Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Alexa Huang Awarded Fulbright Distinguished Chair in London and ACLS Burkhardt Fellowship

Monday, September 1st, 2014

MIT Global Shakespeares founding co-director and George Washington University English Professor Alexa Huang has been named the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Global Shakespeare at Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick for 2014-2015. She has also received the American Council of Learned Society’s Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship at the Folger Library for 2015-2016. She will be working on a book entitled Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press).

alexa

The Fulbright Distinguished Chair awards are designed for eminent scholars with substantial experience and publications in their field and ambassadorial skills with evidence of cultural sensitivity. The Chair will  deliver a free public lecture at the prestigious Gresham College (est. 1597) in London.The Burkhardt fellowships provide leaders in their fields with the resources to pursue long-term, unusually ambitious projects. The Burkhardt Fellowships are generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They are named for Frederick Burkhardt, President Emeritus of the Amerian Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), whose decades of work on The Correspondence of Charles Darwin constitute a signal example of dedication to a demanding and ambitious scholarly enterprise.

Alexa’s book identifies three broad themes that distinguish interpretations of local cultures and Shakespeare in modern Japan,  Korea, China, Taiwan, and Singapore from their counterparts in other parts of the world: they are leading to a more equitable globalization in artistic terms, they serve as a forum where artists and audiences can grapple with contemporary issues, and through international tour activities they are reshaping debates about the relationships between the East and the West.

Asian interpretations of Shakespeare matter to Western readers because of their impact on American and European performance cultures,  as exemplified by the worldwide recognition of the works of Ong Keng Sen, Akira Kurosawa, and their peers. The history of East Asian Shakespeares as a body of works—as opposed to random stories about cross-cultural encounter—allows us to better understand the processes of localizing artistic ideas through transnational collaboration.

Journal Special Issue on Global Shakespeares

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Reported by Katherine Bradshaw (George Washington University)

Check out articles on exciting new films and productions in the special issue of Shakespeare (BSA journal, edited by Global Shakespeares‘ co-founder Alexa Huang). In the engaging collection of articles you can read about the meanings of epic in Ryutopia Hamlet in Japanese, a Bollywood Lear made in London, Caribbean trickster figures, a Spanish actor-manager in Madrid and Latin America, and Perttu Leppä’s Finnish film Eight Days to the Premiere. All of these are brought together through Huang’s introduction, “Global Shakespeares as Methodology.” The collection shows how this approach to trans-national adaptations and performances forms a liberating and invigorating perspective.

On MIT Global Shakespeares video archive website, you can view several films and productions that are discussed in the special issue.

BSA

In her article Alexa Huang explains that the global Shakespeares methodology steps outside of questions of fidelity to explore the implications of a Shakespeare firmly at home across many cultures and traditions. The idea of global Shakespeares has caught on because of site-specific imaginations involving early modern and modern Globe theatres that aspired to perform the entire globe. The early modern theatres revealed a fascination with the expanse of the earth – placing humanity within the order of the universe. The modern Globe performance spaces, both inside and outside England, are often associated with national celebrations of Shakespeare and his works. As such, they seem to set up a tension between nationalistic pride and international contacts. Huang unpacks how these modern theatres reflect the present-day focus on globalization, a concept that inspires enthusiasm.

Indeed, in this expanding world, the cross-cultural perspective of global Shakespeares creates fresh dialogue. Global Shakespeares are not appendages of colonialism, exercises in political rhetoric, or centerpieces within a display of exotic cultures. Global Shakespeares as a methodology situates us in a postnational space defined by fluid cultural locations rather than nation-states. Huang affirms that international manifestations of Shakespeare’s works have a complex dual nature as both global travelers and local inhabitants.

Huang’s introduction sets out the special issue’s fascinating theme, and the other authors point out various facets of this jewel-like concept. Around the world, Shakespearean readers, writers, actors, directors, and audience members interpret and reinterpret Shakespeare based on their own context. In some of the pieces, Shakespeare becomes a way to discuss local concerns about postcolonial life in various areas, including the Caribbean and Britain. In other ones, different plays blend with local literary, stage, or filmic culture to create intriguing hybrids. As the articles suggest, the combinations can bring new insight into the adapted texts or put high pressure upon the adaptations.

Learn about the many meanings of epic in the Ryutopia Hamlet. Peter Donaldson examines how this Japanese interpretation incorporates the Japanese epic Heike monogatari. Specifically, Donaldson states that the Heike inclusion not only places Shakespeare’s allusion to Vergil’s Aeneid in a Japanese context, but also emphasizes Hamlet’s theme of dynastic ruin. Donaldson considers the implications of this integration, and argues that Hamlet might be a national – and trans-national – epic.

Understand Shakespeare’s continued relevance in a post-colonial world by examining a Bollywood Lear made in London. Kinga Földváry analyzes the adaptive film Life Goes On as a completely modern reframing of Lear which depicts the challenges of a Hindu family that emigrated from Bengal to England. Földváry pinpoints how Life Goes On brings Lear’s intergenerational conflict over home and family relationships into a culturally relevant context for contemporary audiences.

See how a Caribbean interweaving of African trickster figures with Hamlet and King Lear complicates traditional narratives of postcolonialism. In her analysis, Giselle Rampaul examines the use of tricksters and crossroads in Davlin Thomas’s plays Lear Ananci and Hamlet: The Eshu Experience. Rampaul explains that Thomas’s adaptations go beyond the simple dichotomy of colonizer and colonized, depicting the Caribbean’s postcolonial future as unknown and full of possible choices.

Learn the surprising history and significance of Spanish actor-managers producing Shakespeare in Madrid and Latin America. To refute the belief that Shakespeare had no influence on Spain and Spanish culture, Juan F. Cerdá investigates the reception of various touring Shakespearean plays produced by Spanish managers and performed by foreign actors during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He examines the widespread Spanish belief that the touring productions were more cultured than their local Shakespearean counterparts. He also looks at how that perception contributed to the prevalence of Shakespearean performances when Spanish actors toured in Latin America.

Find out what the reception of Perttu Leppä’s Finnish film Eight Days to the Premiere signifies about the impact of transnational Shakespearean understandings. Nely Keinänen astutely investigates the critical response to Eight Days, arguing that audiences have extraordinarily – and perhaps unfairly – high expectations for films that incorporate Shakespeare. For many viewers of the film, the idea of “Shakespeare” includes somewhat overwrought acting, early modern costumes, and a large-scale film budget. The metatheatrical Eight Days disregarded these pre-conceived ideas. Instead, the director created a warm, small-scale film with a Shakespearean performance as its backdrop. Consequently, Keinänen cites unfulfilled expectations as the main reason for the relatively limited circulation of Eight Days, using the film as an interesting study of why some adaptations spread farther geographically than others do.

Global Shakespeares as a methodology provides an engaging lens through which to view not only the adaptations discussed in this special issue, but also other productions.

Table of contents: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rshk20/9/3#.UkjZQiR57rh

 

MIT Global Shakespeares and Taiwan Shakespeare Database at SAA

Monday, April 7th, 2014

mit-tsd-collaboration
Pictured: Hsiang Jieh, director of NTU’s Research Center for Digital Humanities; Peter S. Donaldson, director of the MIT Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive; Bi-qi Beatrice Lei, associate professor of English at NTU.

MIT Global Shakespeares and the Taiwan Shakespeare Database have begun a formal collaboration which the two projects will share videos, coordinate interface and technical design.

The Taiwan Shakespeare Database is directed by Beatrice Lei in collaboration with the Research Center for Digital Humanities, NTU. We hope that this alliance will be a model for how digital Shakespeare collections can share materials and enhance their use in research and education throughout the world.

Both projects will be making presentations in the Digital Room at the Annual Meeting of the Shakespeare Association America in St. Louis at 12-1:30 and 3:00-6:00 on Thursday, April 10.

The MIT presentation will also introduce Global Hamlet in Performance, an online educational module. Presenters will include Peter Donaldson, Diana Henderson, Shankar Raman and Emily Griffiths Jones.

 
 
 
 

Regional editor Cris Busato Smith to speak about Macbeth at conference in Arizona

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Dr. Cristiane Busato Smith, Global Shakespeares regional editor for Brazil, will chair a session on Friday, February 07, 2014 on Shakespeare and the Catastrophic at the 20th Annual ACMRS Conference, Arizona State University. She will also be presenting a paper entitled “Macbeth: Visions of Apocalypse Now and Then” on Saturday, February 08, 2014.

Abstract

“Macbeth: Visions of Apocalypse Now and Then”
Cristiane Busato Smith
MIT Global Shakespeares / Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Images of the apocalypse have always populated the imaginary landscape of mankind. For thousands of years, images and narratives reenact the classic eschatological pattern of crisis, judgment, and salvation to make sense of the world and renegotiate chaos and disorder. Shakespeare’s tragedies offer poignant examples of destruction, sterility and cosmic cataclysm. Macbeth, in particular, provides an interesting platform for the apocalyptic hermeneutics with its images of destruction and chaos brought by the vulnerable moment of rise and fall of a tyrant governor. One of the elements that renders Macbeth noteworthy in this context is that not only do images of curse and disaster contaminate the play’s stage history but they also invade events in the public sphere, crossing boundaries of time and cultures. This is the case of two Brazilian stage adaptations, Ulysses Cruz’s Macbeth (1992) and Arnaldo Antunes’ Trono de Sangue (1992), which capture and prefigure the bleak political Zeitgeist of 1992 Brazil. Resembling a cultural wasteland after its twenty-one-year military regime (1964-1985), Brazil was now struggling with the scandalous political scenario of rampant corruption, spiraling inflation and escalating violence, which culminated with the impeachment of President Collor de Mello, himself a Macbeth of sorts. This paper analyzes some of the significant interpolations that simultaneously incorporate and resignify Macbeth’s images of the apocalypse within the disturbing reality of the time.

 

The Taming of the Shrew, Korean Adaptation by Hyon-u Lee comes to MIT

Friday, September 20th, 2013

shrew

Hyon-u Lee, Shakespeare scholar, translator, director, performer, and professor at Soon Chun Hyang University, is bringing a troupe to MIT to perform The Taming of the Shrew on October 1, 2013.

In this adaptation, Kate is a hip-hop girl, and Petruchio is a Confucianist. This production comments on the harmony between East and West, old and new, patriarchy and feminism.

The actors have performed this play with great success in Seoul, Tokyo & Nagoya, Edinburgh, Singapore, New York, and now will be performing in Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The performance will run for one hour, after which the audience is invited to have some traditional Korean snacks and converse with the actors and theater troupe.

Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Time: 8 pm
Place: MIT Killian Hall
Tickets: FREE

Shakespeare in Latin America

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

First broadcast as The Essay for BBC Radio 3.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus hoisted the Spanish flag on the island in the Atlantic Ocean which he called “San Salvador”. In 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral landed at the bay he called “Bahia de Todos os Santos”, in an unknown country later named Brazil, where he placed the Portuguese flag. When these two seamen took possession of the new found lands, William Shakespeare had not yet been born. But years later the English playwright’s voice would resound in a prophetic speech: “How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in places unborn and accents yet unknown?”

After three hundred years Shakespeare’s work appeared for the first time in Latin America. In Argentina, between 1822 and 1830, the actor Francisco Cárceres played Othello. Between 1839 and 1852, other plays appeared in Buenos Aires, in modified translations.

In Brazil, the first translation of a whole play by Shakespeare appeared in 1842, from the  French adaptation by Jean-François Ducis. Othello seems to have been the play generally preferred in the translations and productions of that time. The Italian actors Ernesto Rossi and Tommaso Salvini, and a few other European companies touring in South America brought their romantically performed Shakespeare to upper class audiences.

Adaptations by native authors started being made then. In Brazil, the renowned romantic poet Gonçalves Dias wrote Leonor de Mendonça, published in 1868. In his play, Dias recreated Shakespeare’s Othello though saying it was based on a true story he had found in the Portuguese chronicles of 1512. Nevertheless, in the preface to the published text of Leonor de Mendonça, he says he was inspired by the English playwright. It is a play with liberating ideas about women’s freedom in a macho man society. As the Duke’s complexion is white, there is no concern for the Eurocentric view of the other found in Shakespeare. And Iago is omitted.

A few plays were then translated in other Latin American countries. Perhaps the most important work of translation, due to its comprehensiveness, was Dramas de Guillermo Shakspeare,  by the Peruvian  José Arnaldo Márquez , in two volumes, first  published in Barcelona, but later on in Argentina, Mexico and Peru.

At the end of the 19th century Shakespeare’s presence in Latin American arts began to find new paths, when the adapters were more aware of the differences and similarities in the cultures appropriating him, and of the possibilities to expand it. That seems to be what the Mexican Manuel Pérez Bibbins and Francisco López Carvajal did, in 1886, in their Hamlet, arreglo a la escena espanõla del célèbre drama tragico de William Shakespeare. It had cuts of scenes and characters – Fortinbras and the first scene in act 1, for instance, are omitted. The play ends with only Polonius, Hamlet and Claudius being killed. And it is Horatio who kills the king, not Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s influence reached other arts, especially prose works. The Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis started by quoting him in short essays on topical subjects published in newspapers, and in short-stories. He gradually increased his loans from Shakespeare, until he transmuted him in his major novels. Shakespeare’s presence in Quincas Borba, published in 1891, is unquestionable. But Machado’s  greatest “mirror up to the Bard” is  Dom Casmurro, published in 1899.

There was a shift of focus with the modernist ideals of national identity. At first, Caliban occupied the position of the voracious oppressor. The young Nicaraguan nationalist, poet and journalist Rubén Darío, after having visited New York in 1893, would equate Caliban with North Americans. To him, New York was the land where “Caliban soaks up whiskey as he soaked up wine in Shakespeare’s play”.

With The Tempest as source of inspiration for nationalistic ideals in Latin America, Caliban became the capitalist oppressor and Ariel the representative of the virtuous oppressed. This symbolic opposition had its impact in 1900 through Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó’s essay Ariel.

Rodó sees Prospero as a wise teacher surrounded by his young followers whom he guides in their intellectual search for elevated life; and Caliban, as a rude, destructive materialist embodying North American civilization. Rodó says: “Ariel is this sublime instinct of perfectibility through whose virtue he is converted into the centre of things. [….] Triumphant Ariel means idealism and order in life, noble inspiration in thinking, disinterested morals, refinement in art. […….] Subdued a thousand times by Caliban’s unconquerable rebelliousness, proscribed by conquering savagery, asphyxiated in the fumes of battles, his transparent wings being stained as he touches Job’s everlasting garbage, Ariel resurrects even more immortal, Ariel recovers his youth and his beauty and nimbly assists all those who really love and invoke him, as he used to do with Prospero.”[i]

Rodó’s symbolism pervaded  socio-political and literary thinking until the first half of the 20th century. When the United States endeavoured to impose their interests in Central and South America, new Latin American voices saw in Caliban the legitimate representative of the oppressed and exploited colonized people in their continent. And “Caliban, the Latin American,” was born. In 1969, on the Caribbean islands, there appeared three different reconstructions of that play: Martinican Aimé Césaire’s La Tempête; Barbadian Edward Braithwaite’s Islands, a collection of poems that has a poem entitled “Caliban”; and Cuban Roberto Fernández Retamar, whose book Caliban: Apuntes sobre la cultura en nuestra America was published in 1971.

Retamar’s Caliban became the symbol for the Latin American peoples oppressed by North American power. He was then transformed into the hybrid representative of Latin Americans, the “mestizo: “Our symbol”, Retamar said, “is not Ariel, as Rodó thought, but Caliban. This becomes particularly clear to us, mestizos who inhabit the same islands where Caliban lived: Prospero invaded the islands, killed our ancestors, turned Caliban into a slave and taught him his language so that he could communicate with him. What else can Caliban do but use this same language – as there is no other nowadays – to curse Prospero, to wish that the red plague devoured him? I do not know any better metaphor for our cultural situation, for our reality.”

In 1979, during the military dictatorship, the Brazilian thinker, actor and theatre director Augusto Boal, exiled in Lisbon, wrote A Tempestade (The Tempest). Boal conflated his theories on theatre and his view of the Latin American plight, and offered a new reading of Shakespeare’s text.  In it Prospero portrays North America; the other noblemen, Europe; Ariel, the submissive intellectual serving the oppressor; and Caliban, Latin America. Politically subversive, Boal also transgresses the canon, by means of a simple dramatic structure with his Manichean strategy of good/Caliban/oppressed versus evil/Prospero/oppressor. Such simplification, plus the use of fourteen songs that serve as a choric element explaining situations, characters’ behaviour, and ironically commenting upon the dialogue, subverts Shakespeare’s text. As he said in the epigraph to the play,”it must be made clear, very clear that we are beautiful because we are ourselves, and no imposed culture is more beautiful than ours. [….]It must be made clear that we are Caliban.”

In the forties, when Latin America was beginning to find its own image, the United States ruled over the contemporary mass media market and Hollywood was the centre of interest of actors, directors and audience. Shakespeare, the great icon of culture, became a target of capitalist cinematic productions. It was then that two appropriations of Romeo and Juliet appeared as parodies of the canon and of the Hollywood film enterprise: the Mexican 1943 Romeo y Julieta, and the 1949 Brazilian Carnaval no Fogo  with its anthological parody of the two balcony scenes in Shakespeare’s text.

Romeo y Julieta was written by Jaime Salvador and directed by Miguel M. Delgado for the comedian Mario Moreno, better known as Cantinflas. Cantinflas’s art developed in the tradition of a Mexican lively performance called carpa that did not work well on the screen. This Romeo and Juliet, a blatant parody of both Shakespeare’s play and George Cukor’s 1939 film, focuses more on the actor/carpero than on the appropriation of the canonical text.

The 1949 Brazilian parody, just a short intervention on the film directed by Watson Macedo, was played by two well known comic actors, Oscarito and Grande Otelo. With Grande Otelo, a male negro actor, playing Juliet, the scene was from the start based on the carnivalesque “world-upside-down” of parody in which travesty has a strong appeal. The dialogue between the two “lovers” transmutes Shakespeare’s language when it uses imagery from the source text simultaneous with verbal puns accessible to Brazilian audiences. This scene in a popular entertainment caters for the “mob” while subverting the ideals and presumptions of the upper class, and strongly ridiculing Holywood through its hints at American films then well known in Brazil.

From the four last decades of the 20th century onwards Shakespeare’s work has flourished in complete freedom in Latin America, now more than ever crossing boundaries, geographically, artistically, and in different media.

In literature, the 20th century saw Shakespeare mainly through the eyes of two renowned writers: Chilean Pablo Neruda, with his translation of Romeo and Juliet, in 1964. And the Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges with various recreations of themes and ideas, such as his  tales Everything and Nothing and La Memoria de Shakespeare, and  his   poem The Thing I Am.   

Neruda’s translation, a beautiful poetical construct, is practically turned into another text, as political ideology and aesthetic constraints induced him to omit various passages and avoid puns and bawdy language. He conceded that he had been constrained by the need to render Shakespeare’s text into an understandable poetical drama in Spanish, when he said: “Preserving poetry was the hardest part. […] I had to tackle one all-encompassing, definitive problem: the poetry’s comprehension and survival. That was the major problem, and this is the question I essentially tried to resolve: how to preserve Shakespeare’s poetic expression while making the tragedy comprehensible for everyone.”[ii]

Borges used to liken himself to Shakespeare’s liar Parolles and Shakespeare to God, in creative power. He saw such real life in the playwright’s characters that to him Shakespeare the man becomes nothing. In Everything and Nothing, for instance, Shakespeare asks God to let him “be one and myself”, but is denied his request, as God defines his role as creator: “Like me, you are many and no one”[iii]

Among 20th century recreations some are noteworthy for their innovative assimilation of Shakespeare’s plays. In Argentina, Richard III has launched adaptations related to strong regimes. Some of these are Marcelo Arbach’s and Franco Cuello’s 2009 production that set the play in the 40’s, during the deposition of Peron’s government; Guillermo Asensio’s, 2007/2008 multimedia Richard III in which the tyrant  used a remote control to choose which scenes the audience would see on a big plasma screen. And Laura Silva, in 2006, adapted and directed a version of the same play with clowns as characters highlighting the evil inherent in tyranny.

In 2001, Rubén Pires directed El Romance del Romeo y la Julieta (The Romeo and Juliet Ballad). This new version had one hundred and fifty tango songs that told the story of Romeo and Juliet making practically no change in the source plot. Tango, then, with its rhythm representative of the country, creates a cultural bridge between two different places and long distanced times.

Before this production in Argentina, and also using regional music as a complementary device, in 1992 Gabriel Vilela directed Grupo Galpão, in Brazil, in their Romeo and Juliet, winner of some international awards. In this adaptation for street theatre, music accompanied Shakespeare’s words interspersed with speeches in the style of the Brazilian novelist Guimarães Rosa.

In Colombia, the Teatro Libre de Bogotá, founded in 1973 by a group of young actors and under the guidance of Ricardo Camacho, offered some rich productions based on Shakespeare. Politically oriented at first, in 1977 El Teatro Libre de Bogotá changed from politics to art for art’s sake. Ricardo Camacho said in an interview[iv]: “This decisive moment in the life of the group was marked by the life giving and critical presence of William Shakespeare’s theatre, with a sort of strength that has followed it throughout its story.”[v] It was then that the Teatro Libre performed King Lear. That production met with a huge success, providing the group with means to have their own theatre house and create the Escuela de Teatro Libre (Free Theatre School) that has already produced fifteen plays by Shakespeare.

In contemporary Latin America the influence of the screen has allowed Shakespeare to be acted over in even newer accents though the countries where they emerge are no longer unborn.So where are we now in your opinion? That is, for instance, the case with Lípkies’s 2003 Mexican film Huapango, and Grisolli’s 1980 and 1983 Brazilian recreations for Globo TV, Otelo de Oliveira and Romeu e Julieta.

So, in Latin America, the rest has not been silence.


[i] My translation into English from the Brazilian version of Ariel: Breviário da Juventude, adapted by Hermes da Fonseca Filho. Rio de Janeiro, 1926.

[ii] Quoted in Racz, 2005:79.

[iii] Translated from Borges’s Obras Completas. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1974.  vol. 2:182.

[iv] Interview with Patricia Jamarillo.

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[v] My translation into English.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Boal, Augusto. A Tempestade. Lisboa:

Borges, Jorge Luis. Obras Complets. 4 vols. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1974.

Dias, Gonçalves. Leonor de Mendonça. Belo Horizonte: Vega, 1976.

Modenessi, Alfredo Michel. “The Rogue and Will”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:219-241.

Racz, Gregary J. “Strategies of Deletion in Pablo Neruda’s Romeo and Juliet”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:71-91.

Rodo, José Enrique. Ariel: breviario da Juventude. Hermes da Fonseca Ada. Rio de Janeiro, 1926.

Santos, Marlene Soares dos. “Theater for the Oppressed: Augusto Boal’s A Tempestade”. Aimara da Cunha Resende ed. Foreign Accents: Brazilian Appropriations of Shakespeare. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002:42-54.

Tiffany, Grace. “Borges and Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Borges”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:145-165.

Tronch-Pérez, Jésus. “The Unavenging Prince: A Nineteenth-Century Mexican Stage Adaptation of Hamlet”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:54-70.

 

Vaughan, Alden T. “Caliban in the ‘Third World’: Shakespeare’s Savage as Sociopolitical Symbol”. Critical Essays On Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST. Virginia Mason Vaughan; Alden T. Vaughan eds. New York: G.K. Hall, 1998:247-265.

Fundación Shakespeare Argentina’s Events

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Global Shakespeares’ partner Fundación Shakespeare Argentina (FSA) has organized several successful events to broad the appreciation for Shakespeare in Argentina and international recognition of Argentinian performances and interpretations of Shakespeare.

On Friday, May 10, 2013, the FSA will host a very exciting panel at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair!

Buenos Aires International Book Fair

Buenos Aires International Book Fair

At 2:30 pm, May 10, a panel of distinguished speakers will speak on “Shakespeare entre todos”.

The Argentinian Director Rubén Szuchmacher and Horacio Peña (Henry IV Part 2) who played Falsttaf at the London Globe in 2012 will talk about their experience at the World Shakespeare Festival.

Mr. Szuchmacher, director of the production of Rey Lear, and Mr Peña who played Kent in that production, will share their experience with Shakespeare.

 

For more information and future FSA news, please visit:

http://www.shakespeareargentina.org/FSA/news.html

 

 

Teaching Shakespeare and Globalization

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

 It is easy to incorporate the issues of global Shakespeare or globalization into the standard Shakespeare course.

Global Shakespeare as a curricular component answers the competing demands of internationalizing education to prepare our next generation for a complex world and of sustaining traditional canons. There are many ways to incorporate issues of politics, reception, and aesthetics raised by global Shakespeare into standard undergraduate Shakespeare courses.

Teach the blessing and curse of globalization and localization in conjunction with Shakespeare. Teach familiar texts in strange settings. As Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel reminds us, what is “well known” is never properly known simply because, well, they appear to be well known, which is why Folger Shakespeare Library research director David Schalkwyk once said that unless you have read Shakespeare in another language, you do not really understand Shakespeare.

Here are some possibilities.

(1) Reading Shakespeare in multilingual contexts is important. Consider for example these lines from Macbeth: “The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red.” The repetition of ‘incarnadine’ and ‘red’ is serendipitous, but the deliberate alternation between the Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) and the Latinate words suggests two pathways to and two perspectives on the world.

(2) Different cultural frameworks and translations slow us down and compel us to rethink what we assume to be familiar. Performances in world cultures can lead us back to Shakespeare’s plays with new insight and new paths for interpretation. Works such as Ong Keng Sen’s transnational and pan-Asian productions (Search: Hamlet, Lear, Desdemona, Lear Dreaming), Kenneth Branagh’s As You Like It with a strong Japanese motif, and Tim Supple’s multilingual Midsummer Night’s Dream with an all-Indian and Shri Lankan cast, are generating extraordinary artistic and intellectual energy by recasting gender, racial and social identities. The racial issue disappears by being recast as uneasy familial relations in Japanese interpretations of Othello, and it is made hauntingly present through its absence from radically localized, colorblind, Korean performances that seek to redress the wound of Japanese colonization. In the Chinese tradition of performing The Merchant of Venice as romantic comedy, the play is often retooled as an adventure of an attractive woman lawyer or an outlandish tale involving a pound of human flesh.  This framework has activated elements of the play that, over several centuries of Anglo-European readings, have become obscure to communities that gravitate towards the ethics of conversion as a key site of tension in the narrative. Other examples of reconfigurations of the center and the periphery abound. These works have led to the transformation of traditions occurring in both directions at once.

(3) It is important to appreciate the historicity of global Shakespeare as a cultural phenomenon that is not exclusive to the modern era. Translation was an unalienable part of the cultural life in early modern England. Translation, or translatio, signifying “the figure of transport,” was a common rhetorical trope that referred to the conveyance of ideas from one geo-cultural location to another, from one historical period to another, and from one artistic form to another. London witnessed a steady stream of merchants and foreign emissaries from Europe, the Barbary coast, and the Mediterranean, and thousands of Dutch and Flemish Protestants fled to Kent in the late 1560s due to the Spanish persecution. Within Shakespeare’s plays, the figure of translation looms large.

Henry V contains several instances of literal translation, including the language lesson scene and the well-known wooing scene. Translation serves as a figure of transport, theft, transfer of property, and change across linguistic and national boundaries, as the characters and audience are ferried back and forth across the Channel. The “broken English” (5.2.228) in the light-hearted scene symbolises Henry V’s dominance over Catherine and France after the English victory at the Battle of Agincourt. However, the Epilogue reminds us that the marriage is far from a closure (Epilogue 12), for it produces a son who is “half-French, half-English” (5.2.208). The English conqueror pretends to be a wooer to Catherine of France who cannot reject him freely. One is unsure whether Catherine is speaking the truth that she does not understand English well enough (“I cannot tell”) or just being coy—playing Harry’s game, though Catherine eventually yields to Henry V’s request: “Dat is as it shall please de roi mon père” (5.2.229). A play such as Henry V and its global afterlife (for example, Laurence Olivier’s film version during World War II as propaganda) provide rich material to be mined to teach various aspects of international relations and to further students’ understanding of Shakespearean aesthetics.

(4) If you have a diverse classroom, take advantage of students’ different backgrounds and experiences. Turn international students who are not native speakers of English into your asset. All too often they are seen as a liability, but their linguistic and cultural repertoire should be tapped to build a sustainable intellectual community. Take The Tempest for example. What exactly do Prospero and Miranda teach Caliban? The word “language” is ambiguous in act 1 scene 2 (Caliban: “You taught me language …”). It is often taken to mean his master’s language (a symbol of oppression). But it can also mean a new tool for him to change the world order. One way to excavate the different layers of meanings within the play and in performances is to compare different stage and film versions from different parts of the world. Students can even try to translate a passage and share their rationale with the class. Caliban’s “language” is translated variously in different languages. In Mandarin Chinese it is rendered as “human language”, 語言, as opposed to languages of the animal or a different system of signification. Christoph Martin Wieland translates the word in German as redden, or “speech”. Caliban may know how to curse in his own language before Prospero takes over his island, but he now has one more language in his arsenal.

Take another word from The Tempest. Prospero announces in act 4 scene 1 that “our revels now are ended.” The word “revels” in the Elizabethan context refers to royal festivities and stage entertainments, but it carries different diagnostic significance in translation. Christoph Martin Wieland used Spiele (plays) and Schauspieler (performer) to refer to Prospero’s masque and actors (“Unsre Spiele sind nun zu Ende” in German). Sometimes translators working in the same language have different interpretations. Liang Shiqiu translated it as “games” in Mandarin Chinese in 1964, alluding to the manipulative Prospero’s “games” on the island, but Zhu Shenghao preferred “carnivals” (1954), highlighting the festive nature of the wedding celebration.

Act 1 Scene 3 of Othello offers another interesting instance (which is the focus of Tom Cheeseman’s Version Variation Visualization: Multi-Lingual Crowd Sourcing of Shakespeare’s Othello):

 If virtue no delighted beauty lack,

Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.

Translations of these lines into different languages deal with the meanings of “fair” and “black” rather differently. Mikhail Lozinskij’s Russian translation says “Since honor is a source of light of virtue, / Then your son-in-law is light, and by no means black.” Christopher Martin Wieland and Ángel Luis Pujante used white in German and Spanish (respectively) to translate “fair,” while Victor Hugo chose “shining.” It’s eye opening to see how translation opens up the text in new ways.

(5) Class units can be designed around watching videos on Global Shakespeares and discussing the English subtitles. It is eye opening for students to experience Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech in languages other than English. The vague, versatile, and “Swiss-knife” verb “to be” is as ambiguous in English as it is in many other languages. Sometimes it is translated as “to have” (but to have or not to have what!?), to do, to die, and so on. Go to this page to listen to the speeches.

There you will find “to be or not to be” in several languages drawn from actual performances:

  • English [Gielgud Hamlet]
  • Arabic [Sobhi Hamlet]
  • Assamese (Indian dialect) [Hazarika Hamlet]
  • Brazilian Portuguese [Correa Hamlet]
  • Japanese [Kurita Hamlet]
  • Korean [Yohangza Hamlet]
  • Mandarin [Hamlet Unplugged]
  • Swedish [Lyth Hamlet]

(6) One can also build into a Twelfth Night unit issues of gender, world cultures, and Shakespearean performance. Japanese is a language more complex than English from a sociolinguistic point of view. Performing the play in Japanese is therefore a challenge. One would have to wrestle with more than 20 first- and second-person pronouns to maintain the ambiguity and subtlety of gender identities. In addition to making the right choice of employing the familiar or polite style based on the relation between the speaker and the addressee, the male and female speakers of Japanese are each confined to gender-specific personal pronouns at their disposal. Before a translation can be undertaken, decisions will have to be made on the register and gendered expressions to convey Orsino’s comments about love from a male perspective and Viola’s apology for a woman’s love when in disguise as Cesario, or the exchange between Rosalind in disguise as Ganymede and Oliver on her “lacking a man’s heart” when she swoons, nearly giving herself away (4.3.164-176). But limitations create new linguistic and cultural opportunities. Translational moments like this can launch interesting discussions about visible and invisible gender identities in Twelfth Night.

(7) Interdisciplinarity. Global Shakespeare is a great topic for inquiry-driven learning. It is often assumed that materials to be presented in the undergraduate classroom have to be dumbed down, and that students will be overwhelmed by interdisciplinary approaches. The opposite is true. Students love a hands-on approach to create and share knowledge, to build on existing theories to explore new frontiers. As a broad field, global Shakespeare allows students to make fresh contributions. Beyond Global Shakespeares, many other archives can help students make transhistorical connections between issues and build cross-cultural understanding of arts. For example, Early English Books Online (EEBO), and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s LUNA.

Symposium on Eastern European Hamlets

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

A Symposium on Eastern European Hamlets, co-organised by the University of Kent and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, took place at Central School on Wednesday, 30 January 2013.

The event examined the role of Hamlet on Eastern European stages after 1989. It addressed the legacy of Jan Kott’s political interpretation of the play that saw it as a struggle of an individual against a corrupt government. Such an understanding of Hamlet resonated with theatre makers across post-war socialist Europe. The symposium sought to inquire into the significance of this tragedy in New Europe, through examination of its theatrical and cinematic representations.

1)      According to Jan Kott, Hamlet in socialist Europe had the potential to mirror and challenge socio-political circumstances from a relatively safe position of a cultural icon; has the function of this seminal text changed after the fall of the Iron Curtain?

2)      What are new approaches to staging Hamlet after the shift in social-political circumstances in 1989?

3)      Is there still an identifiable phenomenon of the ‘Eastern European Hamlet’ in the so-called ‘New Europe’? Are there common political and aesthetic approaches among Eastern European theatre makers? Have Eastern European countries forged their own styles of interpreting Hamlet?

 

Prof. Robin Nelson, head of Research at Central, opened the event and chaired the symposium. Dr. Duška Radosavljević from University of Kent and Alexandra Portmann M.A., from University of Berne and University of Kent introduced the theme of the symposium and the speakers.

The five presentations during the symposium focused on performative, political, historical, and cultural aspects of post-1989 Hamlet productions from Romania, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Serbia.

Dr. Nicoleta Cinpoes, University of Worcester
“‘Who’s there?’: Hamlet and Romania in the New Millennium”

Dr. Aneta Mancewicz , The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and Kazimierz Wielki University, Bydgoszcz, Poland
“A Bittersweet Prince: Hamlet in the 21st Century Poland”

 

Dr. Márta Minier, Drama at the University of Glamorgan
“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed … Something Golden”: Post-1989 Hungarian Hamlets

Dr. Sonia Massai, King’s College London
“Nekrosius’s Hamlet at the Globe to Globe Festival”

Dr. Duška Radosavljević, University of Kent /Alexandra Portmann M.A., University of Berne and University of Kent
“Serbian Hamlet meets Fortinbras from Yorkshire”

 

The presentations were followed by a discussion among the presenters and an open Q&A session with questions from the audience. Most importantly, the discussion concerned:

-          the continued significance of Hamlet for Eastern European nations,

-          the diminishing role of Fortinbras in Eastern European productions,

-          the analogies on the level of dramaturgy and the use of media in Eastern European performances of Hamlet,

-          the growth of individual perspectives in Eastern European countries, manifested in the variety of approaches and styles of staging Hamlet, post-1989,

-          the popularity of other Shakespeare’s plays and other classic playwrights in Eastern Europe,

-          different perceptions of what  “Eastern Europe” means for the East and the West,

-          the increasing role of globalisation and universalism in interpretations of Shakespeare.

 

The event offered a wide range of perspectives to the presence of Hamlet in Eastern Europe. Considering the breadth of the topic, it was, however, inevitable that the discussion could not answer all the points raised during the panel. It is, thus, hoped that there will be a follow-up event on that subject in the near future.

 

Introduction to Nós do Morro

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Cristiane Busato Smith, one of the Global Shakespeares Regional Editors for Brazil, has written an article on the theater troupe Nós do Morro.

Here is an excerpt:

Nós do Morro (Us from the Hillside) is a community based theatre company and school based in the Vidigal Morro, one of the largest favelas (shanty towns) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Perched on a hillside overlooking the rich districts of Leblon and Ipanema, with fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean, is the house where Nós do Morro has trained actors, technicians and other art professionals. Founded in 1986, it has over 350 participants, among them children, youngsters and adults who reside in the Vidigal Morro. In over twenty-five years, most of which relying on their meager finances, Nós do Morro consolidated its roots in the heart of Vidigal while also achieving recognition nationally and internationally.

Nós do Morro was founded by a group of friends inspired by the dream of journalist Guti Fraga, who wanted to create a cultural movement in the Vidigal community, similar to the ones he had seen in Harlem, New York. His idea was to use the local talent to portray the rich universe of the favela and create work of excellence. His conviction in the transformative power of art is clear in his successful history with Nós do Morro. As Fraga explains: “The only way to change stereotypes is through quality. That is the only way. One word that I don’t want near my work is pity. Pity is an ugly word. It makes the pitier feel better and the pitied feel worse. So you have to break through that emotion with quality, first and always.”

 

Click here to read the full article.