This Week’s Podcast: Season 1, Episode 11

Hey everyone, the lastest podcast episode is live. This week, I was joined by Matt Mitler, director and founder of Theatre Group Dzieci, whose fascinating production of Macebth I saw last week. Listen in:

(I know about the problems with the RSS feed and previous episodes, and I’m working to resolve the problem. My apologies.)


Women and land in “Henry V”

Henry V is one of Shakespeare’s most misogynistic plays — yes, comparable even to The Taming of the Shrew. In some ways the former is even more dangerous than the latter, since The Taming of the Shrew brings out its misogyny in such a way as to be laughable and over the top, while misogyny in Henry V is more subtle.

I was revisiting Henry V recently, and exploring the way in which women are equated to land. Consider, for example, the manner in which Henry equates Katherine to the several small cities he’s willing to exchange for her in the final scene; the manner in which he Anglicizes her by calling her “Kate,” an English nickname; or the way she tries to learn English by asking for words for parts of the body, as if she were becoming English herself: “This is my English arm/hand/neck.”

But in my last reading, I stumbled upon a pun that reinforces this image. Henry gives two speeches before Harfleur. In the second of the two, he tells the governor that should Harfleur not surrender, even he (Henry) won’t be able to stop his men from coming in and raping all the women (III.iii.13-14). Rape is a key to conquest. But the first of the two speeches is where I picked up on something I hadn’t seen before. It is one of the two very famous speeches of the play, and because the lines are so famous, they’re not very often heard: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more / Or close the wall up with our English dead!” (III.i.1-2) For the first time, I payed attention to what was being said here: There is a hole in the walls of Harfleur that Henry is encouraging his men to forcibly penetrate. Harfleur doesn’t just have women to be raped; it is a woman to be raped.

This Week’s Podcast: The Halloween Special

Hey everyone. The most recent episode of our podcast is live. This week, Susan and I talk about Shakespearean Halloween costumes in the Twelfth Night Show’s Halloween Special.

You can listen to it by subscribing via this RSS feed, clicking the link in the sidebar on the right, or just clicking here. (Give it some time to load; it’s a large file.)

If you have any thoughts on the show or this episode, or anything you’d like us to talk about next week, feel free to leave a comment here on this blog, or write to me at Enjoy!

Dzieci Makbet

Earlier this evening, I went to see a production of Macbeth in Brooklyn at The Old Stone House, done by Dzieci Theatre, a company of Gypsies. (Incidentally, I had been under the impression that “Gypsy” was an inappropriate term and “Roma” was proper. As this company advertises itself as a Gypsy company, I asked one of the people there about it. She said, “Gypsy, Roma, call us whatever. We’re family is what we are.” I thought that was kind of wonderful.)

It was not just a play but an event, as it opened with a party, where I got my fortune told, participated in a healing ceremony and got free wine. Then came the very unique performance. It was hardly what one usually expects at theatre nowadays. It was done by only three actors, all of whom knew the entire play and rotated parts. No role was played by any one actor. Rather a garment (like a scarf or hat) represented a character. More importantly, who would play each part was improvised, and thus, every performance is different.

But while it wasn’t classical or as expected, it was so raw and human. The actors handled their body in a way that was both graceful and jittery, but so basic. Everything was from the gut, also because it was so fast-paced. The script was edited to cut the performance down to about 90 minutes.

Here’s how the website describes it, and quite accurately:

For Dzieci’s chamber version of Macbeth, the ensemble has learned all the lines, of every part, through a process of oral transmission, so as to create maximum improvisational possibilities. In performance, we do not know who will be playing any given role at any given time. As presented by a traveling family of Gypsies, the one-act presentation creates the impression of a ritual or ceremony. A very dark ceremony.

Employing haunting folk songs and chants from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, Theatre Group Dzieci explores (and explodes), the very essence of theatre and storytelling in their exuberant rendition of Shakespeare’s classic.

While there are only two scheduled performances remaining, this is apparently a play that the company has done on and off for many years, and will actually do in your own living room if you hire them for it! Keep up with them. I’ll definitely see more of their plays.

ABC Planning “Romeo and Juliet” Series

Purists beware.

It looks like ABC is planning on launching a new series based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but what’s nerve-wracking about it is the directorial choice: Catherine Hardwicke, known for directing Twilight. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum of literary quality.

On the other hand, maybe Hardwicke has untapped classical talent. But we’ve yet to see it. Something tells me her version of the old classic will resemble Baz Luhrmann’s more than anything. And I’m not a strict purist, but there’s a limit.

Still, in fairness, I’ll reserve judgment until I see it.

What Branagh did in four hours …

… this guy does in three minutes:

Watch Sir Patrick Stewart’s “Macbeth” Online

In case you missed it, you can watch the entirety of Sir Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth online, here at PBS. Hopefully our most recent podcast will make sense now.