The internet is filled with fabulous Shakespeare-inspired video shorts. Featured in this week’s Bard in Multimedia column is the work of Christopher Gerson. Also featured are two books: Twisted Lit’s Anyone But You and Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe.
Campy Shakespeare Shorts:
Christopher Gerson is the king of campy Shakespeare theater shorts. The actor/writer/videographer has earned his crown creating deftly funny videos for the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota, where his shorts have become as popular as the festival’s plays.
Among Gerson’s funniest are his mockumentary The Real Housewives of Shakespeare, his behind-the-scenes spoof Stuff People at a Shakespeare Festival Say, his parody of Shakespeare addicts Shakespeare Anonymous, and his spoof on competitive reality TV Tyrants & Tiaras.
His filmmaking addiction began as a youth. At 12, he got a job for one reason: to save for a video camera so he could make movies. His foray into campy shorts began at the Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Project, which eventually lead to a job with Sundance Film Festival, where he created two short films daily, but “Sundance was too serious for my taste. I wanted to do something comedic” that could become a new part of the GRSF company, “something where the cast and crew could express themselves.”
It all started with Heed The Call, a spoof about how cast and crew members ended up in Minnesota, next came the Great River: Girls Dream, where two little girls explain the plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From that moment on, Gerson was “off to the races and people started tuning in to see what was happening” with the Shakespeare festival videos as well as the theatrical plays.
Outside of Gerson’s Shakespeare work, he’s also the co-creator of the wickedly funny web series Darwin, where he plays the socially awkward millionaire who seeks help from Leo Darwin, a life coach with a failing business and marriage. The series is directed by Emmy winner Carrie Preston.
Twisted Lit’s Anyone But You
Twisted Lit’s authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes love to take classic Shakespeare stories and spin the plots into modern stories with modern dialogue to create updated young adult novels. Their third installment, Anyone But You, twists the Romeo and Juliet theme. (Their first two installments are Tempestuous (The Tempest) and Exposure (Macbeth)).
Our star-crossed lovers, Roman Monte and Gigi Caputo meet at Gigi’s sweet sixteen party. The families have competing Italian restaurants, and their bitter war escalates when Montes’ latest attempt to sabotage the Caputo’s business threatens to shut it down. The Montes set off the fire alarm, triggering the sprinkler system, which ruins the dinner of a food critic, whose review could make or break their restaurant.
Roman and Gigi, in an attempt to create a “happy ending” for their love, jet back to the 1933 Chicago World’s fair to uncover the real reason why the two families are feuding.
Shakespeare and Science:
“Shakespeare lived at this remarkable time,” says Dan Falk, author of The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe. “It was the beginnings of what eventually became modern science.”
When Falk first decided to write this book, he wanted to find out if the emerging science of Shakespeare’s day cropped up in his works.
“This was a period when great Renaissance thinkers” lived and possibly mingled with the Bard. Connections can at least be inferred. For example, astronomer Thomas Digges lived in Shakespeare’s neighborhood, and Tycho Brahe’s observatory could be seen from Elsinore, where Shakespeare set Hamlet. More intriguing is that Brahe’s family crest includes the names “Rosencrans” and “Guildensteren.”
In Cymbeline is an allusion to Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter. This is significant, Falk says, because “it was Galileo’s telescopic discoveries that finally gave the Copernican theory a wide following; that is, it would be hard to trumped Galileo’s findings without also acknowledging the “new philosophy” that it supports.”
To research this question, Falk combed through hundreds of journal articles plus numerous books by Shakespearean scholars such as James Shapiro and Jonathan Bate (1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and The Soul of the Age, respectfully). He also dug into the works of French essayist Michel de Montaigne. “Everyone knows that Montaigne was one of Shakespeare’s sources.” He quotes extensively, almost directly, from him in The Tempest as well as in several others of his works.
As Falk was plowing through Montaigne’s extensive essays, specifically John Florio’s 1603 English translation and a modern translation, he found that Montaigne knew about Copernicus.
This means, “If Shakespeare read Montaigne cover to cover, he must have known about the Copernicus theory.” This doesn’t mean Shakespeare bought into the theory, but neither did Montaigne. Rather his take on the topic, Falk says, “Now this is paraphrased, but he says, ‘some people believe the old earth-centered view, some the Helios-centered view, but who knows in 1000 years, we may have a different view.”
Falk hasn’t pinned down his next project, but he will probably move forward a few centuries and explore the relationship between science and religion in 19th century England.
This weekly column publishes each Monday and covers books, films, recordings, web content, videos, video games, radio, television, and all emerging mediums. Send all press releases and comments to the Associate Editor for Multimedia, Deborah Voorhees at firstname.lastname@example.org.