The New York Shakespeare Exchange’s ambitious Sonnet Project—154 films of 154 sonnets with 154 actors in 154 NYC locations—is almost complete. The goal is to create a short film—each with a story—for all of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Since 2013, actors and directors have been filming their shorts in the hustle-and-bustle of New York in locations such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Madison Square Park, State Supreme Court building, a 110-year-old bar on Staten Island, Yankee Stadium, New Amsterdam Theatre and more. Most of the project has been funded through Kickstarter, where almost $50,000 was raised.
The project has some heavyweight New York actors involved such as Carry Preston, an Emmy award-winning actress, who plays Arlene Fowler on HBO’s True Blood. For Sonnet 27, she plays a lover longing for the night where she will have time to think on her lover.
Tony-Award winning actress JoAnna Gleason gives a poignant performance of an actress finding her voice in Sonnet 23. You can feel her pain when her director gently admonishes her for having not yet found her character’s true motivation. Perfectly, her eyes express Shakespeare’s line—“As an unperfect actor on the stage, who with his fear is put beside his part…”
One of the most beautifully shot films is from director Eric Siegel. Actor Robert Verlaque plays a writer who rails against his muse for not banishing his writer’s block in Sonnet 100. While Verlaque never speaks, his face tells the story.
Broadway and Hollywood actress Lynn Cohen (Hunger Games and Sex in the City 2) plays an elderly woman longing for a man, who seems to be her deceased love, in Sonnet 22. The imagery of her starting an old-record player sets the mood for this touching film. The end has a twist worth waiting for.
New York actress Julie DeLaurier performs Sonnet 32 while holding a video camera as if creating a selfie. The camera-shot choice makes Shakespeare’s words—If thou survive my well-contented day, when that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover…—seem as if she is giving her last will and testament.
For Sonnet 95, actress Susan Heyward goes outside for a smoke on a rainy night in Greenwich Village and finds two lovers, possibly in a sordid affair. She warns a lovely man that his beauty will only hide his sin for so long. This is shot beautifully in black and white.
Outside the New York County Supreme Court building, child-actress Sydney Lucas discovers love at first sight in Sonnet 46, which battles between the eyes’ desire for physical beauty and the mind’s desire to only see what is inside.
Actor Cliff Saunders (Broadway’s Les Miserables) gives Sonnet 130 a comic twist. He plays a bum, sitting under The Falconer statue in Central Park, where he tells us about his less-than perfect love.
Another short with a comic twist stars New York theatrical actor Richard Price (The Waiting Room), who is due home to have supper with his wife, but he loiters outside Nathan’s Hotdogs on Coney Island, seemingly in lust with a busty brunette. But all is not as it seems in this fun take on Sonnet 151.
At the Bowery Graffiti Wall in Manhattan, Devon Glover (a.k.a. The Sonnet Man) raps Sonnet 16, in which Shakespeare asks a young man to battle time by having a child of his own to carry on his beauty.
For Sonnet 121, director Diana Green creates a short film with a powerful look at hypocrisy and the evil that men do. Shakespearean actor Alec Tucker gives an intense performance as a young man, clad in military garb, hiding his true self from the bad men who reign. The tight shots, the location choice—The United Nations—, the use of black and white, and the frantic city below—all add to the film’s potency.
Film director and writer Deborah Voorhees writes reviews, features, and a weekly column Bard in Multimedia that publishes each Monday and covers books, films, recordings, web content, videos, video games, radio, television, and all emerging mediums. Send press releases and comments firstname.lastname@example.org.