Monday, June 18, 2012

I have been studying ...


If you have not yet seen the post I wrote as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's World Shakespeare Festival 2012 ("Shakespeare Study Break"), please check it out!

Shakespeare Study Break

And if you're joining me after already reading it, welcome! I hope that you'll continue to visit me and join my audience.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

will you speak ...?

Do you have a favorite speech you'd like to hear? One that you've always loved? One that you always wanted to have a better understanding of and appreciation for?

Please send me your requests!

You can email me at hearingshakespeare (at) gmail (dot) com

I will do my best to put them up for future 'Hearings'.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

This wooden O

On the heels of the news that the remains of The Curtain have been excavated, I thought I would begin our 'hearing' with the Prologue to Henry V, a remarkable speech that I believe outlines the agreement between actors and audiences that was, and is, central to theatre-making.

Spoken by the Chorus, this speech belongs not to a mimetic character of the fiction, but to the liminal presence of the actor-storyteller: he is both of and in the fiction. He outlines what must transpire in order for the fiction to be engaged; for the storytelling to commence. It is a contract of the highest degree: the players will endeavor to create a world, but they are dependent on the audience -- and on the audience's acceptance of their shortcomings -- in order to bring the story to fruition.

In this way, the speech highlights some of the most distinct differences between the way we construct linear drama in the Western tradition today and the ways in which we imagine our Elizabethan counterparts did in the past. The Chorus' audience did not sit in the dark, hidden from the player's sight and watch an intact representation of fiction unfold across a stage like a voyeur. This audience was responsible for being an audience: for allowing the words and images to work upon them, for activating their imaginations in order to fulfill a joint venture. It is an invitation and also an apology. It solicits acceptance, compliance, and a sense of play.

Listen ...


O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest Heaven of Invention:
A Kingdom for a Stage, Princes to Act,
And Monarchs to behold the swelling Scene.
Then should the Warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the Port of Mars, and at his heels
(Leash'd in like Hounds) should Famine, Sword and Fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, Gentles all
The flat unraised Spirits that hath dared,
On this unworthy Scaffold to bring forth
So great an Object. Can this Cock-Pit hold
The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram
Within this Wooden O, the very Casques
That did affright the Air at Agincourt?
O, pardon: since a crooked Figure may
Attest in little place a Million,
And let us, Ciphers to this great Accompt,
On your imaginary Forces work.
Suppose within the Girdle of these Walls
Are now confin’d two mighty Monarchies,
Whose high up-reared, and abutting Fronts,
The perilous narrow Ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts:
Into a thousand parts divide one Man,
And make imaginary Puissance.
Think when we talk of Horses, that you see them
Printing their proud Hoofs i' th’ receiving Earth:
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our Kings,
Carry them here and there: jumping o'er Times;
Turning th’ accomplishment of many years
Into an Hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this History;
Who Prologue-like, your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our Play.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Remains of Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre found

Curtain Theatre Remains Found: Site Of Shakespeare's Performances Uncovered By Archaeologists

When I heard this news today, I gasped with excitement!

I heard the lead archeologist discussing the find on the BBC this morning, and was so relieved to hear that the developers intend to preserve the findings.

Shakespeare's company, The Lord Chamberlain's Men, spent two years in residency at The Curtain, from 1597-1599. It's not mentioned in this article, but the archeological findings confirm that The Curtain was comparable in size to The Rose and The Theatre, which may further substantiate the claims made by scholars that the replica of Shakespeare's Globe is indeed too large. Professor Peter Thomson (a brilliant Shakespearean who taught me so much, and whose wisdom I continue to carry with me) is among those who believe this to be true. He explores this idea in "The New Globe: Monument or Portent?" (On Actors and Acting, University of Exeter Press, 2000).

At any rate, this is very exciting news. I'm thrilled to share it with you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Open your ears ...

Hello, and welcome!

This is Hearing Shakespeare: a place you can visit to listen to Shakespeare and read about how you might approach speaking it yourself. I believe wholeheartedly that Shakespeare should be heard not simply read silently, and I endeavor to give you that opportunity right in your own home, sitting at your own computer, without a huge time commitment.

The vernacular in Shakespeare’s day was to go and “hear” a play, not ‘see’ one. As we have become more and more visual, we’ve lost our sense of active listening, and Shakespeare embeds in his work some of the most evocative language ever written. I will create here for us a forum in which we can engage and return to our roots in the aural tradition.

You may or may not know that Shakespeare was an incredibly savvy businessman; a purveyor of popular entertainment that amassed a fortune by engaging with his audience in the most innovative ways. It’s no secret that Shakespeare drew upon many sources for his plays, but his versions stay with us because of the ways in which he stirred within his audiences (and in us today) a connection to the heart of the story: the universal needs with we continue to struggle.

I think that Shakespeare would have loved what is possible today with the use of technology. He wrote: “all the world’s a stage” and here I activate that idea directly. I will create for you, my listener/readers, a global ‘stage’, where the blogosphere serves as our ‘Globe Theatre’, both figuratively and literally.

Play on!