Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

Secondary Character Saturday: Hermia

Washington Allston's 1818 painting Hermia and ...

Washington Allston’s 1818 painting Hermia and Helena. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who: Hermia

From: A Mid Summer Nights Dream

By: William Shakespeare

Written: between 1594 and 1595

Pros: Though she be but little she is fierce.  She stands up for herself and refuses to give up on love. She’s played by my friend, the amazing Lisa Davidson,  in Baltimore Shakespeare Factory‘s current offering.

Most Shining Moment: Standing up to her father (and facing the death penalty) for love.

Hermia approaches love as though it were something easily threatened, but not easily lost. At all points, Hermia’s relentless – you have to hustle if you’re going to hold on to your lover, and it’s worth the hustle if the love is true. Hermia thus provides a contrast to the self-doubting and flippant love around her. She may seem fierce and shrewd, but sometimes that’s just the way love goes, unless you’re willing to let it go all together. [Shmoop. com]

ritaLOVEStoWRITE blog review of Mid Summer Night’s Dream [http://wp.me/2sm4g]

Hermia (Lisa Davidson) and fan (Maggie) off stage during intermission at the Factory's Mid Summer.

Hermia (Lisa Davidson) and fan (Maggie) off stage during intermission at the Factory’s Mid Summer.


July Creative Challenge: Shakespeare on the Grass

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) in action.

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) in action.

This Sunday I spent the afternoon at Meadow at Evergreen enjoying the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s performance of HAMLET.

I love to see Shakespeare live, and especially love to see it live outdoors, and super especially love to see it live outdoors the way Shakespeare’s audiences would have seen it 400 years ago. So I put aside my dislike for summer weather and bugs (I came prepared with bug spray, a sun hat, sun screen and lots of ice water) and headed into Baltimore for some murder and mayhem — Tudor Style.

The body count mounts as the play winds down.

The body count mounts as the play winds down.

Tom Delise, The Factory’s Artistic Director and the director of this production, used a light touch when it came to staging. A single set piece standing in for Elsinore Castle rises from a simple wooden platform.  Three red curtains  allow the actors access on and off stage. But Delise has his actors using all of the Meadow, so the actors are moving up and down aisles and entering from behind the audience too.

Unlike the 1,500 to 3,000 people who went to see the original play in the Globe Theatre, audience members in the Meadow have an intimate connection with the actors. Engaging the audience is one of The Factory’s core principles, and at times it felt like Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude and the rest were talking right to me. That really draws you into the action, and gives you a stake in what happens in the plot.

Ophelia, about to be taken to the graveyard.

Ophelia (Ann Turiano), at peace at last, about to be taken to the graveyard.

Given that just about every high school student reads Hamlet for some English class between 9th and 12th grade, and most people have seen at least one film version of the play its a pretty good bet that you’ll know the plot and at least some of the lines before the show begins. That’s helpful because this production is fast paced, and if you didn’t already have a little knowledge of what was going on you might get overwhelmed.  And when I say fast paced I mean tight, as in TIGHT. As  in sweetly, seamlessly: bam, bam, bam; scene, scene, scene. It’s no wonder they got this notoriously long play (it’s Shakespeare’s longest) down to about 2 hours 40 minutes. Very impressive. (Although the only “complaint” I have is that without breaking for scene changes I couldn’t CLAP! And I really wanted to clap.)

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) and Jess Behar (Rosencrantz).

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) and Jess Behar (Rosencrantz).

The Factory has several actors playing multiple roles. Hugh F. Hill, III was vain and a little evil as Claudius and wonderfully creepy as the zombie like Ghost. Frank Vince was funny as the annoyingly dotting father Polonius and as the pious Priest.  James Miller intense as Laertes and animated as the Player King. Jess Behar and Katherine Vary were wonderful as the sycophantic  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They also played Francisco and Bernardo. Jim Stimson is both in the ensemble and is lead musician for the group (he plays a mean lute and guitar). Poor Amy Parochetti and Chris Ryder played 12 roles between them!

Other actors had one role.

Kelly Dowling as Gertrude

Kelly Dowling as Gertrude

I liked Kelly Dowling’s tender/tough approach to Gertrude. And I loved the heart-break and surprise she brought to the stage when her character realizes what a mess her life suddenly has become.

Chris Cotterman (Horatio) learns that Hamlet is coming back to Elsinore.

Chris Cotterman (Horatio) learns that Hamlet is coming back to Elsinore.

Chris Cotterman plays my favorite character in the show, Horatio. It’s a tough role because he’s the best friend, the second guy. He can’t upstage Hamlet (literally) and Chris doesn’t. He plays the supporting role (both in the character’s life and on stage) perfectly.

Kelly Dowling (Gerturde) and Ann Turiano (Ophelia)

Kelly Dowling (Gerturde) and Ann Turiano (Ophelia)

Ann Turiano is lovely as Ophelia. Her confusion over familial duty and her suddenly rocky love life in the first half is tender and heartbreaking, but its her mad scenes in the second half that steal the show.

Ham Yurick

I last saw  Ian Blackwell Rogers as the title character in The Factory’s Macbeth. He brings the same energy and intensity here. It is hard to take your eyes off of him as you try to puzzle out what’s going on in that head of his. As the lines spill out of him at break neck speed he keeps you engaged and on point with the plot.

Larertes Ham

As hot as it was on Sunday I expected the actors to lose some gusto as the show went on, but the opposite happened. As they plowed into Acts Three, Four and Five they only got more intense. By the time Hamlet and Laertes were at each other’s throats my heart was pounding. And it didn’t have anything to do with the temperature.

Click HERE to read the Today in MD Theatre Guide  Review.


Summer fun with Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

The BSF's Summer with Shakespeare: Performance Workshops take place  July 29 - Aug 16.

The BSF’s Summer with Shakespeare: Performance Workshops take place July 29 – Aug 16.

If you:

  • live near Baltimore, Maryland,
  • are kid about to start 3rd to 12th grade,
  • and you like Shakespeare

… boy do I have a deal for you!

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is offering three, one week long workshops that will allow kids to experience what it might be like to travel back in time to the 1600s and be a part of the fun and excitement of Shakespeare’s acting company–The King’s Men. The BSF’s  “Summer with Shakespeare:Performance Workshops” will help students develop acting skills, make friends, build confidence, and develop an appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare’s work.

The campers will:

  • Work one-on-one with professional actors and educators
  • Learn and practice the same acting techniques Baltimore Shakespeare Factory uses in its productions
  • Study Shakespeare’s poetic language in ways that make it easy to understand, and learn how to use to enrich performance
  • Bring some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters to life!

“Shakespeare is a wonderful platform to get the kids active and engaged in group activity that stretches their imaginations as well as their ability to interpret complex language.  And it is a ton of fun!” says Wendy Meetze, Director of Education for the BSF.

This is the second year for the camp in Baltimore City (the camp is held in the Meadow at Evergreen House on Charles). The group, which began in Carroll County, hosted a similar camp starting in 2006 and have taught over 500 students. That Carroll County camp is still going strong on the campus of Century High School.

Students come in all shapes, sizes and from various backgrounds and skill levels. “Kids who are interested in theatre are especially attracted to the workshops” says Meetze, but “we truly believe there is no “typical” Shakespearean student or audience member. Shakespeare wrote for EVERYONE in his time, from peasants to princes.”

The camp will offer a small group setting with lots of one on one coaching. As a non-musical theatre performance camp the focus is squarely on the script, something that sets this camp apart from other performing arts camps in the area. “While the outcome is a production, the curriculum is a healthy mix of various skills needed to make that production a reality,” said Meetze. The campers perform their production prior to the professional company’s Friday performance. “We find the kids learn so much more by comparing and contrasting their version to a full production. There have certainly been occasions where our professional actors have discovered something new during the student’s performance!”

For more information on the camp, including a link to register  CLICK HERE.

Summer clipping

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory  is dedicated to bringing the works of William Shakespeare to life for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. In Shakespeare’s time (1564-1616), the theater was accessible to everyone, and The Factory prides itself on continuing that tradition by presenting professional quality work at affordable prices.

This year, the group, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, will present Hamlet and Mid Summer Night’s Dream this summer in the Meadow at Evergreen House on Charles Street and at other locals around town.  Click HERE for Hamlet’s schedule. Click HERE for Mid Summer’s Schedule.

Factory productions bring Shakespeare’s works to life in a way that is accessible to modern audiences without compromising the cornerstone of their artistic and literary merit—Shakespeare’s original language. The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is built on a love of language, and productions are designed to not only help audiences understand Shakespeare’s words, but to love them, too.

This year the BSF launched it’s “4 free, 4 ever!” campaign which hopes to raise $750,000 by April , 2016–the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death> This will allow the group to present its shows at no cost to the public the following season.

Play on 4 free


Claire Danes

“It’s very difficult to judge yourself. Extreme self-doubt is only attractive when it’s fictionalized. Which is why people love the movies. They are so reassuring.”– Claire Danes

[Image Courtesy: Fan Quarterly.com]

[Image Courtesy: Fan Quarterly.com]

Claire Catherine Danes was born on this day in  New York City, New York, USA in 1979. She is 34 years old.

She was born to “Chris, an architectural photographer turned computer consultant, and Carla, a textile designer.” [People.com] She has an older brother named Asa. The family lived in the Soho area of New York when she was growing up. When Danes was 5 she saw Madonna on TV and she knew she wanted to be a performer. By 6 she was taking modern dance classes. Her focus soon changed to acting and she attended a number of top ranked schools that feed both her academic and dramatic needs…Dalton School, New York, the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, The New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies, The Professional Performing Arts School and Lycée Français de Los Angeles.

Her film debut came at 13  in a short film called Dreams of Love.

Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and Jordan Catalan...

Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She had a half dozen shorts and TV guest roles before landing her big break in the TV series My So Called Life.

Angela Chase, an inquisitive everygirl dealing with the common struggles of high school and adolescence. The Washington Post’s Tom Shales describes Danes as “deep and mercurial and strikingly complex.” [Ibid]

The same year she played Beth in  Little Women with Christian Bale and Winona Ryder.

She made 12 movies in the next five years, Including:

  • How to Make an American Quilt (again with Ryder)
  • Home for the Holidays (made in my hometown of Baltimore)
"Clair Danes to  join 'The Flock'"

“Clair Danes to join ‘The Flock'” (Photo credit: Lloyd Dewolf)

Then she took a break from Hollywood to attend Yale University. She took her time returning to the big screen, opting for smaller roles in films like The Hours and Terminator 3.

She shared leading “lady” status with co-star Billy Crudup in Stage Beauty, a film about where “A female theatre dresser creates a stir and sparks a revolution in seventeenth century London theatre by playing Desdemona in Othello.” [IMDb –Stage Beauty] It was a challenging role.  Danes says: “I was intimidated. There was the accent, the period of the film, and I had to act badly. I kept laughing during those scenes because I was god-awful. I’ve worked so hard to be good, and now I had to work even harder to be bad.”

She followed Stage Beauty with a couple of RomComs (Shop Girl and The Family Stone), an ensemble drama (Evening— where she met her husband Hugh Dancy)  and the fantasy Stardust (an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel).

Danes as a fallen star in Stardust [Image courtesy: About.com]

Danes as a fallen star in Stardust [Image courtesy: About.com]

The same year (2007) she made her Broadway debut  at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

In 2010 she did a Emmy winning turn in Temple Grandin. The HBO movie is about “an autistic woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry.” [IMDb — Temple Grandin]  Danes won an Emmy for her role in the film. She won another Emmy (and two People’s Choice Awards) for her role in Homeland on Showtime. The show, which co-stars Damian Lewis is in production for its third season.

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Secondary Character Saturday — Iago

Illustration of Othello and Iago

Illustration of Othello and Iago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…What’s he then that says I play the villain?” — Iago

Who: Iago

From: Othello

By: William Shakespeare

Written: Around 1603

Pros: Intelligent, ambitious, funny. Although he is the play’s worst character, he is also its most interesting and complex by far… you can’t take your eyes off the scum ball.

Cons: Manipulative, abusive, sociopathic, vengeful, bitter, jealous, petty. He’s a liar and bully that will literally commit murder to get what he wants.

English: Carl Schurz as Iago from Shakespeare'...

English: Carl Schurz as Iago from Shakespeare’s play Othello, amidst his co-conspirators, prepares to enter the limelight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most Shining Moment: (Yeah, I’m leaving this one BLANK)

Least Shining Moment: So many to choose from. I’m going to go with killing his wife, Emilia. He’s treated her like dirt the entire play, and when she finally looses it and stands up to him he doesn’t think twice about running her through with a rapier.

Why I chose Iago: As you may have noticed most my Secondary Characters are pretty stand up guys. They all  have something going for them…maybe its charm… maybe they have good heart… but there is usually some nice feature that makes me like a character enough to give them the honored Saturday spot. Not so with Iago. Honestly I’m hard pressed to think of anything really nice to say about him. But…it is a really juicy role. He’s the one people remember. It is kind of the Darth Vader effect. You aren’t supposed to like him at all, but he’s the one whose theme song you remember.

English: Photographic full-length portrait of ...

English: Photographic full-length portrait of Edwin Booth as Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Iago a SECONDARY character: I often struggle with whether a character is indeed Secondary. And it is hard to make that case with Iago when he is on stage more than any other character in Othello.  (He has 1,070 lines.) Without his wicked machinations you’d have a very different/happier story so, unlike other Secondary Characters, he is pivotal to the plot. But, when it comes down to it, the play is called Othello, not Iago. So I’m giving the slimy little so-and-so the nod this week.

Othello (1995 film)

Othello (1995 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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I’m feeling very Shakespeare-y today. I had the good fortune to attend the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory‘s Bard’s Birthday Gala last night. We were treated to scenes from their upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet (April 6-27) as well as a 3 person / 20 minute version of Othello. It was a fabulous lesson in suspending disbelief as the actors literally transformed before your eyes from one character another, and it worked beautifully. With a handful of props, no set and no furniture these three actors told the this timeless story in an engaging, new way. Play on! Indeed!


Richard the 3rd UPDATE

R3 UPDATE!

Those bones found at the Leicester car park are those of King Richard! DNA testing matched the bones to one of Richard’s descendants.

[The play Richard III  at Chesapeake Shakespeare has run its course, But you can catch Vince Eisensen (who played Richard) and James Jager (who played Henry) as Proteus and Valentine in the company’s current production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona weekends from Feb 22nd to March 17th. Click HERE for details

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Blog Note:  Richard the Third’s Birthday was Oct 3 1452.

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Richard III Royal Collection
Richard III Royal Collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m thinking about Richard the Third of England.

We just saw the terrific Moveable Shakespeare production of Richard III at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City Maryland.

Director Ian Gallanar chose to pick the characters up from the 15th century and time warp them  to something resembling War War One. Clever, especially considering the Patapsco Female Institute was used as a war hospital during the Great War. In his director’s notes he says:

“The production really uses the visual palate and the historic technology of the World War One era as a way to clarify the relationships of the characters….[The audience] might also recognize the futility and wastefulness of a war that, much like the English “Wars of the Roses,” seemed more about resolving who would inherit power rather than who ought to inherit power.” [Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Richard III: Program Notes]

So on a cold October night we got to see one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest plays in and around the shell of a burned out 19th Century building that some people claim is haunted. The occasional gas-masked actors quietly playing cards in a dimly lit corner or typing away orders on an antique typewriter upped the creep factor. As did the lighting effects, the period music and wonderful costumes.

Vince Eisenson as Richard III. Photo by Teresa Castracane. [Image courtesy: Chesapeake Shakespeare Company]

 

This version of Richard really worked. I really liked the “Moveable” aspect too. It added to the length of the play (instead of quick scene changes the audience literally did a scene change by moving to a new part of the building or grounds, and that took a while.) My only problem was that there was a scene or two where I couldn’t see the action because I had the bad luck of standing behind some one tall.)  Still, I liked that we kept moving through the building, and “discovering” new rooms. It really put the audience DEAD center into the action of the play (and moving about  kept us warm.)

Richard III runs for one more weekend at Chesapeake Shakespeare. So if you are local to Maryland jump on their website and grab some tickets before they sell out. http://chesapeakeshakespeare.com/

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Scrap for a Shakespeare character card: Richar...

Scrap for a Shakespeare character card: Richard III., c. 1890; Printer: Siegmund Hildesheimer & Co. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Museum number: S.63-2008, Link (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course they didn’t have instant fact checkers in Shakespeare’s day, and history, as they say is written by the winners. So it comes as no surprise that the Richard the Third we met last night was a real piece of work. Shakespeare was writing for an Elizabethan audience. Elizabeth, a Tudor, was the granddaughter of the man who finally brought about Richard’s undoing on Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, Henry VII. It was in his interest to make Richard as loathsome as possible.

Henry VII’s claim to the thrown was weak at best. So he took…

“every opportunity of enhancing his own reputation at the expense of his predecessor. Richard’s actions and behaviour were the subject of attention and scrutiny and were presented, in the weeks and years after his death, as those of a wicked and unscrupulous tyrant.” [The Richard III Society]

While he was alive Richard was well thought of.

  • He was loyal to his brother Edward.
  • He was effective in his administration of the North.
  • He defended the country against the Scots.
  • He handled the premature death of Edward with out plunging the country into crisis.

Shakespeare wasn’t the first writer to take up the thread of anti- Richard-ism. (Yes, I just made that up.)

By the time the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare penned what was to become one of his most popular and frequently performed plays, The Tragedy of King Richard III, the works of the anonymous Croyland Chronicler, John Rous, Bernard André, Polydore Vergil, Sir Thomas More, Edward Hall, Richard Grafton and Raphael Holinshed had been written. [Ibid]

So, as Chesapeake Shakespeare Managing  Director and Richard III Dramaturge says in her note… The Bard’s “fictitious villainous Richard has triumphed over the historic Richard for centuries now.” [CSC Program]

Richard III earliest surviving portrait. [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

 

In a timely twist of history archeologists digging up a parking lot in Leicester have found the remains of  the Greyfriars Church that might be those of Richard, the last King of England to die on the battlefield. They have found a skeleton in the choir area (Richard was buried in the choir of Friars Minor at Leicester), that had a skull injury caused by a bladed implement, an arrowhead was found between its vertebrae and upper back, and it had spinal abnormalities.

“the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder.” [University of Leicester Press Release : The Leicester Greyfriars Dig]

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Bonus Material:

Not sure how many of you watch HBO’s Boardwalk Empire… but I couldn’t stop thinking how much Michael Shannon  (who plays messed up Treasury agent turned iron salesman Nelson Van Alden) looks like our boy Richard.  I think they ought to do a new film version of Richard cubed with Shannon in the lead. He certainly has the intensity to play the role.


Thought of the Day 10.21.12 Richard the Third

Blog Note: Today is NOT Richard the Third’s Birthday, that’s Oct 3 1452.

——————————————————————————–

Richard III Royal Collection

Richard III Royal Collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m thinking about Richard the Third of England.

We just saw the terrific Moveable Shakespeare production of Richard III at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City Maryland.

Director Ian Gallanar chose to pick the characters up from the 15th century and time warp them  to something resembling War War One. Clever, especially considering the Patapsco Female Institute was used as a war hospital during the Great War. In his director’s notes he says:

“The production really uses the visual palate and the historic technology of the World War One era as a way to clarify the relationships of the characters….[The audience] might also recognize the futility and wastefulness of a war that, much like the English “Wars of the Roses,” seemed more about resolving who would inherit power rather than who ought to inherit power.” [Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Richard III: Program Notes]

So on a cold October night we got to see one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest plays in and around the shell of a burned out 19th Century building that some people claim is haunted. The occasional gas-masked actors quietly playing cards in a dimly lit corner or typing away orders on an antique typewriter upped the creep factor. As did the lighting effects, the period music and wonderful costumes.

Vince Eisenson as Richard III. Photo by Teresa Castracane. [Image courtesy: Chesapeake Shakespeare Company]

This version of Richard really worked. I really liked the “Moveable” aspect too. It added to the length of the play (instead of quick scene changes the audience literally did a scene change by moving to a new part of the building or grounds, and that took a while.) My only problem was that there was a scene or two where I couldn’t see the action because I had the bad luck of standing behind some one tall.)  Still, I liked that we kept moving through the building, and “discovering” new rooms. It really put the audience DEAD center into the action of the play (and moving about  kept us warm.)

Richard III runs for one more weekend at Chesapeake Shakespeare. So if you are local to Maryland jump on their website and grab some tickets before they sell out. http://chesapeakeshakespeare.com/

————————————

Scrap for a Shakespeare character card: Richar...

Scrap for a Shakespeare character card: Richard III., c. 1890; Printer: Siegmund Hildesheimer & Co. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Museum number: S.63-2008, Link (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course they didn’t have instant fact checkers in Shakespeare’s day, and history, as they say is written by the winners. So it comes as no surprise that the Richard the Third we met last night was a real piece of work. Shakespeare was writing for an Elizabethan audience. Elizabeth, a Tudor, was the granddaughter of the man who finally brought about Richard’s undoing on Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, Henry VII. It was in his interest to make Richard as loathsome as possible.

Henry VII’s claim to the thrown was weak at best. So he took…

“every opportunity of enhancing his own reputation at the expense of his predecessor. Richard’s actions and behaviour were the subject of attention and scrutiny and were presented, in the weeks and years after his death, as those of a wicked and unscrupulous tyrant.” [The Richard III Society]

While he was alive Richard was well thought of.

  • He was loyal to his brother Edward.
  • He was effective in his administration of the North.
  • He defended the country against the Scots.
  • He handled the premature death of Edward with out plunging the country into crisis.

Shakespeare wasn’t the first writer to take up the thread of anti- Richard-ism. (Yes, I just made that up.)

By the time the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare penned what was to become one of his most popular and frequently performed plays, The Tragedy of King Richard III, the works of the anonymous Croyland Chronicler, John Rous, Bernard André, Polydore Vergil, Sir Thomas More, Edward Hall, Richard Grafton and Raphael Holinshed had been written. [Ibid]

So, as Chesapeake Shakespeare Managing  Director and Richard III Dramaturge says in her note… The Bard’s “fictitious villainous Richard has triumphed over the historic Richard for centuries now.” [CSC Program]

Richard III earliest surviving portrait. [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

In a timely twist of history archeologists digging up a parking lot in Leicester have found the remains of  the Greyfriars Church that might be those of Richard, the last King of England to die on the battlefield. They have found a skeleton in the choir area (Richard was buried in the choir of Friars Minor at Leicester), that had a skull injury caused by a bladed implement, an arrowhead was found between its vertebrae and upper back, and it had spinal abnormalities.

“the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder.” [University of Leicester Press Release : The Leicester Greyfriars Dig]

 

——————————————————————————-

Bonus Material:

Not sure how many of you watch HBO’s Boardwalk Empire… but I couldn’t stop thinking how much Michael Shannon  (who plays messed up Treasury agent turned iron salesman Nelson Van Alden) looks like our boy Richard.  I think they ought to do a new film version of Richard cubed with Shannon in the lead. He certainly has the intensity to play the role.


Romeo and Juliet and Benvolio and Mercutio

 

Apologies, gentle reader, for it taking so long to post a review of something I saw on Sunday! (I’ve been busy doing actual freelance graphic design and writing work, so I’m sure you’ll understand.)

If you haven’t already seen Romeo and Juliet at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company this Summer you’d better hurry. This nice little production of  the classic Shakespeare tale is something you don’t want to miss. Remaining performances are on Friday, July 27th at 8:00 and Sunday, July 29 at 6:00 at the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City Maryland. The CSC is running R&J in rep with Pride and Prejudice (another excellent production) which concludes its run tonight, Thursday and Saturday. Here’s my review of R&J:

Benvolio as interpreted by artist Hannah Tompkins

I particularly liked the first half.  They had a LOT of fun here and it was nice to see actors who were so hemmed in and corseted by their roles in Pride and Prejudice let loose on the stage and really enjoy themselves. Julian Elijah Martinez (Romeo / Wickham) and Rachael Jacobs (Juliet / Lydia) played much more likable characters here, and it was lovely to see the nuances in the shift of the lovers characters. Jacobs’ bubbly Juliet is all innocence while her Lydia was appropriately bratty. But the actors who played Benvolio / Darcy, Adam Sheaffer, and Mercurio / Lizzy, Blythe Coon, were even more fun to watch. He was SO RESERVED and stately in P&P and is so fun loving in R&J (and then so angst ridden when needed) he stole the show for me. (… Yeah, maybe because I am predisposed to like him because he was also Darcy, I admit it.) And she took all the energy and vitality she had as Elizabeth Bennett and just cut loose  with bawdy humor and physicality for Mercurio. They both were damn fine swordsmen too. I was really impressed.
The staging was really nice too, they did a lot out and about the audience, really addressing the crowd — sometimes eating the food from the picnic tables in the back, or performing small scenes in the pockets of the audience. There was this beautiful moment  when Jamie Jager, (Paris/ Bingley) goes semi “Off stage” as Paris to watch (in character) as Romeo enters the vault. As an audience member we have all been following Paris– he’s just given a heart breaking speech (love him too, btw) and we — especially those of us who can hear him breathing — can’t take our eyes off him. But Jamie — knowing that our attention needs to be with Romeo, who is entering stage left — put his fingers to his eyes and gestured for us to look across the stage. Everyone’s head turned to where it needed to be. It could have been 1595 and we could have been the groundlings. He had just gotten us to happily suspend our disbelief and manipulated us to continue with the story. I loved it.
So kudos to director Jenny Leopold for getting the most out of her fine actors and the minimal set.
The second half of the play (YES, I know there are really 5 acts) is much, much more serious. The body count went up, poison came out. And  they had to get down to business. You know how it ends. I knew how it ends. Actually KNOWING how it ends was kind of  a bummer. Like a lot of Shakespeare (and Austen) there’s a double edged sword in coming to a performance knowing the material ahead of time. You have the inside joke of knowing the inside jokes, but you don’t have the zing of surprise or the intake of breath when some one is unexpectedly run through with a rapier. I, personally, did not weep openly at the end of R& J, but I did hear sniffling around me.
Jaded? Perhaps. But mostly I was thinking that the second half didn’t have enough BENVOLIO!

 


Thought of the Day 7.19.12

‘Tis the Shakespeare insult mug from our cupboard. Because sometimes inspiration IS as close as your morning cup of coffee.

Well, today I’m thinking that you, my clever, well read, blog followers must be in wont of a few additional Shakespearian insults to heap upon mankind. The response to yesterday’s list was pretty amazing (thank you!) And whilst I was compiling that list I kept finding quotes from/to/about this Falstaff guy…So, dear reader, I give you…

The Henry IV collection

You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck! (Henry IV, Part 1) [ wow that’s all one curse! You might want to break it down and use a bit of moderation, lest some one thing you a bow-case.]

Peace, ye fat guts! (Henry IV, Part 1)

Falstaff sweats to death,
And lards the lean earth as he walks along. (Henry IV, Part 1)

Thou art as fat as butter (Henry IV, Part 1)

Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch! (Henry IV, Part 1)

You are as a candle, the better burnt out. (Henry IV, Part 1)

That trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey Iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years?  (Henry IV, Part 1)

You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe! (Henry V, Part 2)

Matthew MacFadyen as Prince Hal and Michael Gambon as Falstaff in a scene from the National Theatre’s presentation of Henry IV in 2005. (Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore)

My secret Shakespearian wish… If you had a million dollars and could endow a classical theatre company what would your wish be?

My wish?  I’d  endow my two favorite Shakespearian troupes — the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company — for a Summer of Hal. Since they generally put on two shows a piece …they could do Henry  IV Parts 1 and 2 and go once more into the breach Henry V in rep. [For the fourth show I’d love to see another Jane Austen adaptation, maybe Persuasion?] …Oh, We few we happy few who could witness such a summer as that!  (Now if only I had a million dollars!)

[Discuss]

 


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