I’ll be seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear in NYC this weekend, and with graduation approaching quickly, I feel in some small way the king’s anxiety. Lear lives past his time. He gives up a large part of his power to his daughters but fails to retain their loyalty. Cordelia, his most loyal and most mistreated daughter, then dies before him. In the final act of the play, he has lost his mind.
With our attention more divided than ever by ubiquitous media, it’s easy to understand why some film critics feel the need to hyperbolize their positive, but by no means ecstatic, reactions so as to convince readers that the arduous journey to the theater might actually be worth it. However, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, screening twice this week at the Cornell Cinema, requires no embellishment; while other Kurosawa films such Seven Samurai and Rashomon occupy a higher perch on the Sight & Sound rankings, make no mistake, Ran is still among the greatest films ever made. Charged with the virtuosic kineticism evident throughout the Japanese director’s oeuvre, Ran, an appropriation of King Lear, skillfully combines the pathetic nihilism of its Shakespearean source with the violent feudalism of Japanese legend. As a contemporary appropriation of medieval tales, Ran is an enrapturing example of the immersive, spectacular possibilities of cinema. After decades amassing a large empire, 70-year-old Lord Hidetora Ichimonji abdicates his throne in favor of the eldest of his three sons, but not without providing the younger two with their own castles by which to support their older brother.
Like Hemingway’s profound narrative on the destructive perplexity of war, or like Kubrick’s cinematic interpretations of subconscious struggle, Shakespeare’s tragedies possess an infinite relevance that will always characterize some portion of the human condition. Indeed, so long as individuals experience the dismay of death or the anguish of stifled romance, Shakespeare’s verse will continue to find a presence among stages and English curricula around the world. Many contemporary performances of his plays, while retaining the same lines and structure, adapt the work to a more modern setting; one notable example of this practice is Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet, a splendid cross between sixteenth century and twentieth century 90’s culture. This is precisely the route that director Christian Brickhouse ’17 followed in Risley Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar. Rather than being left to unfold in the ancient and grand obscurity of the Roman Empire, this iteration of Julius Caesar is set in the United States during the year 1919.
There is no artistic experience quite like going to the theatre. Each performance of a show functions as a unique entity, and there is a challenge in recreating it night after night with consistency. Part of this challenge naturally involves exploration of the many ways in which the audience can connect with the living, breathing actors who are the true substance of the play. At its best, a show can engage with the spectator in intimate ways that no other medium can match. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] — which played on Feb.
Henry V is unquestionably the most popular and widely performed of Shakespeare’s historical plays. On occasion, this produces a cheapening side-effect, à la Hamlet, in which certain lines and scenes become so ubiquitous that watching them fails to elicit any reaction beyond lukewarm recognition. Actors who play the role of Henry, not to mention the supporting cast of English and French knaves, poncy knights and lion-hearted barons, have their burdens doubled; what more is left to be said on the ultimate installment of the Henriad in a post-Kenneth Branagh world? The cast and crew of the Ithaca Shakespeare Company’s production, staged and performed in Ithaca’s own Hangar Theatre this February, are more than up to the challenge. It is abundantly clear, moreover, that they relished every second of creativity and dedication that went into the show’s production.
Last Friday, the world heard “Ophelia,” the first single released from The Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra. As expected, it is hauntingly beautiful. The song is named after the ingenue of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The lyrics state, “And I don’t feel no remorse/And you can’t see past my blindness,” which is similar to the undying love Ophelia had for Hamlet, who did not regret ending their affair prematurely. The emotional distance between these two characters from the tragedy is evident in the song and, as a Shakespeare fanatic, I can appreciate the lyrics.
Jacopo della Quercia’s recently released novel License to Quill places literary legends William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe in a narrative derived from contemporary spy thrillers such as the James Bond series. When William Shakespeare is approached by Guy Fawkes to help in the infamous Gunpowder Plot, the playwright is forced to work undercover with the group of conspirators, infiltrating their plans until the treasonous act ultimately fails. Christopher Marlowe deals with the foreign implications of the Gunpowder Plot in Italy. The story, outlandish to the novel’s 17th Century setting, serves to provide an interesting glimpse of the two writers’ personalities and eccentricities as understood through historical sources and their own works. The narrative begins on a stormy night in London around May 30, 1593 — the reported date of Christopher Marlowe’s untimely death.
On Saturday night, the Department of Theatre Arts at Ithaca College performed its public debut of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. In addition to launching the comedy’s individual production run, this marks the beginning of the department’s 2015-2016 theatre season, which will consist of other well-known classics like A Chorus Line and more modern dramas like Arcadia. One of Shakespeare’s 38 plays, As You Like It was written in 1599, and published in the First Folio in 1623; the origins of its initial performances are unclear. Of the three “genres” present in the First Folio, As You Like It is considered to be a comedy. As You Like It centers around Rosalind and her unexpected journey through the Forest of Arden, to where she and her cousin, Celia, are cast away from the court by her ruthless uncle, Duke Frederick.