots in Stratford on Holtom Street. Professor Michael Dobson, Director of The Shakespeare Institute paid tribute to Reg’s ‘remarkable scholarship matched by his creativity; he was a powerful poet.’


Barbara – with whom he had four children – died of cancer in 1988. A few years later Reg found love again with his second wife Mary, whose mental illness led to her death in 1996. In his memoirs, Reg writes: “Now I see that achievement, the goal of youth, is not what matters most in life, but rather love, generosity, acceptance, and the ability to endure with patience suffering that can not be avoided.”


There will be a service for Reg at Holy Trinity Church on Monday 20 January at 12.30pm. All are welcome.


Sanders Portrait Symposium

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.038  Monday, 20 January 2014


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

Date:         January 19, 2014 at 1:43:54 PM EST

Subject:    Conference Explores Origins of Shakespeare Portrait 


[Editor’s Note: I attended the three-day symposium held at the University of Toronto soon after the Sander’s portrait first was announced. The following recounts information about the impending sale and about a one-day symposium held in Toronto. –Hardy] 





Conference Explores Origins of Shakespeare Portrait

January 16, 2014 by Canadian Shakespeares

More than 400 years old, portrait still inspires interest

By Andrew Vowles

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Daniel Fischlin was hunkered down by the phone in mid-December “waiting for the media feeding frenzy to begin.” News had broken that day of a tentative agreement to buy a Canadian-owned portrait believed to depict William Shakespeare during his lifetime, and the University of Guelph English professor expected to find himself in the middle of the story again.


Under the deal reached in early December, an anonymous Canadian family has agreed to buy the 410-year-old Sanders portrait from its longtime Ottawa owner, according to a Globe and Mail story published Dec. 15.


Some two decades after Lloyd Sullivan began researching the portrait – passed through his family from a distant maternal ancestor contemporary with Shakespeare — evidence continues to mount that the work is the only likeness of the Bard done from life.


[ . . . ]


Much of that work, including recent research connecting Shakespeare with the Sanders family and other associates from Elizabethan and Jacobean England, has been led by Fischlin and other scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.


Those findings and the earlier detective work into the portrait’s provenance were discussed by experts during a one-day symposium in Toronto last month. Negotiations for the portrait’s sale were still occurring during the event.


The Sanders portrait is believed to depict William Shakespeare at age 39. The painting belongs to Sullivan, an Ottawa engineer. His family has passed it down from John Sanders. Family lore says Sanders was a painter and actor with Shakespeare’s theatre company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later called the King’s Men).


Sullivan inherited the piece from his mother in 1972. Since retiring some 20 years ago, he has researched the painting.


At the Toronto conference, scientists, costume experts, historians, writers and museum curators discussed everything from the doublet worn by the sitter to tests validating the age of the paint, the wood panel and the label affixed to the back of the portrait.


Fischlin’s recent work has involved genealogy and geography in the British Midlands and London and between Canada and England. He is a University Research Chair and founding director of the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP), the world’s most comprehensive website about the Bard’s cultural influence.


He and other researchers – notably British genealogist Pam Hinks — have traced Sullivan’s family through 13 unbroken generations and 10 great-grandfathers back to Shakespeare’s lifetime.


They have visited gravesites, uncovered and transcribed historical documents, examined major historical archives in the United Kingdom and interviewed Sullivan’s relatives.


That path has led to a small group of villages in the Midlands and to the part of London where Shakespeare and his acquaintances are known to have lived.


Before moving to London, Shakespeare and Sanders lived in towns about eight miles apart in and around Stratford. So did John Heminges, another company actor and eventually co-editor of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s works.


By 1603, all three were residents in the capital, living only minutes from each other in adjoining parishes.


Heminges and John Sanders’s son – also John and an early ancestor to Lloyd Sullivan – were both active members of the Grocers’ guild during the early 1600s.


Those connections strengthen the argument that Sanders was close enough to have painted Shakespeare, says Fischlin.


“It would have been impossible for the two men not to have been intimately acquainted with each other, not only because their families came from neighbouring villages in the Midlands, but also because they would have had significantly overlapped business interests.”


Fischlin plans to continue this work, including investigating leads about where artist and sitter met in London.


“We’re very close to identifying the workshop where the painting was painted. We seem to have a member of the Sanders family married into an apprentice from this workshop,” he says.


He adds that “the workshop was well known to the theatre scene in London in that period and also was close physically to where the Sanders and Heminges families and Shakespeare were all living at the time.


“It’s not definitive but it’s very, very promising.”


The Sanders portrait was exhibited at the University of Guelph’s Macdonald Stewart Art Centre for six months in 2007. That year, U of G teamed up with some 30 local arts and culture organizations in more than 50 community programs and activities centred on Shakespeare and the painting.


The portrait is the signature image of CASP. It also appears on new copies of The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet, the first editions of Shakespeare’s works to feature the Sanders likeness on their cover.


Those volumes were published by the Canadian arm of Oxford University Press. Acquisitions editor Jen Rubio credits her late father, Gerald Rubio, an English professor at U of G, for instilling some of Shakespeare’s words during her childhood.


He often borrowed lines from the Bard to suit a particular situation, even if listeners failed to pick up on the reference. Once quoting Hamlet after a restaurant meal, she says, “He later said, ‘The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.’”


Rubio says the genealogical research and information about the Grocers’ guild uncovered by Fischlin and other scholars was new to her. “It’s amazing what research you can do from back in 1603.”


[ . . . ]


Professor Sankalapuram Nagarajan (1929 - 2014)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.037  Monday, 20 January 2014


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

Date:         January 16, 2014 at 11:51:30 AM EST

Subject:    Professor S. Nagarajan, India


Professor Sankalapuram Nagarajan (1929 - 2014)


Professor Sankalapuram Nagarajan, one of India’s finest academicians, passed away in New Delhi around noon on January 6th, 2014. He leaves behind his wife, Srimathi, sons Shankar and Chandramouli, daughter Leela, and their families. Nagarajan—‘Nag’ to his close friends—was regarded as one of the most eminent Shakespeare scholars of India and an original voice in the world Shakespeare community of scholars.


Born in 1929 in Bangalore, he did his B.A (English Honours) at the University of Mysore and his M.A. in English Language and Literature at the University of Nagpur where he was awarded the University Gold Medal. After teaching at colleges in Amravati, Bangalore and Jabalpur, he went on to study for his Ph.D. in English at Harvard University. He earned the doctoral degree in a record time of two years (1959-61), and held the distinction of being India’s first Harvard Ph.D. in English. For his doctoral study he was awarded a Smith-Mundt/Fulbright fellowship, a Harvard University fellowship, and a Folger fellowship. 


At Harvard he worked with eminent Shakespeare scholars such as Professors Alfred Harbage and Herschel Baker. He finished his coursework with distinction under scholars like Walter Jackson Bate, Reuben Brower, David Perkins, and I.A. Richards. His dissertation on Shakespeare’s Problem Comedies resulted in an invitation to edit Measure for Measure for the Signet Classic Shakespeare. This edition has been in print continuously for over 45 years in spite of severe competition from later and more generously edited editions. In 2013, he published an edition of King Lear, a study he started as a Folger Shakespeare Library Fellow in 1998. 


Dr. Nagarajan’s scholarly articles on a wide-range of subjects, including comparative studies (the influence of Advaita Vedanta on Isherwood, for example) appeared in prestigious international journals like the Shakespeare QuarterlyComparative LiteratureModern Fiction Studies, Ariel, and the Oxford Essays in Criticism. He was the Indian Correspondent of the World Shakespeare Bibliography for about three decades. As many of his former students and colleagues have remarked, Nagarajan was a keen supporter of literature in Indian languages. Thinking about literature in more than one language, he insisted, was a singular strength that Indian scholars could bring to the world stage.


Professor Nagarajan is also remembered for his outstanding contribution to higher education in India. After he returned to India from Harvard in 1961, he was appointed Chair of the University Department of English and Chairperson of the Board of Studies in English at the University of Poona (now Pune). He taught there till 1977 when he moved to the University of Hyderabad to assume the position of Professor of English, a position he held until he retired in April 1989. At the University of Hyderabad, he was Dean of the School of Humanities for six years and officiated for some time as Vice-Chancellor of the university. 


After his retirement, he served as an Emeritus Fellow of India’s prominent University Grants Commission (UGC). Later, the University of Hyderabad requested him to serve as the inaugural Director of its new Centre for the Study of Comparative Literature. During his tenure as professor at the University of Pune and at Hyderabad, the UGC honored him as National Lecturer in English and as a National Fellow. In addition, he held many fellowships and honorary lectureships, including being a British Council Visitor, an American Studies Fellow at Harvard, a visiting fellow at Clare Hall (Cambridge, U.K.), a Leverhulme Fellow at the Australian National University and a Commonwealth Universities Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. In 1988, he was elected Life Member at Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge. He was also invited to serve as Visiting Professor and advisor for the University of Mauritius during 1993 -1994.


Professor Nagarajan will be remembered for his many scholarly accomplishments and his role in advancing higher education in India. But above everything, it was Professor Nagarajan’s students who always brought an unstoppable sparkle and tenderness to his eyes. Their success and achievements evoked in him a parental pride. He gave his everything to students. Every student came away inspired and all felt deep love and respect for him. Students and colleagues were to remain his ever-growing family until he retired and beyond. One of most memorable occasions for Professor Nagarajan was the grand felicitation his former students from across the years hosted for his 75th birthday in Pune (or Poona, as he never stopped calling it by its older name). On hearing the news about Dr. Nagarajan, one of his former students (who now teaches in Belfast, Ireland) wrote, “[Dr. Nagarajan] conveyed to us brilliantly the disturbing power of poetry to teach us what we often did not know of ourselves. It is something we will never forget.”


Professor Nagarajan wrote late into his life. Commenting on his masterful edition of King Lear which was published recently in 2013, Professor Sylvan Barnet, the eminent Shakespeare scholar said, quoting from As You Like it: "O wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!" Professor Barnet went on to describe the book: “[Nagarajan’s] King Lear is not only for Indian students--it is for all students--yes, and for all readers, including professors--who want a thorough yet judicious, readable commentary on the play.” 


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