Category Archives: Roles

Studying on my feet

This post was originally published in my Secret Diary of PhD Candidate column for The Shakespeare Standard.

Dearest Readers and Well-wishers,

Apologies for the long period of silence…let’s just say I’ve been gathering material to share with you. Although my enthusiasm still shines bright, I can’t tell stress how far it’s been put to the test these days: studying for my 8-hour Comprehensive Exam, piecing together a coherent (and, ideally, cogent) scholarship application, writing a paper that I could proudly deliver to the luminaries at Cambridge, and, well, a slew of events in my personal life (funny how it gets in the way sometimes!), that required my attention and emotional investment.

Yet, here I am, once again, sitting in an airport after an outstanding conference, feeling all warm and fuzzy inside for the friends I’ve made and the thoughts they’ve provoked. Two weeks ago, I sat in my office, resignedly acknowledging its function as an on-campus retreat for the occasional panic attack. — Trot off to England for a week when my ‘Comps’ studies aren’t even close to complete? When I can’t even articulate my proposed dissertation topic for a mandatory scholarship application, due in less than a month? And move apartments even sooner? — I knew I needed a vacation and kept reminding myself that it would be a working one, but somehow it felt like the most reckless and irresponsible thing to do when my nose was meant to be firmly affixed to the grindstone.

Spacey rockin' Gaddafi’s signature shades

On my very first night, I attended closing night of The Bridge Project’s Richard III at The Old Vic. Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey did not disappoint. Spacey’s Richard reminded me of the character’s roots in the stock Machiavel figure, but the role took on modern relevance with undeniable parallels to the Libyan dictator who clings to power by the skin of his nails, Muammar Gaddafi.

The next day, on a specifically non-Shakespearean date for afternoon tea, my friend and I got lost in the labyrinth known as Kensington. We came upon the former home of T.S. Eliot. This prompted flashbacks to a particularly torturous study I undertook on the writer’s philosophy that Hamlet was an artistic “failure” in its lacking of the crucial objective correlative. Clearly, there is no escape from Shakespeare in London – you turn the corner and he’s always there in spirit!

I soon moved on to Cambridge, where I finally got to meet some colleagues from Open Shakespeare and the Open Knowledge Foundation. I had recently written an article for them about my experiences with Shakespeare and the Internet, and it was great to sit with the team in real-time and brainstorm innovative ways to bring Shakespeare’s texts to life online in an interactive way. It’s amazing how I spend so much time communicating with both my Open Shakespeare and Shakespeare Standard colleagues online, but it’s really so nice to meet the team in person. It was a fantastic experience, and one I hope to repeat soon!

Dragging my blistered feet back to my dormitory at St. Catherine’s College, I shivered in my drafty quarters and thought of scholarship student Christopher Marlowe, snuggling up to roommate Robert Thexton for warmth, and supposedly even some nocturnal enjoyment.

Tastes like chicken?

On Tuesday, the day of the conference, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Centre for Material Texts was overrun by Early Modernists. This led me to learn the invaluable lesson of, in the future, checking the conference program, not simply as I narcissistically had, for the joy of seeing my name in print amongst ‘pros’, but also to develop a better understanding of said pros’ research interests. A rookie error, I had assumed that the conference, “Eating Words: Text, Image, and Food” was geared to scholars across historical fields and faculties, but I ended up explaining humanist pedagogy to those who had indeed written the book on it. A valuable learning experience nonetheless, I was fortunate to have had it amidst such gracious, supportive hosts.

It was wonderful to spend a couple of days surrounded by fellow bibliophiles, and I even had the opportunity to attend an event at Plurabelle Books celebrating bibliophagy – the literal, rather than the commonly figurative, consumption of books. I managed to nibble on a tiny corner of a page, but I think I’ll stick to my personal vice, the casual sniffing of printed media.

English Poet Laureate Andrew Motion marveling over the texts at the Ritblat Gallery

When I returned to London, I took advantage of my close proximity to the British Library and visited the ‘Treasures’ at my beloved Ritblat Gallery. Aside from marveling over Jane Austen’s writing desk and reading specs (and indeed caving in and buying a Persuasion mug at the BL gift shop), I got a chance to stand inches away from several Renaissance quartos and, my personal favorite, Shakespeare’s First Folio. I must give credit to the curators of this exhibit, as they show Shakespeare’s works as not simply standing on a pedestal of the author’s own wit, but also as largely indebted to source texts and the works of his contemporaries, such as Marlowe and Ben Jonson.

Good from far

That evening I met up with two of my favorite people in the world – fellow bardolators from my MA days, future Shakespearean heavy-hitters, otherwise known as my London Theatre Buddies. Quickly becoming tradition, we enjoyed our second biennial ‘Thai Food and Tempest’ night, heading to the Theatre Royal Haymarket to catch Trevor Nunn’s rendition of the play, starring Ralph Fiennes. While the use of an hourglass prop was a great way to remind us that The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s few plays to maintain Aristotle’s unities of time and space, the production was otherwise a disappointment. I jokingly defend Nunn by suggesting that he must have spent the show’s budget in paying for the principal actor, but I’m serious when I say that nothing was gained from the sparse set. This is especially disappointing because Nunn himself had proved that a deliberately austere mise en scène can be beneficial with his seminal production of Macbeth in 1979. I wish I could justify this production that seemed far too concerned with the smoke-and-mirrors use of harnesses to make Ariel fly, but really, this production added little to nothing to the vibrant legacy of this “rich and strange” play.

The good and evil angel fighting for Faustus’s soul

A much more memorable production was the Globe Theatre’s Dr. Faustus. This was the first time I’ve seen Faustus in performance and it genuinely contributed to my understanding of the play. It made me realize that Mephistopheles is a much more dynamic, but also sorrowful, character, and the Globe can always be relied upon to bring the bawdiness and vulgarity of Early Modern plays to life onstage, replete with plenty of [hopefully] fake urine. My favorite part of the play? The concluding jig in which the resurrected Faustus and Mephistopheles entertained the audience with a bout of ‘dueling lutes’.

And now I’m back at Heathrow, feet throbbing from such a busy week, but all the while feeling intellectually rejuvenated and incredibly blessed. Friends, both old and new, have given me exceptional food for thought (pun most definitely intended) for my scholarship applications, and the living, breathing, examples of Early Modern Drama that I’ve encountered have inspired me to get back to blogging and, more importantly, confront that grindstone head-on!

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

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If music be the food of love, play on – Twelfth Night at The Stratford Festival

Alas, Poor Yorick! The summer’s almost over! Now I sip at the dregs of my final Balzac’s iced tea and while I try to articulate what I experienced this afternoon. Twelfth Night is a wonderful play; it’s a family favourite, which is why the Stratford Festival (nay, any Shakespeare festival) seems to play it on a 4-year loop with As You Like It, Much Ado, and Midsummer. That being said, Twelfth Night is far from fluff, and although it’s a comedy, there’s personal trauma, tragedy, loss, and grief bubbling not too far beneath the surface for those who are looking for it.

Dennehy as Sir Toby on Stratford's Official Twelfth Night Poster

I’m not going to lie, I had my reservations when the audience began to wildly applaud as stage/film star Brian Dennehy (best known to me as Montague in Luhrmann’s R+J) came onstage. It reminded me of last year’s The Tempest, where you could actually see Christopher Plummer break character and bask in the applause, which is why I tend to grumble when people blindly worship the stage vetran. But Dennehy didn’t force the audience to see this ensemble-driven play as being led by his shining star. I appreciated this, especially because Sir Toby is but half of the slap-stick tag-team, completed by Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Not having done any research on the cast before I got there, I was over the moon to find that the role was being played by Stephen Ouimette, also known as the deliciously snarky ghost of director Oliver Welles in Slings and Arrows. Onstage, the two were a hilarious team, but their achievements were crowned by Sir Andrew’s spontaneous vomiting in one scene (staged but shocking), and his accidental dropping of his towel in a steam-room scene, a gaff that I’m sure was not staged. It shocked the audience into a two-minute round of applause and I applaud Sir Toby and Fabian’s heroic efforts to maintain straight faces in character.

Feste was also a favorite of mine. An excellent character on the page, I’ve been disappointed by some stage renditions of it, and tend to use Sir Ben Kingsley’s take on the character in the Trevor Nunn film as the standard by which to judge others. Ben Carlson’s took a much different take on the character, proving that an actor’s goal mustn’t be to replicate or emulate another actor playing the character, but rather to emulate the essence of the character himself, finding within the text rationale for playing him a certain way. While Ben Kingsley played a more stoic, Buddha-like, but ultimately fun-loving and kind-hearted Feste, Stratford’s Ben basked in the character’s ambivalence: mischievous but doleful, and entirely unapologetic in his perpetual pan-handling.

In writing the character of Feste, Shakespeare introduced an entirely new fool to the stage: gone were Will Kempe’s slapstick Clowns as found in the Dogberries and Nick Bottoms, and present was Robert Armin’s Fool, the “corruptor of words,” manifested by the likes of Feste and Lear’s Fool. These vagabond-like characters are professionally attached, but never harbouring any physical or permanent attachment to any character. My mysteriously fading away when their guidance is no longer needed, these characters likewise appear out of nowhere. Maria tells Feste: “My lady will hang thee for thy absence,” and Carlson forbids us from being sure where he’s been: could he have fled the scene upon the death of Olivia’s brother, a lamentable time in which the Fool’s gibes were unwelcome? Or perhaps he was suffering from the loss, too, harbouring a homosexual love for him much akin to Antonio’s for Sebastian? For a moment, I even felt like his character might have been in love with his mistress Olivia, not unlike Malvolio. Whatever the case, he has returned from beyond. He brings with him the carnivalesque celebration of Twelfth Night, the night when all social structures are inverted and the fool himself performs the roles of Lord of Misrule and Abbot of Unreason.

Ben Carlson as Feste on the album cover - I still can't get the songs out of my head!

By far the most exciting part of this production was its musicality. At first I was skeptical, thinking that it couldn’t have possibly been a coincidence that Stratford was staging a musical Shakespeare in the same year that Josie Rourke staged an 80’s music-inspired Much Ado, but frankly, I needed the reminder that not everyone is as doggedly anglocentric as I am. My favorite professor at Royal Holloway was always hinting that somebody should write a dissertation on the mysteries hidden within the songs in Shakespeare’s plays. Twelfth Night is especially full of them, as per the play’s famous opening lines: “If music be the food of love, play on.” Sometimes, like in the exceptionally hilarious kitchen scene, the Fool riles up his audience with a joking ditty and playful banging on pots and pans until they wake up the surly Malvolio. Later in the play, we are reminded that this fool is not all benevolence, standing above the imprisoned Malvolio’s cell and tauntingly singing that the servant’s mistress “loves another.” Unapologetic for truly being the only character rational enough to expose the foolishness of those around him, Feste is silently exiled from the romantic final action of the play, because, as we’re told in Midsummer Night’s Dream, “To say the truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days.”

Final verdict? A heartfelt “go see it!”: bring the whole family, and then buy the cd for cheesey singalongs on the way home!

Twelfth Night is playing at the Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, until October 28. 

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Loving Shakespeare does not make me noble

This post was originally published in my Secret Diary of PhD Candidate column for The Shakespeare Standard.

I know that ol’ Will Shakespeare has been sitting comfortably upon his pedestal for the past few centuries, but sometimes we have to step back and remind ourselves of two things:

One: Shakespeare’s work contains a certain levity that implies that he didn’t take himself too seriously. I’m not prescribing opinions to him when I say that, but I am saying that his work is chock-full of seriously bawdy, sexist, and racist humour that prompts me to believe that he was havin’ a laugh while writing the words that have inspired us all this time.

That brood was pretty sexy when I was 14

Two: The love of Shakespeare does not require you to start wearing horn-rimmed glasses and elbow patches (although the latter is highly recommended), or take your own study of Shakespeare too seriously. In my opinion, it’s perfectly acceptable if one’s motive for watching R&J is to see Leo, rather than watching for the Shakespearean content exclusively.

Likewise, I enjoy taking my guilty pleasure of reading celebrity gossip to the level of reading it in a Shakespearean context. Preferring not to read into the speculative biographies (“Didn’t you know that Shakespeare was gay?”), I take pleasure in the scandals within the plays themselves and those that inevitably erupt during their production.

This started with an obsession with Antony Sher’s biographies and theatre diaries, Year of the King, Beside Myself, and Woza Shakespeare!: I got to learn about the gritty research he did in interviewing murderers for his role as Macbeth, and enjoyed unfolding his complex colleagues-and-lovers relationship with now-husband, RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran.

Last summer, I got to read some seriously scandalous stuff, less related to Shakespeare but rather focused on the sadomasochistic life (and published diary) of 20th century dandy-cum-theatre-critic Kenneth Tynan, which I highly recommend.

This is not going to end well...the map scene in King Lear

Today, I feel no shame in telling you that I am anxiously awaiting David Weston’s book about his time as Ian McKellen’s understudy on the American tour of Trevor Nunn’s production of King Lear. Covering McKellen: An Understudy’s Tale is said to revolve around the escapades of a cast that includes a napping principal actor, an “arrogantRomola Garai as Cordelia, and another actress vindictively enjoying a negative review given to another actress.  But were Goneril and Regan any less vindictive? Did Cordelia’s principles not set her on a high-horse that led her sisters to order her death? In a production most notable for Sir Ian’s dropping trou, as it were, I can’t wait to hear all the juicy gossip that will doubtlessly be as entertaining as the scandals that abound Shakespeare’s tragedy itself.

Loving Shakespeare does not make me a more noble reader: it simply proves that my taste for scandal knows no bounds!

 

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Ralph Fiennes taking on Prospero in London this fall!

That's right: I went for a smouldering picture. Deal with it.

Whether you pronounce his name Rafe, Ralph, or Lord Voldemort, this is excellent news indeed! I received the greatest surprise this morning: Ralph Fiennes will be taking on the role of Prospero in The Tempest this autumn! Could we be any luckier? Yes! Trevor Nunn will be directing!

Fiennes is a well-known thespian in England, known to most on the North American side of the pond for his roles in The English Patient and Schindler’s List, or, to a slightly younger generation, for playing opposite J.Lo in Maid in Manhattan and fighting in “deadly enmity” with Harry Potter in the eponymous blockbuster films.

Sir Trevor Nunn is a huge theatrical heavy-hitter: you may not have directly heard his name, but you’ve definitely experienced his work! Nunn was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Artistic Director for the heroically long span of 1968-1986, his work included a landmark production of Macbeth, starring Ian McKellan and Judi Dench, the first production of the hugely successful Les Miserables, the longest running show on London’s West End. His work outside the RSC includes being the first director of Cats, which is possibly the longest-running show in Broadway history. So yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.

Performances will begin at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London on August 27: will you be standing in line for tickets?

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How do I define a good Shakespeare production?

“It’s totally subjective,” – right? Sort of, but I’ve taken the liberty of defining some parameters to help us come to our subjective judgments.

In my adolescence, I saw some really excellent Shakespeare productions at the Stratford Festival, namely, Paul Gross’s Hamlet and Christopher Plummer’s King Lear. I don’t know whom they tortured more: myself, restless and unable to appreciate the action, or my father, a general non-fan of non-musical theatre and narcoleptic extraordinaire. When I finally began to study and understand the plays that I went to see, I soon defined ‘a good production’ as the ones I could sit through without impatiently yearning for them to end.

A decade older and hopefully more than a bit wiser, I’d like to revise my definition: to me, a good Shakespeare production is one that sheds light on key themes and passages of the text in a way that makes you aware, and makes you aware that they’re aware, of their significance to the whole. An unsuccessful production (I’m loath to actually use the word ‘bad’ – symptomatic of a high school instructor who would not let us use such a cop-out of an adjective) is one that obscures these key issues and ideas from the reader’s attention.

I’d like to explain this in greater detail, using the example of two productions that I’ve recently seen. For those of you who correspond or go to school with me, you’ll know that I had the highest of hopes in seeing both and, if I can be honest with my dearest Readers, was so excited I could hardly contain myself! My closest friends and mother will already begin to roll their eyes, knowing that my expectations are often too high, often at the expense of my own disappointment.

But here’s perhaps where I might seem a little hypocritical, but bear with me: once you’ve studied a Shakespeare play, if you can afford to go see a production, it’s worth it. Even if it’s not great – it’s worth a check-out (followed by an indignant march out at intermission, because life really is too short to sit through bad Shakespeare in its entirety). Perhaps this is my Bardolatry coming in and I don’t have sympathizers with this opinion but to me, it’s fun to amass a whole repertoire of productions to compare and play off each other; no one production can satisfy the infinite readings of a certain text because the privileging of one reading necessitates the disregard of another.

So excited I can hardly contain myself!

In the case of Julie Taymor’s adaptation of The Tempest, we have a situation that the directorial powers-that-be disregarded many of the important, nay, indispensable, issues that the text offers for our intellectual delight. In short: a freaking cop-out! Let me tell you: I am a huge fan of Julie Taymor’s work. Across the Universe was genius and Titus is certainly one of my favourite films in general – a strong endorsement, considering how protective I am over my favourite play. I’d only been looking forward to seeing this film for about two years, was literally bouncing up and down in my seat when the time had finally come (or, in the words of my dear friend Alexis, had a bit of a Shakespearegasm), and was disappointed. But why??

Well, I studied The Tempest for an entire semester during my MA, so I’d like to think that I’ve got a grasp of its possible meanings. I’d like to think that Taymor and her production team had studied it for at least that many hours: so why did she neglect to shed light on some of the most important meanings?

The passage I hold most dear to my heart (thanks to the guidance of my former card-carrying Communist of an instructor) is: “What cares these roarers for the name of king?” I waited excitedly to hear how the character would say it and it either got muffled by the unsurprisingly gratuitous special effects, or was left chopped up on the editorial room floor. I was flipping indignant when I didn’t hear my favourite line, and those sitting in my immediate vicinity experienced my wrath.

Spoken by the Boatswain to the sweet but uber-Establishment Gonzalo, it couldn’t have been more audacious for someone of such a low social caste to point out that Mother Nature trumps the entire social hierarchy! These words were so treasonous in the Early Modern period that, had they been spoken in real life and on dry land, the Boatswain would have been “perfect gallows,” do not pass Go, do not collect 200 ducats. This exclamation is even more important because it foregrounds the unconventional social philosophy of the rest of the play! I’m thinking specifically of both Antonio and Caliban’s attempts to overthrow the rulers of their homeland. In an effort to inspire Sebastian to usurp his brother, King Alonso, Antonio tells him: “Here lies your brother, / No better than the earth he lies upon,” implicitly stating that nature pays no attention to social hierarchy, as all men are equally mortal as they sleep. Again, while this is a comment that we take for granted today, it would have been considered treason 400 years earlier. Caliban, who claims, “The island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,” seeks out a “master” in the drunken Stephano in order to get him to kill Prospero while he takes his customary afternoon nap. Clearly this spectacularly egalitarian notion is of vital importance to the many overthrow-plots of the text: so why neglect it when it deserves our critical attention?

For the sake of brevity (it is the soul of wit, after all), I’ll offer one more example from The Tempest before moving on to Lear. Whoever has studied The Tempest at any level of their education will remember spending at least 45 minutes on close-reading the Epilogue. And I’m not saying that Taymor has to use it just because we studied it: I’m saying we study it because it’s of vital importance. Let’s have a look:

Exeunt

EPILOGUE
SPOKEN BY PROSPERO
Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

All hail ProsperA?

Everyone leaves the stage, and Prospero returns. Once again, a character brings up this notion that no magic or title can change the fact that he’s just a man (or in Helen Mirren’s case, an overly gender-conscious female ProsperA, as she incessantly reminds us), standing in front of a crowd of judges who are ready to hear his closing remarks. He tells the audience – “I must be here confined by you, / Or sent to Naples.” To be the reinstated Duke of Milan and humbly stoop to the opinion of both the nobility and the dregs of society that comprised the Globe theatre audience is as egalitarian as it gets. This is the moment where the audience gets to participate in the final action of the play –fun!!! – by casting the final judgment.

So my question is this: why the heck would Julie Taymor want to prevent this from happening? Doesn’t she want her own audience to “release [her] from the bands” (of all the negative hype that’s been going around about both The Tempest and her ill-fated Spiderman musical?), “With the help of your good hands” (with applause and positive reviews by professional critics and leisurely bloggers, alike)? Well, perhaps this is telling that she doesn’t want the production to self-consciously speak for itself. Maybe she wants it to be a movie you play in the background at a house party rather than a Shakespearean adaptation you absorb. So what does she do? She gets her husband and frequent collaborator to compose it to a tune that will run during the final credits! If I haven’t yet made it clear, this is unsatisfactory. She’s basically obscuring literary gold with the sounds of winter boots crunching spilled popcorn.

Can I say the same about Michael Grandage’s King Lear for the Donmar theatre company in London? I’m so happy to say: definitely not. And I’m not flaunting my obvious Anglophilia in order to assert that English theatre is the best theatre. What I’m saying is that he got it right.

Derek Jacobi as a classic Lear

I usually maintain a preference for the text over stage/screen adaptation because the director must choose one interpretation to privilege over all others, whereas with the text you can simultaneously maintain an understanding of each of the possible directions the text can take. That being said, I really enjoyed what Michael Grandage did in fleshing out Shakespeare mathematical language in order to amplify the theme of domestic division within the play. Shakespeare’s tragedies, more often than not, center at the “fear of what lurks at the heart of the family,” to quote one of my favourite professors and King Lear guru, Kiernan Ryan. Not doing anything particularly new but simply doing it really well, Grandage introduces the notion of divide by placing a map of England on the floor of the stage, having Lear, a man so robust that he seems to have too much energy for retirement, divide it with his staff amongst the daughters that deign to tell him in the most florid language how much they love him. Daughters Goneril and Regan multiply their love, while Cordelia tells her father that she has “Nothing” to offer in tribute. His rage erupts. He tells her that “Nothing will come of nothing,” and beseeches her to try again. It’s not that she doesn’t love him at all, she tries to explain, but that she loves him no more and no less than an unmarried daughter ought love her father:

Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.

These words get Lear so angry that he disowns this one daughter, leaving the kingdom to be split 1 part Goneril, 1 part Regan, 0 parts Cordelia, 0 parts Lear. Smart? Doubtful. Significant enough to produce a timeless tragedy? It worked for the Bard!

And while I love Derek Jacobi to bits and think he did an excellent job as Lear, I’ve seen enough Lears to know that they’re usually pretty close variations on a theme. It’s the Fool that has the opportunity to make us, and the king himself, think and feel.  How is this possible? Because he is the one person onstage who Lear pays to tell him the truth. And what is this truth? That he’s divided up his nation, divided up his family, and at the end of the day, he’s left with nothing.

FOOL

Can you make no use of
nothing, nuncle?

KING LEAR

Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing.

FOOL

[To KENT] Prithee, tell him, so much the rent of
his land comes to: he will not believe a fool.

The Fool is the one to remind Lear that he has brought this nothingness upon himself, pulling all his land from under his feet and offering it on a silver platter to his duplicitous daughters. The Fool knows it, the audience learns it from the Fool, and the tragedy lies in the fact that it takes five acts and three hours for this to cut to the King’s heart.

Djimon Hounsou's body language alone was well worth the cost of admission

And that’s not to say that there’s nothing left to be desired from Grandage’s Lear: his Cordelia seems to be onstage for the purpose of practicing her received pronunciation rather than evoking extreme pathos from the audience, only doing so when she stops talking and plays dead in the final scene. And The Tempest, not a complete failure, certainly had moments of light: Djimon Hounsou’s muscular, beautiful, tragic, earthy, and graceful Caliban’s pained and angry exclamation of “this Island’s mine” certainly evoked pathos from my cold, academic heart.

So where do we stand, dear Reader? I’d like to suggest that there’s no single Shakespearean production that is unequivocally bad (although the Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged comes dangerously close). Instead, I like to think of each production as offering me something more to learn about Shakespeare, a new way to think about a character or a theme, bringing a multitude of possibilities to light. When a production keeps an important theme in the dark and I feel that loss, I become more understanding of how vital that theme was in the first place. So I choose to remain optimistic. I will just keep on coming back to these new visions and revisions of Shakespeare. Why? The beauty of Shakespeare is that the interpretive possibilities are infinite.

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