All 10 episodes now available of web series inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

Written and directed by Colleen Scriven, A Bit Much is a new web series based on Shakespeare’s classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. “It takes the War of the Sexes out of 16th century Sicily,” Colleen explains, “and into the equally scenic and exotic Camp Messina in upstate New York.”
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Despite the updated script, costumes and characters, Colleen argues that the themes of the series strive to be the same as those of the play. “The characters - no longer lords and ladies, but campers and counsellors - still struggle with deception, love, friendship, jealousy and sex.”
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Colleen describes the series as being in a similar vein to popular Shakespeare modernisations such as She’s the Man and Ten Things I Hate About You. However, A Bit Much is the first adaptation of its kind to premiere as a web series. YA Bit Much4
Colleen herself co-stars in the series, as part of an all-student cast. You can find out more and watch all 10 episodes of A Bit Much here. (Contains strong language and adult themes)

Shakespeare Highlights 2014 – the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project makes its debut

Elizabeth Ruelas has no hesitation in selecting her 2014 Shakespeare Highlight: “It’s the fact that my theatre company performed our first independent production this summer!”
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The company in question is the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for which Elizabeth is Artistic Director.
And excitingly, it’s a company that specialises in performing plays using the First Folio unrehearsed cue script technique.
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Elizabeth describes debut production The Comedie of Errors as “a great success!” Now, along with husband Andy Kirtland, who is co-founder and Managing Director of the company, she is currently putting together their next show for the summer of 2015, Much Adoe About Nothing.

Find out more about the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project here.

Dame Janet Suzman has learned some amazing things from 50 Years of Shakespeare – listen to the full audio here!

For Ben Spiller, Artistic Director of 1623 theatre company, the Shakespeare Highlight of 2014 is the evening he hosted with Dame Janet Suzman in September.

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“Dame Janet is one of the greatest Shakespeareans of our time,” Ben says. “She’s played nearly every female role in the canon, directed Othello with a multiracial cast in South Africa when apartheid was in force, run masterclasses at LAMDA and in prisons, edited Antony and Cleopatra, and written books on performing Shakespeare and the role of women in drama.”

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Ben describes Dame Janet as “one of the most inspirational people I have met” and he was delighted when she visited his home city of Derby to share her experiences with his Shakespeare Night regulars and newcomers.

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“It was a professional and personal highlight for me,” he says, “to share the stage with this incredible woman, whose intelligence, skill and humanity are second to none. As if things couldn’t get any better, her acceptance of the invitation to become 1623′s patron was a dream come true.”

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You can listen to the complete audio of the evening with Dame Janet here.
You can find out more about 1623 theatre company here.

Prepare to lighten your wallet and boost your brain… It’s the Shakespeare Magazine Beautiful Bard Books Roundup

Seeking Christmas gift inspiration? Why not treat a fellow Shakespeare fan (or yourself!) to one of these beautiful Bard-related books. All prices are RRP for UK editions, but if you shop around you may well nab some of these for less (especially in eBook formats).

Shakespeare for Grown-ups
Subtitled “Everything You Need To Know About The Bard”, SHAKESPEARE FOR GROWN-UPS by E. Foley and B. Coates is already a firm favourite in the Shakespeare Magazine office. It’s a fun, handy reference guide that will fit nicely on your shelf between Bill Bryson’s ‘Shakespeare’ and Ben Crystal’s ‘Shakespeare on Toast’. An eminently readable intro for anyone who wants to find out what Shakespeare’s all about, it’s also a great memory refresher for those returning to the Bard in later life (like the Editor of Shakespeare Magazine, for example).

Out now, priced £12.99 Buy ‘Shakespeare for Grown-Ups’ here.

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Opening with the vivid and ultimately heartbreaking reimagining of a medieval childbirth, JULIET’S NURSE by Lois Leveen sees US novelist Leveen give a poetic new voice to one of the most memorable supporting characters in all of Shakespeare, namely the Nurse from ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Watch out for an interview with Lois in the very next issue of Shakespeare Magazine. Meanwhile, you can read the opening chapter of ‘Juliet’s Nurse’ here.

Out now, priced £16.99 Buy ‘Juliet’s Nurse’ here.

Station Eleven
Post-apocalyptic science fiction conveyed via dreamlike prose with a Shakespearean soul, STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel won instant acclaim and a National Book Awards nomination. Opening with a stage performance of ‘King Lear’ that eerily foreshadows the global tragedy to follow, this is definitely one of the year’s must-read novels.

Out now, priced £14.99 Buy ‘Station Eleven’ here.

Forensic Shakespeare
Firmly placed at the more academic end of the market, FORENSIC SHAKESPEARE by Quentin Skinner (no, the title doesn’t refer to Crime Scene Investigations) eloquently explores the idea that the Bard skilfully employed judicial rhetoric in the poem Lucrece and in some half-dozen of his most famous plays. A good one for Lawyers (obviously), Law students and anyone keen to sprinkle their dinner party conversation with some judiciously selected pearls of Shakespearean legalese.

Out now, priced £20 Buy ‘Forensic Shakespeare’ here.

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Underneath their cheekily mashed-up cover art, PULP! THE CLASSICS – OTHELLO and ROMEO & JULIET by William Shakespeare are readable, no-frills editions of two of the Bard’s Greatest Hits – and the perfect student stocking filler.

Out now, priced £6.99 Buy the Pulp! The Classics editions of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Othello’ here.

PLUS! COMING IN 2015…

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THE TUTOR by Andrea Chapin comes recommended by no less a Shakespeare authority than James Shapiro, who deems it “a terrific achievement [that] allows us a glimpse into the workings of Shakespeare’s mind and heart.” A wonderfully entertaining adventure set during the young Will Shakespeare’s infamous ‘Lost Years’, it should please fans of ‘Shardlake’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’ alike.

Released 26 March 2015, priced £7.99 TBC Pre-order ‘The Tutor’ here.

Richmond Shakespeare Society promise unique Shakespeare performance ‘Love’s Fool’ at this year’s Richmond Literature Festival

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A unique commissioned Shakespeare performance will feature as part of this year’s Richmond Upon Thames Literature Festival.

The Richmond Shakespeare Society are performing ‘Love’s Fool’ on Saturday 15 November in the Grade 1 listed Octagon Room at Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham TW1 3DJ.

A spokesperson says: “This is set to be a joyous celebration of the life of Shakespeare accompanied by Elizabethan music and song!”

Running from 2-29 November, the Festival has an eclectic line-up including esteemed actor Sheila Hancock, journalist Peter Snow, Dr Irving Finkel and much-loved British designer Emma Bridgewater. It is also hosting hugely popular and local author, Jacqueline Wilson as part of the children and young people’s programme.

You can get more information on the Richmond Literature Festival and book tickets for ‘RSS… Love’s Fool’ by clicking this link or follow on Twitter: @richmondlitfest

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Shakespeare gets a Pulp Fiction makeover with this irreverent cover art for new paperback editions of Othello and Romeo & Juliet – and we have 5 sets up for grabs!

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A glowering, ruffed-up Mr T as Othello? An inescapably post-teenage Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as Romeo & Juliet? It can only mean one thing: William Shakespeare is receiving a cheeky remix from Pulp! The Classics.

With lurid, genre-splicing cover art from David Mann, the series already includes editions of classic novels like Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but Shakespeare is the first playwright to join their ranks.

And a spokesperson for Pulp! The Classics tells us they hope to release a complete set of Shakespeare titles in due course.

Priced £6.99, the Pulp! The Classics editions of Othello and Romeo & Juliet are on sale at bookshops from Thursday 6 November.

But if you don’t want to shell out your hard-earned groats, we have FIVE pairs of the Shakespeare titles to give away.

To be in with a chance of winning one simply send an email to us at shakespearemag@outlook.com with ‘Pulp Shakespeare!’ in the subject line.

Don’t forget to include your name, address and contact number. Closing date is Thursday 13 November – best of luck!

For more on Pulp! The Classics, check out their website here or follow on Twitter: @pulptheclassics

Beautiful Shakespeare ‘BookBench’ sold at charity auction on London’s Southbank in aid of National Literacy Trust

Painted by artist Lucy Dalzell, this Shakespeare BookBench sold for £3,800 at a charity auction this week – a bargain price, we think you’ll agree, for such a unique and evocative artefact.

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After ten weeks on a public art trail in London, the National Literacy Trust’s 50 BookBench sculptures designed by famous artists, children’s illustrators and prominent local artists, were auctioned on Tuesday 7 October 2014.

Hosted by Sotheby’s auctioneer Edward Rising and attended by literary names including Joanna Trollope and Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, the ‘Books about Town’ auction raised a stunning £251,500. The most popular BookBenches on the night were Jeeves and Wooster (painted by Gordon Allum), which sold for £9,500, James Bond Stories (by Freyja Dean), which sold for £9,000 and War Horse (designed by Rae Smith and painted by Gerard Strong) which sold for £9,000.

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The National Literacy Trust is a charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. They work with schools, run literacy projects in disadvantaged communities, and campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians and parents alike.

Other BookBenches that may have special interest for Shakespeare fans included The Canterbury Tales BookBench (by Beth Quinton), which sold for £3,200, The Sherlock Holmes BookBench (by Val Osment). which sold for £4,000, and The Samuel Pepys’ Diary BookBench (by Michele Petit-Jean), which sold for £5,500

Go here for more on the National Literacy Trust
Go here for more on Books About Town

London is currently the undisputed Shakespeare capital of the world according to the new issue of Shakespeare Magazine

The latest issue of Shakespeare Magazine is now available completely free.

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Yes, that’s right. The fourth issue of Shakespeare Magazine celebrates Shakespeare’s London (with guest appearances from Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Shakespeare in Love). Also this issue: Shakespeare in the mountains of California, New York’s Shakespeare rapper and a plethora of Shakespeare Disasters.

Read Issue 04 of Shakespeare Magazine here.

“Shakespeare was an alien!” BBC historian Dr Lucy Worsley solves controversial Shakespeare authorship question with sensational Twitter reveal…

Historian Dr Lucy Worsley has apparently confirmed what scholars have suspected for decades, if not centuries – namely the fact that Earth’s greatest-ever author was in fact of extra-terrestrial origin.

Shakespeare Magazine Editor Pat Reid writes: It was just a regular Tuesday night as I settled down to watch BBC4′s Tales From The Royal Wardrobe presented by Dr Lucy Worsley, the ebullient Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces.

Dr Worsley is known for her irreverent sense of humour, as well as her penchant for dressing in historical costume whenever possible, and the programme treated Shakespeare fans to a thorough investigation of the magnificent and highly symbolic clothing of Queen Elizabeth I.

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At one point, Dr Worsley revealed that in 1599 (the year Shakespeare wrote Henry V, As You Like It, Julius Caesar and Hamlet), Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Wardrobe contained a staggering 1,326 dresses, taking up an entire London city block.

Although some of Her Majesty’s undergarments have survived the passage of four centuries, none of her dresses are with us today. I promptly posted this fact on the Shakespeare Magazine Twitter feed, adding the line “So, not much hope for Shakespeare’s notebooks, then…”

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This quickly saw some good-humoured replies from readers alluding to the so-called ‘Shakespeare Authorship Question’. But it wasn’t until the following morning that Dr Worsley herself entered the fray with the following Twitter bombshell:

“well actually both [Shakespeare and Elizabeth] were alien beings from space, obvs. NASA have proof but have covered up.”

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As Shakespeareans around the world responded with the words “I knew it all along!”, a spokesperson for NASA categorically denied the allegation, saying “I categorically deny the allegation.”*

To further add to the intrigue, earlier this year Dr Worsley visited the FBI headquarters in Washington DC under the pretext of meeting serial killer expert Agent Clarice Starling. However, speculation has arisen that this was in fact a cover for Dr Worsley’s real meeting with Agents Mulder and Scully, who specialise in extra-terrestrial investigations.

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An FBI spokesperson angrily refuted the claims, saying “I angrily refute the claims.”**

However, it now seems likely that literary scholars and historians alike will no longer be able to deny that William Shakespeare was indeed an alien. Case closed.

More from Dr Lucy Worsley on her official website.

Go here to watch Tales From The Royal Wardrobe on BBC4.

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*Actually, I might have made this bit up.
**Also kind of made up.

 

 

The Prince and the Passion: in this exclusive interview, actor Matthew Amendt talks about playing Prince Hal in Washington DC with the Shakespeare Theatre Company

Matthew Amendt displays a unique passion when talking about his performance as Prince Hal in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s recent dual presentation of Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, his longstanding relationship with Prince Hal and Shakespeare being the cause. Amendt first encountered Hal when he was seven years old, and then again in 2009 when, as part of Guthrie Theatre, he performed the title role in their touring production of Henry V. Now, he takes some time to reflect on the great king’s younger persona.

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You started performing Shakespeare at a very young age…
“Well, my mom was an English teacher and needed a prop infant when she was directing shows. I think I played the changeling in A Midsummer’s Night Dream when I was just a wee tot. Ever since then it has just been really present for me and made a lot of sense. I was too young to know any better – that I wasn’t supposed to like it. It wasn’t a popular thing to like Shakespeare.”

What appealed to you about Shakespeare?
“I loved the sweeping grandness of the story and the beauty of the poetry and the power of the verse. All those things really meant a lot to me. I was very young and I just grew into it as I got older. Then I trained at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where I was fortunate enough to be taken into the acting company there and worked for ten years on all the great Shakespeare plays.”

Why did you particularly identify with the Hal/Henry character?
“To be honest with you, I am as befuddled about it as anybody. I had some health stuff when I was young and my mom gave me these plays when I was frightened, when I was a frightened sick kid. I think every little kid loves to think that there is a story out there about them, particularly princes and princess and kings and kingdoms, monsters and dragons. I think that the journey that Prince Hal takes to become Henry V and the choices he makes as that king meant a lot to me. That you could make mistakes and come back from them, that you could change, that you weren’t out of the game.

“He just sort of felt like a big brother to me, somebody to take care of me and keep me on the straight and narrow. Of course, as I got older the ambiguity of the plays and the cruelty of all the characters – Hal certainly can be very cruel – came through, and it became more challenging for me. It’s a great story to grow up with and grow into because it’s so deep and broad, and complex. There is something for everybody at every point in their life.”

How did audiences react to this production?
“Well, you know, what’s fascinating about these plays is they exist on such different ends of the spectrum depending on the viewer. I have had people in the audience come up to me and say they have never been able to connect with Hal and how much they admire or enjoyed the work we did in this production with him sort of being a child growing into a man. And I have had audience members come up to me and say ‘That’s not the play for me, you are not my Hal, and I didn’t get any of that.’

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“It’s such a subjective thing. These two poles of honour versus the reality of political machinations – how we move through the world as political animals – anyone who comes in contact with the plays develops their own perspective on that. Maybe that is why it’s popular – not because it is one thing, but because it can be so many for people.

“I think that is really the strength of Michael’s direction in the show that he has been very specific about the acting and the tension and the characters – and been brave enough to let the plays breathe and let people feel the way they feel. I’ve been accosted on the street by people saying I’m their Hal or I am absolutely not their Hal. That’s a really fascinating experience to have lived through. It’s very interesting the way we do battle with each other about what these plays mean to a contemporary audience.”

What, for you, are these plays about?
“They are all about different things, which I think is the beautiful thing. Henry IV, Part 1 is such a coming-of-age story and it’s such a broad sort of summer blockbuster of Shakespeare plays – so much life and vitality and a real struggle for what kind of community we want to be. And Henry IV, Part 2, it’s sort of humble, forlorn. That’s one of the incredible things about these plays – they don’t really exist independently of each other in terms of the plot, but in terms of themes and character they are very different plays. One of these things that is fun to work on is I think you can really feel the playwright wrestling with these questions himself.”

Why is this specific part of history so popular right now?
“I always hate that they are called history plays because it’s not really history. Most of the character relationships are completely fictional. He was certainly inspired by what he read in the Holinshed about the history of England, but Hotspur and Hal never fought. Hotspur was a much older man and Hal was a little more than a child at the Battle of Shrewsbury. I think he was 16. There is an element of them that is a mythic play and I think that’s what audiences are drawn to today.”

What are some of your favourite moments in the plays?
“There are so many. The play-within-a-play with Falstaff in the tavern scene, the rejection and the foreshadowing of that. I love doing that with Stacy [Keach]. Stacy’s delightful to play with in that scene when everybody’s on stage together and you can really feel a live, thrilling sense of danger happening in that bar. Then rejecting Falstaff – ‘I know thee not, old man’ is one of the great scenes in Shakespeare. Two people coming to this impasse in their relationship where what they want or what they would desire if they were free is impossible. It comes to this awful conclusion and I think in our performance that that’s as difficult for Hal as it is for Falstaff. The writing in that bit is beautiful, the shifting of the pronouns from the royal pronoun to the personal pronoun. It’s a much more complicated speech than I gave it credit for.

“And then of course the bedroom scenes with Ed Gero, an incredible actor who is playing an incredible King Henry. When Henry is leaving and the two of them are sort of negotiating everything, it is certainly a contemporary father-son relationship. The ideas of ‘What am I passing on?’ and ‘What have you given me?’ Those scenes are delightful in the way that fathers and sons misunderstand each other.”

Read the full feature on this production of Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 in Issue 3 of Shakespeare Magazine.