There seems to be endless ways to interpret Shakespeare’s works or be inspired by him. This week we have Patrick Stewart starring in Macbeth, the new fictional novel Beatrice and Benedick, and a wildly outrageous stage performance that asks us to imagine that our Bard has written Hollywood’s Ghostbusters.
DVD Box Set:
The Tony-nominated Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart as the villainous general and the documentary In Search of Shakespeare will be released in a PBS DVD box set this June 10. This Macbeth, created as part of PBS’ Great Performances, is set in an austere Stalin-like setting and offers spectacular performances by Stewart and Kate Fleetwood (Lady Macbeth).
Not surprisingly, Stewart coveted the role of Macbeth for years. “If you’re a serious Shakespearean,” says Stewart in a PBS taped interview, “certain roles must be penciled in,” but he feared he had become “too long in the tooth” because over the last few years the “trend was to cast younger and younger Macbeths.” Luckily for all, director Rupert Goold didn’t follow that trend.
Goold and Stewart worked closely to create Macbeth. One frustrating moment, Stewart turned to his director for help. “It was during the famous murderer scene when Macbeth corrupts two men into killing Banquo and Banquo’s child. It’s savage and dark and unsettling,” but the the scene is long. “ Rupert, we stand and talk and talk. I wish I had an action.” The director suggested he make a sandwich. “This idea of taking something everyday” like putting butter and ham on bread and “sharing it with the murderers seemed to give an added horror.”
As far as Stewart’s leading lady Fleetwood, he says, “She is one of the most delightful actresses that I have ever known… we became fabulous friends, but there were times on that stage when she scared me witless.”
The box set also includes bonuses: In Search of Shakespeare, a documentary that attempts to separate fact from fiction in the story of Shakespeare’s life with the help of a fictional character John Fribbling, who searches for William Shakespeare from Stratford to London; a printed reproduction of Macbeth from Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 as well as copies of memorabilia of Shakespeare’s baptism, will, death notice, portraits, sonnets, and handwritten notes.
Who Wilt Thou Call?
Shakespeare has inspired many adaptations of his work, but director Jordan Monsell likes to turn Shakespeare on his ear. Just a couple years ago, he produced Pulp Shakespeare, a parody of Pulp Fiction, which won Hollywood Fringe Festival’s Best of Fringe in 2011. It re-imagined how the cult classic would look and sound if Shakespeare had written and produced it. L.A. Stage and Cinema writes that Pulp Shakespeare is “simply the best that can come out of the Hollywood Fringe.”
Now he’s taking “Ministers of Grace: An Unauthorized Shakespearean Parody of Ghostbusters” to the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2014 this June with Her Majesty’s Secret Players. The show’s title comes from Hamlet when the bereaved son sees his father’s ghost and cries out, “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!”
Growing up, Monsell was obsessed with Ghostbusters. “Famous lines of Shakespeare fit surprisingly well into Ghostbusters,” says Monsell in a Shakespeare in LA article. “I think Fringe audiences will appreciate the references to ghosts in Shakespeare’s works. The spirit world was something very natural in Shakespeare’s time, and he included ghosts in four of his plays. Not to mention strange creatures in several more. Ghost hunting reality shows are all the rage on TV these days, so audiences may appreciate a classical take on the subject.”
Between the pages:
Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing are among Shakespeare’s most beloved couples, not only do they make us laugh but many identify with a courtship that takes seed among the slinging of verbal arrows.These charming combatants are now the heroes in Marina Fiorato’s novel Beatrice and Benedick (published by Hodder & Stoughton).
Fiorato, who specializes in Shakespeare at the University of Venice, had her first venture with Beatrice in high school when her English teacher Peter Eastman had all the students get out of their chairs and perform Much Ado About Nothing.
“At the very end of the play, the wedding scene,” Fiorato writes in her blog, “it was my turn to be Beatrice. There I was with my Sun-in bleached hair and a skirt as short as the uniform code would possibly allow, transported back to 1598, reading the words of the funniest, spunkiest, feistiest heroine I’d yet met in literature. Beatrice was the girl I longed to be, not just in the play but in life – cleverer than all the boys and funny with it.”
For more Shakespeare-inspired books: The Guardian lists the top 10 novels, which include Dark Aemilia and The Black Prince.
Deborah Voorhees writes reviews, features, and a weekly multimedia column titled Bard in Multimedia that 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.