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Villains, Tyrannical Kings & Our City | Bard in Multimedia

By May 5, 2014 No Comments

In this week’s multimedia column: Shakespeare’s Villains begs for a handout; King Lear rules over the National Theatre and Canada’s Stratford Festival; Kevin Spacey offers TSS readers discounts to see his documentary about his world tour of Richard III; and Chicago shows off its Shakespeare prowess in its documentary, “Our City, Our Shakespeare.”

Shakespeare’s Villains:

Brian Elerding’s creation Shakespeare’s Villains sold out in 2013. Now this artistic director of the California Shakespeare Ensemble has a new vision for his play: To take it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, where more than a million theater goers come to see the latest cutting-edge productions. This new Shakespearean play uses the Bard’s words and three of his villains–Shylock (Merchant of Venice), Macbeth, and Tybalt (Romeo and Juliet)–to weave a new story. The play asks: Are any of them truly villains or are they just like any of us? For example, is Tybalt, who is played as a  two-dimensional bad guy” in Romeo and Juliet, really just a guy “looking to defend his honor, his family’s honor, Juliet’s honor and he just ends up in over his head?” asks company member Shahaub Roudbari. To raise the funds for the Scotland trip, the theatrical troupe is turning to Indiegogo with a goal to raise $23,500 by today, May 5th.

Tyrannical kings rule:
Two-time Olivier Award winner Simon Russell Beale plays King Lear at the National Theatre in London.

Academy-Award winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) is responsible for putting two tyrannical rulers in this week’s spotlight: The despotic King Lear and the misshapen Richard III. King Lear is at London’s National Theatre, starring one of the U.K.’s finest stage actors Simon Russell Beale. Mendes sets this Lear in a modern totalitarian state, where his daughters’ famous love-test is in an austere public forum that is guarded by menacing Nazi-like soldiers. The Guardian writes “Mendes’s production and Russell Beale’s performance sharpen our understanding of Shakespeare’s analysis of human folly and the primacy of contradictory feeling over calm rationality.” Happily, one doesn’t have to be in London to watch the performance. This production is a part of National Theatre Live, which will be shown in theaters around the world.

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This is a film still from Kevin Spacey’s documentary about his world tour of King Lear.

The second newly released Mendes’ project stars Kevin Spacey as Richard III. The two giants—together for the first time since American Beauty—created a behind-the-scenes documentary titled Now: In the Wings on a World Stage, about their world tour. A dollar discount can be retrieved here. Just enter the code SHAKESPEARE.

Colm Feore plays King Lear at Canada's Stratford Festival.

Colm Feore plays King Lear at Canada’s Stratford Festival.

Spider Man to King Lear: Canadian-American actor Colm Feore has garnered two high-profile film and stage projects: one straight out of the comic books and one from Shakespeare’s canon. In the $255-million The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Shakespearean actor works among the villians as the senior Oscorp executive Donald Menken. The film opened this last weekend in the U.S. and U.K. This May 26th Feore morphs into the madness of King Lear for Canada’s Stratford Festival. “Our wholes lives are trying to find out who we are, to define ourselves by our experiences, education, our family, our friends,” he says in a Stratford Festival video interview. “The only way you know who you are is when you can remember. When your mind starts to go, all that goes with it. It is a terrifying notion…it is that journey that interests me most in Lear and it is that point of connection that will connect with almost everyone.”

Film still from Chicago's Shakespeare documentary "Our City, Our Shakespeare."

Film still from Chicago’s Shakespeare documentary “Our City, Our Shakespeare.”

Chicago’s Shakespeare: The city of Chicago has had a long-time love affair with the Bard, and its celebrated in the documentary Our City, Our Shakespeare, which features performance clips from Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and more created by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, the Joffrey Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as the Shakespeare inspired Q Brothers, who rap his works, and comedic Improvised Shakespeare Company.

Besides live performances, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater also works with the city’s schools to bring Shakespeare to the youths. Student Roque Sanchez, class 2013, talks about his experiences working with the nationally known troupe: It is the “knowledge that you can do anything you want for the rest of your life—that nothing can stop you. You did a Shakespeare play in a Shakespeare theater.” The documentary is available in the Chicago area on Comcast On Demand through May 14.

Deborah Voorhees writes reviews, features, and a weekly 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 multimedia@theshakespearestandard.com.

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