Elsinore Shakespeare Conference is anything but a dry scholarly event meant only for academics. Shakespeare lovers from around the world are gathering at Hamlet’s castle in Denmark to celebrate “William Shakespeare: The NEXT 400 Years” this April 22-24 with music, dance, film, theater, champagne, cake and much, much more.
The conference’s theme is about Shakespeare today and in the future. “Rather than just looking back, we want to explore the reasons why we continue to engage with Shakespeare,” says Ronan Paterson, event co-coordinator, “and how will we continue to do so… Will we find new media through which to share him? Will we strip him back to the basics? Or something else entirely different?”
Along the line of “entirely different” is a Graphic Shakespeare Competition where graphic designers from around the world will compete. Competitors are to create four cartoon panels depicting a scene from one of Shakespeare’s plays. The winner will be announced at the event.
On stage, is a modern rendition of Shakespeare’s Will, written by Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen. This one-woman monodrama, starring Joanna Purslow, centers on Shakespeare’s wife on the day of his funeral and her reaction to his last will and testament, where he leaves their home to her sister-in-law and gives Anne their “second-best” bed.
Among the guest speakers will be Iranian filmmaker and theater director Mahmood Karimi-Hakak, who will discussed his 1999 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was shut down by a police force within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Karimi-Hakak was charged with “raping the public’s innocence.” During this period, the Iranian government was murdering dissident intellectuals and Karimi-Hakak and his actors were receiving death threats. Many, including Karimi-Hakak, had to flee their homeland. His documentary Dream Interrupted documents his ordeal. He will also talk about his stage production of Hamlet IRAN, which places Hamlet in modern-day Iran (his documentary Hamlet’s Green Evolution explores this production and the Iranian Green Movement). Currently, Karimi-Hakak teaches at Siena College in New York State.
Other prominent keynote speakers include: Professor Alexa Huang, from George Washington University, discussing “Global Shakespeare”; professor Judith Buchanan, from University of York, “The Future in the Instant: Shakespeare’s Janus Gaze and Ours”; Professor Richard Burt, from the University of Florida, “Filming Othello: Orson Welles’ Cinemal d’archive and Post-Faux-Pas-Calypse of Philm.”
Artists and scholars from around the world will participate in provocatively futuristic panel topics such as “Shakespeare in Manga, Comics and Graphic Novels”; “Shakespeare in Animation and Game Design”; “Shakespeare and Technology”; “Transmedial, Transgeneric and Transgressive Performances”; “Shakespeare’s Villains in the 21st Century.”
Of course, any event at Hamlet’s castle must have at least one version of Hamlet. In this slot is the gender-bending 1920s silent film starring Danish star Asta Nielsen. In this version, the moody princess is forced to live her life as a boy to provide an heir for the throne. Two short films from an American filmmaker (full disclosure, Deborah Voorhees) will follow. The first, Hip Hop Hamlet, stars Brooklyn rapper Devon Glover, who raps the “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy in Shakespeare’s language and then in his own words. Following the music video is another gender bender: Othello: Good Night My Sweet, in which Iago is a female ghost out to destroy the Moor.
Continuing with the theme of a futuristic Shakespeare, on the 23rd, a mass Skype link up will connect people from Calcutta to Moscow to England to America for a champagne toast to the immortal Bard with a mega birthday cake.