May Is So SLOOOOOWWW This Year!

Well’ May this year is turning into a barren desert for local Shakespeare fans in the DC area. Where locally last year we had the Montgomery County Players doing Midsummer, and the Folger’s doing Hamlet. This year, there’s nothing around here for May.

My question is, with the recent demise of the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, and the lack of event’s in our area, is this a disturbing reflection of the times? The Washington Post ran an article last year stating:

“Reflecting the growing hunger among Washington’s nonprofit theaters to expand their audience base and diversify their offerings, Shakespeare Theatre Company will serve as the launching site for a national tour of the original production of “Fela!,” the unconventional, Broadway-tested musical about the life of the Nigerian singer-activist Fela Kuti.”

Link to post article

I’m almost afraid that when they say that Washington’s nonprofit theaters, and the Shakespeare Theatre Company, are looking to expand their audience base, what their really saying is that the bucks aren’t flowing for Shakespeare so let’s try something else. For example I noticed there are plenty of plays and things going on with the Shakespeare Theatre Company for the month of May… and no yet  no Shakespeare.

http://www.meetup.com/DC-area-Shakespeare-explorers/

DC-area Shakespeare explorers

And yet’ do not lose all hope! There are others in the area looking for Shakespeare happening’s at the grass-roots level. For example I hang out at the local Meetup.com group called “DC-area Shakespeare explorers.” It’s brand new place on the web to hook up with local Shakespeare fans.  There’s  been so far (I believe) three meetups, I’ve been to a two, and looking forward to the next.

So’ even if there are no “Official” Shakespeare offering’s for May,  we can still make something happen. Jump to the site for DC-area Shakespeare explorers and check out the offerings, or even throw out a suggestion or two. I,  among others have hosted a “Meet up”, and we are in the hopes that you can too. Shakespeare readings? Movie night? Gather before or after seeing a play? It’s a great way to do Shakespeare on the cheap, and meet others in the process!

So’ pop in and support the DC-area Shakespeare explorers

Most likely if you go to an event, you’ll get a chance to meet me there. If you see me, say HI!…

Don’t take Shakespeare in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC area for granted.

Shakespeare and the Mystery of Three: Loves Labour’s Lost

There’s a mystery afoot, and very much an enigma it is. I’ve searched the internet, and cannot find the answer, or even a mention of what I have questioned. I have searched Google books, with it’s millions of volumes and none allude it. Could it be that no one has ever noticed it before? Or as Sherlock Holmes said in A Scandal in Bohemia “You see, but you do not observe“? I’m sure others have thought about it in passing, but has no one ever stopped to examine my little conundrum?

Here is my question, why is Shakespeare’s “Loves Labour’s Lost” so fixcated on the number “Three”? Three for example is mentioned only 8 times in both Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caeser. Three is mentioned merely 9 time’s in Shakespeare’s longest play Hamlet. Macbeth has an unlucky 13 mentions. And Yet in Loves Labour’s Lost three is mentioned 47 times! Why?

I saw the play performed by the Maryland Shakespeare Festival in Frederick, and mentioned in the talk back afterward that I had noticed three was mentioned quite often. A couple people acknowledge that it does seem to pop up a lot, but they never really thought about it, and couldn’t see any significances. But 47 times? Even if three was considered a magical number back in the days of yore, 47 times is a lot of Mojo.

Here’s a short comparison:
Three is Mentioned 47
God is mentioned only 32 time
Two 13
Four 12
Five 9
Six is not mentioned once, so we will count the single Sixth found as 1
Seven? No seven, but 1 seventh
Eight 0
Nine 5

I’ve searched though the plays text, and can’t find any particular reason for the number three, other then maybe Shakespeare was having a “I think I’ll use the number three a whole lot” kind of day.
Examples:
The King has 3 companions, who are there to study for 3 years
“You three, Berowne, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me”

Note: He also has ADRIANO DE ARMADO whom is there to study as a 4th but is never considered one of the “Three” companions

* Princess has 3 Ladies in waiting
* The Nine Worthies were:
3 Pagan: Hector,  Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar
3 Jewish: Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus
3 Christian: King Arthur, Charlemagne, Godfrey of Bouillon
* “And then, to sleep but three hours in the night”
* “You three, Berowne, Dumain, and Longaville, Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me”
* The world was very guilty of such a ballad some three ages since
* “nor no penance; but a’ must fast three days a week”
* “The fox, the ape, and the humble-bee, Were still at odds, being but three. There’s the moral”.
(Do you really want to keep reading these examples?)
* “three farthings: three farthings remuneration”, “And, among three, to love the worst of all!”
* “he came, one; saw two; overcame, three. Who came? the king”
* “Honey, and milk, and sugar; there is three”
* “By Jove, I always took three threes for nine”
* “Great Hercules is presented by this imp, Whose club kill’d Cerberus, that three-headed canis”
* “With three-fold love I wish you all these three”
* I have vowed to Jaquenetta to hold the plough for her sweet love three years.”
* ADRIANO DE ARMADO: I am all these three.
MOTH: And three times as much more, and yet nothing at
all.

And there is of course many more references, but nary a significances.

“The Shakespeare Cryptograph™”
Forget the Da Vinci Code, there is a real live mystery to be solved and one that I have yet to find an answer to. A conundrum that I have spent way to much time on (A couple hours at least). Yes, we have our own “Shakespeare Cryptograph™”. Why “Cryptograph? Because all the cool names like Shakespeare Code, Shakespeare Enigma, Shakespeare mystery etc. are all taken, and If I’ve stumbled onto a mystery that could bring down nations, and discredit religions, I want to make sure I can copy-write the name for the eventual movie.

So if you have any idea what all this means, or why I am even spending my time on it, please feel free to let me know.

Loves Labour’s Lost: Complete text

Word count tool that I used to find the number of times a word is used:
http://rainbow.arch.scriptmania.com/tools/word_counter.html

Happy 100th Birthday to the director of two of the best Shakepearean adaptations you may not have seen.

Happy Birthday Akira Kurosawa!… You may not have heard of him, but the movies you’ve come to love have his signatures all over them. Remember the “Magnificent Seven” with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and a host of other famous actor? This is a remake of Kurosaw’s “Seven Samurai“. Clint Eastwoods “A Fistful of Dollars“, was a remake of ” Yojimbo. A little movie called “Star Wars”? George Luca is the first to say that R2D2 and C-3PO are heavily influenced from characters in “The Hidden Fortress “. I can keep going on, but you get the idea, let’s suffice it to say;  in 1989, he was awarded the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement “for cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world”.

So for Akira Kurosawa’s birthday I would like to suggest two incredible (In my opinion) Shakespearean adaptations. They are in Japanese with sub-titles, and set in feudal Japan, but don’t hold that against them, that just makes these films appear all the more mystical:

Ran (Netflix) (IMDB) - The King Lear adaptation Roger Ebert said ” Ran is a great, glorious achievement. Kurosawa often must have associated himself with the old lord as he tried to put this film together, but in the end he has triumphed”

Throne of Blood (Netflix) (IMDB) - The Macbeth adaptation which is one of my all time favorite movies, that captures the essence and shadows of Shakespeare’s tragedy better then any other version.

THE RESULTS ARE IN! For the March 16th (Mock) Trial of King Henry V by the US Supreme Court!

One of the most popular pages on MarylandShakespeare.com lately has been the posting: March 16th – Who is King Henry V and Why is He on Trial? ( Which has some history on Henry V). Where some of the American Supreme Court justices (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, presiding) were putting King Henry V on trial for his actions during  the battle of Agincourt, ( Henry V, now playing at the Sidney Harman Hall). Well’ there were a couple emails sent in asking if I knew what the results were, but all I could say was I had  little to no luck tracking down that information. So finally I called the Shakespeare Theatre Company office, and left a voice mail. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of hours later; they had sent the results.

As a quick side note (And to build up a false sense of tension before the results), I’ve had a chance to talk to and meet several people who work for the STC, and they are some of the most helpful people I have ever met. I swear these people must either get paid some godawful yearly salary, must really love where they work, or are part of some brain washed zombie cult . Cause they are just way to polite!

Anyway’ It’s time for the verdict as reported  by Joanne Coutts (Drum roll please).

In a nutshell:

On the question of whether the war was justified the court was split.

On the question of whether Henry V was justified in his slaughter of the French POWs the court decided that he was NOT justified and is therefore liable for unspecified damages to the families.

The audience also voted on whether Henry V was responsible for the killing of the POWs – they were evenly split.

Here are the posts detailing the proceedings:

http://dctheatrescene.com/2010/03/18/high-court-rules-for-french-at-agincourt/

http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2010/03/legal-dream-teams-debate-shakespeares-henry-v.html

To see what all the hoopla is all about, check out Shakespeare’s Henry V at the Sidney Harman Hall Now through April 10th

Link: Other Sidney Harman Hall and Shakespeare Theatre Company postings

Local Blog of the Week: Or What You Will

I just thought I would pass on a local Blog that I have been reading for the past couple weeks called “Or What You Will“.  A mother of two who has not read any Shakespeare for the past 20 years has decided to jump back in to read all his plays. Looking at her blog I can say I have really enjoyed her enthusiasm and obvious love for the text.

She has of late been going through Romeo and Juliet, detailing various aspects of the play from Mercutio’s role and other character analysis to what DVD versions you might want to watch, or stay away from.

I always enjoyed the “scholarly” analysis of a play mind you, but I’m really getting into seeing her layman’s take. It feels more like a communal learning process, one person sharing their newly found insights, and reaching out to others for their thoughts in the process.

Link: Or What Your Will

Shakespeares Birthday is Next Month: And theres always plenty going on. But where?

Last April there were quite a few happenings to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday in our area. There was cake and music,  lectures and dramatic readings,  and generally fun stuff for the whole family, most of it free. The only bad thing about all these events going on, was the fact I didn’t hear about them till AFTER they happened!

The problem is that most of these events weren’t really advertised. And the ones that were, you had to hunt all over the internet to find. So consider the calendar at Maryland Shakespeare as a free public service. This year I’m gonna start looking early for the event’s so they can get t posted. If you know of any events let me know and I’ll get them on the calendar for everyone else.

(The “Shakespeare Calendar” is located towards top right of this web page)

Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide – 4) Listen to the audio drama

Okay…

I’ve just added a new section to the Layman’s Guide covering Audio Dramas, particularly by Arkangel Productions. I’ve had some good input on this guide and have made some changes. So let me know what you think, cause the internet is my editor

Keep in mind, it’s still not complete.

“at every step I feel a deeper and deeper understanding. I know I could take a Shakespeare class first and learn everything they think I should know. But this way I’m learning by listening and watching, and thus able to form my own opinions. I remember reading that the Winter’s Tale is considered one of Shakespeare’s lesser works. Really? I love that play. I’m glad I read that opinion after seeing the play.” – The layman’s Guide.

Thanks

Link:  Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

“Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide” updated with “Step 3) Watch the DVD”

Wow, creating  this “Laymans Guide” is taking more time then I thought it would. I had started Step 3 two days ago, had it typed up for the most part, then lost half of it and had to start over again.

I love watching Shakespeare on DVD, the section “Step 3″ describes the methods I use to track down the best versions to watch. I hope you find it helpful.

Heres the link: Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

Learning Shakespeare: A layman’s Guide

I’ve had someone ask me how I got into Shakespeare, and what I do to understand a play as far as character, plot, and understanding Shakespeare’s use of language. I thought I’d just type up a short little something on the subject, but it had started to grow into something more then I intended. The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe  it deserved it’s own page, so it can grow and change with my own personal experience, as well as with others suggestions.

Here are the first two steps out of the four I use for studying a play:

Link: Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

March 16th – Who is King Henry V and Why is He on Trial?

Updated: March 18th

Mock Trial: Judgment at Agincourt at the Sidney Harman Hall in DC:
Presided by Supreme Court Justice Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The most high and Honorable King Henry shall soon be tried for crimes of war by:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, presiding
Justice Samuel Alito
Chief Judge Paul Michel
Judge Janice Rogers Brown
Judge Merrick Garland
Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Judge David Tatel

So who is King Henry the Fifth?
If you went to the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton Va. for the Fall Season of 2009, you might have caught their excellent version of Henry IV part 1, which introduced us to young Prince Hal (Henry). Hal is the son of King Henry IV, and the kings main disappointment in life. Hal, who is next in line to be king, is a selfish fun-loving rouge, hanging around with the lowest class of thieves, robbers and other common folks. But Hal has a plan, it appears there’s not a move or action in his life for which he has not calculated. And soon in Henry IV Part 1 Hal lets us in on his thoughts:

So, when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend, to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will
. – Prince Henry

The lower he sinks in the eyes of men, the higher and more majestically will he appear, as he soars to greatness, and overcomes the baseness of his supposed nature. At the end of this play, Prince Henry  proves his metal, performs great deeds, and achieves redemption in the eyes of his father.

Where the play Henry IV introduces us to Prince Henry (Hal), the play Henry V is about Prince Henry who is now the King. And as King, his advisers have discovered, and shown the king, that he has a legitimate claim to rule all of France. After a display of these proofs King Henry makes a decision to embark from England and take France by storm, though the odds be overwhelming.

So by ship Henry and his army are very soon on the shores of France, and the battles commence. King Henry shows himself to be a very heroic and just commander. Showing great mercies to his surrendered enemy’s at Harfleur, and demanding that his troops while in France show all due respect to the French citizenry. Informing his troops NOTHING shall be taken that is not paid for on pain of death.

So King Henry cuts a path through France, following and respecting the rule of war giving mercy when he can. Until Agincourt.

King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, by John Gilbert

The Kings men are battered and tired, the odds are 5 men to 1 against them, and one of Henry’s men comes in and tells a tale of friendship and death that brings tears to Henry’s eyes. Then an alarm sounds, and Henry, most likely feeling Victory or Defeat hanging by a thread gives the order:

But, hark! what new alarum is this same?
The French have reinforced their scatter’d men:
Then every soldier kill his prisoners:
Give the word through. –
King Henry

And here is the point, “Then every soldier kill his prisoners”. Was Henry wrong to give this order? Even if overwhelmed himself, did he have the right to kill those combatants that have surrendered themselves to his mercy?

That is the question that this court has been convened to answer

Mock Trial: Judgment at Agincourt

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
5:30 p.m. Dinner
7:30 p.m. Argument

Update: March 18 – The results of the trial are in, click here

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