Titus Andronicus: All The Deaths

If it seems to you like I revisit the death toll of Titus Andronicus with disproportionate frequency… you’re right, and that’s because it will never not be hilarious. Here’s a video of me methodically illustrating all of them. (One of my pens started to run out of ink partway through, but fortunately it wasn’t my red pen.)

This video comes to you courtesy of all my awesome supporters over at Patreon. Thanks to all of them for helping make it possible for me to do what is, objectively, a dream job.

I’m taking the next two weeks off! Enjoy your summers and I’ll see you back here in August.

The Crew of the U.S.S. Shakespeare

I’m a huge Star Trek nerd, and, as I am in the midst of a long-running TNG/DS9/VOY rewatch project, it seemed only natural to figure out which Shakespearean characters would make the ideal Federation starship crew. Here are my (totally non-definitive) picks:

CAPTAIN HENRY V: This one is kind of a no-brainer. The captain has to be decisive, able to command with a mixture of compassion and discipline, inspire loyalty in his crew, and accept ultimate responsibility for the ship. Henry V ticks all those boxes.

FIRST OFFICER ROSALIND: Rosalind’s ability to manage numerous moving parts and get people to do exactly what she wants them to make her an excellent choice for first officer. A natural leader, she stands ready to take over should the captain be incapacitated, and also will not hesitate to call the captain out if she thinks he is making a mistake.

COUNSELOR PAULINA: Paulina is not your touchy-feely empathic counselor. She is a no-nonsense problem solver. If you are having a problem, she will fix it. It might not be a pleasant experience for anyone involved, but you will come out the other side a better person. Probably.

OPERATIONS OFFICER ARIEL: Nobody is quite sure exactly what it is the operations officer does, but the bottom line is that he’s responsible for keeping the ship running smoothly. The airy spirit Ariel is more than capable of monitoring all of the starship’s complex systems and addressing any problems before they get too troublesome.

CHIEF ENGINEER PORTIA: The chief engineer of a starship has to be a consummate problem solver, able to quickly adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and come up with innovative and effective solutions. All this leads to Portia—the one from The Merchant of Venice—who is constantly overcoming obstacles in unexpected ways. If there’s a loophole in the laws of physics, she will find it.

TACTICAL OFFICER & SECURITY CHIEF CORIOLANUS: Battles must be won! Order must be maintained! Coriolanus’s single-minded adherence to those two maxims make him the ideal tactical officer and security chief. Fortunately for him, his excellence in those fields balances out his total lack of interpersonal skills and objectively objectionable personality.

MEDICAL OFFICER HELENA: She’s still relatively junior, but Helena—the one from All’s Well That Ends Well— shows great promise as a doctor. Able to blend established practices with new technological and pharmacological innovations, she is on the cutting edge of medical research, and does her best to keep her crew healthy.

HELMSMAN PERICLES: Pericles is more at home sailing between the stars than he is on the ground. OK, one time he piloted a starship into a gravimetric distortion and ended up having to abandon ship, but that was a while ago, and he’s got the hang of it now. Honestly.

SCIENCE OFFICER FRIAR LAURENCE: Friar Laurence is an avid xenobotanist. Nothing makes him happier than collecting plant samples from alien planets and then conducting weird experiments in his lab. He was demoted to ensign after the infamous Sleeping Death Replicator Virus incident, but he’s promised not to make that mistake again.

Thanks to my Shakespeare consultant Kate Pitt and my Star Trek consultant (and Star Trek re-watching buddy) James for letting me bounce these extremely nerdy ideas off of them.

Malvolio's Revolve

The joy of Shakespeare is that even if you see the same play dozens of times, each production is its own, unique experience.

Having said that… there are certain bits of stage business that often crop up in numerous productions. One of my favorites is Malvolio’s revolve.

Just for fun, here are various examples of Malvolio’s revolve that have been captured on film:

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Alec Guinness in the 1970 ITV Saturday Night Theatre production does the classic dubious, self-conscious revolve, although Sir Toby and his gang are safely behind a hedge and don’t have to hide.

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Nicholas Pennell in this 1986 filmed production at the Stratford Festival of Canada executes a confident and rarely-seen double revolve, forcing his peanut gallery to duck out of sight.

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In this filmed version of the Renaissance Theatre Company’s 1988 production, Richard Briers executes a very slow , dubious revolve that is notable for being counter-clockwise. In my experience, most Malvolios revolve in a clockwise direction.

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Finally, this Stratford Festival production milks the revolve for all it’s worth, with Tom Rooney’s Malvolio turning at just the right speed to miss Sir Andrew’s desperate dash across the stage.

Some productions choose to have Malvolio turn the letter around, rather than himself. Others either blow past the line without acknowledging its comedic gag potential, or cut it in its entirety. All are valid choices, but honestly… why look a gift gag in the mouth?

Ophelia's Grave Relations Raccoons

On Tuesday we looked at one of my favorite outdoor Shakespeare performance anecdotes, Squirrel Butt Romeo. Actor and fight director Geoffrey Kent (currently appearing at the American Shakespeare Center as Antony, Antony, and some other guy who is not Antony) has so far been the closest to unseating Squirrel Butt Romeo, with this spectacular trainwreck:

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This is one case in which I feel the comic cannot capture the absurdity of the actual event. Anyways, things apparently got weirder after that:

So… do you have an outdoor Shakespeare anecdote that can beat that?

Squirrel Butt Romeo

I love Shakespeare performance anecdotes, so I was delighted when a recent Twitter conversation about outdoor Shakespeare productions started to generate a “best of” list of natural calamities.

Here is my current favorite, as supplied by my friend Kate Powers, director, educator, founder of the Redeeming Time Project, and all-around excellent Shakespeare geek.

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More anecdotes coming. If you think you have an anecdote that can compete with Squirrel Butt Romeo, leave me a comment or add to this Twitter thread:

Shakespeare Yoga, part 1

So, back in April the Shakespeare Association of America conference offered morning “Shakespeare Yoga” sessions. This basically meant regular yoga with a Shakespeare-inspired soundtrack, but I thought it would be fun to codify some classic Shakespearean yoga poses.

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Consulting pocket dramaturg: Kate Pitt, as usual.

If you can think of a Shakespeare equivalent for ‘chaturanga dandasana’, leave me a comment below. I’ve spent way too much time thinking about it.

Disguise

You know the classic Shakespearean trope where one character (usually a girl disguising herself as a boy) changes her hairstyle or puts on a hat and is suddenly TOTALLY UNRECOGNIZABLE to even her closest friends and family?

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Apparently we shouldn’t dismiss it that quickly, based on the real life experiences of my Shakespearean BFF, Kate Pitt.

Shakespeare GIFs, part 1

Animated GIFs have, for better or worse, become an integral part of how we communicate on social media. While they perhaps don’t elevate a conversation to the same degree that a well-constructed pithy rejoinder would, they are pretty darn entertaining. The only problem? There are never enough Shakespeare GIFs out there! Here are some ones I’ve made that might prove useful in online discourse.

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Henry V, 1944

Henry V, 1944

Hamlet, 1996

Hamlet, 1996

Twelfth Night, 2012

Twelfth Night, 2012

As You Like It, 2006

As You Like It, 2006

Coriolanus, 2014

Coriolanus, 2014

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1968

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1968

If there any particular filmed Shakespeare moment you think would be a good GIF, drop me a comment below and I’ll get to work on it.