PerformancePop Bard

Shakespeare is for all times and all mediums | Digital Bard

By April 14, 2014 No Comments

The Bard remains a popular guy. This week is filled with inspirations from Shakespeare that include Shakespeare in a refugee camp, blood lust, a ballet, two Shakespeare film contests, a historical novel, and a call for Kickstarter funds to create the definitive-interactive website to help students decipher Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in the news takes us behind barbed wire to the Zaatari Refugee Camp where war-weary Syrian children put on a production of King Lear. This cast of 100 children is finding solace in Shakespeare from the civil war that has ripped apart their country. “The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,” says their director, Nawar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor to The New York Times. The above photograph is a part of the Warrick Page for The New York Times photo series titled Shakespeare in the Desert.

The Bard’s bloody Titus Andronicus opens at Shakespeare’s Globe with actor William Houston making his debut Globe performance as the wrathful Roman general Titus Andronicus.  “The stakes are so high in the play that my personal worry is that I will hit it too hard (in the beginning and) I will have no place to go,” says Houston during a podcast interview with The Globe. ”There’s a lot of grief and rage involved in these characters. They are incredibly deep, and I think to get them anywhere near right you have to push out the boundaries of how we perhaps are today in this modern world. There is a lot to learn to play them … a lot to learn about yourself.” This veteran actor most recently played Kuzovkin onstage in Fortune’s Fool at London’s The Old Vic; on screen his credits include: Moses in the Son of God, Ammon in the Clash of the Titans, and Constable Clark with Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Game of Shadows.

The New York Times calls choreographer Stephen Mills from Ballet Austin “the bard of ballet.” This innovative choreographer has created ballets for several of Shakespeare’s plays including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and now for Hamlet. Mills goes on the road for this upcoming production with the Atlanta Ballet, which is billed as “An Evening to Die For.” Aptly put considering the heavy-weighted talent attached to this project. Besides Mills, the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra with guest conductor Beatrice Affron will perform music from American Composer Philip Morris Glass—known for his experimental works, his opera Einstein on the Beach and Martin Scorsese’s Kundun.

If brevity is the soul of wit, the 45-Second Film Festival shall be the wittiest of events. All things Shakespeare are invited for the 45-Second Film Festival contest presented by the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota. Not sure if your wacky, off-the-wall idea fits? Trust us it does. The creators claim that anything goes including: Henry V’s band of brothers’ speech in Klingon or Romeo & Juliet’s balcony scene with a cast of cats. Apparently, this is no exaggeration. Their webpage has Ken and Barbie performing Macbeth. This “infinite jest” is all to celebrate the Bard’s 450th birthday. Submit your 45-second or LESS video to by noon on April 21st.  Winners will be announced April 23rd. The Bard is ready for his closeup.

If your Shakespeare-inspired film requires a little more time—five to 15 minutes—and you live in Charlotte, North Carolina, the newly formed Civic Shakespeare, with founder Joe Copley, is putting on its first Shakespeare Video Contest. The film shorts can include anything Shakespeare: songs, sonnets, soliloquies, scenes, or “mashups” (mixes lines from different plays). While Copley’s company is a theatrical troupe, he has opted to turn to film for his inaugural event to reach out to new writers, new talent, and to entice a younger audience to get to know the Bard. “A lot of people like Shakespeare in theory but in small doses,” he says. Short films are a perfect medium to spark interest. Interestingly, Copley isn’t a big fan of Shakespeare in film. He prefers the Bard’s works on stage. “Shakespeare’s text is larger than life. This is easier on a large, and preferably, outdoor stage. Film is intimate, soft. It offers more nuance but it weakens the text.” There are exceptions to this, he says, such as Al Pacino’s depiction of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Registration is due April 16, videos submissions by April 23. The Winners will be announced May 3rd.

Not much may be known of our beloved bard’s life, but Jude Morgan doesn’t let that stand in his way. Morgan has written the historical fiction novel The Secret Life of Shakespeare to fill in the intimate details. The Guardian writes, “It’s a mammoth task to synthesise so much knowledge, and so many theories, about Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and the whole panorama of Elizabethan theatre, but ’tis well done, i’faith. And infectious.” A full review is at The Washington Post.

Humphrey Pitman has a Shakespeare obsession: to create the definitive free interactive website to help students decipher the Bard. Students will be able to click on confusing passages and definitions and explanations will pop up as well as information that puts the plays in their historical context. “Line-by-line, word-by-word, put into bite-size chunks… I am not a scholar. I never finished school. I am a painter, decorator,” says Pitman in his Kickstarter campaign video. “I was never really qualified to do this job in the first place.” (Sounds a bit like Shakespeare.) But Pitman is a voracious, self-taught student who has digested countless scholarly interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays. He wants to put all this information into an easy-to-use website called Shakespeare on Demand where students can study and search through the Bard’s plays via the computer, IPods, or any web-ready device. Students will have discussion boards where they can chat, a profile activity board, and their accounts will be able to link to Facebook and Twitter. While the site is to be free through 2010, creating it is not. He needs £65,000 just to build the website. His Kickstarter (a crowd-funding platform) project is attempting to raise £154,000 by April 27th.  Give the boy an angel or ducat?

This weekly column publishes each Monday and covers books, films, recordings, web content, videos, video games, radio, television, and all things Shakespeare in emerging mediums.  Send all press releases and comments to Associate Editor for Multimedia, Deborah Voorhees at



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