Hot Shakespeare Summer, Act I


Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures. [...]

Richard III, Act 1, Scene 1

Summer is beginning with the winter of our discontent, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Richard III is the first work I read and listened to in preparation for seeing a few plays over the next couple of months. In her popular podcast "Approaching Shakespeare," Oxford's Emma Smith points out that Richard is an enormous role, having 32% of all the lines in the play. He appears in 14 of 22 scenes, and he is Shakespeare's only character who opens his own play with a soliloquy.

The last time I saw Richard was in a show by Ireland's Druid Theatre in New York a few years ago, and I can't wait to catch up with him again. Aaron Monaghan had the title role back then; this time around, for Shakespeare in the Park, it goes to the actress Danai Gurira. "We are not going to re-gender the role, but what that means exactly we won’t know until we’re doing run-throughs,” Oskar Eustis, the Public's artistic director, told the New York Times.

Emma Smith says that Elizabethans would have thought of  Shakespeare as a poet first, then a dramatist. The poem "Venus and Adonis" was his most popular overall work in print, with Richard III the most popular play in print. I've never read V&A, so I'm adding it to the virtual queue. You can find an audio version (for free, with a library card!) on Hoopla; the same goes for R3 (with Kenneth Branagh as Richard).


The Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog Reading to the Core on June 24th.

Photo by ST.

Coraline Off Broadway

Via Monica Edinger's Twitter feed, I found out that Coraline has been made into a musical. It will premiere in New York in May, and tickets go on sale on March 23rd. Adapted from Neil Gaiman's spooky novel for kids and presented by the MCC Theatre, the show features music and lyrics by Stephin Merritt and a book (that's the spoken part) by David Greenspan. More details here. The movie version of Coraline came out last month, not long after Gaiman won the Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book. A picture book by the author, Blueberry Girl, recently hit the shelves, too. See this story at the Daily News.

Poetry Friday: Twelfth Night

"When that I was and a little tine boy,
With hey ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day."

So begins the clown's song at the end of "Twelfth Night," which is my favorite of Shakespeare's comedies. I'm in the middle of re-reading it as I gave myself the Complete Arkangel Shakespeare for Christmas. This week I've been playing the "Twelfth Night" CD and following along in my Riverside Shakespeare. I started doing that on occasion years ago when I lived in the city and tried to see a lot of the Bard's work.  (The free Shakespeare in the Park was especially fun. In the old days, you'd have to wait on line for tickets for hours and hours, which was part of the experience.) It often helped to know the play a little bit, so I would look for recorded versions beforehand.

Sometimes the audio strategy backfired. I remember listening to a splendid "Two Gentlemen of Verona" on tape, and then the live production sagged in comparison. On the other hand, I still recall with fondness an Off Off Broadway version of "Measure for Measure" in a tiny theater next to a loading dock in Tribeca. For a long time afterward, I kept a quote from the play on my desk: "Our doubts are traitors,/And makes us lose the good we oft might win,/by fearing to attempt."

Here's my plan. We'll see if it works out. Read and listen to a play, and then rent a DVD of a good production. And, of course, seek out live professional performances when I can. Since I'm not in the middle of London or New York, I will have to look a little harder for those. After "Twelfth Night," I'll move on to "Richard II" (love that "royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle" speech) and then tackle "Henry V." And keep going after that, of course. Why do any of this? I think you can't see, hear, or read too much Shakespeare. That's all.

"A great while ago the world begun,
With a hey ho, the wind and rain,
But all that's one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day."

The weekly roundup of other Poetry Friday posts hies over to my friend Becky's place, Farm School, on January 19th.

If you have a favorite book about Shakespeare or a favorite production or DVD, please do leave a comment. I'd love to include some criticism and biography in my reading. (I have Harold Bloom's door-stopper and Northrop Frye on Shakespeare.) In March my pals at Constant Reader on GoodReads discuss "Romeo and Juliet." Stop by!

Tuesday Coffee Talk, May 29th

1. Miss Fuse has news: A Fuse #8 Production is moving to School Library Journal for a paid blogging gig. Congratulations to Betsy Bird, the voice behind the curtain at Fuse 8.

2. Confessions of a Pioneer Woman posted the most complete recipe for chicken spaghetti casserole I've ever seen. With photos. Awesome.

3. After last week's Carnival of Children's Literature, here's some more on multicultural lit. Saturday's piece at La Bloga was an interview with Theresa Howell, a children's book editor, about authenticity. René Colato Laínez asks Howell, "What does a manuscript need to have in order to be multicultural?" Howell answers,

Too many stories for children depict characters from the dominant culture. A multicultural manuscript tells the stories of characters outside of the mainstream. These manuscripts tell stories of people from wonderfully diverse cultures. They help readers look at the world from different perspectives.

4. See also "Questioning Cultural Stereotypes," an essay by Radhika Menon, the managing editor of a small publishing house in India. Menon writes,

The reality, then, is that the focus on multicultural publishing has not translated into authentic and inclusive literature from all cultures. The reality is also that the parameters of what is acceptable in multicultural publishing are set by big, successful, western publishing houses – the rest of the world must follow unquestioningly.

Link via Educating Alice and Writing With a Broken Tusk.

5. First it was a best-selling series of children's books. Now it's a singing and dancing extravaganza? "Magic Tree House: The Musical" premieres at the Warner Theatre, in Torrington, Connecticut, in September.

Signing the Story: Children's Theatre for the Deaf, by Julie Danielson

Hi there, everyone. Jules here from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. In a recent post about Arthur Yorinks and his wonderful Night Kitchen Radio Theater, I mentioned that I once co-founded a children’s theatre. Susan’s interest was piqued, and she asked me to contribute a write-up for Chicken Spaghetti about that theatrical venture of my past. So, here I am. Thanks, Susan, and I’ll try to avoid writing a novella about it. (Ahem, I emphasize the word “try,” seeing as how I often excel at rambling).

I used to work as a sign language interpreter (at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville). I also am a theatre nut, minored in it in college, and even was accepted to graduate school for an M.A. in theatre at the University of Pittsburgh soon after I graduated from college (but changed my mind, for various reasons, at the last minute about attending Pitt—and I mean the last minute; I was even up there looking for a place to live. How entirely, radically different my life would be now, had I gone through with that, but I digress). I also had the great fortune of interning with the Fairmount Theatre for the Deaf (now Cleveland Signstage Theatre ) for a short time as an undergraduate. (Yup, I took a bus to Cleveland and lived for three weeks with a deaf man from Singapore, a deaf lady from the Phillipines, and a famous deaf actor from Russia. Total cultural and linguistic immersion, to say the least. It was fabulous!).

While I worked as a staff interpreter at UT, I met other interpreters who loved interpreting in theatrical settings. Two of them, in particular, and I joined forces and spent a few years shadow interpreting children’s theatre productions for two local theatre companies. (Shadow interpreting means the interpreter follows the actors on stage while hand-flapping, as opposed to sitting beside the stage in a spotlight and hand-flapping.) Essentially, we lucked out and met a director who was very open to the idea of sign language/shadow interpretation on stage.

Continue reading "Signing the Story: Children's Theatre for the Deaf, by Julie Danielson" »

"Little House" on Stage

Today is Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday. She was born 140 years ago, and died in 1957.

There is a new musical in development called "Prairie," which Beth Henley and others adapted from Wilder's Little House books. Along with the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of "Crimes of the Heart," the "Prairie" team includes Rachel Portman (score) and Donna DiNovelli (lyrics). A staged reading of the musical takes place in NYC April 16th-18th; the director is Francesca Zambello, the director of Disney's "Little Mermaid," which is due to open on Broadway next December.

Stay tuned to Playbill for all the details. The magazine will no doubt list the staged reading's exact location when it's announced.

Australia's Finest...Circus?

Compiling a list of various lists of the best 2006 children's books (got that?), I could find only one from Australia. Although I haven't given up, I feel bad that the Aussies are so under-represented. (The UK, meanwhile, has gone list-making crazy.) 

So, in compensation, I located this Melbourne circus who is currently visiting New York: Circus Oz. The New York Times' Lawrence van Gelder writes,

The hottest show in town is at the New Victory Theater.

That's because the grand finale of the latest Circus Oz presentation is a flaming extravaganza that raises the temperature by putting the torch to a bicycle, hula hoops, drumsticks and other props.

I doubt those other props involve books, but the circus surely sounds fun.

Now please excuse me while I go riffle through some Australian newspapers.

Neil Gaiman Onstage

Time Europe checks in on Neil Gaiman and the new musical version of his children's book The Wolves in the Walls. Michael Brunton writes,

As the famed creator of entire comic-book universes, Gaiman knows the importance of detail — and it is his ability to commute between them and the real world that has expanded his fan base far beyond the fantasy-fiction clichés of teen goths and pimply geeks. Whether through film adaptations of his best-selling fiction, graphic novels, children's books or screenplays, Gaiman is a hot commodity these days.

"Walk Two Moons" Trots into NYC

An adaptation of  the novel  Walk Two Moons opened Off Broadway on Wednesday night.  Presented by Theatreworks/USA, the production continues through August 14th.   From Playbill  comes this description:

The play by Julia Jordan, which is adapted from the book of the same name by Sharon Creech, "follows a girl on a road trip across the country with her eccentric grandparents. Her tales of life back home, by turns hilarious and touching, create a journey within a journey as she and her know-it-all best friend discover that things aren’t always what they seem."

The New York Times featured Theatreworks/USA in an article by Julie Salamon.  The children's theater company certainly knows its market. I thought this quote was hilarious:

Even better training, perhaps, are the young test audiences the company routinely uses to fine-tune productions. "You can watch from the balcony while they fidget," [Nell  Benjamin, a composer and lyricist]  said. "Adults at least sit still during the show and only tell you after. Kids start hitting each other and you know, man, that number isn't working."