A month ago feels like a fleeting year since playing Henslowe and improvising in Original Pronunciation. Henslowe and Alleyne. What a pair!
Grace Iopollo’s lecture-performance (with actor reading) told us about Edward Alleyne who forced a change in Henslowe’s Will the day before he died. He could barely hold the quill. A bunch of witnesses all swore he was in his right mind. He started the Probate process of the Will the day after. A sunday nota bene.
There was a lot at stake. For example, Dulwich College would not exist without it. (mind you his own diversified portfolio was substantial in and of itself). Alleyne’s consolidating his assets with Henslowe’s, literally funded the College. Quelle geste! as Cyrano might say. A selfless gesture he needn’t have made. Why did he?
Alleyne’s wife was Henslowe’s step-daughter. Henslowe’s relatives by birth or marriage missed out on some nice pieces of pie as a result. History isn’t always based on virtuous results. Even if the results are virtuous. Conspiracy anyone?
Speaking of which.
The FB Group of this BLOG finds me defending the man from Stratford once again in a most contradictory way. Because i say, the authorship question (SAQ) doesn’t matter as we have the extant plays and poems written by whoever.
Yet whenever the Authorship enthusiasts put up a website or post comments: there i am, defending and arguing. i’m not alone. There is a website devoted to it called OXFRAUD. We, the members of Oxfraud on fb, rebut the newest arguments and various fallacies many individuals bring to the game.
Hooligans or Supporters
This has as much to do with enjoying Shakespeare as football hooligan firms do to football. And is frowned upon as much by virtually every University, College and School on the planet with a minority of exceptions.
The main players in the SAQ tried for over 150 years to legitimise their claims. (they will tell you since Rev Wilmot in the 18thC). The online world of the 21stC provides them with a platform. The problem is after thorough ad hominem bashings in the various forums, they retreated into secret groups on fb and troll the news looking for new comment threads. They proselytise amongst each other and are active with blogs and websites. And self-published books.
Their latest champion Ros Barber. Each month she adds more words to her e-book thesis, i.e. smashing what is known and held as evidence about Shakespeare in order to pave the way for some other. (she wrote a book about Marlowe, so presumably he her man).
The one and only thing the other team agrees on is that
it wasn’t Shakspere of Stratford (spelling and place vilified and scorned) who wrote the plays and poems attributed to him.
They conclude that all evidence for him is flawed and biased, or an incomplete narrative. Other than that they contradict each other constantly and I think that’s what i enjoy.
The other side aren’t stupid btw. They number a handful of judges and an astro-physicist, a psychiatrist, and an ex-CIA guy. Some are extremely knowledgeable about the Early Modern period. Others not so, and they simply swallow the kool-aid the wiser sort hand them.
Ovine or Bovine?
But then that’s exactly what they say i am doing. I am either a sheep or a cow who definitely cannot think for myself. Enthralled to the Stratford tourist industry headed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who they believe keeps us on their payroll. This belief is becoming widespread thanks to the web.
My stomach hurts from laughing at the improbability of this ever having happened or happening. And yet it’s still believed. Ros for example is being assisted by her organisation, so why not? Except it isn’t.
Full disclosure: i have been paid to perform at the SBT for their members. And i count Stanley and Paul as friends. But i certainly don’t need to fight their battles for them.
i also attended the Shakespeare Institute and i love scholarship. The other side often claim :
Get Shakespeare wrong and you get the whole Elizabethan era wrong.
Hear, hear. Boy o boy are they wrong. Because if you follow their logic, then all scholarship on Shakespeare for the last 400 years is wrong.
But that leaves the inconsistencies they bring to the feast.
There are enough websites that state the historical case for Stratford man and London theatrical playwright and poet William Shakespeare. Fortunately original documents and source reading materials are becoming more accessible.
Remember Shakespeare was an infinitesimal speck of worth in his own times. The historical record preserved this much. And yes it has been questioned every step of the way. Scholars barely agree as it is.
Caveat emptor. Buyer Beware.
Having spent far too much time researching and arguing this subject, i now condemn it as regularly as i can.
Starting with the magnum Opus by Charlton Ogburn senior and his wife Dorothy moving on to Mark Anderson and his SBAN down to Diana Price and her biased writer’s trail, i can honestly say i hate this subject.
Not because they’re right. Because each new website, author, pundit, whatever; makes the whole argument like Groundhog Day.
Now i feel i should make a Prospero-like gesture and bury my wrath and antagonism some five fathom deep. But i can’t.
There is one other thing we all do agree on and that is
the quality and sublimity of the content in the plays and poems.
Keep repeating this mantra:
The Shakespeare Authorship Question doesn’t factor into the works at all.
But judge for yourselves if you think it does. Flout em and scout em thought is free.
Just remember the way out of an argument about the SAQ is to remind the person shoving your ignorance down your throat that it just doesn’t matter if you are performing the plays or reading them.
Do i contradict myself? So be it. Do you think i’m deluding myself? i challenge you to sonnets at dawn!
And Henslowe at the SWP?
What a joy to be able to concentrate on someone who spans the entire theatrical period contemporary with all the Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights, poets, actors, and theatre owners slash entrepreneurs and not to have anything at all to do with that much-maligned and over-publicised William Shake-speare.
Shakespeare 400 -So far the fear in this Shakespeare Year has abated, to be replaced with baited breath.
This year is Shakespeare 400 and my contributions so far are small and insignificant to the whole. Yet giant and most most fulfilling to those i shared them with. My thanks to Ben Crystal are legion for the opportunities to explore with the Passion in Practice ensemble.
LIST of W.S.’ W.Sh. relished events this year so far
felt the fear, and did it anyway
* Leadership Workshop for the Algemene Bestuurs Dienst, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken, Den Haag. Put together by Henriette Koomans. My Richard and Buckingham ‘you were never wont to be so dull’ scene went down well with the Cream of the Crop bureaucrats.
* Lunchpause Shakespeare KaraokeLunchpause Website. Hosted at Effectory, showed that even a 30 minute session revives workers and increases their afternoon potential.
* Savannah Music Festival: Pericles Recomposed. April 5th, Savannah, Georgia, USA. Words cannot do this justice. The Festival arranged our P1 visas (skill set = speaking OP) excellent care and a theatre that Kevin Spacey helped to rebuild. Plus meeting a Professor who is sonnet crazy like moi. Plus half the cast American, other half Brits or Euros, including my fave actor and Leicester supporter Colin Hurley. Did a half marathon of sonnets the day we left watched by roomie and No Holds Bard podcast podcaster Dan.
* Shakespeare Karaoke show April 23rd: British Library, London. OK The British Library is centred around the book collection of King George the 3rd. Our Sha-oke show was in front of this monumental collection. The punters loved it. Couldn’t have made it so spectacular without my partner in crime Sassy, Mistress of the Props and snacks. London we will return for more with even more stroopwafels. The actual birthday night showcased some awesome alternative talent. The Late at the (British) Library 23rd April 2016 Livestream can be viewed still.
* Played Philip Henslowe in a devised piece May 26th, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the Globe, London. Henslowe400, Henslowe too died in 1616. Ben asked if i could be him and over a 8 day period; saw Grace Ioppolo’s Henslowe’s Will at the SWP. Then attended the Henslowe symposium that weekend. (Thanks Globe Ed)! Read the entire diary in OP in 2 days. Devised a script with Marie Fortune and improvised with David Crystal and PiP members Jenni, Matt, Marie, Ben, before improvising in OP as Henslowe. The Dulwich College folk were happy so that makes me happy.
In so profound abysm I throw all care of others voices, My adder’s sense to critic and to flatterer stopped are, Sonnet 112:
I wish that were true.
I’m at my best when i have a bunch of shows lined up and all i have to do is prepare for each of those in their own special place where they happen. The understanding that your crowd in Savannah will not be that of Amsterdam or London.
And big scale or small scale up to 300 seats is where you learn the most. Though if I ever were to do Stadiums, the dressing room riders would contain impossible to do Early Modern stuff like 3 quill pens from the 3rd wing feather of a goose. Elderberries in season. And large scale maps of EM London Paris and Amsterdam.
Whether NOT busking the 14th Sonnet Marathon on the Bankside and entertaining a group of schoolkids who couldn’t believe i memorised all the sonnets…
Or lounging in the lobby of the British Library watching rehearsals for the birthday celebrations…
This year isn’t over yet. What’s gone…
*14 Sonnet Marathons SO FAR: all 154 sonnets spoken in Original Pronunciation.
Started in Amsterdam in January. Deciding, hey 52 Sonnet Marathons would be cool. Discovered my OP needed work and it’s lonely when no-one bothers to listen to you.
People do stand out of your sight-line, listening intently for a sonnet, or five, or ten, or twenty. Them giving you a wide smile, thumbs up, and sometimes a ‘dude you’re rocking it’ and
Focus on the words again for heaven’s sake, recite from 1-77- maybe take a break, or NO, continue to 104, or 126, then a break. Or do stately blocks of 1-52, 53-104, 105-126, 127-154.
There’s an arc and the story’s meagre curve demands to be kept. I’m not a machine though many take me for one (Are you the sonnet machine a scholar asked me at the Globe. YES! I replied ‘coz i crave validation). A Dutch paper Vrij Nederland called me a Sonnet Jukebox.
Amongst these Shakespeare related events including each actor and every volunteer who helped I’ve had a great year SO FAR:
This sonnet was recorded on the fly. Shot by Maarten Toner.
1616-2016 NEW YEAR SHAKESFEAR Will it all be too much? This celebration of his death. The world is going all out to celebrate. Will our own contribution be lost?
The fear isn’t about his language. Nor that some other biography will be proven. The fear makes the difference. The difference lies between our ears. The difference is the same as it has always been.
Do it or don’t. No more. Take away the prevarication (a word he never used) and the readiness is all.
All or nothing is/are, words to avoid like the plague. Creamy-eyed milchings, posset-curdled nothings.
52 sonnet marathons in a year. One a week. In OP. Or maybe by the 14th backwards or some other ordering. Tomorrow 7th january we start at the Museumplein in Amsterdam.
This time not at the Rose Theatre like back in 2005. Ben Crystal lighting a candle for every sonnet recited. Shouting out after each set of ten. So much water under the bridge since first your eye i eye’d.
William btw means determined. Get the job done son.
EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT
It has come to my attention that the Passion in Practice Ensemble will reconvene at the SWP:
PS Ralph Alan Cohen has written this book and since i last year started using the word Shakesfear you now know the probable unconscious source: ShakesFear Cure Ralph Alan Cohen is Co-Founder of the American Shakespeare Center and Professor of Shakespeare and Performance in the Master of Letters and Fine Arts program, which he established at Mary Baldwin College. He was the project director for the building of the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia.
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A new version of William Sutton’s Q1609 Edit of the Sonnets, in a very easy to use book. The new edition is the same handy A6 size with a heavy-duty spiral binding. The paper weighs 200g; so thick, tear-proof, and durable. The book totals 81 pages with flexible transparent covers.
Shakespeare for the next generation. Wouldn’t that be nice? To be an influence for the good where Shakespeare is concerned. It’s not about us, it’s about him. All in a non-bardolatrous mold. There’s another Workshop 27th in Jerwood Space happening at the end of september.
You’re only as good as your last show
There are few shows in a performer’s life that stand out. Mine happened in january 2015 Blog post on Pericles at the Berwaldhallen in Stockholm. Pericles the play. There are photos below and that video that gives a sense of how amazing it was. We wrote of it OP Pericles earlier this year.
I must confess
That isn’t what made it stand out. The day after performing and celebrating til early, we left to go back to our respective homes. We hit the airport mid afternoon and i was buzzing and full of the night before, humming the score and massively pleased with myself. My partner Sassy is far more grounded than I and tagged along putting up with uber-thespian’s enthrallment to the post-show glow.
I hit the loos just before security and coming back Sassy told me she’d seen a man who was wearing a shirt that looked like a member of the music ensemble from the night before. I didn’t hear the looked like and started to assume everyone around me was a member of the ensemble.
By this time we’re approaching security and taking off shoes and belts. I’m scanning the crowd around me looking for the ensemble members. Sassy repeatedly telling me i was mistaken, but I’m hearing nothing, except the voices and music in my head of our shared experience.
We proceed through security with me rubber necking for recognition. On the other side as we are all gathering our belongings…
Wham! I see a group of four men in suits and immediately I recognise one as someone i had talked to post-show the night before. Without thinking i walk up to him, point a finger at him and exclaim, ‘You, (pause for maximum effect) were f***ing brilliant last night!’
As soon as i said it, i knew it was wrong. Me, in suit and cashmere overcoat with a gold lining, pointing at a random Scandinavian businessman whilst his friends shocked responses started already to make this guy’s life a living hell.
Being the consummate professional and performer I ignored all of that, turned on my heels and walked assuredly away. Sassy practically bounced from stifling and holding in her laughter. The rest of the flight and the whole year since has made this story family legend.
However I can’t help feeling sorry for that guy whose career, and possibly personal life I’ve ruined whilst he remains ignorant of what prompted me to do it. I hope somebody sees this, knows him and we can make amends. His friends however can only thank me…
Delivery of text continues to be a deciding factor in good Shakespeare. What does that take? Too forced and you lose. The Shakespeare voice appears. Too disconnected from physicality and you lose. The Shakespeare voice wins. Too. Many. Pauses. The Shakespeare voice bores.
Text is physicality. The smallest unit of sound, the phoneme, requires effort. There is a literal physical journey of the words on the page arriving on the stage.
The punctuation dictates the shape of the thought. Thoughts contribute to ideas. Our ensemble uses the First Folio text, double checks with any available Quartos, triple checks with modern editions and returns to the text as given. Questioning everything; whether it be spelling, italicisation, or capitalisation. Accept and or reject based on exploration and expediency of the characters.
Our own cherished thoughts and ideas aren’t infallible. Linguistic and literary scholar, Jonathan Hope helped us explore 72 linguistic features about where Henry V sits in relation to the entire corpus of 544 extant Early Modern plays. Then in relation to the corpus of Shakespeare’s 38 (!) Tragedies, Comedies and Histories.
The mind steering them contributes more to their acceptance. Dr Hope teased us with a Scottish 20 pound bet whether we could guess Shakespeare’s most average play? funniest scene? Examining the sets of data lead some in one direction, others in another. Opinion divided us all.
The casting of a production selects the guiding individual actor minds. The crossroads of physicality and thought employs the actors skills. Our Ben excels in choosing an ensemble. Script analysis is a tool we use. Character exploration happens unspoken with stick work. Sub-text arises from interaction.
Being wrong never feels good. Being judged less so. Justification follows. Justification of one’s deeds, regrets, things we shouldeva wouldeva couldeva done, all occur after the fact.
We did what we did, (Hilton, Katrina and myself had to leave) and do what we do (Colin Hurley joined in, Matt Mellalieu picked up my roles).
Tomorrow night from 3rd to 5th August my band of brothers and sisters perform at Tanner Street Studios. Tickets are still available. Go experience a rich vein of Shakespearean work being mined. Else all that remains are words, words, words. And you can simply read those:
Poster for Tanner Street 3rd-5th August 2015
And the production is cut to David Crystal on Henry V in OP 2 hours traffic of the stage. And these actors have learned their lines by heart within two weeks. And there are some textual additions from the earlier plays in the 1st tetralogy.
Thanks to Patrick Spottiswoode from Globe education. Also Clare and our two minders, Aidan and Alice. Plus the staff at the concession stand for making our Americanos, showing that London is as international as it ever was.
BTW the answers to the bet questions are Hamlet, and the buck basket scene from Merry Wives of Windsor.
Henry the Fift in OP at SWP. That’s the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. The indoor space at the Globe theatre, the lovechild of American actor Sam Wanamaker. How fitting that Ben Crystal is utilising a cast of Americans, Brits, Europeans, Indians and a Grenadian all talking in OP.
Photo Credit: Will O Hare Photography
Three days ago we gathered as 21 actors and 5 production crew in the Jerwood Space. The Passion in Practice Ensemble new configuration sports an ethos of exploration, despite time being short.
Tomorrow we present an evening in OP. David Crystal our Master of Pronunciation reviewed our efforts today. Father and son have completely differing approaches to the whole OP process. Ben pushes the ensemble work from within whilst father builds a scholarly frame.
Henry V presents several aspects for engagement. OP French? Welsh? Scots? Irish? Here our Master of Verse coaches a Lithuanian and an Austrian in their French parts.
Ensemble is treated to the supple warrior Phil. Ensemble sweats and collects muscle aches and pains. Ensemble learns new things daily. Ensemble has fun. (Can’t stress that bit enough).
Ensemble will be performing Henry V at the SWP on the 26th july. It is sold out. If you want to see this exploratory production in Original Pronunciation and 21stC Original Practice attend at Tanner Street.