A Swallow Press Book
By Sidney Homan
"Sidney Homan has the unusual gift for a literary critic of being a good story-teller, and so the moments of rehearsing and trying to find how a complicated text can work on stage come through with vividness and point...Any Shakespearean and any intellectually curious actor or director would find substantial value and interest in Directing Shakespeare."
Robert Pierce, author of Shakespeare's History Plays
An impossible question from a Chinese actor—“Why is Shakespeare eternal?”—drove Sidney Homan after fifty years in the theater to ponder just what makes Shakespeare...well, Shakespeare. The result, Directing Shakespeare, reflects the two worlds in which Homan operates—as a scholar and teacher on campus, and as a director and actor in professional and university theaters. His concern is the entire process, beginning in the lonely period when the director develops a concept, and moving into increasingly larger realms: interaction with stage designers; rehearsals; and performances in which the audience’s response further shapes the play.
Homan recounts the experience of staging King Lear accompanied by a musical score for piano, violin, and cello played live onstage. He discusses the challenge of making and trying to justify cuts in Hamlet. A casual remark from an actress leads to a feminist production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He describes the delicate collaboration between director and performer as he works with actors preparing for The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Hamlet. Other chapters treat a set designer’s bold red drapes that influenced the director’s concept for Julius Caesar, and the cross-influence of back-to-back runs of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstsern Are Dead and Hamlet.
In a highly personal concluding chapter, Homan tells of joyously working with a spontaneous young actor playing Puck and with an audience of unruly teenagers who wept at a performance of Lear.
Delightfully written, and filled with practical insights, Directing Shakespeare draws together scholars, critics, and those who work in the theater to bring the written word to life.
Sidney Homan is a professor of English at the University of Florida as well as an actor and director. His books include When the Theater Turns to Itself, Shakespeare's Theatre of Presence, and Beckett's Theatres. More info →
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Shakespeare in Production examines a number of plays in context. Included are the 1936 Romeo and Juliet, unpopular with critics of filmed Shakespeare, but very much a “photoplay” if its time; the opening sequences of filmed Hamlets which span more than seventy years; The Comedy of Errors on television, where production of this script is almost impossible; and the Branagh Much Ado About Nothing, a “popular” film discussed in the context of comedy as a genre.
Samuel Crowl's Shakespeare at the Cineplex: The Kenneth Branagh Era is the first thorough exploration of the fifteen major Shakespeare films released since the surprising success of Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (1989). Crowl presents the rich variety of these films in the “long decade: between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.”
Shakespeare’s King Lear appears twice in the records of dramatic performances before the closing of the theaters in 1642. The King’s Men played it before the King’s Majesty in Whitehall on December 26, 1606. The Lord Cholmeley’s Players gave it at Gowthwaite, a manor house of Sir John and Dame Julyan Yorke, Nidderdale, West Riding, in Candlemas, 1610.