This week’s news is full of answers to the question “who owns Shakespeare?”
Shakespeare Belongs to Children
Where can we see children claiming Shakespeare? In the Shakespeare School Festival where children across the United Kingdom are not only reading but performing Shakespeare in collaboration with local theaters. Telegraph’s article on the festival says, “By operating within the local community, the festival brings […] children of all backgrounds a chance to engage with Shakespearean language.” The UK recently changed their national curriculum to include more Shakespeare, and though that curriculum change has met with much distrust, there is a great deal of enthusiasm for this national Shakespeare Festival centered on children. Natalie Graham, a teacher of the children in this program says, whatever should be said about the curriculum changes, “this opportunity to perform modern reworkings, enabling them to make the plays their own, is to be welcomed.” One child actor even wrote a letter to the actor he had seen playing his role at the Globe, inviting him to come and the children’s production, and in a heartwarming response the professional actor agreed to come.
Seven schools in the Portland area are doing a similar project, having high school students work with professional actors and eventually perform selections from the plays. The author of the article refers to Shakespeare’s text as “written in a different time and in what is essentially another language,” but speaks of the program as way of diverting the dread often felt my students towards the playwright and his plays.
In Pennsylvania there is much news about the Will Power Tour put together by the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. The company performs and 80 minute Macbeth, as well as teaching workshops. Maria Malek, a high school teacher remarks “I think this gives them a personal connection with Shakespeare and just an appreciation for the art and the power of language” and a high school student, Adalie Zanis, said that before seeing the play, she understood the plot and some motivations, but it wasn’t until she had the opportunity to see it performed that she understood the emotion of it all. “It’s really important it read it and understand it, but it’s also important to understand the characters and how they are relatable to us as people.” Another news article noted that the company got letters from students after seeing the performance, “saying that the live production made them want to read more Shakespeare.” Jill Arlington, the Shakespeare Festival Education says, “Shakespeare was really written for everyday people, including students.” she says.
Shakespeare Belongs to the World- Adaptors, filmmakers, and comic book artists alike
This weekend the Hamara Shakespeare Festival the people of India say, we’ve made the playwright and his works our own. The New Indian Express relates Ranvir Shah’s words on why he started the festival six years ago. “Even though Shakespeare is a colonial legacy, his work is universal. You can change the setting, you change the characters – but the feelings and the emotions derived from the play are all the same. That’s why people continue to re-interpret and add in their own appeal to Shakespeare.” In Bangalore, India, another theater troupe uses Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a framework for the theater piece about violence in the workplace.
News from Moscow relates that a season of Shakespeare began this past month featuring plays from Britain’s National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe Theatre in Moscow cinemas. The plays are shown on the big screen with Russian subtitles.
The Manga artist and writer Aya Kanno is adapting Richard III into a Japanese comic book. The first fifty page chapter, “The Rose King’s Funeral Procession” was released in a magazine last month and is now available for view online.
Agnieszka Slisz, a young Polish filmmaker won the The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust short film competition this past week. Her film is titled Julia and is inspired by Romeo and Juliet, and is what the Stratford Observer calls, “a dark and moody take on the Bard’s classic love story set against the backdrop of Warsaw’s violent streets.” The full film is availible for view at Vimeo.com, and the article lists two other short listed films, each of with interacts with Shakespeare’s text in a different way.
Shakespeare belongs to…?
This week, James Delingpole wrote a beautiful article for The Spectator, part review but mostly telling the story of going to see the RSC’s Richard II with his young son. He gushes about many parts of the production, but especially the supreme quality of the verse spoken by the stellar cast. It means that “besides witnessing a fine and gripping drama, beautifully acted, thrillingly close to you in the intimacy of this superbly designed theatre, you’re also experiencing an extended masterclass in some of the finest poetry ever written.” He goes on to say that listening to all that beautiful text spoken is “like being simultaneously caressed by succubi and drowned in ambrosia.” However even more than the delights of the sound and picturesque nature of the words are the ways in which Shakespeare speaks to the human condition. Resonating more that perhaps ever before in his life, he ends his article by saying, “I was going to say maybe Shakespeare is someone you don’t truly get till you hit middle age. But then I remember the wonder and joy and excitement on Boy’s face as he turns to me at the end and says, a slight catch in his throat: ‘I wasn’t bored for one second.’”
Perhaps Shakespeare everyone who makes his words and stories their own. Male or female, English or Japanese speaking, Russian, Indian, jaded critic, film maker or starry eyed child.