Gathering Round for One of Shakespeare’s Eeriest Texts

It is known as “The Scottish play,” “Mackers,” “The Scottish business” or “the Glamis comedy.” With a play where so few are willing to utter its name, you would think that it would remain buried under the Bard’s lesser known works. But “Macbeth” is more popular than ever, with adaptations like Sleep No More re-imagining the tale in a 6 story warehouse to Alan Cumming’s recent one-man-show, a decent into madness set in an insane asylum. And still companies are able to find new ways of telling Mac’s universal story of greed and guilt – one of which is CityShakes undeniably unsettling production here in Santa Monica. mac1

Director Brooke Bishop sets the show in the round, emphasizing the show’s ceremonial roots – from the ever-plotting witches to the individuals who ban together to unseat Macbeth from his newly-found power.  The production’s site-specific location, a storage garage behind a stark empty art gallery, also aids in the creation of an ominous air surrounding the text.

Smartly constructed with a cast of seven, perhaps the most compelling aspect of the production is the use of suggestion. Swords have bases, but no blades. Children tinker with toys offstage, but are never seen. These powerful “absences” both underline the swift decline of Macbeth’s sanity (particularly in his “Is this a dagger” soliloquy), and make Macduff’s loss all the more heartbreaking. It also featured some truly thrilling cast-made auditory soundscapes that could have highlighted other earlier moments as well.

macbeth

A ceremony that shouldn’t be missed, this Macbeth breathes life into the age-old text with its crafty ways.

To see it: “Macbeth” plays Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm through Nov. 22, and Saturdays Nov. 9 and 16 at 8PM, at 1454 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401. For more information, visit www.CityShakes.org.

The Fab Four Take on the Bard

Just in case you weren’t sure if the Beatles were iconic enough…Turns out in 1964, they also tried their hand at Shakespeare. Because, why not.

Here they perform the mummer’s play from the second half of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the famous lovers and the wall story.

Genderbending Like Nobody’s Business

Was lucky enough to catch one of my favorites, Alan Cumming, in his tour de force performance as every single character in Macbeth.

Set in an insane asylum, we find our haggard, somewhat lucid hero being led into his new cell by two doctors and kicking off the 90 min monologue with “When shall we three meet again?”

IMAG1964

Out of all the characters he embodies, Cumming’s Lady M is absolutely revelatory. Seductive, manipulative, controlled and vicious, he brings new life to Macbeth’s power-hungry wife.

Thankfully, NYT documented a glimpse of this performance in the video below:

Bite-sized Wisdom: Jonson

This contemporary of Billy Shakes knew the importance of surrounding yourself with good company:

friends

“True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice”
– Ben Jonson

Image Source

You may also enjoy:

Bite-sized Wisdom Hammerstein

On Personal Growth

Seven Good Reasons to Stop Whatever You’re Doing and Go for It

Shakespeare’s Rocking Out

LLL

The brilliant team behind Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is at it again. Director and bookwriter Alex Timbers and composer Michael Friedman have collaborated again on a modern musical retelling of the Bard’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. From the sound of this track, released yesterday on Shakespeare’s 449th birthday, the show promises to be a contemporary romp and a love letter of sorts to the inimitable writer himself.

It will take this stage this summer as part of the free Shakespearefest that descends upon Central Park’s Delacorte Theater each year. From the Shakespeare in the Park notes on the show: “Romance, revelry and enchanting music ignite in this contemporary yet lovingly faithful musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy. The King and his best buds decide at their five-year college reunion to swear off the joys of women. But when four cute, clever girls from their past show up, they’re forced to reconsider all of that nonsense! Smart, sexy, outrageous, and irreverent, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST is a madcap celebration of true love and coming of age.”

AreYouaManClick above to listen

READ this line, read THIS line, read this LINE

A young Ian McKellen works through a line from Merchant of Venice in the RSC’s Playing Shakespeare from a few decades past.

The director seen here, John Barton, was asked to write a book about his robust knowledge of the Bard but promptly refused, stating that it was impossible to talk about Shakespeare without having living, breathing actors available to demonstrate the subtleties and poetry of the text. The result is a party full of some the acting greats taking apart classic texts piece by piece and uncovering centuries worth of subtext in the process.

The Most Widely-Known Question in the English Language


From Slings & Arrows, a gem of a show that follows the workings of a fictional Shakespeare festival akin to Stratford’s.

Directors like the fictional Tennant are an actors dream – insightful, brave, and brutally honest. The kind that are able to take usher a well-loved, oft-recited collection of words out of an actor frightened of his own greatness. This shows’ three seasons only get better as they progress and I would highly recommend a watch if you’re in need of a new TV addiction.

How many times have you heard this illustrious speech? What makes it memorable for you?

Old Lines Can Be Made New Again – The Missing Ingredient is You

trueplaces

gooduniversewise

mind

writedrunk

twinsouls

3oclock

light

prose

New York-based graphic designer Evan Robertson plucked out notable lines written by famous authors and transformed them into visual stories. Robertson would see a “little jewel of a sentence” and he’d underline it. Then, he would take those “snippets of text and ideas” and “let the words be a springboard for an illustration.”

Image Source: Obvious State

Bite-Sized Wisdom: Shakespeare

Somehow went a year without tipping the hat to the Bard. Let his words wind you out of conflict as he reminds us of the essential:

keytomy

Go to your bosomKnock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.”

– Shakespeare

Image Source

You may also enjoy:

Light of Love

Light of Love

World’s A Stage Spotlight on Germany

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Germany

No Theatre No Problem

No Theatre? No Problem

No theatre? No problem.

Don’t have a traditional theatre on hand? More and more groups seem to be saying “that’s alright, we’ll make do” and seeking out alternative theatre spaces. And I have to say, I love this trend. A production of The Tempest staged steps away from the ocean,  Halloween-themed shows performed in a cemetery, even promenade plays that invite audiences to walk along the streets of a town and experience a theatrical event in an incredibly immersive fashion. A notable example is the NYC production, Sleep No More, which took a few abandoned warehouses and created “the McKintrick Hotel,” a 1930s setting for a multi-story recreation of MacBeth. Audience members don masks and follow the action of not only the Shakespeare original, but also what precedes and follows the story of Mac as we know it.

An immaculate amount of detail, room after room of embellishments and the result? A macabre and innovative manner of storytelling that invites the audience to be a part of its unsettling nature.

Images by Sara Krulwich

Why You’re Probably Better off Than Most Famous Theatre Couples this Valentine’s Day

We’re getting close to Valentine’s Day. Of course that means we’ll have those few who are grumbling “what’s so great about it anyway?” Whether you’ve got a special someone or if you’re celebrating your own awesome self this year, it’s always helpful to take stock of how much better your life is than those of these classic couples of the stage. By definition, these couples needed to have drama going on in their lives.

Romeo and Juliet, Romeo & Juliet

Ah young love. What could be more romantic than hiding your crush from Daddy since he’s not too fond of your new beau? Super cute until you learn that faking your own death sends your quick-to-react boyfriend to pull a little stunt of his own. If you’re still alive, than you already have it better than either of the main characters in this Shakespearean classic.

Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, Carousel

Boy meets girl. Girl lets boy put arm around her on the carousel and gets banished from the ride. Boy mocks his boss at the carousel and gets fired from his job. Thus begins this charming love story. But ah, soon the two are wed! And Billy only gets involved with a little bit of robbery, wife-beating, and gambling – nothing enough to stop their love. Billy kills himself after a theft-gone-wrong, leaving the now pregnant Julie alone. And while second act sees Billy sent back down to earth to redeem himself, this love story ending is no where nearly as charming as Ghost (maybe a sexy pottery scene would’ve helped).

Porgy and Bess, Porgy and Bess

Bess, a beautiful cocaine addict, meets Porgy, a sweet disabled beggar, after her ex-boyfriend/dealer kills another man over a game of craps and flees. Porgy falls madly in love. Bess can’t decide if she prefers the more glamorous life of gamblers and drug dealers. She shows her love through the little things – like going to a picnic across the lake and leaving Porgy behind when his disability prevents him from getting on the boat. But nothing stops Porgy from loving that woman. He seeks her out endlessly, even when she leaves for New York with another drug dealer. If your love life is less coke-fueled, and a little bit more reciprocal, you’re already doing better than good ol’ Porgy and Bess.

Jane and Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte’s famous tale has been adapted for the stage, yes. Meaning these lovebirds qualify as some of the theatre’s most tragic.  Jane, once an abused orphan, is now a bookish governess. She goes to work for the “gruff-on-the-exterior-but-of-course-he’s-got-a-heart-of-gold” Rochester. They fall deeply in love then Ed lets an itty bitty secret slip out on their wedding day: he’s already married…to a crazy lady…who now resides in the attic. Jane gets mad and runs away. Years of broken-heartedness later, she returns after hearing that a fire destroyed Rochester’s mansion, killed his (other) wife, and left him blind.  Love triumphs. If you have successfully avoided polygamy, horrendous natural disasters, or losing your eyesight – you’re doing worlds better than these two.

Aida and Radames, Aida

Seen in both opera and musical theatre, this love story follows Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is captured and enslaved in Egypt, and Radames, a sexy Egyptian hunk. Forget that Radames is supposed to be loyal to the Pharaoh, or that the Pharaoh’s daughter has the hots for him. Forget that Aida should probably be pissed off that his kingdom is trying to force her into slavery.  Their love is so wrong it’s right.  Eventually, Pharaoh sentences Radames to death and the two are buried alive. If your room still has air in it, you’re doing just fine.

Peter Pan and Wendy, Peter Pan

I’m not even going to touch the potential Oedipus complex going on here.

You may also enjoy:

Day in the Life: Venice

Venice appears to be breathtaking no matter how you slice it. The vibrant facades, the quaint laundry lines displaying clothes like multicolored flags, the lack of traditional highways…

But surely the Venice of today is different than that of 500 years ago. While the city is unmistakably steeped in history, it cannot help but to feel the effects of modernization.

On a search to find out how Venice might have looked in the 16th century, stumbled upon this little gem: a trailer for a 2004 movie version of the Bard’s “Merchant of Venice.” Anyone seen this? The cast is top-notch that’s for sure…Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, and…what? Al Pacino? Since when does he do Shakespeare? In any case, I feel like this film flew under a lot of people’s radar.

You can catch a glimpse of commedia at 1:34

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3