One of the perks of my profession is that I get to sit in on a vast array of different classes.  Some of these are my own classes designed to be taught to myself and my colleagues, some are classes which I am assisting in some capacity and thereby are designed to be taught to those slightly lower on the intellectual hierarchy.

And because I do get to sit in on this wide array of classes, when I notice a pattern it’s generally something fairly universally applicable (as universally applicable as anything truly can be).

So, for the past few weeks, a pattern has come to my attention and it’s really beginning to sit funny under my skin.  In all of my classes, at least once but generally multiple times a class session, Hamlet has been brought up not just as the iconographic English-language play, but the iconographic play of the entire modern Western theatre canon.

By “sit funny” I don’t mean “sit wrongly” or “feel badly”, I just mean that it’s come up so very frequently that I can’t help but be astounded by it.  Obviously my man Will is a deeply influential force in my life, but the fact that he’s mentioned so often in these classes implies something that I’ve always assumed, but have only rarely paused to examine deeply.

iconic shot of Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet

In the paper I am currently working on for ASTR, I argue that the creation of Hamlet as an icon is deeply wrapped in the creation of David Garrick’s career.  David Garrick was eighteenth century London’s (arguably) most famous actor, and if not actor then certainly most famous Shakespearean.  Garrick had a penchant for Hamlet (and, for that matter, Hamlet) and had many professional interactions with the role and the text that worked to cement both in the eighteenth century consciousness (I’m being purposefully vague here, while I’m happy to bat around general concepts, I’m not comfortable publishing my research notes on the internet).  In my opinion, this is truly the beginning of the ruff-wearing, skull-holding, brooding prince as an icon of the theatre.

The continuance of this icon and its permeation into the college classroom tells me several things:

1) It is a fairly wide-reaching trope.  The fact that a professor, striving to explain a concept to a roomful of undergrads, can reach for Hamlet as a cardinal example and expect the entire room to understand what he is saying, uncovers certain societal expectations of the people sitting in that classroom.  Both undergraduate classes which I’m sitting in on are taught via the theatre department, but only one of them is an “upper-level” course (i.e.: has prerequisites).  Thereby, while these students are expected to have a passing interest in theatre, they are not all expected to have proficiency with theatre.  Thereby, the expectation that the modern, educated young person will understand Hamlet as an icon is an expectation that can be carried into the real world.  Educated people know Hamlet, even if they aren’t educated in the theatre per say.

2) It is an accepted trope.  Not once have any of the students disputed the idea that Hamlet is a go-to for archetypical modern Western theatre.  In fact, utilizing Shakespeare (and, particularly, Hamlet) as an authority is a tradition almost as old as Shakespeare himself (another topic I’m grappling with in my paper, but this is going to become its own project imminently).

3) It is a wide-ranging trope.  Again, I live in the Theatre Department, so that certainly limits my sample size.  Outside of that limit, I feel as though I’ve heard the trope repeated enough that I can say with some surety that it’s not just theatre people who do this.  How often have we seen the aforementioned image in advertising, cartoons, popular culture?  The ruff and skull image seem to be shorthand for “theatre” just as “Band-Aid” is shorthand for “sticky bandage with sterile pad for small wound”.

ll of this leads me to the conclusion that the Hamlet connection is a true societal meme;

Hanging with Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon

passed down from one generation to another in a self-perpetuating state of self-referentiality.  I plan to keep an eye on the Hamlet meme in hopes that it will spark something deeper, but for the moment my brain space has only enough room for pattern recognition.

So keep an eye out.  I’m thinking of making Hamlet-spotting a sport.

(Rosalind update: As You is looking great!  We go into tech Sunday and open for an invited dress next Thursday before real opening night Friday.  EXCITED!)

Is This the Beginning of Zombie Shakespeare?

I just got done with a dramaturgy session with my director for Measure for Measure (the show I’m dramaturging this year at Tufts and keep promising to fill you in on).  During the drive home, I was all prepared to write a nice long post about the process, how things are going, what a dramaturge actually does, etc.

…but then one of my friends posted this trailer on my facebook wall which clearly made it all but impossible to do anything but comment upon it.

I’m so egregiously excited that I’m having trouble formulating words.  Zombies?  Hamlet?  Spoof movies?  These are a few of my favorite things.  Add chocolate peanut butter, yarn, and shopping and you’d have a giant ball of Dani-crack.

I will begin with the following confession: I have seen nothing more about this film than this trailer.  I’ve done a small amount of research just to try and ground myself in some film-facts and figure out when it will be released to the general public (no answer as of now, by the way, much to my chagrin and dissatisfaction).

But based on what I’ve seen, I couldn’t be more excited if I tried.  A movie that deals with Shakespeare reverently but playfully?  A movie that makes fun of itself while simultaneously touting some good old fashioned Shakespearean values?  A movie that has the potential to be one of the most hilarious Shakes-scene of our times?

The film’s basic premise is that a group of indie film-makers want to make a version of Hamlet but lack the budget for a Kenneth Brannaugh-esque period piece.  Jokingly, they say the only thing they could make on their given budget is a B zombie film… so they solve their problem with a creative re-mix of both.  Midway through, their backer is found dead and so they become enrapt in a plot to cover up her death to ensure a green light for their film.  I’m sure that this causes plenty of outside complications as well, but I’m less concerned about those at the moment.

With the prospect of a zombie Hamlet, My mind immediately jumped to the possibility of the Norwegians being zombies led by a sort of lich-lord Fortinbras.  Denmark could almost literally become a prison due to high security measures set in place in order to prevent further zombie invasions and, upon the collapse of the court at the end, the zombie masses enter to find the corpses of the Denmarkian royalty.

The inclusion of zombies also problematizes death within the play.  What kind of outbreak are we dealing with?  Runners or Shamblers?  Nanovirus or witch doctors?  If nanovirus, then Claudius could well be made into an arch-villain having infected King Hamlet with the virus and making him patient zero of the outbreak.  Hamlet’s ghost could instead be a return of the shambling King as a sort of covert super-zombie come to wreck revenge upon the individual responsible for the attack.  If Witch Doctor induced, there could still be a measure of this creation-against-creator as King Hamlet would be unable to lift a hand against his Lord and Master now-King Cladius and thus must have his son act as agent.  Alternately, in a world where zombies are created by magic, ghosts become equally plausible.  King Hamlet could be a sort of revenant, requiring a flesh body to perform deeds upon the living and thus spurring his son to the task.

 This also complicates Hamlet’s killing of Polonius, as when he hears a rustling in the curtains of his mother’s bedchamber he could potentially believe it to be an undead foe and, thereby, shoot said foe in the head before it leapt out to attack.  Polonius becomes an unfortunate victim of the country’s political strife as opposed to the sacrificial lamb of Hamlet’s madness.

Ophelia’s death is similarly complicated, and the possibilities innate in a zombie-infested Denmark make richer her last scene in which she appears onstage having run mad.  Perhaps she has been bitten by her risen-from-the-dead father and her not-quite-a-zombie-yet fever is the cause of her madness.  Alternately, anyone can go crazy in the world of the zombie holocaust.  The uncaniness of the walking dead and the permeation of casual death into society will just do that to a person.

Also; what does this mean for Act V?  Does the royal court lay dead at the feet of the zombie invaders only to rise themselves as mindless brain-nommers?  Is Horatio the only human left alive in a world now peopled by the walking dead?

Since the film isn’t actually a zombie version of Hamlet but rather about the making of a zombie Hamlet, I don’t truly expect my questions to be answered.  I do, however, very much look forward to seeing it and firmly believe that I will have found a new go-to “bad day” movie.

…and if anyone has the money and inclination to actually direct a production of Hamlet set

“…Is this the end of Zombie Shakespeare?”

during the zombie holocaust, please oh please oh please hire me.  I’ll do anything to be involved in that production.  I’ll even put myself on your line and audition to be a piece of meat… I mean… actor.  But mostly, I want to find a reason to have to research what kind of duel you would possibly be able to stage while the zombie hoards were shambling at your door.  Pistols won’t cut it due to the multiple touches, but I could definitely see claymores or battleaxes coming in handy and thereby the Princes being versed in their usage… or maybe bludgeoning weapons are the way to go since cricket bats are definitely a staple of the zombie genre.  That, however, would complicate the poison premise, but we could maybe make it work somehow…

Timoncrantz and Pumbastern are Dead

Along a similar vein as last week’s post…

I recorded the talk that I gave at the Comparative Drama Conference this past weekend.  In case you didn’t catch my panel, I have uploaded the talk here for your convenient listening.

Please excuse my copious abuse of the speech disfluency “um” (especially at the beginning of the talk).  I’m fairly certain that the only reason I was able to even stand during the presentation was by sheer force of will and the amount of antibiotics coursing through my veins at the time.  Take that particular element of the presentation as a good example of what not to do when giving a talk.


Fishing for Answers

Well folks, I’m back.

It was a very nice vacation (if a little bit long) and I have a great deal to say about it.  Most of these things can be caught in the upcoming series of podcasts from yours truly and my magnificently intelligent brother.  The first should be released by the end of the week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, while I was soaking up ALL THE DISNEY, something occurred to me.

We were walking through the Magic Kingdom when we encountered certain princes and Princesses posing for pictures (say that ten times fast).  As we walked past Ariel and Eric, we realized something.

We know that Eric is a Prince, but what (precisely) is he Prince of?

It didn’t feel like something we could walk right up and ask him… that seems petulant at best and sacrilegious at worst.  At the same time, we well and truly wondered if this whole “marry a prince” thing wasn’t even more of a sham in his case than usual.  I mean, after all, Ariel is the most gullible and least savvy of all the Disney princesses.  It would be pretty easy to convince her that one was a prince with some impressive architecture, a personalized statue, and a French chef.

To our relief, a google search provided the required answer: apparently the events of The Little Mermaid supposedly transpire in Denmark.

I’m certain you know where my mind ran with this tidbit.  I mean, it’s not like Danish Princes run around rampant in the world… clearly they are all the same mythological person.

So this could go one of two ways… either Eric is King Hamlet, or Eric is Prince Hamlet.

We don’t know much of anything about King Hamlet’s parentage or his youth.  Eric is allegedly eighteen during the events of the film, which would answer a great deal of questions about Hamlet Sr’s childhood.  Eric’s parents are conspicuously missing from the film, again consistent with the Hamlet mythology.

Okay, for this to really make sense, we would have to make the concession that Ariel changed her name at some point… but is this horribly difficult to believe?  Maybe “Gertrude” was her middle name which she then chose to go by in her land-life.  And Gertrude’s affinity for Ophelia would be easily explained if Gertrude were a mermaid.  Ophelia is the most watery character in all of Shakespeare, after all.

But this doesn’t take into account the ending of the fairy tale.  Yes, of course, in the Disney version everyone lives happily ever after blah blah blah.  But if you read the Hans Christian Anderson tale, things conclude a little differently.  In the original tale, the Little Mermaid becomes human because she is told that humans have souls and can thus live forever even after they die.  Mermaids, on the other hand, disintegrate into sea foam upon death.  The nameless Little Mermaid strives to become human so that she too may obtain eternal life instead of waft into watery nothings.  She buys a potion from the Sea Witch which will give her legs and make her dance unlike any human has ever danced, but will also make her feel as though with each step she is treading upon swords.  In addition, she may only become truly human by marrying the Prince and thus obtaining half of his soul.  If she fails to do this, then the morning after the Prince marries someone else the mermaid will melt into sea foam anyway.

Long story short, the prince marries someone else and that night the mermaid is brought a special sea witch knife by her sisters.  They say that if she uses the knife to kill the prince and allow his blood to fall upon her feet, she will become a mermaid again and not melt into seafoam in the morning.

Instead, the Little Mermaid throws herself out the window into the sea and becomes seafoam and air.  She is then given the opportunity to do good deeds and thus enter human heaven.

Okay, so Prince Eric winds up not marrying a crazy chick who drowns herself for his love?

This story doesn’t sound familiar at all.  Nope.  Especially not in relation to Danish Princes.

Yes, I know The Lion King is suppose to be the Disney Hamlet (almost painfully at this point having spent a whole semester working on a paper about it), but sometimes you just have to follow the evidence.  And in this case, I think we can say with some degree of certainty that Eric should either be haunting Danish battlements with his ghostly steps, or stabbing his manservant behind an arras.

I’m not horribly picky about which one.

Something Rotten in the State of Denmark

As a birthday present, my favorite partner in crime treated me to Hamlet at the Gamm theatre in Pawtucket, RI.

I was excited to see the show because what’s a bardy birthday with some bard?  Also, I’m always on the lookout for companies who produce Shakespeare (preferably semi-regularly, which Gamm does).  Much of my audience Shakes-perience comes from years and years of being a patron of Shakespeare & Company, so it’s really good to broaden my portfolio and have a look at other companies, other styles, and other talents.

I try not to go into Shakespeare with any hopes whatsoever.  I really do try and enter with a clean mind, ready to enjoy the show and without some highfalutin’ notion of should and shouldn’t.  Obviously there’s an awareness of the textual and historical difficulties innate in any production, but I try not to let that hijack my experience of the performance.

Unfortunately, Gamm’s production was somewhat disappointing.

The first act was bland.  They tackled the problems innate in Hamlet with strength, but not any sense of creativity.  The staging was predictable, the performances on the whole nothing spectacular.  There were a few exceptions: Tony Estrella, Gamm’s current Artistic

Hamlet (center) greets Roz and Guil (Left and Right respectively)

Director and the title role of the show, speaks the text like he was born to it.  He was a little old for Hamlet, but that didn’t bother me overmuch once the play got rolling.  Steve Kidd’s Claudius may seem boring in the first act, but just give him some time to warm up.  Once he hits his soliloquy in the second act, he’ll prove that he’s no dumb king; he’s just trying to hold it together so hard that his movements are as constrained as a geisha’s.  Ben Gracia and Joe Short as Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are a breathe of fresh air, and I’ve never seen the “play this pipe” speech done with more clarity.  Tom Gleadow as the gravedigger should be knighted for bringing some joy to the stage, though his ghost leaves something to be desired (not due to his own performance, but rather due to a lack of directorial imagination – there was nothing done to distinguish the ghost as otherworldly or inhuman and thereby the scenes fell flat for me).

The entire player troop was also delightful – just hammy enough without completely stealing the show.

And the fight direction was absolutely stellar.  All of the violence onstage was well paced, well choreographed, and well rehearsed.  Mister Normand Beauregard, the Gamm’s resident fight director, has my personal stamp of approval.

With the good comes the bad, and unfortunately there was a great deal of bad.  Jeanine Kane’s Gertrude was cardboard, Marc Dante Mancini’s Horatio almost incomprehensible, and Gillian Williams packs too much of a punch to play Ophelia.  Due to the choice in aging Hamlet, Ophelia was also aged and, while Williams is certain to please in roles more suited to her strength, she didn’t make a believable waif.

Here’s the thing about Ophelia: Ophelia is a wisp of a girl stuck in a man’s world.  She’s not a woman, she’s not someone who knows how to function on her own, and every man in her life has used and abused her.  Her father, her brother, Hamlet himself… all of these men treat Ophelia like a pawn in their greater game.  Ophelia runs mad because these men are all taken away from her.  Without them, she simply cannot function in the high-pressure environment of the court.  If you have an Ophelia who is able to stand on her own, there’s no reason why she would run mad when her father dies and Hamlet is sent away.  She’d just pick herself up by the bootstraps and move on (and that, my friends, is the difference between Ophelia and Rosalind).  So Williams, while talented, really shouldn’t be playing this role.  And casting her robbed the play of credence.

Hamlet with Polonius

There’s been a trend lately of modernizing Hamlet, but the problem with doing that is such: there’s only so modern Hamlet can be.  Hamlet requires a world with aristocracy, a world where swords are still used (you cannot do anything else with that duel, it HAS to be a swordfight), and a world where women are afforded a societal position lower than men.  Most directors solve this by staging Hamlet in a World War II era, about the most modern Hamlet will go.  As such, this production’s choice to do just that wasn’t at all bold or new.  In fact, it’s becoming something quite hackneyed.

The production made one other bold choice which, again, wasn’t new or different… simply upsetting.

So Hamlet is a story about the foibles of leadership and how horrible power can be.  There is, however, hope in this: Horatio, the one who watches, the one who is there through everything, is able to carry on the story.  He tells the tale of the Danish court to Fortinbras after the Norwegians claim the Danish throne.  There is some assurance that these awful events, once come to pass, will never happen in the same way again.

That is, unless you disregard the textual clues, completely dump upon the greater meaning of Hamlet, and use the last moment onstage to shoot Horatio.

Okay, directors, listen up.  Rule number one about Hamlet: you don’t shoot Horatio.  Period.  Doing so completely alters the meaning of Shakespeare’s text, completely jars the audience into a hopeless slump, and otherwise privileges your “GREAT CONCEPT” over the bard’s work.  Yes, I understand that you’re trying to do something “new and innovative” with a text that is done to death in the popular culture, but shooting Horatio is not new nor is it innovative.  Oskar Eustis did it in Shakespeare in the Park’s 2008 Hamlet and I didn’t like it then either.  “Bid the soldiers shoot” is Fortinbras’ instruction to begin the gun salute funeral festivities, not license to impose your ending on a literary classic.

I could drone on about why this choice is wrong, but unless you’re looking for a dramaturge for your modern-dress production of Hamlet you’re probably not interested in reading it.  If you ARE looking for a dramaturge for your modern-dress production of Hamlet, shoot me an e-mail and I’m your girl.  If you’re planning a modern-dress production of Hamlet, for god’s sake find yourself a dramaturge so that you don’t make this mistake (…looking at the production credits, they did have a dramaturge for this production… I can’t imagine what she was thinking to allow this to happen.  Fie and shame upon her!).

What did Horatio ever do to you?

Hamlet’s run has been extended through December 18th.  For more information, head on over to their website.

Smile, it’s Thursday!

Since tomorrow is the big move day, today I’m going to cheat.

My brain’s a little grid-locked with final moving prep.  I will attempt to provide witty commentary.  Mostly, though, here are some fun Shakespeare-related youtube clips.

Words cannot express how much I love this. Muppets make everything better.

….Actually Henry VIII is considered a history, so it wouldn’t fall into either purview. Sorry, Sam.

Though Henry V IS a great show to learn about the human condition with. I think Picard is a pretty good casting director.

I would post the entire episode if I could, but I guess this will have to do.

Another one that I could post a great deal of the episode from… really, though, how can you go wrong with Carmen?

…I especially enjoy the interpretation of Puck’s last line.

A very very young Ian McKellen in Trevor Nunn’s 1978 RSC Macbeth which became a 1979 filmed version. Incidentally, this was staged at “The Other Place”, an RSC theatre opened in 1974. The Other Place was a converted rehearsal room and an all-around big deal for the RSC as it was their first blackbox theatre and thereby represented a HUGE shift from GINORMOUS FANCY SHMANCY RSC PRODUCTIONS to a closer-to-the-audience theatre-for-the-people style. Today, The Other Place has been transformed into a slightly more upscale (but still smaller than the barn that was the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) Courtyard Theatre.

And, to wrap things up…

Have a good weekend!  See you in Boston!

Welcome Home!

Hello and welcome back to your regularly scheduled blogging at its spiffy new home, Daniprose.com!

After a hiatus during which my previously mentioned threat to pretend to be illiterate took full effect, I am back on the blogging wagon. I hope that the new site, in all of its glory, makes up for a least some of the lonely moments spent wandering the web searching fruitlessly for readable and amusing academicisms. The MA really burnt me out and I’m still re-fortifying for September, but I think I’m ready to swing back into gear and flex the writing muscles so that they don’t atrophy during my precious free-as-a-bird summer break.

Taking the leap to a real grown-up blog via domain name is something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time now. The impetus to hold my breath and jump came from a dear friend who (bless her heart) got excited at the idea of giving me wordpress tips. I figured that if someone else could get excited about my work, then I sure as heck could muster the force to push myself to the next level. I’m still working on tidying house, so you’ll see some little tweaks here and there for a few weeks yet, but on the whole I believe the site will remain pretty much as it is now.

A note on previous formatting: when I migrated the old stuff to the new site, there were a few formatting glitches (as you can see). While I do care about the presentation of my carefully-chosen prose, there are over one hundred entries on this site. Short of hand-editing each of them, I have not found a way to address these formatting issues. As such, I apologize in advance for them, but they will remain (unless someone can figure out how to effectively batch-change them).

So why “Daniprose”, you may ask?

“Prose – noun. 1a) Language in the form in which it is typically written (or spoken), usually characterized as having no deliberate metrical structure (in contrast with verse or poetry). 1b) That which is plain, simple, or matter-of-fact” (OED 3rd ed.)

Prose is language without meter or poetry. Prose is simple, colloquial. When Shakespeare wrote prose, it was generally for his rustic characters; the clowns, the mechanicals, the shepherds. Prose is language that breaks the rules of form. For an actor, prose is oftentimes deceptively difficult to work with since your regular Shakespeare tricks are useful only for the metered poetry. A passage of prose is riddled with wit, jokes, and nudges at the groundlings. It is to the point and cuts to the deep heart of any matter.

Some famous passages/monologues in prose:

Hamlet; Hamlet; III.i; “Get thee to a Nunnerie. Why would’st thou be a breeder of Sinners?…”
Henry IV ii; Mistress Quickly; II.iii; “Nay, sure, he’s not in hell: he’s in Arthur’s bosom, if ever man went to Arthur’s bosom…”
Macbeth; Lady MacBeth; V.i: “Out, damned spot! out, I say!…”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: pretty much anything the mechanicals say, but famously Bottom IV.i: “When my cue comes, call mee, and I will answere. My next is, most faire Pyramus….”
Much Ado About Nothing; Benedick; II.i : “O she misusde me past the indurance of a block…”
Romeo and Juliet; Mercutio; II.iv; “More than prince of cats, I can tell you…”

Prose. The other white meat. And so, continuing on in the spirit with which we were founded, bending to Philip Henslowe’s frantic advice to a lovelorn Billy Shakes (“No, no, we haven’t the time… talk prose!”), with pen in hand we return to our hero’s saga and begin the prequel to Higher Education (Part 3): The Quest for the PhD.

>Talk like a Shakespearean


Things have changed a lot in the past four hundred years.  Electricity, indoor plumbing, penicillin, bifocals, fountain pens, artificial teeth… all things which have come into being since the death of our beloved Bard in 1616.  Despite all this, perhaps he most significant change during this time-period is the shifting of the English language.
We’ve come a long way from the non-standard spelling and punctuation of Jacobean England.  We now have rules about writing and books to tell us what those rules are.  Because Early Modern English is so literately close to Modern English in the grand scheme of things (go read Beowulf in its original Old English then tell me I’m wrong), I don’t think that modern critical readers of Shakespeare put perhaps enough thought into the important changes that have occurred in the language since its inception.  This is especially true of actors and directors.  The great shift in language since the Bard wrote his immortal words is frequently far out of their ken.
Professor Paul Meier at the University of Kansas is working to change that.  Have a look at this article and the accompanying videos for further details.
Professor Meier’s work centers around the re-creation of what he calls “OP” or “Original Pronunciation”.  Shakespeare’s English was different from our own, and different from contemporary British pronunciation as well.  This is evidenced by the sheer amount of rhymes within the canon which simply do not work anymore (“tears” with “hers”, “bear” with “fear”, “there” with “sphere”, “eyes” with “qualities”… etc.).  Meier contends that by restoring OP to Shakespeare, we can return to our roots as Americans and reclaim the work for ourselves (since the earliest Americans would have spoken in the same fashion that Shakespeare did).  With this in mind, Professor Meier is working to create a Shakespearience that captures this OP.  On November 11th, his OP production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens at KU.
The project is, beyond a doubt, an interesting one especially due to the auditory nature of Shakespeare’s plays.  We are reminded that the root of the word “audience” lies in the word “audio”.  In Shakespeare’s time, an audience would have gone to “hear a play” rather than “see a play”.  Our culture today, a world of television watchers and movie-goers, is so visual-centric that sometimes this is easy to forget.  In that regard, I do believe that a modern audience is at a disadvantage sometimes when walking into a Shakespearean production.  Without any sort of priming, the audience is expected to shift themselves from their normal visual-centric lives to the auditory world of Shakespeare.  Instead of seeing the bank where the wild thyme blows, they must listen for it and allow the words to paint the imagery for them.
Frequent visitors to Shakespeare’s world are perhaps better suited to this audio sensitivity.  Rather than struggling to acclimate to the environment, they are already prepared to immerse themselves in a well-known story and have a completely new yet utterly familiar experience.  Like donning a favorite sweater, going to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream is exciting not because it is new, but because it is different.  What will this Puck think about Oberon?  What new and hilarious antics will this Bottom think up?  How will this Helena handle her sometimes misguided speeches? 
In this way, the OP production is an interesting exercise.  Scholars, surely, will appreciate the new landscapes that such an endeavor opens up.  It is a new way to experience these familiar works; and one, we are reminded, which has never been done in the United States before.
But there’s part of me that still feels that Meier’s work misses the point.  First and foremost, it alienates a theatre-going audience.  By pronouncing these words in a fashion entirely different from anything the audience has ever before heard, it creates a situation in which the audience is looking into a world they cannot hope to become a part of.  It solidifies the fourth wall into a rigid, unyielding structure which keeps a modern audience at arm’s length.  Most audiences already have trouble delving into Shakespeare, why make it any more difficult for them?
In addition, setting this burden upon the actors means that they are unable to fully explore the emotional depths which an otherwise unaffected performance would have allotted them.  Concerned so for an unfamiliar usage of language, the actors are not free to allow the production to flow naturally.  Just as the OP alienates the audience, it also alienates the actors.
The author of the article seems to believe that by producing an OP show, the audience will be offered an immersive experience, “Thanks to the work of Paul Meier, audiences can get a sense of what it might have been like to eavesdrop on opening night of Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theater in London or to listen in on a shipboard conversation on the Mayflower as it approaches the shores of the New World”.  The problem is that the audience is “eavesdropping”, “listening in”, they are not experiencing.  The show, then, becomes a movie and not live theatre.  The energy of the text and live actors is cut off, they become a spectacle rather than a catalyst for human connection.  The theatre, one of the last vestiges of our communal humanity, becomes instead a glorified movie theatre where we go to observe the follies of mankind without experiencing them ourselves.
This is not to say that I do not see value in Meier’s work, simply that I do not believe it should be viewed as the next step for American Shakespeare, nor should it be widely marketed to an average audience.  Too much will it encourage the already rampant notions of Bardism which prevent so many people from entering the Shakespeareverse.  “This is clearly above me, I didn’t understand a word they said.”  “I don’t get it.”  “Why are they talking like that?”  Meier’s work belongs in a museum, not a theatre.  It should be under glass, not living and breathing. 

>Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hamlet


I have been blessed with the good fortune to be given random assignments around the theatre directly corresponding to my random array of talents.  This month’s random assignment was as fight director for our first show of the year, Magic Time, which opens tomorrow and runs through the weekend.
The show is about a summer stock company doing a production of Hamlet.  The actors are undergrads with no previous fight or martial arts experience.  They barely knew what a sword was before being handed over to my loving claws.  Over the course of a month, I managed to teach them enough about stage combat to get through my choreographed fight safely.
I don’t have a lot to say about the experience other than I love the theatre, I love swords, and I love when those two loves intersect.  Acting as a mentor for young actors is always a privilege and an honor.  I’ve been where they are.  They come to rehearsal with problems and I know exactly what they’re talking about.  They’re struggling with big life things; why couldn’t I be happy with a normal job, what am I going to do when I graduate college, what the hell is Hamlet trying to say?  There is nothing more satisfying than having answers to (or at least thoughts about) these questions.
I love teaching theatre and I hope I get to do it for the rest of my life. 
With that in mind, here’s a look at how the fight progressed.  I didn’t start videoing them until there was really something to tape, so the initial blunders and foibles have gone unrecorded.  Trust me, that’s likely for the best.
You can hear the pneumatic stapler going in the background as well as my commentary.  At this point, the boys were still working on remembering their moves more than anything.  There is little to no acting involved and everything you see is pure mechanics.  As a point of reference, I would say that such level of performance is typical for a week out from the show.
It did panic the director though.  After a series of frantic text messages, I convinced him that muscle memory would kick in if the boys put some serious effort into rehearsal.
Not to say “I told him so”, but here they are at their first dress (Monday night).
The fight is about ten times more polished, though the speed is a little fast.  You can barely see the swords so, while it feels like it flows, the audience is left wondering “what the heck just happened?”  As an actor unschooled in the art of stabbing things, this speed feels AWESOME.  It feels real, visceral, adrenaline-filled.  However, it’s very difficult for an outside observer to follow.  Unfortunately, going much slower than this could put them back to half speed (as above).  The trick is to slow things down enough that the audience can follow the fight, but keep them fast enough that it doesn’t look halting.  It is a tough balance to achieve, though it does get easier with experience.  Unfortunately, that was exactly what my boys lacked.
You can see that they have slown it down a bit which really works in their favor.  They’ve hit prime “fight time” in this one.  Also note how well they’re taking my notes and, when they do take them how much better they look.  Little tweaks, things like getting the stance right, breathing, dropping your center, make all the difference in a fight.  They make the fight safer, and make it look more polished and professional.  Note especially the head butt sequence.  This will come into play in a moment.
Here they are doing it again tonight after my having given them notes and with some dramatic music which does not really belong there but the sound guy was having fun.
The speed is good, their stances are good, they are remembering to breathe (which I know because they are making vocalizations).  You can tell where they are really concentrating because they go silent, but if they remember to breathe that issue will be alleviated.  The head butt sequence, even though they only adjusted it by about three inches, looks worlds better.  You can hear me note it on the video. 
They’re going to look great when the show opens tomorrow.  I couldn’t be more proud of them.
….and nobody’s gotten stabbed yet!

>Deer in the Headlights

>Do you ever get to a certain point where you have so much on your plate that you are frozen?  So much to do, limited time in which to do it, and yet the thought of the entire situation stresses you out so much that you just can’t do anything?  Like a deer in the headlights, frozen where you stand, unable to move, unable to think, simply able to worry about all the things that you aren’t doing because you’re expending your mental energy not doing them.

Yea, I hit that point tonight.
It’s not that anything in my life right now is bad or unexciting, it is just that there is so bloody much of it.  It’s spilling over and making me remiss in my blogging.  I am working on so much at once that my mind is too scattered to put together a coherent though much less a coherent blog post.
As a result, I’m writing a list.  I find that list-making helps me get my thoughts together, and, since I haven’t come up with much else to blog about, you’re going to get to read my list.  Here is a list of everything that I need to accomplish this month in the order in which these things occur to me.  Enjoy.
1)    1) Finish the Austen midterm.  This is due October 31st by 9PM, though my professor is merciful and may give me an extension.  It will likely wind up being a 20 page paper rather than a 10 page paper as I am currently 6 pages in and not nearly halfway through everything I want to say.  Hopefully I can have a working draft cranked out by the end of the week so I can start muddling through the editing process.  There will be more blogging on my drafting process, complete with pictures, just not tonight.
2)     2)  Ensure actors don’t stab each other during Magic Time this weekend.  This is going fairly well mostly due to the fact that said actors worked their butts off while I was gone over the weekend after I put the fear of god into them via text message.  Fight looks pretty solid as of tonight, which is a good thing as tomorrow is their final dress.  Still a few tweaks, but those are easy.  Considering that as I was leaving my driveway on Friday there was frantic texting between me and the director concerning the integrity of the fight and the actors’ ability to perform it properly, this is VERY good.  Director thought it might need cuts due to actor misperformance, I assured director that this was the proper flow of things and that after working it until their fingers bled muscle memory would kick in and they’d look great.  Guess who was right?  All I can say is:  phew.
3)     3) Keep up on class reading.  Reading for class is like treading water in the ocean: just when you’re on top of the game, a wave comes by to bury you again.  It never ends.  After a year of this, I thought I was used to the break-neck pace of Graduate English programs and everything that came with them.  What I learned this semester is “used to it” does not mean “unphased by it”.  I’m no longer a fresh-faced newb, but all that means is that I’m more jaded and less likely to let things escape through the cracks of composure.  Can’t let those who are actually fresh-faced newbs know how hard it still is even after practice.
4)      4) PhD aps.  Oh god PhD aps.  My personal statement is a wreck and THAT needs fixing pronto.  I hate writing personal statements.  It’s the net that’s supposed to catch everything the rest of the application let fall.  It’s your last ditch effort to impress the program.  It’s the piece of the ap that programs value the highest.  It’s a boatload of pressure.  “Say something smart and witty that will make us like you and simultaneously explain your previous experience, training and academic work as well as this writing sample… in two pages or less”.  Can someone just…. Do this for me?  It’s not that I don’t like to talk about myself, I’m arrogant enough that the premise of this appeals to my need for self-validation, but this is way too much.  What if they don’t like my tone?  What if I accidentally offend them? What if I forget to say something I really should have said?   What if they just hate people named “Danielle”? 
5)      5) Get the conference paper ready to go.  I don’t even want to talk about this. 
6)      6) Prep for cert at the studio.  I’m up for a raise and a boost in ballroom-dancerly-power in the form of a certification.  This happens in early November and involves a three hour test with fifty seven million dance moves from nine different dances (both lead and follow) as well as technical questions about alignment, footwork, and teaching techniques.  I love to dance, for the most part my body knows how to do it, but being asked questions about the process is intimidating.  Memorizing alignments sucks, thinking about footwork makes my head hurt, and my teaching techniques are probably nothing like what the text book tells me to do.  In short: stressful.  It’s like the Spanish Inquisition of Ballroom…. Without the comfy chair.
7)      7) In-Class presentations.  In my absolutely astounding amount of foresight, I managed to sign up for two out of three of my semesterly-required-in-class-presentations during the window of time in which I have the most other things going on.  I’m giving one Wednesday and one next Tuesday.  Next semester, I’m checking my damned calendar before I sign up for these things.  I am less concerned about the Wednesday presentation as it’s on a secondary source article.  The presentation next Tuesday is on Coleridge and involves outside research and crazy prep.  I love Coleridge, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I know more about him than Joe-literati-shmoe.  Better learn fast.  All I can say is I dug my own grave on this one.
8)      8) Due in for another stack of grading.  I’m hoping they’re as epic as the last papers… though perhaps with a little more forethought put into them.  This may just be my comic relief/escape for a while… don’t have time to see a funny de-stressing movie?  Grade some undergrad papers.  It’s kinda the same thing….. really, have I stooped this low?
9)     9)  Finals.  Everyone keeps asking about final paper topics; students, professors, my mom….  I wish I could plug my ears and sing loudly and tunelessly every time the subject is brought up.  I can’t think about finals until my midterms are done, it’s a Cosmic Truth.  Besides which, I simply have no idea.  None.  No clue.  Dunno.  Come back later, brain busy, can’t work it out now.
….I need someone to buy me a nice bottle of wine and give me a backrub.  Or maybe a beer and a hug.