I am not the biggest fan of horror and gore and things that go bump in the night. So when it comes time to find a good book to read for Halloween, I look for something spooky enough that I get into the “spirit” of the season but not so scary that I have to sleep with the lights on. I am currently reading Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (which I am loving) and I have The October Country lined up as my next read but for my fellow wimps who are looking for some Halloween reading recommendations, here are some of my favorites.
We’ve entered that magical time of year that I like to call the Summer Shakespeare Season. Everywhere I look there are wonderful productions of Shakespeare plays being staged, usually for free, at local arboretums, college campuses, and even out under the stars in the courtyards of old Gold Coast mansions. Most people have heard of the famous Shakespeare in the Park productions that are held at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park but its popularity can mean that it can be hard to get tickets, (I am still bitter that I missed John Lithgow as King Lear last summer), and not everyone lives within easy distance of NYC. But what most people don’t realize is that amazing performances of wonderful plays are most likely being offered in their own neighborhoods.
Last week, Rob and I saw the final performance of The Long Island Shakespeare Festival’s production of As You Like It. We’ve seen several of the LI Shakespeare Festival productions over the years, including Much Ado About Nothing and MacBeth, and we always enjoy them. (If you are in the Long Island area, I definitely recommend you check them out next summer!)
This was the first time either of us had seen As You Like It performed and we enjoyed it from prime seats in the front row. It seems funny to say this, considering how As You Like It is a comedy, but I was really very surprised by how funny the production was. There’s a scene early on in the play where the hero, Orlando, gets into a wrestling match. When I read the play, I really didn’t stop to think of how that would play out on stage, or if I did, I was expecting something straightforward and quick before the actors got back to the real action of the story. This production went a completely different route, making the wrestling match one of the highlights of the play and mixing Wrestlemania – like moves and broad physical comedy that had us in stitches. (Rob particularly liked the slow motion moments in the action sequence.) The rest of the play was also delightful. The heroine of the play, Rosalind was clever, witty, and utterly charming, as was Danielle Guidi, the actress who portrayed her. I particularly enjoyed Rosalind’s efforts to teach Orlando how to woo and love her properly. (I think lots of women would love a chance to school our significant others in how to treat us in the manner we wish to become accustomed to). All in all, it was a wonderful time seeing a wonderful production of a wonderful play and best of all, it was completely free and right around the corner from our home!
I’ve got so much Shakespeare on my mind lately that I designed two new pieces of Shakespeare jewelry, (a necklace with a beautiful Shakespeare quote from the play, The Tempest, and another necklace featuring the opening lines to my favorite Shakespeare Sonnet) and added them to my Etsy shop.
If you are like me and can’t get enough of the Bard, you can see more of my handmade literary jewelry inspired by the works of William Shakespeare – currently on sale for 10% off – here in the C. S. Literary Jewelry Etsy shop. You can also check this week’s Friday Favorites treasury, a magical, Midsummer Night’s Dream – inspired collection of enchanting Etsy finds. Happy reading everyone and I will see thee again anon!
Hello book lovers! Since we are now halfway through the year, I thought this would be a good time to check in with everyone about the CSLJ Book Club and get some feedback about how things are going and what changes, if any, we want to make to the schedule and format.
First things first, are you enjoying the book club? Do you mostly like the books we are reading? And are you having fun?
Do you feel like you have enough time to read the books? Right now, we have five weeks to read each book. Would you like more time / less time?
I am thinking of moving to an every-other-day schedule for our discussion weeks to cut down on the amount of posting everyone has to do and to give us all time to comment and respond to comments. What do you think?
What did you think of the reading list this year? Is there any books (or genre of books) that you would like to see more of? Do you think we should stick to novels and books or would you be interested in branching out into plays, short stories, and/or poetry?
Do you have any suggestions on how to make the book club more fun?
Also, since we only have four books left on our reading schedule, I’d like to start getting an idea of what books we want to read in 2016. Over the past few months, we have gotten some great book recommendations and I have compiled them into a list, along with a few books that I would be interested in reading. We can definitely add to the list so if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know, but here is the list so far. We have 8 slots to fill so please leave a comment and let me know which books sound interesting to you.
I also thought it would be fun to count down my Top 10 Performances in a William Shakespeare play or film. Here are my favorites:
Alan Cummings – Macbeth
I was fortunate enough to see Alan Cumming’s one-man production of the “Scottish play” for my birthday a few years back. The production was creepy and fascinating and Alan Cumming’s production was nothing short of memorizing. Despite the staggering amount of stamina and emotion that the part demanded, Cummings’ commitment and intensity never flagged and his portrayal of MacBeth, full of sound, fury, and madness, was unforgettable.
I don’t know if we realized it at the time but Mel Gibson had all the qualities necessary to portray the moody Prince Hamlet with just the right mix of good looks, charm, talent, and being more than a little troubled.
Emma Thompson – Beatrice
Although there have been some wonderful productions of Much Ado About Nothing, (one of my favorite Shakespeare plays), Emma Thompson is the quintessential Beatrice and captures the wit and sassiness of this wonderful heroine so beautifully.
Nathan Fillion – Dogberry
There was a lot to love in Joss Whedon’s recent adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing but Nathan Fillion’s performance as the hilariously incompetent Dogberry is one of the best things about the film. Rather than take the role over the top into the realm of slapstick, Fillion played Dogberry’s buffoonery in such a way that it reminded me of far too many people I knew in real life.
Stanley Tucci – Puck
In a film with an amazing cast full of stars, Stanley Tucci’s performance as the merry trickster, Puck, stands out. I am a big Stanley Tucci fan and love almost everything I have ever seen him in but his performance as Puck is one of my favorites.
Kevin Klein – Bottom
Another highlight of the Much Ado About Nothing film was Keven Klein as Bottom. Klein’s portrayal made Bottom the ultimate ex-boyfriend – the sort of loud, braying ass that you are embarrassed to admit you fell for but with just enough charm that you can kinda see why you did. But my favorite part of the performance was the wistful glance he gives a statue of Titania after the night was over, acknowledging how magical the moment they had together was for him and mourning how it was over.
Kenneth Branagh – Iago
To be honest, I could have put Kenneth Branagh on this list several times over by now. He has acted in and directed so many wonderful Shakespeare adaptations. His performance of Benedict opposite Emma Thomspon’s Beatrice was amazing. And there’s this speech:
But my favorite Branagh performance is as Iago in Othello. Branagh plays the two-faced villain so perfectly that it becomes all too easy to see how Othello could fall victim to his treachery and betrayal.
Among Shakespeare fans, Baz Lurhmann is well-known for giving us the manic, modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
Although this production is one of the more polarizing adaptations I know of, it isn’t the reason I included him on this list. Instead, it’s Moulin Rouge that has earned Lurhmann his space here. While it’s not an adaptation of any specific play and I have never heard Lurhmann say that he had Shakespeare in mind when creating the film, I have never seen a modern story so perfectly fit the mold that Shakespeare created for his own plays. From the sad prologue opening of a Feste – like Toulouse singing Nature Boy to the play within a play structure, it is a tale of star cross’d lovers, mistaken identities, poetry and tragedy and comedy provided by the Falstaffian Harold Zidler all mixed together, Moulin Rouge play like a lost Shakespeare play, at least in my humble opinion.
Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey – Romeo and Juliet
The first production I ever saw of any Shakepeare play was the Franco Zeffirelli film of Romeo and Juliet starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. My mother rented it for me on my 13th birthday and I instantly developed an insane crush of Leonard Whiting’s Romeo and a life-long love of Shakespeare.
The entire cast of Shakespeare In Love
Although I originally intended to limit this list to adaptions and performances of actual plays and not open it up to movies based on Shakespeare and his plays, I really couldn’t leave Shakespeare in Love off the list. The entire film is a Shakespeare fan’s delight and had some amazing performances in it. I particularly loved Geoffrey Rush as the theatre owner, Mr. Henslowe and Ben Affleck as Ned Alleyn (and Mercutio). My only problem with the film is that I am not used to looking at Colin Firth as the guy that I don’t want the girl to end up with! After so many years of crushing on his Mr. Darcy, I have trouble getting my head around the concept. But Judi Dench’s hilarious performances a Elizabeth I more than makes up for that one minor little problem.
I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Shakespeare Play and Movie Performances and I would love to hear from you! Which Shakespeare plays are your favorite and what performances, productions, and films would you add to the list? Leave a comment and let me know.
I recently had the opportunity to see the The National Theatre of Great Britain‘s production of Frankenstein, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. I was fortunate that the play, an adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle, was filmed and shown in movie theaters here in the US, otherwise I would have missed out on an amazing production. But when I saw that my local movie theatre had a showing scheduled just days before Halloween, I thought it would be a great way to spend an evening.
One of the things that caught my eye about this production was that the two principle actors, Cumberbatch and Miller, alternated which roles they played, and took turns being Victor Frankenstein and his creation. The version I saw had Jonny Lee Miller as the creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein but I would have loved to see both versions to compare and contrast them.