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New Shakespeare statue unveiled in the Bard’s historic home town of Stratford-upon-Avon

A new life size statue of William Shakespeare was unveiled in Stratford-upon-Avon on 23 February as part of the town’s celebrations commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Young Will
Situated in Bancroft Gardens, the statue entitled ‘Young Will’ has been gifted by sculptor Lawrence Holofcener, who travelled from the USA to present the town with the sculpture on his 90th birthday.

Young Will close up
The multi-talented Mr Holofcener, who in previous careers was a successful Broadway actor, songwriter, and playwright, dedicated the sculpture to the actors, tourists and townspeople of Stratford with a personalised poem.

Unveiling the statue
The statue portrays a young William Shakespeare with one leg raised on a bench, holding a scroll of parchment.

Mr Holofcener revealed during the ceremony that the scroll that young Will is holding is not a play but the lines for one actor, a technique that Elizabethan actors were accustomed to.

Lawrence Holofcener stands with Young Will
Stratford district council hopes ‘Young Will’ will prove a popular spot in the town –  it’s certainly the perfect place for a Shakespeare selfie.

Go here for more on Lawrence Holofcener.

Go here for more on Stratford-upon-Avon’s 2016 Shakespeare Celebrations.

Canada’s literary superstar Margaret Atwood reveals the title and cover art of her upcoming Shakespeare-inspired novel

Distinguished Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood has unveiled the evocative and Shakespearean title – Hag-Seed – of her new novel to her one million followers on Twitter.

Atwood’s Tweets also tease Hag-Seed’s striking cover art – which seems to depict the watchful eye of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Hag-Seed is published in the UK by Hogarth on Thursday 6 October, 2016. The novel will publish simultaneously across the English-speaking world in print, digital and audio formats.

Hag-Seed UK Front
Hag-Seed
is a retelling of Shakespeare’s late play The Tempest, and is the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

In Atwood’s take on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest with suitably dramatic consequences.

Margaret Atwood c. Liam Sharp
Image by Liam Sharp

“‘Hag-Seed’ is just one of many insults Prospero flings at Caliban in The Tempest,” says Hogarth’s Becky Hardie. “There’s a lot of Shakespearean swearing in this new Tempest adventure, too, but also a mischief, curiosity and vigour that’s entirely Atwood.”

The Hogarth Shakespeare series aims to continue Shakespeare’s own tradition of “retelling”, and to celebrate his legacy.

Hag-Seed UK front + back
The series launched with Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (The Winter’s Tale) last October, followed by Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name (The Merchant of Venice) this month.

Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew) follows in June, and then Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed (The Tempest) arrives in October.

The first four novels will be followed by Tracy Chevalier’s Othello, Gillian Flynn’s Hamlet, Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth and Edward St Aubyn’s King Lear.

Go here for more on The Hogarth Shakespeare (UK).

Go here for more on The Hogarth Shakespeare (US).

Follow Margaret Atwood on Twitter @MargaretAtwood

The Tarantino-referencing Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare is unleashed alongside Othello and Romeo and Juliet this month by Birmingham School of Acting

Shakespeare’s blood-soaked Macbeth gets a modern makeover this month, as Birmingham School of Acting presents a reworking of the Bard’s tragedy that pays homage to some of director Quentin Tarantino’s best-loved films.

Macbeth - Kill Bill Shakespeare 2
Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare
 offers an irreverent and imaginative take on the play.

While staying true to the original text, the images and style of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill will collide violently on stage with Shakespeare’s verse, creating an exhilarating black comedy.

Macbeth - Kill Bill Shakespeare 4
Adapted and directed by acclaimed theatre director Malachi Bogdanov, Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare will be performed at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre.

It’s part of a trio of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies reimagined for Birmingham School of Acting’s 2015-16 season and performed in venues across the city this month.

Alongside Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare, the School will also be presenting Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Othello and Romeo and Juliet will be performed at the Patrick Centre, part of Birmingham Hippodrome.

Macbeth - Kill Bill Shakespeare
“In our version of Romeo and Juliet, the Shakespeare classic finds an exciting local resonance,” says Danièle Sanderson, Deputy Head at Birmingham School of Acting, “with the Montagues and Capulets donning razor blades in their caps, like the historical Peaky Blinders gang.”

“Similar to audiences today, Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre-goers were fascinated by violence, and Shakespeare’s most violent plays were the most popular during his own lifetime. By integrating Shakespeare’s tragedies through the lens of popular culture, our actors are hoping to sharpen our responses to these familiar works.”

Macbeth - Kill Bill Shakespeare 3
Othello
, directed by Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, is on at The Patrick Centre (Birmingham Hippodrome) until Saturday 20 February.
Go here to book tickets.

Romeo and Juliet, directed by Hal Chambers, is on at The Patrick Centre (Birmingham Hippodrome) from Wednesday 24 February to Saturday 27 February.
Go here to book tickets.

Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Malachi Bogdanov, is on at Crescent Theatre (Studio) from Wednesday 24 February to Saturday 27 February.
Go here to book tickets.

Special courses from Shakespeare’s Globe held at Bristol’s Clifton College help teachers unlock the power of the Bard

Shakespeare’s Globe has created five new Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses for teachers to unlock active, practical approaches to teaching the curriculum through Shakespeare.

The courses are created by Globe Education in line with requirements at Key Stage 3, 4 and 5.

GlobeEd Teachers' Workshop May 2012
The courses commenced in October with ‘Shakespeare for teachers new to the profession’, followed by ‘Shakespeare’s Villains’ in November, and ‘Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare’s plays’ in January.

Next up is ‘Shakespeare and Leadership’ on 7 May 2016 and ‘Teaching Shakespeare’s Tragedies’ on 11 June 2016. Then ‘Shakespeare’s Villains’ is repeated on 2 July.

Each is an intensive Saturday course held at, and in collaboration with, Clifton College, an independent school in Bristol. Whole departments are particularly encouraged to attend.

GlobeEd Teachers' Workshop May 2012
The training is delivered by Globe Education Practitioners – actors, directors and creatives who take techniques developed on the Globe stage and in the rehearsal rooms, and develop them for effective use in the classroom.

Each course offers a range of approaches for exploring Shakespeare’s language, techniques and characters in ways that avoid a ‘Shakesfear’ forming in students – or teachers.

“Clifton gives us a wonderful opportunity to share the Globe’s approaches to teaching Shakespeare with teachers and students in the West Country and south Wales,” said Director of Globe Education Patrick Spottiswoode.

SchoolWorkshop-CesareDeGiglio
“All workshops are infused with the spirit and soul of lively action, play-centred and playful, and led by a team of Globe Education practitioners who enjoy making play for a living,” he added.

The cost of the courses is £150 per applicant per day. Discounts are available for schools which book for whole department training.

Go here for more details, or Telephone: 020 7902 1463.

Birmingham City University students create life-size effigies of Shakespeare and some of his most iconic characters

A life-size installation featuring more than a dozen of Shakespeare’s most famous creations – handcrafted from paper and cardboard – is open to the public, free of charge, at Birmingham City University.

Tamora Queen of the goths
Tamora, Queen of the Goths (from Titus Andronicus).

With scale models over six feet tall, a three-metre-high balcony and even a walk-in tavern, it has been made as a tribute to mark 400 years since the Bard’s death.

Each piece in the installation was individually crafted by 22 first year students from the University’s Design for Theatre, Performance and Events degree course.

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet.

The students used techniques learned on the course to sculpt 780 metres of corrugated cardboard and nearly 5,000 metres of brown paper into the setting and characters.

Among the figures are a likeness of William Shakespeare himself, writing at his desk, and full size replicas of King Lear, Caliban, Richard III, and Romeo & Juliet.

Caliban
Caliban (from The Tempest).

The exhibition took nearly three weeks to create, with students working day and night to make each component from scratch, as well as selecting music and lighting to complement each element.

The installation is housed in the Shell space at the University’s Parkside Building. It is open to the public, with free admission, until Friday 26 February.

Balcony
Viola (from Twelfth Night).

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust helped students research the project. When the project ends, a number of characters and settings will be transported to Stratford-upon-Avon for display.

Shakespeare desk
Shakespeare at his desk.

The tavern in the installation is intended to replicate London’s historic Gorge (or “George”) Inn, sometimes referred to as “Shakespeare’s Local”.

Traditional Elizabethan music plays in the exhibition hall, while words from The Two Noble Kinsmen – thought to be Shakespeare’s final play – make a poignant tribute to the Bard.

Juliet
Juliet (from Romeo and Juliet).

“It’s very rare that you get an art installation that really looks at the times that Shakespeare was writing in,” says the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Marie Brennan.

“As well as looking at new interpretations of his own work. It’s really an unusual and creative concept to bring those two together into one installation.

Peter Quince
Peter Quince (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Titled “The Figure in Space – Shakespeare”, the exhibition is on until Friday 26 February at Birmingham City University: The Parkside Building, 5 Cardigan Street, Birmingham B4 7BD. Admission is free.

Go here for a map and directions.

Merely Theatre tour the UK with their stripped-back, sweaty, no-frills, gender-blind productions of Shakespeare’s Henry V and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

HenryV-19
As a company, Merely Theatre are known for stripped-back, sweaty Shakespeare. No gauche sets, frilly costumes or fussy props – just the actors, the audience and the text. Oh, and one more thing – they’re the first Gender-Blind classical rep company.

HenryV-21
Ten actors rehearse in male-female pairs, so each set of parts can be played by both a man and a woman. One from each pair is then chosen for each performance. The result is both men and women playing both male and female characters.

HenryV-22
Company actor Robert Myles said of the concept: “When Shakespeare was writing, men played both male and female characters. The only difference for us is that now, women do too.”

Midsummer-43
The company don’t draw attention to the cross-gender casting within the shows, instead looking to take the issue off the table. They then endeavour to tell the story with maximum clarity and energy, making Shakespeare as accessible to first-timers as it is rewarding to aficionados.

Midsummer-30
Artistic Director Scott Ellis said in a recent interview with The Stage, “We start with: ‘What does the character want? What is the character saying?’ If the actor happens to be male or female, as far as we’re concerned it doesn’t make any difference.”

Midsummer-51
This has enabled the company to commit to 50/50 casting long before much bigger theatre companies, playing their part in defining the next generation of theatre-making.

HenryV-31
The tour continues from March until May, with dates in Eastbourne, St Albans, Taunton, Balham, Croydon, Cambridge, Northwich and Northern Ireland before concluding at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh.

Go here to find tour dates and book tickets. 

West Midlands artist Geoff Tristram has painted this amazingly life-like portrait of William Shakespeare to commemorate 400 years since the Bard’s death

Shakespeare scan low res
Stourbridge-based artist and novelist Geoff Tristram has been commissioned by Stratford-upon-Avon Council to create a brand new oil painting of Shakespeare to mark the 400th Anniversary of the Bard’s death.

The resulting portrait is a photo-realistic treat for Shakespeare fans. Taking elements of the First Folio’s Droeshout engraving and the Shakespeare effigy in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church, it presents a version of Shakespeare in prosperous middle-age. Quill in hand, he looks reflective, wise and instantly recognisable.

“I wanted you to believe he was a real bloke,” Geoff says, “not an old, badly-drawn etching!”

Large prints of Geoff’s Shakespeare portrait will be available – signed and numbered in a limited edition of 400 – priced £195 plus postage & packing.

For further details, contact the artist via email: gt@geofftristram.co.uk

A Shakespeare Documentary set in a retirement home for actors? Welcome to the magical realism of Still Dreaming

Like Shakespeare himself, Still Dreaming subverts the expected. When we meet the troupe from the Lillian Booth Actor’s Home of Englewood, New Jersey, we don’t know what to think. The troupe has come together to stage Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, under the direction of Fisaco Theatre’s Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody.

After the first meeting, Ben and Noah see an ambulance parked outside. “Oh, good, we get to spend the next six weeks confronting our mortality,” Noah observes. What follows, however, is rather more life-affirming.

Harold Cherry, Lucille Segal and Bob Evans rehearse “the Kiss”.

Harold Cherry, Lucille Segal and Bob Evans rehearse “the Kiss”.

Flourishing arts scenes are not the norm in assisted living homes. It is in the unexpected familiar where Still Dreaming works its magic. The magic is not merely found in the mischievous spirits of the Athenian forest, but in the journey of these unique actors. They are not hobbled shades of people, but vibrant and brilliant.

The actors have a daunting task, as the effects of age work against their endeavour. Experienced as well as first-time actors have to work through the process with all the commensurate handicaps age can bring. One actress suffers from degenerative eyesight, another with dementia. Two actors work from wheelchairs, others use walkers. One, due to her Alzheimer’s, has an aide follow her through her role. But the drive and need to tell the story is apparent, undimmed by time.

Harold Cherry rehearses Bottom's Dream.

Harold Cherry rehearses Bottom’s Dream.

Playing Puck is Charlotte Fairchild, a longtime veteran of Broadway musicals. She decides to try something new when responding to the speech by Oberon (played by Dimo Condos) about the magic flower. Instead of reacting as written, Fairchild spontaneously sings accompaniment to Dimo. Her voice, at once sirenic and angelic, brings the house down. Ben reacts: “That’s rehearsal – absolutely extraordinary, both of you.”

Any theatre practitioner will recognise this rehearsal process, as it is thoroughly normal. Actors work on scenes and learn more about one another. While rehearsing the part of Hermia, Lynette Loose confesses that she has lived Hermia’s situation – due to the demands of her parents, she married a man she did not love.

Dimo Condos hugs Charlotte Fairchild.

Dimo Condos hugs Charlotte Fairchild.

Egos clash from the very first rehearsal, and then they explode in a memorable scene where the directors call out an actor for trying to direct another actor. Meanwhile, the actor playing Bottom, Harold Cherry, works to discover his character – walking around the forest, ass’s head affixed, calling to his fairies.

As the play comes together, we get the not altogether surprising news that Shakespeare is good for you. The residents have decreased many of their medications since the troupe began its work, becoming more engaged, spurred on by the show.

Made by the team who produced the excellent Shakespeare Behind Bars, Still Dreaming is available from 19 April on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD.

Go here to watch the trailer for Still Dreaming.

Go here to find out more about Still Dreaming, and to order a copy.