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.


  1. Just wanted to say good luck with your blog on such an interesting subject. I've written a couple of posts about my favourite speeches and speakers of Shakespeare on The Shakespeare blog and will feature Hearing Shakespeare on my blog soon. I wonder what you thought of the RSC African Shakespeare which used Kenyan accents throughout?

  2. Thanks so much for your well wishes, and thank you in advance for featuring 'Hearing Shakespeare' on your blog. I'll certainly be checking out some of your favorite speeches and will feature them here soon.

    As for the RSC African Shakespeare ... I can't tell you how much I'd love to see it! I have been a fan of Gregory Doran's since I saw his production of "All's Well That Ends Well" while I was living the in the UK in 2004. I've watched the trailer for "Julius Caesar" several times; it really draws you in and I can listen to that narrator's voice for hours. I knew about Nelson Mandela's Robben Island Shakespeare, and Doran has taken this nugget of history and inspired his own interpretation of the work: it seems to me the best combination of research and practice.

    In May I was at the Shakespeare in Performance Conference at the University of Maine, Farmington to conduct a workshop and deliver a paper entitled "Uncovering the Tragic Voice in the Activated Body". There I heard scholar Benaouda Lebdai (from Universit√© du Maine, Le Mans, France) deliver a paper entitled “Traces of Shakespeare’s Tragedies in Africa” and I learned a great deal about the history of Shakespeare in Africa, which makes me especially sorry to miss this production. Unfortunately, the BBC IPlayer won't transmit in the US, but I hope that this production of Julius Caesar will eventually become available here in the States, since I won't be able to make another trip the UK this summer.

    I loved the audience comments, particularly the reflections that they felt Shakespeare's verse was relevant and accessible, that the actors had a sense of ownership of the text that gave the production a sense that it was 'actually happening'. This is one of the ideals we practitioners strive for: to connect deeply with our audiences as we infuse this great text with a sense of self: it makes us feel as though we are all one with each other and with Shakespeare, which I think is one of the big reasons many of us continue to love and perform Shakespeare today.

    I am not always a big fan of largely conceptual productions of Shakespeare that completely reinvent or re-locate the story, but it seems to me that what works especially well with this African setting is that although the setting has been moved from Rome, the conspirator's actions are ones we can easily recognize -- and this is what invokes in us such a strong response. We still see the actions of this world around us, and that is what continues to keep Shakespeare 'our contemporary'.

    I also happen to be a huge fan of African music, so I imagine that this production pulsed with an energy that played upon the audience's senses far beyond the poetry.