Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

‘In the Red and Brown Water’ Playwright Will Next Tackle Shakespeare

Tarell Alvin McCraney

In the Red and Brown Water playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney will direct and adapt a new production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra as part of a collaboration among the Public Theater, GableStage in Miami and the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Public announced on Monday. The play will have its premiere at the Stratford-Upon-Avon home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Mr. McCraney is an artistic associate, in November 2013, before being staged in Miami in January 2014 and later that month at the Public.

In addition to directing the production, Mr. McCraney edited the text, reordered the scene structure and relocated the play to “the late 1700s against the backdrop of Saint-Domingue, on the eve of the Haitian Revolution against the French,” according to a news release. Casting will take place in London, New York and Miami, Mr. McCraney’s hometown.

Artistic leaders from all three companies say their faith in and admiration for McCraney is what led them to say yes to the collaboration.

Oskar Eustis

“One of the beautiful things about this is that it was driven by Tarell,” says Oskar Eustis, artistic director at the Public, which has presented all three of McCraney’s reputation-making Brother/Sister Plays. “The key to all of this is that we’re unabashed Tarell McCraney fans.”

“Tarell was our playwright in residence, and I wanted to see his take on Antony and Cleopatra,” emailed Michael Boyd, former artistic director of the RSC, who commissioned the script, adding that he was seeking “a bold new take on this difficult play.”

For GableStage’s Joseph Adler, McCraney’s Antony and Cleopatra is an opportunity to build on a relationship that began last season with McCraney’s staging of his The Brothers Size and this season with a January-February production of Hamlet, a 90-minute adaptation McCraney and Bijan Sheibani wrote for the RSC.

The Public’s Eustis explains why a McCraney Antony and Cleopatra set in Haiti is so appealing to him.

“This isn’t an idea you’d lay on top of the play. It’s not a contemporary, lively, anachronistic setting,” he says. “This is something that will allow people to hear this play differently. This brings it closer and makes us understand colonialism.”

“Tarell has a deep sense that his work is in service of something much bigger than himself. He’s trying to answer to an artistic imperative. It makes you want to throw your weight behind him,” Eustis says.

“His life will get more complicated, but one still feels the purity of that vision. Not just for his sake, you want to hold him out as an example that you don’t have to sell out to be a success.”

Tarell Alvin McCraney

A 2007 graduate of Yale, Mr. McCraney is best known for his trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays.  His other plays have been produced at major regional theaters throughout the United States and in England.  McCraney’s  play, Choir Boy, opened at London’s Royal Court Theatre to rave reviews.

Commissioned by New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club, where it will get its U.S. premiere with previews starting June 18 and an opening July 2,Choir Boy is set in a black boys’ prep school celebrating its 50th anniversary.  The headmaster’s nephew is at odds with Pharus, a gay student with a glorious tenor voice who is determined to become leader of the school’s famous gospel choir.  In her review in The Guardian, critic Lyn Gardner writes: “Threaded with searing gospel songs, McCraney’s play examines the shifting nature of truths, biblical and otherwise, and cleverly manipulates the hot-house setting to consider wider issues of black American history, from the brutal days of slavery to Obama’s cry of ‘yes we can!'”

His newest play,  Head of Passes, which will have its premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago next year.

“In the Red and Brown Water” (Fountain Theatre, LA Premiere, 2012)

The Foutain Theatre‘s Los Angeles premiere production of McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water is a critical and popular smash hit, earning rave reviews  including Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times.

Stephen Sachs

“We’re thrilled with the overwhelming response to the play,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “And proud to be the theatre that introduced this important new playwright to Los Angeles audiences. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Tarell. The Fountain is his home in Los Angeles.”

In the Red and Brown Water is now playing  to December 16th, call (323) 663-1525 or buy tickets.

10 Theater Superstitions: “Good Luck” is Bad Luck! And Never Say the Title of the Scottish Play!

Theater Folk are a superstitious lot, and considering the amount of things that can (and do) go wrong in a performance, it’s not surprising that folklore has popped up giving an explanation to these occurrences. These myths go above and beyond walking under ladders and opening umbrellas inside (although those are adhered to as well!). These are specifically for those working in the arts. In this list I delve into the world of theater superstitions and try to provide the reasons for their existence.

10 – The Blues

Bluebedleh

Superstition: It is bad luck to wear the color blue onstage, unless it was countered with something silver.

In the early days of theater costuming, it was extremely difficult to make blue dye, and thus expensive to purchase. Companies that were failing would wear blue garments to try to fool their audience as to their success, and likely go bankrupt due to the cost of the costumes. The silver that countered it was proof of a successful company, as it proved to the audience that they could afford real silver or they had a wealthy backer.

9 – Unlucky rule of Three

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Superstition: Having three lit candles onstage is bad luck.

While it is adhering to the ‘rule of three’ having lit three candles on stage is considered bad luck. It is said that the person nearest to the shortest candle will be the next to marry, or the next to die. Before electric lights were commonplace in theater, the stage was lit by candles, although this is not the origin of the superstition – the unlucky candles had to be on the stage (i.e. – part of the set). Logic prevails on this one as with dim lighting, busy people and highly flammable fresh paint on the set, you are running the risk of burning down the theater.

8 – Peacock  feathers

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Superstition: Peacock Feathers should never be brought on stage, either as a costume element, prop or part of a set as chaos will ensue.

Many veteran thespians tell stories of sets collapsing, curtains catching alight and other disastrous events during performances with peacock feathers. The feather is said to represent a malevolent ‘evil eye’, that bestows a curse on the show. The association between peacock feathers and the evil eye is best illustrated by the Greek myth of Argus, the monster whose body was covered with a hundred eyes, these eyes were transferred to the tail of the Peacock.

7 – Graveyard Gift

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Superstition: It’s considered good luck traditionally to give the director and/or the leading lady, after closing night, a bouquet of flowers stolen from a graveyard (never give flowers before a performance – They are yet to earn them so it’s bad luck!)

Graveyard flowers are given on closing night to symbolize the death of the show, and that it can now be put to rest. The rational origin is that theater was, as most people who have worked in the industry will tell you, never a greatly profitable profession and despite being macabre, graves were a great source of free flowers.

6 – Mirror image

Original Photo Chorus Mirror

Superstition: It is bad luck to have mirrors on stage.

The myth is that many believe that mirrors are a reflection of the soul and breaking one can mean seven years bad luck, not only for the breaker but for the theater itself. However, having a mirror on stage can cause technical issues, such as reflecting light into the audience or into places never intended to be lit. It can also be a source of distraction for vain actors. The mirror superstition has since been challenged with the successful musical A Chorus Line, and its famous mirror scene.

5 – Hauntings

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Superstitions: Ghosts haunt theaters and should be given one night a week alone on the stage.

Depending on your theater the stories will change, but there is one specific ghost, Thespis, who has a reputation for causing unexplained mischief. Thespis, of Athens (6th BC) was the first person to speak lines as an individual actor on stage, thus the term “Thespian” to refer to a theatrical performer was born. To keep the ghosts of the theater subdued, there should be at least one night a week where the theater is empty, this night is traditionally a Monday night, conveniently giving actors a day off after weekend performances.

4 – The Ghost Light

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Superstition: There should always be a light burning in an empty theater to ward off ghosts.

Conventionally, the light is placed downstage center, illuminating the space when it is not in use, to keep ghosts with enough light so that they can see, which keeps them at bay. This is another superstition with a practical value: The backstage area of a theater tends to be cluttered with props, set pieces and costumes, so someone who enters a completely darkened space is prone to being injured while hunting for a light switch. It prevents those still living from having to cross the stage in the dark, injuring themselves and leading to new ghosts for the theater. It’s also known as the “Equity Light” or “Equity Lamp”.

3 – Whistling

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Superstition: It is considered bad luck to whistle on or off stage, as someone (not always the whistler) will be fired.

The reason for this superstition was that before the invention of walkie-talkies or comms, the cues for the theater technicians were coded whistles given by the stage manager. If one was whistling backstage it could call a cue before its due, which could have disastrous outcomes resulting in someone losing their job whether it be the whistler, the stage manager or the technician.

2 – Good Luck

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Superstition: To wish someone ‘Good luck’ before a show is bad luck.

Generally, it is considered bad luck to wish someone good luck in a theater, the expression “Break a Leg” replaces the phrase “Good luck”. There are many theories of the origin of this superstition of wishing luck to the actors, but here are a few:

– After a good performance during Elizabethan England, actors were thrown money on the stage and they would kneel down to collect the money thus ‘breaking’ the line of the leg.

– Similarly, for the curtain call, when actors bow or curtsy, they place one foot behind the other and bend at the knee, thus ‘breaking’ the line of the leg.

– If the audience demands numerable curtain calls and the actors are moving on and off stage via the wings they may ‘break the legs’, ‘legs’ being a common name for side curtains/masks.

1 – Macbeth

Macbeth

Superstition: Saying the word ‘Macbeth’ in a theater will result in extreme bad luck.

Theater folk avoid using it, referring to the play as ‘The Scottish Play’ or ‘The Bard’s Play’. If the name is spoken in a theater, there is a cleansing ritual one can do to rectify the mistake. The ritual I am familiar with is: The person is required to leave the theater building, spit, curse and spin around three times, before begging to be allowed back inside. Other variants include: Reciting a line from another Shakespearean work, brushing oneself off, running around the theater counter clock-wise, or repeating the name 3 times while tapping their left shoulder.

There are several possible origins for this superstition. One option is to believe in witchcraft. According to one superstition, Shakespeare himself got the words from a coven of real witches, who, after seeing the play weren’t impressed by their portrayal. Another says the props master from the original performance stole a cauldron from said coven, and the witches, again, weren’t impressed. The best witchcraft explanation is that Shakespeare put a curse on the play so that no-one, other than him, would be able to direct it correctly.

Another origin is that there is more swordplay in it than most other Shakespeare plays, and, therefore, more chances for someone to get injured. But the option I believe is most likely is that, due to the plays popularity, it was often run by theaters that were in debt and as a last attempt to increase patronage; the theaters normally went bankrupt soon after.

NB: The superstition is even parodied in an episode of The Simpsons. While visiting London, the Simpson family comes across Sir Ian McKellen outside a theater showing “Macbeth.” Every time “Macbeth” is said, something happens to McKellen.

Have we left out any other theater superstitions?  Are you an actor or involved in the theater in any way? What special little private superstitions do YOU have?

Submitted by Molly at Listverse.com

My Shakespeare: the Bard’s online digital heartbeat

a place to consider what Shakespeare means to us today

Kate Tempest

myShakespeare is the digital home of the World Shakespeare Festival, a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright now underway in London through September, 2012.

Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international program produced by Shakespeare’s Globe, it’s the biggest celebration of Shakespeare ever staged.

Almost 60 partners are coming together to bring the Festival alive.  Thousands of artists from around the world are taking part in almost 70 productions, plus supporting events and exhibitions, right across the UK, including London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle/Gateshead, Birmingham, Wales and Scotland and online.

Measuring Shakespeare’s Digital Heartbeat

At myShakespeare artists and audiences interpret, recode and remix Shakespeare’s online world. It’s a creative space to share thoughts and ideas, revealing how his words, stories and characters continue to influence and reflect human life.

Why are the plays of Shakespeare still so powerful today as they were over 400 years ago?  “The stuff that we care about doesn’t change,” says UK actor, musician and comedian Tim Minchin. Take a look at Tim’s video explaining what myShakespeare is all about:

From every continent, myShakespeare has commissioned a series of artists to create new work. First on the site is rapper, poet and playwright, Kate Tempest from Southeast London.

Check out her video rap/poem, My Shakespeare.  It’s wonderful!

Who is your Shakespeare?