Monday, September 18, 2006

'Boring' lessons putting pupils off Bard

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) demanded an overhaul of the way the Bard is taught in schools today, warning that children were being put off for life by "boring" lessons.

The famous actors' company said too many children were denied the chance to see Shakespeare's plays performed live and were limited to studying "a script on a page". The RSC's director of learning Maria Evans said children should perform scenes themselves in class and undergo some kind of "practical" assessment during exams.

All pupils should have the chance to see at least one Shakespeare play performed in full during their time at school, she said. Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Ms Evans said: "Stop your average young person in the street, ask them what they think about Shakespeare and 'Boring!' will be a fairly common response. "Shakespeare remains the only writer studied by every young person in Britain, but many leave formal education determined never to come into contact with the Bard again."

Currently 11 to 14 year olds have to study Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III or The Tempest. But Ms Evans expressed concern over the way these plays are assessed - through written tests on just two scenes of a play. Not only does this mean that pupils are repeatedly focusing on the same two scenes, but they study the lines in isolation from the rest of the play, she said. "Coming up with alternative means of assessment - such as introducing a practical element to exams - is a key component of our campaign," she said. "I believe passionately that all teaching should include some theatre-based activities."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Shakespeare is a vital part of our literacy heritage and always will be - it's vital that pupils learn the great classics. "The best teaching is based on a creative, in-depth approach leading to understanding and this is what schools are already delivering. "We have issued guidance to schools and teachers that Shakespeare should be taught in an active, engaging way, focusing on the play as a piece of drama, emphasising interpretation, thinking about the characters and how they appeal to the audience, and considering the meaning and richness of the language. "The National Curriculum programmes of study clearly specify that pupils should study a whole play by Shakespeare."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Learning Shakespeare to tame the soul

Elkhart County, IN - Aside from federal and state prison systems, there are thousands of youth in the juvenile detention system.

In Elkhart County, one local man is taking his talents inside the juvenile system, hoping to inspire change."
U.K. manga gives Shakespeare brand new costume -

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Serrano puts his stamp on Shakespeare

By Maribel Villalva / El Paso Times
El Paso Times

El Paso producer/director Hector Serrano struck a chord with El Paso audiences when he combined Shakespeare with the backdrop of El Paso's mountains and moonlight.
Shakespeare-on-the-Rocks was born on the stage of McKelligon Canyon. These days, the venue has changed, but the show remains the same.

For the second year in a row, Serrano will present the popular Shakespeare-on-the-Rocks Theater Festival in the amphitheater of the Ysleta Independent School District's Fine Arts Complex.

"When we first started, the canyon was my inspiration because it is such a beautiful, magical place. That transfers wonderfully to this venue," he said. "And because there are rocks here, that meant we could keep the name."

This year's festival kicked off Thursday and will continue with performances throughout September. It will end with a Renaissance Fair featuring shows, vendors and food.

This weekend, audiences can see "The Tempest." The other productions are "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Julius Caesar."

Serrano first developed the Shakespeare-on-the-Rocks performances in the 1980s under the auspices of the El Paso Association for the Performing Arts.

That first attempt lasted four years. It was revived in 1991, and continued for 10 years.

When Serrano and the association parted ways in 2001, he took the idea with him because the association wanted to focus solely on its other big production, "Viva El Paso!," he said. He restarted it in 2004 with a traveling production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." This time, he's doing it under his own company, Eden Enterprises.

Serrano remembers those early days of Shakespeare.

"At that time, 'Viva' had evolved into a dance show, which meant the actors I had hired didn't have an opportunity to really display their talent," he said. "I decided to start a festival at the end of the season and let the actors show what they could do."

That remains the motivation for Shakespeare-on-the-Rocks -- an opportunity to showcase El Paso's community actors. All cast members must audition for the shows in July.

Serrano has a company of 30 actors who perform in the productions -- some of them in all three.

One of those actors is Danny Fogle, who plays Brutus in "Julius Caesar" and Lysander in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He also performed with Serrano in the mid-1990s.

"I love theater, and I thought it was a good experience, especially because everyone always says how hard it is to do Shakespeare," Fogle said.

But the language came easily for Fogle, who studied Shakespeare for years. At 34, he is a veteran Shakespearean actor and helps the younger actors.

"Even though the plays were written more than 400 years ago, they're still very pertinent today. It's actually easier to teach people how much things haven't changed all that much," he said.

Fogle also said there is a market for Shakespeare in the El Paso/Las Cruces region.

"Last year, we averaged about 100 people a show and that's actually really good," he said. "We're starting to build, we're adding new shows and getting more publicity. I think we're just getting better."

The transition from McKelligon Canyon to the YISD's Fine Arts Complex was a smooth one, Serrano said.

The amphitheater seats 350 people, which means it's a perfect, intimate venue for theatrical productions of Shakespeare's works. The fact that it's outdoors also meant it would be a great backdrop for plays that are set outside, including "The Tempest," A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Julius Caesar."

Before each show, El Paso Community College faculty members will give a talk about the production.

And in what has become Serrano's trademark, he has incorporated some dance elements into the plays.

"Shakespeare used to do that, too," he said. "That's something I've wanted to do all along."

Maribel Villalva may be reached at; 546-6129.
Re-creating the fun, musical side of Shakespeare
Kumi Matsumaru / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

The Studio Life theatrical company cemented its popularity with aesthetically pleasing adaptations of novels like Bram Stoker's Dracula or Hiroko Minagawa's Shin-no Izumi. But the company is now taking up something different--a love comedy with songs. And perhaps more importantly, the all-male company is putting on a Shakespearian work for the first time.

Jun Kurata, the company's director, said she believed now is a good time for Studio Life to perform A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare's timeless tale of romance. Having marked its 20th anniversary last year, the company is now home to several veteran actors.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream is about the celebration of life in a sense, as it shows not only chaotic love relations, but also people's drive to overcome difficulties. It is a fun, sweet and warm-hearted piece," Kurata said in a recent interview with The Daily Yomiuri.

She said music and songs are indispensable in conveying the play's air of festivity, as there are many musical aspects to the lines themselves. "The words are full of beautiful rhymes and rhythm. Music and songs are necessary to express them."

While praising the beauty and literary quality of the translation by Kazuko Matsuoka, Kurata said she tried to link the script's elegant lines with more everyday expressions through the songs' lyrics. "What we need to do is achieve a balanced mixture of the two elements," Kurata said.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a tale of romance revolving around several sets of lovers. Hermia plans to elope with Lysander to escape the wrath of her father, who is adamant that she marry Demetrius. It happens four days before the marriage of Duke Theseus and his betrothed Hippolyta, who cannot be called a deliriously happy couple.

But Demetrius falls in love with Helena--who loves Demetrius--because of a spell wrongly cast by the fairy Puck. The intended target of Puck, who works for fairy king Oberon, is fairy queen Titania who is in discord with the king. The same spell makes Titania fall in love with a weaver. As the confusion deepens, the lovers' relations dissolve into chaos.

At a rehearsal open to the press last week, Yusuke Hayashi (Titania) and Koji Ishitobi (Oberon) outshone others with their highly expressive gestures and kaleidoscopic delivery. Kazutoshi Funami excelled at showing the listless feelings of Hippolyta despite only getting a few lines.

Nodding or smiling at the performance of the actors during the rehearsal, Kurata seemed basically satisfied, although she said a few things needed to be brushed up in the week remaining before the opening.

"Although there are no actresses in the company, the actors can play anyone as they know how to maximize excitement for the audience, and how to share their characters with them," Kurata said.

"As long as we succeed in doing that, we can also wipe out any feeling of strangeness that may arise at times when Japanese do a foreign-made production," she said.

The cofounder of Studio Life said she always liked Shakespeare, and can never forget one particular performance.

"I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream at [Open Air Theatre in] Regent's Park in London about 20 years ago while I was staying there for two months to immerse myself in theater production. It was a year before we set up Studio Life," she said.

"The play started around 8 p.m. when it still was bright. As the play proceeded, it got darker, and I felt as if fairies were really wandering around the dark woods. I was very impressed with the final wedding scene staged under lights in the dark park," Kurata said.

Kurata called A Midsummer Night's Dream a "large-boned masterpiece."

"The foundation of the work always is solid whatever approach we take. In other words, it is a kind of play that reveals the skill of actors."

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be staged Sept. 9-10, 14, 16-18, 21, 23-24, 28, 30 and Oct. 1 at 1 p.m., Sept. 9-10,16-18, 23-24 and 30 at 6 p.m. and Sept. 11-15, 19-22 and 25-29 at 7 p.m. at Shinjuku Theater Sun-mall, Shinjuku, Tokyo, (03) 3319-5645.

Friday, September 08, 2006


{LENOX, MA}-- Shakespeare & Company's Training program is now accepting applications for its popular Berkshire Weekend Intensive workshop. The Berkshire Weekend Intensive runs September 29-October 1 and will be held on the Company's 30-acre campus in Lenox Center. For applications and more information please contact Training Program Manger Rob Issen at:(413) 637-1199 ext. 114 or visit the website at

The Weekend Intensive will focus on specific acting tools required for Shakespeare performance in a condensed format that provides a snapshot of the Company's Month-Long Intensive that will be held in January of 2007. Headed by Director of Training Dennis Krausnick, the Weekend Intensive is designed to meet the needs of actors who seek an introduction to Shakespeare & Company's training methods and an opportunity to re-awaken and revitalize their relationship to Shakespeare's text.

The workshops began in 1978 when Tina Packer, Dennis Krausnick, master voice coach Kristin Linklater, movement choreographer John Broome, fight choreographer B.H. Barry, and many others created a blueprint for approximately 40 Month-Long Training Intensives to be hosted by Shakespeare & Company over the next quarter century. The Company also offers Week-Long Text and Clown Workshops. Actors, directors, and writers from all over the world come to work with the Company, training not only their voices and bodies, but delving deeply into their imaginations, intellects, and emotional lives. Past training participants include Karen Allen, Lauren Ambrose, Gillian Barge,Jennifer Grant, Karen Grassle, Joe Morton, Andie MacDowell, Bronson Pinchot, Anna Deavere Smith, Keanu Reeves, Alicia Silverstone, Diana Quick, Courtney Vance, Sigourney Weaver, and Raquel Welch.

Weekend Intensives are held across the country each year in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Classes will run Friday 7pm - 10pm, Saturday from 10am - 10pm, and Sunday from 10am -4pm. The cost for the Weekend Intensive is $275.00 plus a $40.00 non-refundable application fee. The cost includes comfortable accommodations on campus and alumni discounts are available.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Bard’s Day’s Night (‘s Dream)
by Jory Levine

New York, NY (August 14th, 2006) – Jor-El Productions is proud to present all of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters and plays as never before re-imagined into one wild original farce, A Bard’s Day’s Night (‘s Dream) by Jory Levine at the American Theatre of Actors (ATA - 314 West 54th St.) beginning September 7th and ending October 1st. Performances run Thursday - Saturday at 8:00 pm; Sat & Sun at 2:00pm until September 17th and then go Wed. – Sat. at 8:00pm; Sat & Sun at 2:00pm. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the Door and can be purchased by calling SmartTix at 212.868.4444 or by going to

For more information, please visit

Playwright Jory Levine’s mordant affection for the Bard and all things theatre (as well as his searing indictment of current affairs) is evident in A Bard’s Day’s Night. The play lampoons and honors the Shakespearean canon all at once, deftly doing so in the bard’s very own milieu of iambic pentameter. The plot is a mèlange of Hamlet and Midsummer… but quickly digresses and addresses the entire folio. Characters’ names and motives are amalgamated as everyone tries to fulfill their agenda despite not being in “their” play anymore. Hilarity and relevancy ensues.

“First off, this ain’t Shakespeare,” says playwright /director Jory Levine. “The text is wholly original and completely accessible. It’s not a Shakespeare-with-a-gimmick production like Hamlet in business suits or Intergalactic Twelfth Night. I use Shakespeare’s works merely as a jumping off point for comedy and social commentary. Sure, there’s few inside jokes for those who love ‘The Bard’, but plenty of outside laughs for those that don’t.”

This extremely rare (especially for off-off Broadway) cast of 26 is a tall order, but epic productions need epic casts: John Bertrand, Russell Jordan, John D’Arcangelo, Wendy Charles, Morgan Jae, Aimee McCabe, Frank Lin, Skyih S. Smith, JessAnn Smith, Alan Pagano, Jory Levine, Daniel Kemna, Joshua Levine, Dan Rice, Dale Davidson, Ledwin Lopez, Torre Reigns, Nick Fondulis, Jonathan Lang, Heather Wildenberger, William Sudan Mason, David Caesar Harrison, Henrik Petersen, Joel Altherr, John Scamardella, Madalyn McKay.

37 West 20th Street, NYC, NY 10011Phone: 212.307.1118