A time when whistling dance routines and blackface meet the bard

27 Jun artoff1702

Daniel J. Rowe

Whistling, snapping, switchblade fights, pastel sweaters, slacks, gelled hair, soda pop shops, black faced Puerto Ricans and a bunch of teenage thugs singing. Yep. We must be talking about the most famous adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: West Side Story (insert whistle riff).

Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 film version of the musical is full of colour (Technicolor even), long panning shots, clean and arm-swingy choreography, bright blue eyes, and everyone’s favourite feature of 60s era film with racially specific characters: face paint.

No, not this face paint.

It’s the kind of makeup choice that just makes you want to ask, ‘why oh why didn’t you just hire an actual Puerto Rican actor?’

So it goes. It was 1961. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Face paint aside, we brawlers have to ask: is West Side Story a well done adaptation of Shakespeare’s most misunderstood love story? That being done, you have have to ask if this movie is very good, and if it is something that sustains the test of time.

Does it?

It is actually a very fun movie, and the directors are clever with their choices of shots, colours, characters, sets and style. The deep zooms, pans, close ups, and trick where one character is in focus while everything else is blurry are all very nice. The movie is colourful and crisp and clean and always nice to look at.

Now, if you do not like musicals, you will not like this movie. I go through times where I really don’t like the Leonard Bernstein scores, and then I hear a tune in the car on the radio, and can’t help but turn it up. In the end, I think I will submit, suck it up, and say that I do like the songs.

The acting is overall pretty good. Richard Beymer (Tony) is the… Wait a second. Is that Benjamin Horn from Twin Peaks? Yes it is. And is Riff Dr. Lawrence Jacoby? Indeed he is.

Allow me to indulge for a second.

Man that show’s fun.

I wonder if Shakespeare would like Twin Peaks? I wonder if he would like West Side Story?

I want to say yes and maybe.

The thing that hurts the musical is the romantic and idealized love story – that is in R&J – with no hints at the irresponsibility of the teenaged characters. As discussed in some legendary Bard Brawl podcasts, Romeo and Juliet is full of lines and situations that suggest the romance is nothing but an irresponsible romp by two hearts that are bigger than brains of teens who fall hard and fast with tragic consequences.

Ok. Rant done.

I will say those Tony – Maria songs are borderline unwatchable. You know that’s not even Benjamin Horne singing? Weird. It hurts me to say that Maria (the lovely and late Natalie Wood) is my least favourite pieces to the film.

As for the rest of the ladies, I d0 like Anita (Rita Morena). Hey! An actual Puerto Rican! And if you’re asking if that’s Sister Peter Marie Reimondo from Oz, you are correct. I wonder if Shakespeare would like Oz. I have to say a definitive yes on that one. Tobias Beecher. Classic Shakespearean character if I’ve seen one.

One more thing.

How the H did George Chakiris (who’s Greek by the way) win the Best Supporting Actor oscar over George C. Scott and Jackie Gleason in the Hustler? I don’t want to say Bernardo deserved that knife in the gut, but come on! Never trust awards shows.

Now was this a good adaptation? I’m going to go with a reserved yes. Is is a good film? yes. Does it hold up over time? Reserved yes.

In the end, there are problems with West Side Story. But I can’t say I hate it. I appreciate the adaptation of Shakespeare in such an interesting way, but wish it were a touch tougher.

Oh, and there’s no way people should be playing basketball in jeans!


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Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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A lesson on bard basics courtesy of Muse of Fire

26 May MV5BMTM0NDE3NjUyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTQ5NDk4Nw@@._V1_SX214_AL_

Daniel J. Rowe

Two dudes self-fund a documentary to discover one thing:

Why are people scared of Shakespeare?

“Because it’s hard to read,” says one girl in that sing songy teenage voice we all love so much. Yes. Shakespeare’s hard.

Muse of Fire stars actors Dan Poole and Giles Terera, who really, really want you to know that they’re a) actors and b) like Shakespeare. I think. At least they’re interested in Shakespeare.

The two grew up in the 80s “watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman and Robin.” Wait a second. Batman and Robin? The only Batman I can think of from the 80s was Michael Keaton’s in 1989, and there was sure as shit no Robin in that one. Oh well. I get what they’re saying.

Muse of Fire is pretty good. Kind of like a poor man’s Looking for Richard. It’s funny and explores why Shakespeare is so unapproachable and taught so horribly so often. It also gives a nice glimpse of why the bard is so great. I.E. when Gandalf reads Romeo and Juliet. Now that’s a pleasure to any of the senses.

It’s a perfect for secondary school students. Find a copy, show it and sit back and enjoy teachers of English. The show will do your work for you.

*If you click this link, you can watch the full interviews with those found in the film.

The two actors start with “the good, the bard and the ugly,” and trot around asking actors of varying levels of prestige why the language is so difficult. Almost all of them from Ewan McGregor to the guy who plays Gareth in the Office to Gandalf, errr, I mean Magneto, sorry, I mean Sir Ian McKellan say that Shakespearean language is hard, but you just have to do it; more or less.

Almost all the interviewees recall horror stories of being taught Shakespeare in school and hating it, but, later in life when they’re all grown up, can appreciate it. I think most people can appreciate that sentiment.

Then there are these kids at Shakespeare camp (where the Hamlet was Shakespeare camp when I was a kid?!) who are acting it out, and seem to be having real fun. See. Even kids like it.

The best part of Muse of Fire are the interviewees and there are a lot of them. Dame Judi Dench is a particularly incredible interview, as are the ones mentioned above.

The two dudes then set off for Denmark to catch Jude Law in Hamlet.

Hamlet, in Denmark with Jude Law?! Very jealous.

Law’s interview is predictably great, and he says one line that touched this brawler’s heart very fondly.

“In the end, you just have to say it,” says Law.

Yes you do. Welcome to the Bard Brawl Mr. Law. We’ll see you next week.

“It’s so rich. You have no chance to think that you can get everything every night in the language, but what you can get is a sense of journey emotionally through that scale of writing,” he goes on.

Law talks about Hamlet shifting depending on the actor, time, audience and any other number of variables. Amazing. This is why those, ‘this is how Shakespeare wanted it’ types are a tad bothersome and always produce the show in “period” English. Oh, and those types are always a treat to have in class with you.

“Your responsibility is to that audience and to that production, not 400 years of incredible actors who have played him before,” Law says.

Well said.

Much like Pacino’s documentary, the filmmakers take a jaunt into the wonderful world of the iambic pentameter that, if you didn’t know what it was already, probably skipped a few classes in high school or were at the back of the class working on your fantasy football team. It’s just one of those things you should all know.

iambic pentameter

noun

a common meter in poetry consisting of an unrhymed line with five feet oraccents, each foot containing an unaccented syllable and an accentedsyllable

Word Origin

French iambique ‘of a foot or verse’ and Greek pentameter ‘measure offive’

Oh, and just like in Pacino’s film, they put a team of actors together to go through some of the language.

And, just like Pacino, the people on the film give the Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum explanation of the term.

Hmmm, seems like they might want to have mentioned the Pacino film maybe once. I’ll help you out boys: Looking for Richard.

Throughout the documentary, the two actors love shooting themselves doing their “everyday things,” which is less interesting that the subject at hand.

No one cares how struggling actors spend their days boys. Move it along.

Then there’s the Wizard of Baz part…

Now, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is a lot of fun, and a great gateway production to get kids into the bard, but the weird scene of Poole and Terara fawning over the DVD copy in the bookstore is kind of odd. They interview Luhrmann which is fine, but we already saw interviews with Gandalf, Jude Law, Judi Dench, Obi-Wan Kenobi and a bunch of other amazing people, so the director of Strictly Ballroom is less than it could be. Does he really have more to add than Alan Cumming (an interview the filmmakers barely used by the way)?

I shouldn’t be harsh though. Muse of Fire is fun, and nice at moments, and, like stated, is perfect for a classroom.

It’s always fun to see the greats talk about what the bard means to them, and even better when they read the words.

That, and the Bard Brawl would gladly welcome the budding actors into our ranks should they choose to join and give their thoughts.


Stay in Touch Brawlers!

 

Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

Hey! Have you bought your copy of ‘Zounds! Mad King? Click here and do so right now. You’ll never regret it.

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BB: Titus Andronicus, Act IV

22 May

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the Rrated slasher film that is Titus Andronicus! This week? Act IV. Because that’s the act that comes after III.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Before we get started though, big congratulations to Bard Brawler Niki Lambros who got to walk across the stage in hooded medieval monk wear to pick up her shiny new Masters diploma!

Here she is looking great and about to make her hasty getaway to meat and booze!

Niki Graduation

Bard Brawler co-captain Eric Jean (why, that’s me!) was also invited to show but went to work instead and skipped right to the drinking afterwards.

See? Niki and I are both on the same list!

masters grad

(Feel free to keep calling me the Master of the English Renaissance, Daniel but remember to capitalise that ‘M’ now.)


Alright. So act IV.

You’d think Shakespeare is running out of people to kill, rape and/or mutilate but don’t worry! The fun’s not about to stop now. (Although – and I’m just throwing this out there, Bill – maybe it should. Just a thought.)

Remember Lavinia? Right. She’s got no hands and her tongue was cut out so she couldn’t rat out her rapists, Chiron and Demetrius. Lavinia pointing to a copy of Ovid’s rape-filled Metamorphoses though finally gave someone the bright idea that she might be able to write that out in the dirt by holding a stick in her mouth and guiding it with her arms.

Now that they know who to kill, it’s time for some revenge!

In scene 2 Titus sends Young Lucius over to Demetrius and Chiron to deliver some weapons with a note in Latin. They don’t really get the message but Aaron does and realises that Titus is on to them. Before they can do anything though they hear trumpets sounding which means that Tamora just gave birth to what was supposed to be Saturninus’ son.

Good for him. Except that the nurse rushes in and the kid’s black, which is a bit of a problem for Aaron.

No worries though because Tamora figures they can just kill the baby and then all’s good. Aaron agrees but as soon as he has the kid he decides he’s not going through with it. Instead, he’s going to replace the baby with some other Goth couple’s white baby while they raise his black baby.

Then he kills the nurse so she can’t say anything about it.

Smart. He clearly has everything under control.

Meanwhile, Titus and his allies meet with Marcus and Lucius who fled from Rome and are back now with a sweet Goth army who are mad as hell! They decide that they’ll literally send Saturninus a message by shooting a bunch of arrows with messages from the gods right into the court.

And then, as all great conspirators have done since time immemorial, they recruit a passing clown with a few pigeons to deliver the final message of ‘We’re coming for your ass!’ right to the Emperor for them.

So they of course kill the messenger. Greedy clowns just can’t catch a break, I guess.

It’s just at this moment that a messenger shows up to tell them that a giant Goth army is about to kill Rome and that it’s being led by Titus’ son Lucius who’s crazy popular in Rome. Saturninus starts panicking but Tamora has a cunning plan: she’ll talk Titus down and then he’ll talk Lucius down.

Guess no one bothered to tell her that Titus knows that she helped her sons rape his daughter.

I’m sure he’ll be reasonable.

Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion! My gut (and the fact that I’ve read this before) tells me that this act V might be particularly delectable.

Also, welcome back to the pod legendary sonneteer and LA Kings fan Zoey Baldwin with sonnet 56!


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

Check out the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 

Mad King, now available. Click the button and let 'Zounds! be yours.


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The Mad King is here

15 May madking

Without further ado, we at the Bard Brawl bring you:

‘Zounds! Act I,scene iii – Mad King

(trumpets, flourish, colours, dogs barking)

Thank you to everyone who came out to the event at Brutopia Brewpub in Montreal last night. T’was a rad night of trivia and all around revelry.

Pick up a copy by clicking the button below or by contacting us if you are in the Montreal area via our Facebook page or at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Enjoy.

Click the button and let 'Zounds! be yours.

Click the button and let ‘Zounds! be yours.

Featuring the work of: James Olwell, Charis Amy, Laura MacDonald, Celeste LeeRachelle Hecht, Niki LambrosJesse Cardin, Leigh MacraeJenny DorozioRyan Buynak, Stephanie E.M. Coleman, Johnna Montour, Andre Simoneau and Mya Gosling.

'Zounds! Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

‘Zounds! Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

Edited by Daniel J. Rowe and Eric Jean.

Layout design by Stephanie E.M. Coleman

*Please allow two to four weeks for delivery.

Sorry Bill I just Don’t Get It!

11 May Troy Clements

Troy Clements

So I’m not sure about you guys but Shakespeare is F ing hard to understand right?! I mean I just can’t seem to get my head around some of it. Especially if you are a fella coming from the maritime provinces where ya got lots of different kinds of fish spears but no Shakespeares unless you’re just trying to get the fish off your spear. I suppose you could call that shake spear?

I mean com’on, did people really talk like this??

A man may, if he were of a fearful heart,
stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple
but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts. But what
though? Courage! As horns are odious, they are
necessary. It is said, ‘many a man knows no end of
his goods:’ right; many a man has good horns, and
knows no end of them. Well, that is the dowry of
his wife; ‘tis none of his own getting. Horns?
Even so. Poor men alone? No, no; the noblest deer
hath them as huge as the rascal. Is the single man
therefore blessed? No: as a walled town is more
worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a
married man more honourable than the bare brow of a
bachelor; and by how much defence is better than no
skill, by so much is a horn more precious than to want.

– As You Like It, Act3, Scene 3

Haha ahh insert WTF emoticon here…I mean, Christ, feels like I’m talking to Steven Hawking about the origin of the universe. Isn’t this stuff supposed to be about like love, lust and other normal people shit?

I mean I get it. Everybody likes to show off and use “smart words” but cut us some slack Bill: either ease back on the drugs or come down off your pedestal and drop the “smart words.”

We get it, you talk good!

So if you feel the same way as I do, but still wanna get to the most outta Shakespeare… fuck it, just cheat!

I found a simple audio book app that has many Shakespeare ditties.

There are a few that break down entire plays in 15min, written in a way even children can understand. Well, to be honest, its still a little complicated at times as it was written for children who lived in the early 1900’s…I guess kids were smarter then? Makes me wonder what happened to the baby boomers?

What did I learn from ole Nesbit’s approach that I didn’t learn from Eric Jean you ask?  An example would be from Two Gentleman of Verona, a play of platonic love and fidelity where the character Speed – who I really enjoy – says,

O jest unseen, inscrutable, invisible,
As a nose on a man’s face, or a weathercock on a steeple!
My master sues to her, and she hath
taught her suitor,
He being her pupil, to become her tutor.
O excellent device! was there ever heard a better,
That my master, being scribe, to himself should write
the letter?

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 2, Scene 1

This scene is about Silvia asking Valentine to write a sort of love letter to a friend of hers cause she doesn’t have time to do it herself.  But in truth she wants Valentine to actually write the letter to her…(big communication issues if you ask me).  Valentine, who is smitten with love and not thinking clearly, doesn’t pick up on her obvious nuances and writes some half-ass letter that falls short and Silvia kinda gets pissed off.  When Silvia leaves the room Speed pipes up, poking fun at Valentine, pointing out that she clearly wanted him to write the letter to her.

Nesbit doesn’t really explain the entire scene but does bring Speed’s lines down to earth a bit.  She references the weathercock on a steeple jab, meaning that its very obvious as to what Silvia is up too.  This is what made things clearer for me, allowing for the entire scene to make sense.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/audiobooks/id311507490?mt=8

Anyway…if you are looking for the easy way out check out the app Audiobooks and download Edith Nesbit’s Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare  (or buy the real, live printed book form. Remember those?) and if you still don’t understand…well, blame your parents.

BB: Titus Andronicus, Act III

9 May
Dad cuts off son's hand? Titus will cut off his own hand instead, thank you very much.

Dad cuts off son’s hand? Titus will cut off his own hand instead, thank you very much.

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl! Apologies for the delay but we had some technical difficulties with scene 2 of our recording. It got cut off, just like Lavinia’s tongue and hands, and just like (spoiler) Titus’s right hand.

In the end, we wrangled up some designated hitters and powered on through to bring you act III of Titus Andronicus!

Listen to or download the podcast.


So act II happened.

Lavinia was raped and mutilated, Titus’s lemming sons Martius and Quintus have been framed by Aaron the Moor for it, and now Titus is begging the tribunes and senators not to put them both to death.

He’s begging his little heart out but they just pass him by and ignore him. He keeps pleading until his son Lucius shows up and points out that he’s standing on the street alone and no one’s there to here him beg for his sons’ lives. It’s not looking great.

Also, bad news: Lucius tried to rescue his brothers so now he’s been banished from Rome. More bad news: Titus sees Lavinia for the first time since Chiron and Demetrius raped her.

Thing’s aren’t exactly looking up for Titus but then Aaron shows up and tells Titus that if either Lucius, Marcus or Titus chops off their hand and sends it to the Emperor, that he’ll spare Titus’ sons.

Good deal, right?

The three of them argue about whose hand should be cut off but then Titus sends Lucius and Marcus off to get an axe to do the chopping and while they’re away, Titus has Aaron cut off his hand.

Why did Lucius and Marcus run off to get an axe? What the hell did Aaron use to cut off Titus’ hand? Come on, Shakespeare. You’re better than this!

Anyhow.

Lucius and Marcus come back and Aaron runs off to deliver the hand. And then a few minutes later, a messenger arrives carrying the heads of Martius and Quintus. Oh, and Titus’ bloody hand.

That didn’t go so well. Maybe cutting off your own hand wasn’t the smartest move, dude. Kind of like stabbing your son to death was not too bright.

Well, since Titus pretty much has nothing left to lose, it looks like it’s time for some epic level revenge!

For starters, Lucius flees Rome and plans to recruit an army of Goths to overthrow Saturninus and Tamora. (Not sure why they would want to join the fight with the son of the guy who stomped them into the ground and stole their queen from them, though. Guess when someone offers you a chance to sack Rome, you take it.)

Meanwhile, in scene II, Titus and Marcus plan out how to kill Aaron. Actually, Marcus mostly tries to do that while Titus spends a lot of time whining. Then Marcus kills a fly, a black fly (get it?), and it’s as if the idea of killing Aaron occurs to Titus for the first time.

Heck, if between the two of them they can kill one fly, then for sure they can take on the Emperor, Tamora, Aaron and their cronies. Makes perfect sense.

But before that vengeance goes down, time for dad to read depressing stories to his daughter in a closet, while young Lucius watches.

Yeah. that’s not creepy.

Stay tuned for the next scene, where I’m going to assume some more people die.

Also, welcome back to the pod the Bard Brawl’s original sonneteer Maya Pankalla with sonnet 63!


 

'Zounds!, Act I, ii

‘Zounds!, Act I, ii

 

 

Check out the rest of the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 

Buy Volume II NOW. Volume III coming soon. Very soon. Like, Thursday, May 14th soon.

 

 


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A certain kind of madness

3 Apr Photo credit - Trudie Lee

Theatre Calgary’s production of King Lear was a good crazy.

Jennifer Dorozio

Flashes of lightening crack, thunder roars and a stumbling madman emerges from the backdrop.

His shirt is un-tucked, his hair is full of static but, most telling, is the wild spark that fills his eyes, and the angry pitch with which he yells heavenward.

So enters the mad King Lear to the bittersweet pleasure of a rapt Calgary theatre audience. What the actor, Benedict Campbell, has successfully done, is to make you want to admonish the foolish king, and give him a comforting pat on the shoulder at the same time.

The scene described is the first we see after the intermission of Theatre Calgary’s production of King Lear, directed by Dennis Garnhum which runs from March 10 until April 12.

Where the first half is full on Shakespearean plotting, dialogue and pensive monologues, the second is pure action and includes gouged eyeballs, a ranting half naked madman, and assorted “deserved” and “undeserved” deaths.

Photo credit - Trudie Lee

Photo credit – Trudie Lee

King Lear is one of the “famous” Shakespeare plays, which brings to life the tale of a King of Britain’s descent into madness, and then his journey out of it, which ends in tragedy, great loss and ultimately his death.

Intrigue abounds as brothers clash, and sisters with sharp tongues and nasty streaks are backed into corners as Lear’s kingdom is divvied up among the royal family.

The play centres on Lear and his three daughters, Goneril (Colleen Wheeler), Regan (Jennifer Lines) and Cordelia (Andrea Rankin). The aged king loves his youngest the best (hey! I’m the youngest and best too), and this leads to complications, especially after his own self-serving game of ‘how much do you love me?’ causes him to banish Cordelia. The vultures in the royal family, who try to wrest away power from his feeble hands, then betray the proud Lear.

Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend,

Lear, I,i

The characters themselves feature some quirky and brooding additions in their mix. One in particular stands out among the rest: the fool, who is King Lear’s Court Jester, played by Bard on the Beach regular Scott Bellis.

*Garnhum’s Lear will follow at Bard on the Beach’s summer playbill.

The fool, imbues some much-needed levity into the first act. Wearing a coxcomb on his head, he spends a majority of his stage time leaping from place to place. Curiously, his mad interpretation of Lear’s confused reality does lend a bizarre sort of clarity to the king’s situation.

This is exemplified when the fool eerily jests to King Lear, “This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen,” foreshadowing all the cacophonous events to come.

Heartbreaking is the excellent performance of the Earl of Gloucester, played by David Marr, who is the play’s one paternal character you can’t help but feel badly for as misfortune after misfortune befalls him.

Then there’s the scene that sticks out because of its unnecessary gore. Gloucester’s eyeballs are in stomach-churning fashion carved out his head and at one point even trodden upon. It did little to add to the production other then induce cringes and distraction at all the fake blood for a full two minutes afterward.

Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?

Cornwall, III, vii

Tyrell Crews performance of Edmund, the crafty bastard son of the Gloucester, is charmingly sinister. He plots for revenge by promoting multiple sibling entanglements making him both convincing as a villain, and likable.

While actor Andrea Rankin, as the young Cordelia, does play the doe-eyed daughter well, there is something a little grating about her over the top sweetness that came off as insincerity near the end. It seemed as though her tone and countenance changed little whether responding to a marriage proposal or being angry at her father’s mistreatment.

The Shakespearean world of King Lear, so artfully woven by the troupe of Theatre Calgary actors, doesn’t seem very far off from our own world, which is perhaps why the play still feels so relevant. These themes of undying devotion, betrayal and greed still saturate news media, television and movies because they are reflections of human reality and frailty.

Getting through the more slow-paced first half is well worth the wait. The explosion of passion, blood and revenge in the second half leaves you completely sated in a way only an excellent acting troupe and script can do.

Here’s a scene.

Waving the boat of gender constructs goodbye courtesy of Shakespeare

19 Mar Troy Clements

Troy Clements

So I grew up in a very rural area of Prince Edward Island, Canada. And when I say rural I mean friggin rural! With a population of 75 people in my village (well it’s actually defined as an unincorporated area, but village is just easier to say), it gives you an idea of what I mean when I say small.

Not like… “Hey I’m from a rural place too” “oh yah, where’s that” I ask…”oh just outside of Kingston, Ontario.” Yah buddy that’s not what I mean by small…small like, shooting rats at the dump with your dad’s 22cal riffle. Or waking up at the crack of dawn to head to the wharf on setting day, sending the lobster fisherman off with a friendly wave…

There ain’t nothing like waving at boats!

I made the big move in 2010. Not the one where you go to Alberta and make lotsa money in the oil biz so you can buy a big truck, the one where you move to Montreal and make no money but yet discover a bit more of yourself.

When I arrived I realized Montreal has lotsa boats leaving the harbour, but nobody really finds waving at them as fun for some reason. And there are rats but they won’t let ya shoot em’….even if your gun is registered…go figure eh?  So as you can imagin’ my horizons were broadening quickly. One example would be Bard Brawl.

Back home you would never have an opportunity to join a group that got together once a week, had a couple of beers and read Shakespeare…and out loud, like in front of people, not just by yourself hiding in your room in fear of being seen as something different. I mean we would brawl back home, but it usually involved more than a couple of beers and few broken noses in the end.   So yah, Montreal…here I am, discovering something new everyday.

So now that you have an idea of where I came from and who I am, I will get to the point…I found an episode of CBC Ideas, “Not With the Eyes,” that struck a chord with me. It was about gender identity as it is in our contemporary culture compared to how it was when Shakespeare was observing and writing about his time.

Being from where I’m from I was always pushed to be male, to be a man. Like be a man…suck it up, you shouldn’t respond that way to a given situation, you should respond this way because…”you’re a man!” And I mean I followed that. I didn’t push back or anything, I really thought that’s how it was.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite where I grew up, I was a little bit more open-minded than others in the community. I accepted anyone who identified as gay or transgendered for example, but I never thought about where I was in that spectrum, and this episode of Ideas really allowed room for me to question my gender. Not my sexual identity but my gender.

You know like…what is gender really?

I mean physically there is a difference but how one perceives oneself is not so obvious. For example, as mentioned in the episode, race was a created construct. Sure we have similarities to a certain group in comparison to others but nowadays, for the most part, race is slowly ceasing to exist.

We don’t see one race compared to another as much any more. There are still differences but we are realizing more and more that we are all just Homo sapiens, and we are getting away from separation of people because their skin is a different colour or because they cook with different spices. And so like race, gender (when looked at in a certain light) was a created construct as well… and one that is slowly moving away from a “you’re a man” and “you’re a woman” type thing.

When we truly ask ourselves who we are, it’s not easy to say. Like personally, I have been questioning if I am male or female…or if either really exist. And I tell you what…it feels so liberating to question that.

Especially coming from rural PEI. Let’s talk about washer tossing some time.

So does gender exist and how did it exist when ole Shakespeare was writing? I mean when you read between the lines Shakespeare was writing about what he seen among the population, usually the upper class of citizens, and poking fun or at least making a comment about how people perceived themselves and the world around them. And so, as mentioned in the broadcast…in his plays he had men playing women roles/parts and these women would then dress up as a young boys. In turn you would have male characters in the play attracted to these ‘young boys’ who were actually women who just looked like young boys. So you have a sort of taboo issue being discussed through a form entertainment.

That’s crucial. As long as it is in some form of theatre, poetry, song writing, etc., one is less likely to get his or her head cut off for it. Sorry Patricia Jannuzzi but Facebook doesn’t cut it!

Helena (in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adds this nerdy editor) says, “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind,” and so the question is what are the eyes actually seeing? If you fall in love with the mind, what are the male characters physically seeing in these women who resemble young boys?

When we discuss a similar situation nowadays we see the same thing more or less. We have people who consider themselves sapiosexual.

sapiosexual: (adj) a form of sexual orientation characterized by a strong attraction to intelligence in others, often regardless of gender and/or conventional attractiveness.

So once again falling in love through the mind.

This still leaves the question, what is it that the eyes actually see then?

And so this speaks to the fluidity of gender and sexuality, that nothing is fixed, that there can be many forms of gender and many forms of attractiveness toward that gender and that they are in a constant state of change and flux. And this fluidity is part of a continuum that exists where people exist, that it’s not just fixed to one time or another.

Shakespeare saw it and now we see it. It will evolve but I’m not sure if we will ever know what the eyes actually see.


 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Troy’s essay is in response to the program “Not With The Eyes” produced for the CBC program Ideas. The link is here:

http://www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?clipId=2648111044

BB: Titus Andronicus, Act II

15 Mar

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s eleventh and bloodiest play, Titus Andronicus.

Listen to or download the podcast.

 

He makes fun, but we all know Eric will be the next great mustachioed brawler.

 


There are already a couple of people dead after act I but that’s nothing compared to what happens to Lavinia in act II.

If you’re trying to impress a girl by taking her out to some Shakespeare to show her your cultured and refined sensibilities, you may want to pass on Titus Andronicus. Not my recommendation as a first date play.

She may get the wrong idea is all I’m saying. (I’m also saying that this play is fucked up.)

In scene 1 we meet “Empress” Tamora’s boy toy, Aaron the Moor. He’s pretty excited that Tamora’s slept her way to the top and he imagines that this means his mistress has just graduated to sugar mommy. He’s pretty pumped about that but when Tamora’s sons Chiron and Demetrius start fighting about a girl, he gets worried that they’re about the mess it up for everyone.

Aaron breaks up their fight but when he finds out that the girl they’re both fighting over is Titus’ daughter Lavinia, he sees a way to strike at Titus. So he suggests that instead of fighting over her, they should team up and just rape her in the woods.

As this seems like such a well-reasoned and logical solutions, they sheath their weapons and head off. Mommy will be so proud. (No, really. She will.)

Anyhow.

Everyone is gathered in the forest about to go hunting in scene 2 but Lavinia decides she’ll stay behind and chill. Coincidentally, so do Demetrius and Chiron, probably the most despicable characters in Shakespeare.

While her new husband is off with Titus hunting, Tamora finds a little alone time with Aaron. But he’s not really interested because he’s too preoccupied with his plans for vengeance! (Wait. What did anyone actually do to Aaron? Did I miss something?) He hears Bassianus and Lavinia approach so he tells Tamora to pick a fight while he gets her sons to back her up.

The Empress accuses Bassianus of following her, Lavinia calls her a slut, and Bassianus says he’ll rat her out. Enter Demetrius and Chiron who stab and kill Bassianus.

This makes mom very happy, but not as happy as the idea of her sons raping Lavinia.

Lavinia tries to appeal to Tamora to make them stop but she just tells her sons to make sure that once they’re done, they make sure “this prostitute” can’t tell anyone about what they did to her. Demetius and Chiron throw Bassianus’s body into a pit and drag Lavinia off.

What the hell, Shakespeare?

Just then, Aaron leads Titus’ sons Martius and Quintus to the open pit, where one of them falls in, completely by accident (really?), and identifies the body in the pit as Bassianus. Vertigo, or idiocy, must run in the family as the other brother falls in while trying to help the first one out. By the time Aaron returns with the hunting party, they’re both stuck down there with the body, probably covered in Bassianus’ blood, and not worried in the least.

Of course, Saturninus sentences them both to death for killing his brother, but Titus begs him to spare his sons until they can be proven guilty. Too bad Tamora brings out a fake letter implicating Quintus and Martius in the killing of Bassianus.

But no worries. Tamora tell Titus that she’s got his back and she’ll think of something to help him. And off goes Titus with his only remaining son, Lucius. [Cue evil laugh.]

While that has been going on, Demetrius and Chiron have been busy. Once they finish raping Lavinia, they decide that they won’t kill her. Instead, they cut out her tongue so she couldn’t tell anyone about what happened. And just to be sure, they cut off her hands too, to make sure she can’t write about it either… nor get a rope to hang herself.

So yeah. That happened.

Finally, Lavinia is found by her uncle Marcus who can’t believe that someone did this crazy, fucked up shit to her.

Call it a hunch, but my guess is there’s some bad shit around the corner waiting for Tamora, Demetrius and Chiron. And as yesterday was pi day, probably some pie.

You won’t want to miss any of it.

Kayla Cross returns to the brawl and reads sonnet 54 with all pomp and dignity.


 

'Zounds!, Act I, ii

‘Zounds!, Act I, ii

 

 

Check out the rest of the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 

Buy Volume II NOW.

 

 


 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Herding Mad Monarchs

9 Mar
Looks like a CCCCEO to me!

Looks like a CCCCEO to me!

Hey Brawlers!

Co-captain and CCCCEO Eric with a quick update. So I got my hair cut about a week ago. I think it looks really nice!

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about today!

No!

As important as this may be, we have even more important news!

That’s right. Amidst weddings and art shows in Boston (congratulations to Brawler Stephanie EM Coleman!), work continues on ‘Zounds! We’re hard at work prepping those mad monarchs for publication!

But until it launches, click on the link for the exhibit she’s a part of at the Nave Gallery, and if you’re in Boston, go check out the show before March 28th! (That’s ‘Nave,’ not ‘knave,‘ Brawlers.)

And don’t fret! We gathered up the brawlers and recorded act II of Titus Andronicus for you. We’ll get that edited, commented and up for you ASAP so you’ll finally have that to listen to on your commute to your moonlighting gig as a part-time Fool.

Brawl on, Brawlers!


'Zounds!, Act I, ii

‘Zounds!, Act I, ii

 

 

Check out the rest of the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 

Buy Volume II NOW.

 

 


 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

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