All posts by Bill Walthall

After graduating from UCLA with a degree in English and a teaching credential, Bill Walthall returned to his hometown in Ventura County, California, to teach English and drama at Oxnard and Hueneme High Schools. Having spent a decade in the classroom, he took a year off to recharge his batteries, but was pulled into the private-sector rat race as a technology consultant. In the last handful of years, however, he has rekindled his passion for literature and education. He launched his blog, The Bill / Shakespeare Project, where he brings not only a fun, accessible yet still scholarly approach to a play-by-play analysis of Shakespeare’s works, but also the latest and greatest in Willy Shakespeare headlines every week in his “This Week in Shakespeare” podcast.

Polixenes and Leontes: fear and loathing in Sicilia

In The Winter’s Tale, we get another male lover who fears cuckoldry. Leontes follows a line of others: Ford (Merry Wives, completely comic), Claudio (Much Ado, comic with tragic tinges), Othello (just plain tragic), and Posthumus (Cymbeline, ditto). A couple of months back, I wrote a paper on military homosociality and the fear of cuckoldry in Much Ado and Othello. Tomorrow, I deliver a talk on it at the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Wooden O Symposium (and nervous as hell, to be completely honest with you…but that’s besides the point).

So the timing’s right to take a look at this concept (briefly before I catch my flight)…

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The Winter’s Tale — Staging: the bear

The Winter’s Tale has, arguably, the most famous stage direction in history: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Now, I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s day, but legend has it that bear-baiting bears were used, or possibly a man in one of the deceased bear-baiting animal skins. Now, in a film, you could actually have him pursued by a bear (though that BBC version opts for the man-in-a-bear-suit route…with one of the most ridiculously fake bear suits I’ve ever seen). But in a theater? With real-life audience members (who you would like not to become late audience members)?

Now, as part of a BBC Radio show, actor David Tennant discussed the problem for “Just a Minute”…pretty entertaining and a great summing up of the issue:

But the question remains, how do you stage it?

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Friday Film Focus: The Winter’s Tale (1981; BBC)

It’s now August and a Friday, which means a new summer blockbuster is being released: The Dark Tower which might be cool (dig Idris Elba, but man, those early reviews have been BRU-tal…anyways…)…but that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today, we take a look at one of the only widely released films of The Winter’s Tale, the BBC Complete Works entry from 1981.

Leontes is not a happy camper

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The Winter’s Tale: Hamlet and fardels and bears, oh my

As I’m re-reading The Winter’s Tale (while in my final days in Ashland, watching some really good Shakespeare, and while attempting to write a paper on King Lear with a medical diagnosis of narcissism–the former successfully and happily; the latter…not so much), I’m noticing some words coming up with more frequency than I expected: “fardel” and “bear.”

Oh, my.

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The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 31st, 2017

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This week’s Shakespeare news review podcast includes disruptive audiences, troubled youth, friendship, and a boatload of reviews. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 31st, 2017

Theater review: Julius Caesar by Oregon Shakespeare Festival

On the final night of our trip, we caught Julius Caesar in the indoor Bowmer Theater. Directed by Shana Cooper, this was a modern-dress production, with an incredible set designed by Sibyl Wickersheimer, a visual representation of decay: what looks to be unfinished staging (the sides of the stage floor exposed, the “stairs” made up of building materials that have been left behind or discarded), gray flats that are partially cracked, broken, falling apart (literally, as one chunk falls off midway through the first act).

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Theater review: Off the Rails by Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Saturday afternoon, we caught Off the Rails, a world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The play, written by Randy Reinholz, and directed by Bill Rauch, OSF’s Artistic Director, is a reimagining of Measure for Measure set in the American Wild (mid)West of the 1880s, when Native American children were rounded up and moved from their families into government-funded boarding schools, in an effort to remove their heritage and make them “Americans.” The performance we saw, I believe, was the last preview performance before its opening on Sunday, July 30.

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Theater review: The Merry Wives of Windsor by Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Thursday night, we caught a different Falstaff in the outdoor theater’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. I don’t know where to begin. Maybe it was that this came after the two heavier histories, but I had an absolute blast. I haven’t laughed this much in a long time. I can’t stop grinning now. My wife says this may be the most entertaining Shakespeare she has ever seen.

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Theater review: The First and Second Parts of Henry IV by Oregon Shakespeare Festival

OK, as I mentioned yesterday, they’re doing something very interesting with the two parts of Henry the Fourth this year at Ashland. They’re doing both in the smaller, more flexible Thomas Theatre. With the same cast. The same set. Different directors. And because of this, I wanted to wait until I saw both before reviewing them…so today, you get two for the price of one: the two parts of Henry IV, and tomorrow you’ll get The Merry Wives of Windsor.

On Wednesday night, we caught The First Part of Henry IV. Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, it’s set modern-dress (I’m guessing this may be a holdover from last year’s Richard II, or it might be a individual choice by Blain-Cruz, which then affected the choices made by Carl Cofield for Part Two. The set is modern and non-representational (save for the throne that sits up in the last row of the audience (in the round)…and this totally feels like a holdover from Richard.

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The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 24th, 2017

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This week’s Shakespeare news review podcast includes Roman histories about our present, punk rock, drunk Titus, Michelle Terry, and lots of reviews. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 24th, 2017

Late to the party…again

A couple of weeks back, Lisa and I caught Kingsmen Shakespeare Love’s Labor’s Lost on its final weekend, so I really didn’t get to properly give it a push (or rather give readers a push to go see it). Well, it’s happened again: this time we caught Independent Shakespeare Company’s always FREE production of Measure for Measure this past Thursday. And it closed last night.

I would have loved to write about it for Saturday’s blog (then at least people could still catch one of two remaining performances), but for some reason, I couldn’t wrap my head around the experience (seriously).

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