As the summer melds gradually into autumn, it’s time to take in some theatrical delights.
And…I’m lucky to live very close to a wonderful theater in the vicinity of Princeton University campus: McCarter Theatre.
This month, (from September 5 – October 5) theater-goers will be treated to a sultry rendition of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Emily Mann, an award-winning director and playwright who, as Artistic Director of McCarter Theatre for 25 years, directed over 125 productions.
The leads are played, respectively, by Esau Pritchett (Fences) and Nicole Ari Parker (Boogie Nights, Soul Food).
Click Antony and Cleopatra to be redirected to the informative website that contains links to educational resources regarding Shakespeare’s play, as well as the historical context.
The theater is located at 91 University Place, Princeton, NJ 08540. For student and/or group discount rates, call McCarter Theatre Center directly at 609.258.ARTS(2787).
Start a fall tradition that enriches the soul by treating yourself to a little culture, Shakespeare style!
For those of you in the NY/NJ/PA metro area looking for a Shakespeare fix, I’ve got a recommendation:
This stage adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy stars Tony award nominee Forrest McClendon who thrilled the Philly audience last year with his powerful performance as Othello at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre.
I had the pleasure of meeting Forrest after a performance of the aforementioned play last year; he is a warm and charismatic soul (and a brilliant talent) with a contagious enthusiasm for performing Shakespeare. So, I look forward to witnessing his transformation into yet another Shakespearean tragic figure.
Tickets are selling quickly, so purchase yours now. Student discounts are available, so I’m going to snag one ASAP!
If you want to brush up on Shakespeare’s “Henriad” (the tetralogy that includes the plays: Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V) then you MUST tune in this Friday, September 27th, to your local PBS station and catch the second installment of The Hollow Crown. Check local listings for the time, but if you’re on the East Coast (USA) it airs at 9:00 PM.
You can view the full episode of last Friday’s, Richard II, starring Ben Whishaw in his Christ-like portrayal of the infamous king, by clicking here: “The Hollow Crown” on PBS
Whishaw, as the pretentious Richard II, drives home the concept of the Divine Right of Kings, which Richard adamantly advocated during his reign.
In the next episode, we pick up with Henry IV, Part 1 starring Jeremy Irons as Henry IV and Tom Hiddleston as his son Hal, the future Henry V.
This one’s my favorite history play. I can’t wait to see the interaction between Hal and Falstaff!
ATTENTION Shakespeare students of all ages:
If you struggle, as I do, with reading the Elizabethan style of English, watching the performances will definitely improve your understanding (and appreciation) of the plays. Just keep in mind, directors may exercise artistic license and put their own spin on the action.
SPOILER ALERT! For example: in director Rupert Goold’s Richard II, Aumerle is Richard II’s murderer, not Exton!
I was hesitant to purchase a ticket for the opening night performance of Rebecca Taichman’s production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Would the actors take the stage enthusiastically, or still be working out the kinks? But my initial concern was abated as the performance commenced.
Taichman opted for modern costuming, designed by David Zinn, and had the nine actors play two roles each: one as a character in Sicilia and the other as a Bohemian. This directorial decision tested the actors’ skill at drastically shifting persona and memorizing twice the dialogue.
I must say, they were all quite impressive, but Mark Harelik, who took on the roles of Leontes and Autolycus, was my favorite. Fans of the television series, “The Big Bang Theory” will recognize him as Dr. Gablehauser, the head of the Physics Department!
As in the text, the play opened in Leontes’ palace in Sicilia. The stage took on a somber hue with darker costumes and subdued lighting. Whenever Leontes had a soliloquy, the lighting would dim leaving a sole spotlight focused on Harelik, as a humming sound resonated in the background. This mimicked the disturbance in Leontes’ mood as jealousy took over his thoughts.
After intermission, the setting transformed from the iciness of the Sicilian palace in winter, to the lush pastoral backdrop, and vivid colors of spring, in the Bohemian countryside. Oversized butterflies and wooden sheep cutouts were carried onstage, as the lighting brightened.
The most spectacular scene of the play, however, is left intact and is Taichman’s directorial pièce de résistance: Act 5’s finale – the “statue of Hermione” scene. The curtain rises and Hermione, played by Hannah Yelland, is illuminated by a spotlight, as she stands completely still atop her pedestal.
When Paulina instructs Leontes: “It is required you do awake your faith,” and directs the small ensemble to play their music, Yelland slowly comes to life, as pendant lights dangling from above begin to sway. If for no other reason, I would recommend others to see this amusing production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, as it wraps up its last week at McCarter Theatre, just to witness the beauty of this dazzling finale.
While scanning over various online lists of Shakespearean “facts,” I came across this interesting tidbit taken from “10 things you probably didn’t know about William Shakespeare:”
“4. Although Shakespeare wrote plays set in France, Scotland, Italy, Cyprus and Vienna, among many other locations, it’s entirely possible that he never left England. That may account for the most embarrassing geographical cock-up of his career: grafting a sea-coast on to land-locked Bohemia (part of the present-day Czech Republic) in The Winter’s Tale” (Times Online, April 9, 2009).
There is no evidence that William Shaksper/Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon ever set foot outside of Merry Ol’ England, therefore orthodox scholars typically excuse the playwright’s supposed lack of geographical knowledge. But, what if we were to learn that this alleged blooper was actually a true historical fact?
I decided to look into this purported “geographical error,” and referred to Chapter 11 of The Shakespeare Guide to Italy by Richard Paul Roe.
Research into the history of Bohemia reveals that the kingdom of Bohemia under the rule of Ottakar II once included Carinthia and “Carniola, which in turn touched the Adriatic Sea” (Roe 251). Therefore, from 1269 until Ottakar was killed in 1278, Bohemia was not landlocked.
The Winter’s Tale is a play that hearkens to the romantic tales of medieval times, so referring to the Bohemia of this period in history is not a stretch.
In my next post, I will discuss another curious detail in The Winter’s Tale that demonstrates the playwright’s uncanny knowledge of travel outside the boundaries of England.
In the meanwhile, check out the colorful scenic slideshow of the real-life settings of Shakespeare’s Italian Plays and retrace “The Bard’s Unknown Travels” in the linked blog post by Hilary Roe Metternich.
Apologies for my long absence from blogging; my literature classes this semester leave me little time for recreational reading and writing!
But today I write of good news for Shakespeare lovers on the East Coast, particularly in the NY/NJ/PA area. Spring has arrived, and before long, there will be opportunities to enjoy outdoor theatrical performances.
One not to be missed, is the 2013 Season of “Free Shakespeare in the Park.” Yes, I said FREE! Click on the link for details regarding the schedule of performances and location (Delacorte Theater in Central Park, NYC).
If outdoor performances aren’t your thing, or you’re itchin’ for some Shakespeare right now, The Winter’s Tale is being performed at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre from April 2 through 21. I have my ticket for the April 2nd performance, and can’t wait to see it!
One more production I need to mention, is The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s staging of Othello starring Tony-nominated actor Forrest McClendon. I will also be purchasing a ticket for this play which I’ve recently studied, yet never had the opportunity to see performed.
Remember Hamlet’s words everyone: “The play’s the thing!” Go see a performance, and watch Shakespeare’s words spring to life.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. So, when my daughters both announced that they are reading it in their middle school literature classes, I was thrilled! Unfortunately, they did not share my enthusiasm.
Since I’ve taken it upon myself to make Shakespeare as fun as possible, I ordered the film version on DVD, starring Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer, from Netflix.
Next, I dug out my old homework and searched for helpful notes to ease my daughters “suffering.”
In the process, I found a paper I’d written last semester and wanted to share it with my blog readers. I hope it motivates others to read between the lines of the plays; I found the process fascinating.
Disclaimer: this was my first attempt at Deconstruction, so bear with me!