Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

BB, The Comedy of Errors, Act I

23 Apr
The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.

Stephanie E.M. Coleman, The Bard Brawl

Welcome to Act I of  The Comedy of Errors brought to you by the Bard Brawl. And happy birthday, Will!

We think it’s your birthday, anyway. Although Google may disagree or else feels that you’re not important enough for a doodle this year. I mean, you were baptised on the 26th of April so April 23rd seems like good enough of a guess, right? It also happens to be the day you died on. Weird.

Well, we promised it, and at last we’ve delivered.

Nope, once again it’s not act V of Titus Andronicus, even though you promised you wouldn’t bring it up again.

It’s a brand new play with a brand new Bard Brawl format. Instead of reading out each act of the play in its entirety, we’ve picked out some of our favourite bits. Kind of like a sports highlight reel but unlike this shameful display, or this one, there are no losers and the commentators don’t speak in those awful sports jock radio voices.

In between these speeches, which will be read by a revolving cast of Brawlers, our Bardic talking heads will try to point out what we think is interesting, noteworthy or just plan awesome about each act.

So grab a listen, subscribe and tell us what you think as we go pound for pound with the birthday boy!

Download or listen to the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes.

Welcome reader Gage K. Diabo for the Comedy of Errors.


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Welcome to The Comedy of Errors

16 Apr
The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.

Welcome Bard Brawlers. We are back and will release the first volume of our podcast next week. The play? The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s first comedy and in the running for least plausible plot of all time.

Before you join us in our new format podcast, which will be released next week, feel free to watch the BBC version of the play staring Who frontman Roger Daltrey. It’s pretty good. Here’s part one, with the others all on the site.

Actually, there’s not too much in terms of adaptations of this play especially in film. It is a decent play to see live however. I’ve seen it once at Bard on the Beach, as has A.D. Rowe, who caught the steam punk version, which he liked. It’s pretty funny.

Here’s Ms. Lane’s six-minute take on the plot.

That should give you a taste of the play, and we’ll be back in to rip out the first act with dramatic readings and all.

Talk to you then.

DJR.


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Repercussion Theatre’s Julius Caesar, Directed by Amanda Kelloc

8 Aug

Repercussion Theatre's Julius Caesar

On Tuesday August 2nd, Brawlers Daniel J. Rowe, “Mr.” Nicholas MacMahon and Eric Jean convened on the beautifully manicured grounds of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal to assist to Repercussion Theatre’s 2016 edition of Shakespeare in the Park. Which overplayed comedy or star-crossed tragedy was waiting for us?

Oh, snap! Julius f’n Caesar! Yes! A Bard Brawl co-captain favourite!

We were really psyched about that. And Nick was excited that he’d finally get to see the last two acts of the play after walking out of the last production he saw to protest the death of Caesar. Indeed Nick,

[Caesar] hath left you all his walks,
His private arbours and new-planted orchards,
On this side Tiber; he hath left them you,
And to your heirs for ever, common pleasures,
To walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.
Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?

Unkind cut doesn’t begin to describe it.

As tradition dictates, we arrived just early enough to lay out the blanket and then have assholes set up with chairs in front of us. Then, resigned to not being able to see the very bottom of the stage for the next few hours, I reach for a cold beer to to slake our thirst only to have a petty caesar stop us with an injunction: “No beer here!”

What?!? Shakespeare in the Park, Bard Brawlers, pretzels, but no beer? Well, there was nothing for it. We had our programmes, we’d stretched out blanket, the play was about to begin.

It had to be endured. But be warned: no picnic beers at the CCA.

The setting for this Julius Caesar is a sort of post-apocalyptic pseudo Rome. The set for the first three acts of the play features columns of corroded metal and what looks like a rusted fountain. Peeling posters of Caesar are pasted to the columns and walls. Across the top of the set is a platform with drums and various percussion instruments which would be manned throughout the play by percussionist and composer, Catherine Varvaro.

IMG_9870

Deena Aziz delivers an energetic and powerful Marcus Brutus, though her performance is sometimes undermined by a tendency to race through her lines a little too quickly. Photo – Daniel J. Rowe

Scaffolding and ladders also made it easy for the actresses to ascend, descend or perch in-between the two levels. The space was used to great effect, particularly in the scenes where Brutus and Marc Antony address the people of Rome, and the set itself evoked the public spaces of Rome and the Capitol nicely.

The near-constant percussion score really helped animate the play, particularly in the final two action-heavy acts of the play. However, there were times where the music itself was too loud and it became difficult to hear the lines being spoken by the actresses. In the last two acts of the play in particular, the music really set the frantic pace of the action, despite the lengthy slow-motion Capoeira-esque stage fighting which did not add much to the drama.

Kellock also chose to open and close with a song which I feel did not particularly work well with this play. For the last scene in particular, the addition of a song at the end of the play took all of the power away from Mark Antony’s final speech in which he identifies Brutus as the only conspirator who did not kill Caesar out of jealousy but because he believed in the principles of the Roman Republic. It’s a central concern of the play – the conspirators’ reason for killing Caesar are should seem suspect – and moving to a song to close deflates what is a powerful moment in the play.

Repercussion Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar features an all-female cast. To be clear, the characters themselves are not re-gendered (Julius Caesar didn’t become Juliet Caesar, for instance) but rather the roles are played by female actresses. While this may seem to indicate that the artistic director had a specific point to make about the relationship between power and gender in the play, it seems that there was no such vision guiding this choice. The programme just describes it as “an idea whose time has come,” something one should have the freedom to do in order to spark conversation.

For the most part, I didn’t find that an all-female cast changed much of anything to the play, possibly because much of the play involves fights and discussions between characters of the same gender. The casting choice becomes much more interesting when the scene features characters of different genders played by actresses of the same gender.

The scene where Portia asks Brutus to confide in her is perhaps the best examples. Portia’s speech is full of references to her gender and expresses a strong desire to be thought of possessing masculine qualities. When delivered to a female Brutus the speech seems much more poignant and underscores the relationship of gender to power in the play.

This year again, Repercussion Theatre’s production was hindered by unevenness in the acting.

For the most part, the leads of the play were quite good. Deena Aziz delivers an energetic and powerful Marcus Brutus, though her performance is sometimes undermined by a tendency to race through her lines a little too quickly.

Gitanjali Jain was also excellent in the role of Marc Antony, a role made thankless by Marlon Brando’s iconic performance of the role in Mankiewicz’ 1953 production of Julius Caesar. Jain’s Marc Antony’s vengeance seems somewhat more calculated and less impassioned than Brando’s but still well acted.

The titular role of Julius Caesar was ably acted by Leni Parker, who continued to range around the set of the play either as a ghost, or as one of Saruman’s Uruk-Hai. Your pick. (She had a white hand painted on her face,)

Uruk-Hai

A nice way to tie back to Marc Antony’s curse, spoken over Caesar’s corpse. You know, this one:

The performances of the supporting actresses varied greatly. While many were excellent – such as Holly Gauthier-Frankel‘s Portia, or Warona Steshwaelo‘s Casca – others felt forced and over-acted and really detracted from the performance.

In the end, this year’s production of Julius Caesar feels like a better and more interesting effort than last year’s Twelfth Night though it does suffer from some of the same problems. A lack of focus in the direction of the play seems to be one, though Julius Caesar itself can feel like two plays in one, making it hard to bridge the two halves in a way that makes them feel connected.

Still, I am extremely encouraged be the choice of plays which Repercussion Theatre has chosen to tackle in the past few years and look forward to finding out what they have planned for next year!

(It’s too late to check out the production, but you can scope out some pictures and meet the ladies here!)


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

Check out the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 
Click the button and let 'Zounds! be yours.


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A glass of wine and a tale of suicide, romance Shakespeare style

1 Aug

Kathleen Rowe

Shakespeare Kelowna’s production of Romeo & Juliet at Okanagan Villa Estate Winery was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

It was a beautiful July evening and we enjoyed wine from the Vibrant Vine which made it even better. The Villa is set in the hills above Kelowna and the view is amazing as well as the magnificent gardens.

Now that's a locale to check out the Bard. - Okanagan Villa Estate Winery.

Now that’s a locale to check out the Bard. – Okanagan Villa Estate Winery.

One of the best-known love stories ever written (is it a love story though?), this play has been translated into dozens of languages and has inspired art, song, ballet, opera and film. The challenge in presenting Romeo & Juliet is to breathe new life, freshness and relevance into the production.

“These violent delights have violent ends

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.”
  – Friar Lawrence, II,vi

Neal Facey, long time theatre instructor, director and producer has done just that. In his own words, “This production is set in a fictional modern Verona where the Montagues and Capulets are the heads of rival fashion houses. The vibrant looks of haute couture thinly mask the corporate covert wars and rivalry of the fashion world.”

Matt Brown as Romeo brings a strong brooding presence to the character and Sarah Goddard as Juliet brings passion and life to every scene she is in.

“Ah me! How sweet is love itself possessed

When but love’s shadows are so rich in joy!”
  – Romeo, V,i

Romeo’s cousin Benvolio (Justin Gaudio) and his loyal friend Mercutio (Alyosha Pushak) display their true devotion to him and also add some comic relief with Mercutio’s pink socks and loud outbursts of devotion.

Fred Way, formerly of MBSS teaching fame, and Bard Brawl co-captain Daniel J. Rowe’s high school drama teacher, was the set designer.

William Shakespeare would have loved this production of Romeo & Juliet, and the story of love, grief and loss, hatred and violence, loyalty and counsel are as fresh today as they were over 400 years ago.

*EDITOR’S NOTE FROM DANIEL: Right on Mr. Way. Right on. Mr. Way was obsessed with Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, and did a production in tribute of it once. Funny story. Facey didn’t watch it telling me, “film is film and theatre is theatre.” Classic drama teacher line.


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Othello, a tale from the American Civil War

22 Jul

Kathleen Rowe

Having never seen or read Othello, and only using Iago as a crossword answer for ‘villain’ I was intrigued to find out just what this Shakespeare play, written when he was at the top of his form, was all about.

The Bard on the Beach production of Othello is set in 1864, towards the end of the American Civil War and it fits perfectly with the underlying theme of racism which is evident throughout the play.

Even though Othello has been promoted to Union Army General, he is treated with suspicion and has to wed Desdemona secretly has her father, Brabantio would not approve.

“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram

Is tupping your white ewe,”
  – Iago

In the 1600s people with dark non-white skin were put in cages an displayed in the town square as curiosities. Even though the Union Army were fighting for emancipation in the Civil War there was still an acceptance of slavery and racism throughout the north and south.

Kayvon Kelly as Iago, in his fourth season of Bard, was very compelling, and a strong presence on stage. Indeed the play lagged a little when he wasn’t on stage. You could always feel his loathing for Othello.Photo 3_0

Othello was an imposing character but easily duped by the cruel Iago.

Why does he “Hate Othello?” It was stated with great vehemence more than once. Iago’s racism is at times very overt and other times subtle and poisonous.

Was it because Othello is black, or is he truly jealous?

It’s part of what makes the play so fascinating, Iago so delightfully evil, and Othello so utterly tragic.

Iago was both jealous and racist and felt passed over as Othello had chosen Cassio as his lieutenant

Even the handkerchief that Iago uses to spur jealousy in Othello was said to have special powers instilled from Othello, as if there was ‘black magic’ involved.

The death scene was a little weak and some members of the audience were even laughing although I could not see the humour in it. It kind of showed that Othello’s character, played by Luc Roderique, was not as strong as Iago although his physical presence on stage was imposing (tall and dark).

Director Bob Frazer says “by setting Othello during the American Civil War, we are shining a light on what many suspect to be the beginning of the new, deep-seated and subtle racism in North America.”

Frazer has been at Bard on the Beach since playing Hamlet in 2005. Since graduating from Studio 58 he has amassed almost 100 theatrical credits both as a director and actor.

He feels Shakespeare’s Othello is a “timeless story that moves audiences on a personal level, all while creating some of the most memorable characters in his canon.”

Luc Roderique (Othello) & Kayla Deorksen (Desdemona) OTHELLO, 2016 Bard on the Beach Photo: David Blue

Luc Roderique (Othello) & Kayla Deorksen (Desdemona)
OTHELLO, 2016
Bard on the Beach
Photo: David Blue

The folk and instrumental music used throughout the play captured the patriotic fervor of the Civil War and the mournful ballads brought the themes of slavery, loyalty and love to life. Costumes were authentic to the period as well.

A well done and timely Shakespeare experience!

As always, we have to ask ourselves: would the bard approve of this production?

Yes! Forsooth he would!


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To like or not to like… Kenneth Branagh

3 Jul

Daniel J. Rowe

When sitting down to watch any of Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptations of the bard, you cannot avoid the first question: do I like this guy?

It’s like with Woody Allen. It’s very hard to separate the person from the film, and, even if objectively it’s a good movie, you have to come to terms with the creator.

Branagh’s done a half-dozen adaptations thus far with Love’s Labour’s Lost being the last of them in 2000. Then he kind of stopped doing them. Don’t know why. Don’t think he needed to stop, as he has a passion for the bard, but he stopped nonetheless.

Let’s look at that last film version, and see what we think of one of the Bard Brawl’s least favourite plays. The brawlers read through this one, and I think it’s fair to say no one really liked it. Reading and watching, however, are two different things, and there are many instances where one is superior to the other.

This LLL (that’s what we’re calling it because it looks cool and is 50-50-50 if we’re doing Roman numerals) is a musical and Technicolor style of the 50s or 60s complete with dancing set against the backdrop of the early days of the Second World War. If you don’t like musicals, you will not like this version. If you don’t like musicals, you may be missing something in life by the way. Just saying. Sing people! Sing on.

Here’s a taste.

Huh.

Who would’ve thought the bard could be so sexy? (The answer to that, by the way, is: the brawlers did. We get it.)

Watching it, I can’t get the feeling like a certain director may have been, ur, inspired? by this film when he made a certain other film. (CLICK THE LINKS).

Back to LLL.

The play involves three men who have cast off all worldly pursuits to lock themselves in a library for a year or something and dedicate it to learning. Girls show up, and dang if their sexiness doesn’t throw them all off their game.

Spoiler alert: you already guessed the ending.

Branagh’s version actually works pretty well. It shows how a play can come off as very boring an uninteresting when read, but then comes to life when seen on stage or screen. It was clever of Branagh to go the route he did and in so doing, he introduced the play to a new audience. I think. I can’t remember anyone seeing it when it came out.

Branagh’s immediate predecessor to LLL was Hamlet that he left untouched and filmed every single line. He got a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination that year, which is weird. LLL, however, he ripped up and put back together, and it works well. If I were teaching this play to torture my students or something, I’d show the film to reward the students for ploughing through the five acts.

Another fun thing about the movie is how much it proves stardom’s fleeting nature.

The film stars a whose who of who used to be hot headlined by none other than Alicia Silverstone. She’s a vegan now aparently. Oh, crushes of the mid-90s. Sigh. “As if” indeed.As IF

Also starring: the guy from Scream, the guy from like four movies whose names I forget, the girl from that movie with Robert De Niro that proved to me that I shouldn’t make a special effort to watch his movies anymore, and Emily Mortimer. I like her.

In the end, LLL works. It’s funny, it’s charming, and it’s got all the box check items that are needed to make a decent Shakespearean comedy work.

Branagh is best when he does comedy. His Much Ado About Nothing is also very good, and his bubbly lightness gives an energy that the cast picks up on, and runs with.

When’s the next adaptation Kenneth? Have you forgotten your first love?

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Happy 400 Bard, thank you for giving us an excuse to drink beer

25 Apr

Daniel J. Rowe and Eric Jean

Yesterday, (er, April 23rd) apparently was both the day William Shakespeare – the bard, the most famous playwright of all time, the English major’s hero or devil, the inspirer of great films, theatre productions and books, and agent zero for a few awful ones – was born and died.

Happy 400th deathaversary and birthday.

Funny how the world works.

With that in mind, we co-captains of the Bard Brawl thought to take you through a journey that began in a living room over a few beers with a couple of dudes, and grew to become a living room over a few beers with a couple of more beers. Steve Jobs would be proud.

…so without further ado, “from Montreal, Quebec, this is the

- artwork by Leigh Macrae

– artwork by Leigh Macrae

The Bard Brawl, a history

The Bard Brawl is one of the (most important?) legacies of the man born in Stratford upon Avon in 1564, and began in 2009. The co-creators (as well as the long lost Dan Pinese. What happened to that guy? Oh yeah. Toronto happened) decided to meet up and read one act per week. Eric came up with the name, Daniel picked the first play (Coriolanus), and off we went. Stephanie E.M. Coleman soon joined to round out the foursome that became the triumvirate, and the rest is history.

Not sure who is Caesar, who is Pompey and who grabbed the short straw and had to be Marcus Crassus, but there you have it.

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As of Thursday night, we finished the second act of Two Noble Kinsman, and will have two plays to go for the folio to be complete. We three, along with a collection of fine brawlers, will have read 36 plays, one act at a time, pound-for-pound like a lion and a tiger in a pit with a bunch of drunk peasants betting their paycheques from above. That is if the lion and tiger intersperse their fight with talk of hockey, batman, beer, PEI and whatever weird topic Mr. Nick is on about.

By the way MIT Shakespeare, could you please put Two Noble Kinsman online? It’s really annoying to try to search for it on our phones. Thanks.

(That last rant was brought to you by this YouTube video)

The last play, naturally, will be the Tempest.

Meg Roe's Tempest finds the balance between wonder and soliloquy at Bard on the Beach in 2014. Photo credit - David Blue

Meg Roe’s Tempest finds the balance between wonder and soliloquy at Bard on the Beach in 2014.
Photo credit – David Blue

Reading the plays one act at a time, every whatever day of the week, was just the beginning.

Podcasts ensued, as did book, movie and theatre reviews that are all on this site.

Click around. You’ll have fun.

 

We also produced three volumes of ‘Zounds! A Bard Brawl Journal that you can still buy if you like. There’s tons of clever stuff.

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One time we shot a video of a speech from Pericles, but Jay Reid said it wasn’t done right, and then we left it there even though this guy named Jason, who posts a lot on the Facebook page, but rarely comes out to the brawl, keeps telling us we need more video. By the way, Jason and Jay met once and I’m pretty sure Dream Weaver started playing, and a true and noble bromance began.

Some questions

People often ask about Shakespeare, so we pre-empted those questions and interviewed ourselves. Clever no?

Why the bleeping heck do we spend so much time on Shakespeare?

Short answer: because we want to, and leave me alone jock. I can do whatever I want.

Longer answer: because he’s really fun to read, the stories are interesting and entertaining, and it’s all so dang universal in the end.

Sidebar: No, we will not be branching off and doing Marlowe or Arthur Miller plays next.

Did he REALLY write all the plays?

Who cares.

What’s your favourite play?

Othello (Daniel); (Eric); Timon of Athens (Stephanie). But you know, that could all change with the mood.

Read it or watch it?

Whatever you want. Both are fun.

Accent or not?

Whatever you want except when it comes to servant voices. Those must be done Monty Python or football star being forced to be in a theatre play style.

Best character?

Bear that kills Antigonus.

Alright enough questions.

How the H did we get this far?

Keep it simple. Kick no one out. Don’t discourage those who don’t know the language. Allow mistakes. Drink beer or wine regularly, and always talk about it. Allow all questions, and make sure some jerk has bought the pro version of the playShakespeare app on his or her iPhone, so they can bring it up every single week.

Some have left, some have come, some have stuck around. It really doesn’t matter. Let it go if someone gets all worked up and think they are too good to brawl. Be humble and have fun.

Quotes

A smattering of some of the funnest lines to read for your pleasure.

“Reason not the need!”

King Lear

“Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. Good signior, you shall more command with years. Than with your weapons.”

Othello

“You common cry of curs whose breath I hate as reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize as the dead carcasses of unburried men that do corrupt my air, I banish you! And here remain with your uncertainty!”

Coriolanus.

Sheesh guys. Tell us what you really think.


Bard-dendum.

Eric here. Daniel did such a great job with this post that I don’t have a lot to add.

But I’m happy to try and upstage anyone, anywhere, any time so here goes.

Why do we brawl? Because it’s damn fun.

Yes, I hear you saying politely, “Oh, that sounds nice.” But then you scrunch up your face like you’re picking up your Great Dane’s business in a flimsy Dollarama bag at the park near my house, the one that says “No Dogs Allowed” and is supposed to be for children under 5 years old. How could you?

We invite you, you decline.

And you really have no idea what you’re missing out on.

I get it. You read Twelfth Night or Romeo and Juliet in Mr./Mrs. Lameville’s class in grade 9 because they made you do it. You brought it home. You read it quietly to yourself. It made no sense. You wrote a paper filled with quotes you thought sounded important but which you didn’t understand and handed the thing in.

You collected your ‘B’ and vowed you would never read another word because who the hell cares about all of this serious, stuffy, old-timey stuff anyhow? You’re going to be a social media icon one day! You’ll have a beard and an ironic moustache!

You have no time for this!

Be honest. You hate this stuff because it scares the crap out of you.

You’ve had a lifetime of knowing that Shakespeare is serious business, that it’s meant to be revered, unquestioned, and that only special people with years of training can ever hope to understand even a small part of it.

Bullshit.

Don’t let ‘THE MAN’ win! This shit’s for everyone! (Like, literally. It’s all free on the internet.)

Honestly, though. Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant for academics and undergrads trying to sound smart.

Sure, there’s a lot of meaning jammed in there, the language sounds foreign, the characters have funny names and the places described as ‘Athens’ or ‘Bohemia’ seem populated with people who dress and act like Shakespeare’s English contemporaries.

That’s just because it’s gathered a little dust through the centuries. Or tannins. Or oak flakes. Or whatever weird magic makes old booze taste better than new booze.

The murders, betrayals, adulteries and sex jokes are still there. (In fact, a good rule when reading: if it sounds dirty, it probably is.)

So maybe you need to try to live with the fact that it’s old. It’s been around for a while, much longer than anything you write will likely be (unless you’re Daniel, whose honeyed words are clearly immortal). It just needs a little help getting out of bed or crossing the street. It’s wiser and stuff.

But it was never meant to be hard. It’s wicked smart, sure, but also damned entertaining.

Shakespeare’s plays are a lot less like a first-year film student’s art film and a lot more like blockbuster movies.

Poor-ass peasants would scrounge up whatever cash they could just to have a chance to go to one of these things. Nobles went, too. Maybe they got different jokes but there was something in there for everyone.

That’s what’s fun about the Bard Brawl.

Everyone’s different – different backgrounds, educations, states of intoxication – and the best part about it for me is seeing what different people take away, what clicks and what flops. That, and just spending time with people who like to relax and not take themselves (and Shakespeare) too seriously.

I’m always surprised by how incredibly insightful everyone can be about this stuff. Even (especially) those people who insist that they don’t understand.

Yeah, you do understand. It’s cool to admit it. We are all Shakespeare scholars and lovers. We all know more than we think. Yo

And yes, there’s still plenty that we don’t get, or that’s bad or makes no sense. But that’s part of the fun. We make mistakes. We all laugh about them. We make ’em again. We laugh some more.

Kind of sort of like this:

Trust us. Or better yet, call our bluff and come join us.

Here’s to you Bill, and to Bard Brawlers everywhere!

Thanks for an excellent adventure!

 


Still interested, check out this Studio 360 podcast. It’s very good. Take a listen.

https://www.wnyc.org/widgets/ondemand_player/wnyc/#file=/audio/json/595296/&share=1

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman


Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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Repercussion Theatre’s Twelfth Night, Directed by Amanda Kelloc

20 Jul
Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Eric Jean

Sitting in Westmount park (with copies of Twelfth Night in-hand to follow along, of course), Brawlers Celeste Lee and Daniel J.Rowe wondered aloud if Repercussion Theatre’s new director Amanda Kelloc knew what she was doing when she chose to present Bard Brawl – Twelfth Night, Act I to V, a Christmas play (!), in the middle of Montreal heat wave.

Did she even know it was a Christmas play? Yeah, I’m sure she knows. She seems like a smart woman and she didn’t edit out Sir Toby Belch’s song in II.3. which starts, “[Sings] ‘O, the twelfth day of December.” She knows what she’s doing, and I think she’s pretty clever, too.

So how the hell does a Christmas play work for Midsummer weather?

Well, Twelfth Night is actually the name of a Christian holiday which corresponds to the 12 days following Christmas, ending on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany. And how do you celebrate Twelfth Night? You drink and eat a lot, make fun of your betters, and generally the social order gets turned upside down while everybody cuts loose. Like many Christian traditions that the Church would like to claim were wholly original, this one’s actually Roman.

Yep. The Romans had this thing called Saturnalia, which took place over several days in – you guessed it! – December! They even elected this King of the Saturnalia who could order people to make out with their boss, or to pirouette in Buckingham palace, or whatever.

It’s a good gig if you can get it.

(Little sidebar: Sir Toby’s song makes sense. Seems that there was a time when Twelfth Night started 13 days before Christmas and then ended on Christmas. Trust me.)

See how it makes sense now? It’s entirely in keeping with the spirit of misrule in Twelfth Night to turn Twelfth Night from a Christmas play into a Midsummer play.

And in that same spirit, we decided to stash our monogrammed copies of the Complete Works into our bags and just watch the show.

Now that this bit of business is done, what did I actually think of the play?

In contrast to last summer’s wild, over-the-top, gut-splitting history play mash-up Harry the King, Kelloc’s Twelfth Night is a much more traditional staging of Twelfth Night.

The whole play takes place on the same simple set representing Olivia’s garden where Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek and Maria spy on Malvolio as he reads the letter he thinks is from Olivia and which will lead him to prance around on-stage wearing ridiculous cross-gartered yellow stockings.

And thank God. I’ve seen to many plays with spinning box sets that seems less about the drama and more like a platform for some set designer to show off just how many locations they can cram into a two hour play. Especially given the outdoor venue, I really appreciated that the set itself depicted an outdoor locale

The only set alteration – which not only makes a lot of sense but also recalls the trap door ‘pit’ built into Elizabethan playhouses – is a kind of barred dungeon window behind which Malvolio stands while everyone thinks he’s gone nuts.

A nice touch.

Performances were generally good, though those of the miscreant Belch and company by far eclipsed those of the play’s courtly characters like Orsino and Viola. In defence of Orsino and co., however, Shakespeare didn’t always give them a whole lot to work with in Twelfth Night.

The stand-out performances to me were Sir Toby Belch (Matthew Kabwe) and Malvolio (Paul Rainville).

Kabwe’s physicality and boundless energy really brought the character of Twelfth Night’s de facto Lord of Misrule to life. (Almost as good as our own Jay Reid, but I digress.)

The synergy between Belch and Aguecheek (Adam Capriolo) was excellent, as was the decision to represent Andrew Aguecheek as a kind of effeminate hipster poseur. Letitia Brooke‘s initially reluctant Maria fit right in with the two other pranksters.

Rainville’s Malvolio was equally memorable for his stern, quasi-Puritanical high-mindedness as well as his cocksure yellow-stocking prancing. As much as you wanted to hate Malvolio for being a killjoy, you really felt bad for him by the end of the play.

Viola (Emelia Hellman) as well was well-acted and well cast, though I felt that she did not stand out as much as Malvolio and Belch.

The character of Feste (Gitanjali Jain)was portrayed as a jack-of-all-trades entertainer: singer, musician, and acrobat. Jain accompanied herself on the guitar as she sang Feste’s many songs. While she sang and played well, and the live, acoustic musical performance lent an air of spontaneity to Feste’s fooling, I felt at times that the songs were just a little too long. Rather than feed the ribald energy of the scene, they sometimes took away from it.

To me, Olivia (Rachel Mutombo) seemed the weakest of the cast members. Olivia is a melancholy character, still in mourning over the death of her brother. However, none of this melancholy came through in her performance which was rather one-note.

Orsino (Mike Payette) delivered an honest performances though it was not particularly noteworthy. Jesse Nerenberg and Darragh Kilkenny-Mondoux, as Sebastian and Antonio, respectively, both did well in their supporting roles.

On the whole, Repercussion’s 2015 edition of Shakespeare in the Park is an enjoyable if relatively conservative staging of Twelfth Night. While not without its flaws, it nevertheless makes for an entertaining evening in the park. I recommend grabbing a blanket, a few drinks, and catching Twelfth Night while you have the chance.

Twelfth Night runs until July 26th. Click here to see locations and show times.

 


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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A lesson on bard basics courtesy of Muse of Fire

26 May

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.

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BB: Sonnets 30-35

26 Jan
Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Welcome Brawlers (finally!) to another episode of the Bard Brawl!

So every so often, do you get that experience where you keep looking at a word which is spelt correctly but you’re just convinced that some letters are missing?

Yeah, that word today is sonnet. No idea what letters might be missing but it still seems… off.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that all of these sonnets have been recorded by male sonnetteers so maybe that’s what’s throwing me off this episode. However, I promise that you won’t be disappointed by our readers.

Enjoy the latest sonnets podcast, au masculin!


Listen to or download the podcast.


Sonnet 30 (Episode: Pericles, Act I; Read by: Eric Fortin)

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

Argument: So, when I’m thinking about all the things I used to have but have any more, I feel about as crappy as I did when I first lost them. That makes me cry my eyes out about my dead friends and my worse breakups while I go through all of the worst moments of my life all over again. But if I think about you, then all that goes away and I feel awesome.

 

Sonnet 31 (Episode: King Lear, Speeches; Read by: Jack Konorska)

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things removed that hidden in thee lie!
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give,
That due of many now is thine alone:
Their images I loved, I view in thee,
And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.

Argument: Check this out. All those people who I thought were gone forever, well it turns out that I can kind of see them all when I look at you. Cool, right? Like, I totally thought I would never see any of them again but when I look at you it’s like – Bam! – they’re right there! So no more visiting each grave one at a time because you’re like a whole cemetery.

 

Sonnet 32 (Episode: Richard II, Act II; Read by: Jack Konorska)

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love’.

Argument: If I die before you, and you just happen to come across my poems – entirely by accident, of course – can you please hold on to them and not recycle them. I know that these poems kinda suck so don’t keep them around because you like them but because you loved me. Oh, and can you please go around telling everyone: “Yeah, modern poetry is better but, you know, he wrote these for me so that’s pretty awesome.” (And maybe a little creepy.)

 

Sonnet 33 (Episode: Timon of Athens, Act IV; Read by: David Kandestin)

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

Argument: Man, I’ve seen the sunrise make the world look and feel golden so many times only to let itself get covered up by rude-ass clouds. You did that to me once, when you looked at me. It felt pretty amazing to know you were looking at me. But yeah, that didn’t last too long though. I’m not mad though, bro. If the sun can paint the sky red, why should I be mad that you sort of stab my heart like that?

 

Sonnet 34 (Episode: Twelfth Night, Speeches; Read by: “First” Jay Reid)

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
‘Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.

Argument: Why the hell did you tell me to leave my jacket at home when you knew it was going to rain? And then you rub it in my face by posting my picture on Facebook, too? You might have apologized but I’m still soaked. WTF? Oh… no. Stop. Please don’t cry. I didn’t mean… just… (sigh) It’s fine. Just forget I said anything. Don’t worry about it.

 

Sonnet 35 (Episode: Pericles, Act IV; Read by: Andre Simoneau)

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud:
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,
Thy adverse party is thy advocate,
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an accessary needs must be,
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Argument: Seriously,.don’t worry about it. You made a mistake, you’re only human. I guess. I mean, I just can’t stay mad at you, no matter how hard I try. Even when you mess up big. It’s messed up but I guess it’s just my lot in life to stick up for you, even if it means that I take your side over mine in every argument.

What’s coming up next on the Bard Brawl? Blood, and lots of it. Stay tuned!

If you like sonnets, or the Bard, or the Bard Brawlers, or cats, or Batman, or hockey, or poems, or artwork, or Game of Thrones, or Star Wars, or anything else you can think of, why not pick up a copy of the first edition of ‘Zounds!, a Bard Brawl Journal.

'Zounds!, Act I,i

‘Zounds!, Act I,i

Winter, 2014: ‘Zounds! Act I,scene i – One to Seventeen –

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