“Front Row asks actors, directors and writers to give their personal take on a favourite Shakespeare character, to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death.”
BBCRadio4 has a wonderful collection of audio snippets of famous actors describing their experiences of playing their favourite Shakespeare character. The actors describe how they come to engage, connect and portray with their character. It includes audio extracts of the scenes that they are describing.
400 years after his death, Shakespeare is still a delight for actors to continue playing, discovering and reinventing. Who is your favourite character? Who would you love to play on stage? Comment and let us know!
If you would like deeper insight into these famous actors portrayals of Shakespeare’s characters take a listen after the jump!
Thanks to the tireless work of our team at Shakespeare in Action, our wonderful donors and the amazing work of our participates – The Shakespeare Challenge 2016 production of “A Midsummer Nights Dream” was a great success. We would like to take the time out to acknowledge and thank those whose planning, time and effort made our 2-night sold out performance possible.
First we would like to thank the group of 14 volunteer, non-actors from the community who worked tirelessly with our Artistic Director Michael Kelly and Stage Manager/ Event Coordinator, Jeanine Thrasher. Our participants volunteered 3 hrs a week for over eight weeks for this project. Without their passion, enthusiasm and dedication this production would not have been possible. A particular thank you goes out to the talents of Costume Designer – Mary Margaret Annab, our Technical Director – Adam Bromley and Assistant Stage Manager – Lydia Connor.
Secondly, a thank you to the over 180 attendees in the community for their continued support and interest in the important work of Shakespeare in Action in the community and this production. Access to the Arts and community engagement is a fundamental cornerstone to Shakespeare in Actions mandate and with tremendous community support in events like these we continue to make important strides.
Once again, thank you so much to everyone involved – see you next year for Shakespeare Challenge 2017!
Lastly, we must also thank our incredible list of Donors who helped us create a successful Online, Silent/Live Auction to support our fundraising efforts.
We are currently in the middle of celebrating Black History Month, and all of the important contributions that black men and women have made to the world. We wanted to share with you a list of some of our favourite actors who have tackled Shakespeare over the years. Here are just a few of the actors that we admire (we know this list could be much longer, so please share your favourites with us!)
Ira Aldridge was an American-born Shakespearean actor who had a lengthy acting career, playing some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, including Macbeth and Richard III. Most notably, in the 1820’s, he was the first black Shakespearean actor to play Othello, a black character. Met with much resistance, Aldridge continued to perform in the role, touring to many places across Europe, receiving acclaim for his acting. If you would like to learn more about Ira Aldridge’s life and career, you can check out his page on Biography.com or Wikipedia!
Condola Rashad is an American-born Broadway actress who has recently risen to fame on the stage. In 2013, she appeared in the Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet, the first Broadway production of the play since 1977. Condola starred as one of the titular characters, opposite Orlando Bloom as Romeo. The show was a modernization of the play, featuring an all white Montague family and an all black Capulet family. We look forward to seeing what projects she takes on next! To read more about Condola, you can visit her Wikipedia page!
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones is an American Actor who is famous for portraying the voices of some of the most iconic film characters in recent memory, which I am sure I will not need to tell you! He is also a veteran of the stage, acting in Shakespearean productions since the 1950’s. Some of his most notable roles include Othello in Othello, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. To read more about James and his lengthy career, you can visit his page on Biography.com!
Noma Dumezweni was born in Swaziland, and is an Olivier Award winning British actress. Her name has made headlines recently after the announcement was made that she would be portraying Hermione Granger in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays (which we are super excited for, by the way!) Noma has also made many appearances on stage with The Royal Shakespeare Company since the late 90’s, including playing Ursula in Much Ado About Nothing, Paulina in The Winter’s Tale, and Calphurnia in Julius Caesar. To read more about Noma’s career, check our her Wikipedia page!
The Cast of Voodoo Macbeth
Voodoo Macbeth was a 1936 production of Macbeth that took place on a fictional Caribbean island instead of Scotland. Directed by a young Orson Welles, this production featured a cast of all black actors, which was unheard of at the time. The show ended up being a huge box office success, and has had several revivals over the years. To read more about the show, visit the Voodoo MacbethWikipedia page!
Paul Robeson was an American born actor, and was the first black actor of the 20th century to portray Othello on Broadway, and the first in Britain since Ira Aldridge played the role in the previous century. The Broadway production of Othello is still to this day one of the longest running Shakespearean productions to ever be on Broadway, running for nearly 300 performances!
Marcel Stewart is one of Shakespeare in Action’s very own! He has appeared in our most recent productions of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, and is one of the brilliant minds behind our popular Shakespeare Meets Hip Hop tour! Check out a video of him performing below!
William Shakespeare has been lauded with creating the most beautiful romantic moments of all time. Yet, as much as William loves marriage and romance, it seems most of his depictions of romance are also his depictions of total insanity. Here for this Valentine’s Day, here are Shakespeare’s most “romantic” moments; and by ‘romantic’, I mean delusional and very twisted.
5) Twelfth Night, Malvolio Dresses Crazy For Love (Act 3, Scene 4) While Shakespeare may have fooled us into thinking it is the romance between Viola and Cesario that is the height of the play, it is clearly Malvolio who shows us the proper levels of passion for Valentine’s Day. When Maria sends him a letter pretending to be Olivia, Malvolio will do anything to impress her, including reading strange quotations from said letter and humiliating himself with a ridiculous outfit, crossed garters and yellow stockings. Love literally makes you crazy, and Malvolio is proof.
4) Macbeth, Lady MacBeth Councils her Husband Post-Murder (Act 2, Scene 2)
When you’ve got some stresses going on there’s no one better to help calm you down than your one and only. One of the possibly biggest stresses could come from your plan to murder the King in order to take over the throne, and thank god Macbeth has Lady Macbeth to help calm him down after this task. Essentially, Lady Macbeth just points out all the things he did wrong, and how she would’ve done this a lot better (and I don’t doubt that), but at the end, when he is feeling that guilt as he looks at his bloody hands, Lady Macbeth cleans them off for him. That’s probably the sweetest moment between the two… all in the middle of an insane murder plot.
3) Hamlet, Hamlet Calls Ophelia Many Things (Act 3, Scene 1)
Hamlet in general just seems like such a charmer; there’s nothing like existentialism to make a man seem attractive. Even more attractive is when, having done absolutely nothing wrong, you get called awful names. I think this is called “playing hard to get”. Ophelia runs into Hamlet and is not just insulted by Hamlet, but is insulted among all womankind. Not cool, Hamlet. And when Ophelia ends up throwing herself in a river, Hamlet acts all sad and that he loved her all along? Stop playing those games, Hamlet. To be or not to be a jerk, that is the question.
2) Othello, Othello and Desdemona’s Last Moment Together (Act 5, Scene 2)
Nothing like death to bring loved ones together, especially in Shakespeare. Does it count if death is being brought on by your loved one? By Shakespeare’s standards, essentially it’s the best you can do! And in the most romantic locations of all, one’s own marriage bed. Othello kisses his wife before attempting to smother her, and this death scene is ridden with romantic newlywed imagery. Thanks Shakespeare, that’s not creepy at all.
1) Romeo and Juliet, Balcony Scene (Act 2, Scene 1) Well, what did you expect would be #1? This scene is the most talked about famous romance scene in Shakespeare, and it is pretty romantic to have your secret lover come to you in the middle of the night to profess his love to you… right? Some would say that’s trespassing, but we love that kind of stuff. Romeo and Juliet, however, are probably the most unstable of all of Shakespeare’s couples. First of all, they are 14, and probably going through many hormonal changes that would probably affect their decision making. Only knowing each other three days in the total time of the play, they end up dying for each other pretty much by accident. They literally could’ve waited an hour to see if the other were really dead and then made a rational decision on what to do next, but no, impromptu sacrifice is what Shakespeare encourages. Thanks Shakespeare for presenting the ultimate romance as ultimate insanity.
Don’t follow suit on your Valentine’s Day everyone.
On October 27, 2014, voters from across Ontario will head to the polls to elect Mayors, Councillors, and Trustees. We have decided to have our own Shakespeare-themed election! Four candidates from Shakespeare’s plays are vying for your vote in the great Shakespeare election! Here are the profiles of the candidates:
Relevant experience: Ruled as the Queen of Egypt
Thoughts on transparency:
Cleopatra certainly has a history of hiding the truth, if only to protect her own interests and assets. CLEOPATRA This is the brief of money, plate, and jewels I am possessed of. ’Tis exactly valued, Not petty things admitted. Where’s Seleucus?
Enter SELEUCUS SELEUCUS Here, madam. CLEOPATRA This is my treasurer. Let him speak, my lord, Upon his peril, that I have reserved To myself nothing.—Speak the truth, Seleucus. SELEUCUS Madam, I had rather seal my lips Than to my peril speak that which is not. CLEOPATRA What have I kept back? SELEUCUS Enough to purchase what you have made known. CAESAR Nay, blush not, Cleopatra. I approve Your wisdom in the deed.
Thoughts on the environment:
Cleopatra really only loves the earth as long as Antony is in it. CLEOPATRANoblest of men, woo’t die? Hast thou no care of me? Shall I abide In this dull world, which in thy absence is No better than a sty? O see, my women, The crown o’ th’ earth doth melt. My lord!
Thoughts on income and wealth: Cleopatra is obviously wealthy, but she seems to be generous with all of her riches. CLEOPATRA (to SCARUS ) I’ll give thee, friend, An armor all of gold. It was a king’s.
CLEOPATRA(giving money) There’s gold for thee. Thou must not take my former sharpness ill. I will employ thee back again; I find thee Most fit for business. Go make thee ready; Our letters are prepared.
Why it might not work: Death due to a snake bite
Name: Henry IV
Relevant experience: Ruled as King of England
Thoughts on transparency: Everyone around King Henry IV was deceiving and secretly plotting against each other, and the King himself did not rise to the throne under the most noble circumstances, so he may be willing to call someone out on their deception, but he still has his own secrets.
KING You have deceived our trust And made us doff our easy robes of peace To crush our old limbs in ungentle steel. This is not well, my lord; this is not well.
Thoughts on the environment: King Henry IV was very busy defending his kingdom, but he did manage to make note of the damage caused to the field in England by the battles that were happening.
KING No more the thirsty entrance of this soil Shall daub her lips with her own children’s blood. Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields, Nor bruise her flow’rets with the armed hoofs Of hostile paces.
Thoughts on income and wealth: As rich as the King is, he knows that if he is not well, he cannot enjoy the good things that happen to him, and compares it to wealthy people going to a feast with no appetite.
KING She either gives a stomach and no food–Such are the poor, in health—or else a feast And takes away the stomach—such are the rich, That have abundance and enjoy it not.
Why it might not work: Death due to illness
Name: Julius Caesar
Relevant experience: Ruled as Dictator of Rome
Thoughts on transparency: Though Caesar may need to be secretive in his work on the battlefield, he has no problem being honest with his colleagues when he decides to take the day off work.
DECIUS Caesar, all hail! Good morrow, worthy Caesar.
I come to fetch you to the senate house.
CAESAR And you are come in very happy time
To bear my greeting to the senators
And tell them that I will not come today.
“Cannot” is false, and that I dare not, falser.
I will not come today. Tell them so, Decius.
CALPHURNIA Say he is sick.
CAESAR Shall Caesar send a lie?
Have I in conquest stretched mine arm so far
To be afraid to tell graybeards the truth?
Thoughts on the environment: When Antony read Caesar’s will after his death, it was revealed that Caesar (or possibly Antony) left his private gardens and orchards to the people, so Caesar did seem to be a fan of having and maintaining green space!
ANTONY Also, he’s left you all his walkways—in his private gardens and newly planted orchards—on this side of the Tiber River. He’s left them to you and to your heirs forever—public pleasures in which you will be able to stroll and relax. Here was a Caesar! When will there be another like him?
Thoughts on income and wealth: Caesar was born into a noble family, but became an incredibly wealthy man during his time in the army. During his rise to power, Caesar brought many beneficial economic reforms to Rome, which Antony was quick to point out after his death.
ANTONY He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Why it might not work: Death due to stabbing
Relevant experience: Ruled as King of Scotland
Thoughts on transparency: Macbeth found himself in the middle of a murder plot with his wife, and obviously no one could know about it, or it would ruin his chances of becoming King.
LADY MACBETH Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
You do unbend your noble strength to think
So brainsickly of things. Go get some water,
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there. Go carry them and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood.
Thoughts on the environment: During a confrontation with the Weird Sisters, Macbeth makes it clear that he has no problem with them destroying the world, as long as they gave him the answers he wanted.
MACBETH I conjure you by that which you profess–
Howe’er you come to know it—answer me.
Though you untie the winds and let them fight
Against the churches, though the yeasty waves
Confound and swallow navigation up,
Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down,
Though castles topple on their warders’ heads,
Though palaces and pyramids do slope
Their heads to their foundations, though the treasure
Of nature’s germens tumble all together,
Even till destruction sicken, answer me
To what I ask you.
Thoughts on income and wealth: Macbeth was originally not thirsty for wealth, but certain outside influences caused changes in him that had negative consequences.
LADY MACBETH Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valor
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would, ”
Like the poor cat i’ th’ adage?
Why it might not work: Death due to Macduff
Now that we have the basic profiles for all of the candidates, it’s time to cast your vote!
Thanks for voting!
Now if you are old enough, make sure to head over to a real polling station and cast your vote today!
Where do you think these candidates would stand on transit issues? Leave a comment and let us know!
TheToronto Fringe Festival is fast approaching! Among the 150 shows to be produced this year, there are 3 that are Shakespeare related.
Montreal company Beyond the Mountain brings us Bard Fiction, an Elizabethan retelling of the cult classic, Pulp Fiction. Following the success in Minneapolis and Chicago, this show makes it’s Canadian premiere at the Toronto Fringe! This show is suitable for audiences aged 12 and up. Visit http://www.beyondthemountain.ca/ for more information about Beyond the Mountain and Bard Fiction.
Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare Collective presents the Julius Ceasar Project. Taking inspiration from the series Orange is the New Black, SOTMSC retells this classic tale in a women’s prison. After fringe, they will perform the show, in association with the Adelaide Resource Center for Women, to provide creative programming for women’s shelters in Toronto. This show is suitable for audiences aged 10 and up. Visit http://spurofthemomentshakespeare.weebly.com/ for more information about Spur-of-the-Moment.
Best of Fringe winning company, Shakespeare BASH’d presents Love’s Labour’s Lost. Director James Wallis transforms the Victory Cafe into a fraternity house for his interpretation of this zany masterpiece of wit. This show is suitable for audiences aged 19 and up. For more information, visit http://www.shakespearebashd.com/.
The Toronto Fringe Festival runs from July 2 – July 13th, with showtimes throughout the day. For more information about purchasing tickets for these shows, and all things Fringe Festival, visit fringetoronto.com.
Interested in getting involved in Canada’s longest running outdoor theatre event? Canadian Stage is currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers to support Shakespeare in High Park (June 26 – August 31)! Volunteers act as Front of House ushers, accepting donations, giving out programs, and helping patrons find seats. Shifts are in the evenings from 5:30 – 8:30 pm, and scheduling is flexible. Volunteers will make new friends, gain customer service and leadership skills, and will also be rewarded with tickets for the Canadian Stage 2014/15 season. Get involved and volunteer under the starry skies in High Park!
To find out more, visit canadianstage.com/volunteer or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers must attend an orientation session on Wednesday June 4 at 5:30, Saturday June 7 at 2 pm or Tuesday June 10 at 5:30. All orientation sessions are held at 26 Berkeley Street (Front & Sherbourne).