Theater Review: Henry IV by Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

Lisa and I headed down to Los Angeles to catch Henry IV, presented by the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles in the Japanese Garden at the Veterans Administration complex in Westwood.

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Antony and Cleopatra’s history, man (again)

OK, so some scattered thoughts for this Saturday morning, re: Antony and Cleopatra, history, theater, and–believe it or not–Alexander Hamilton…

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Antony and Cleopatra: one last thing about Octavia

Yesterday, I looked at Octavia’s four appearances in Antony and Cleopatra, and that truly bizarre exchange with her brother Octavian Caesar in Act Three, Scene Two.

Today, just one more thing about her (not from Shakespeare, but from history)…

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Podcast 135: Antony and Cleopatra — Historical challenges

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This week’s podcast continues our three month-long discussion of Antony and Cleopatra with a look back at the history behind the play, its production challenges, and a quick look ahead to a CONTEST!

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Cleo’s history

OK, for the last few days, we’ve been looking at the Cleopatra we think we know. But how does Antony and Cleopatra change when faced with the historical facts as we know them?

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Why, Myth Cleo, what a hithtory you have…

Yesterday, I talked a little of the prevailing public persona of character of Cleopatra, and tried to separate the myth from the historical figure. While some might see the image of sexual manipulator of men, as seen in Antony and Cleopatra, as some kind of weird, Bizarro-World proto-feminist symbol of empowerment, I think it’s fairly safe to say that this kind of reductive thinking and positioning of the character is something less than positive.

But how did we get here?

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When Dickey met Cleo

OK, so what does a director do when she has a historical character whose persona is so ingrained in the public imagination that no matter what the actual history says, the average audience member brings to the performance an image that creates (and sometimes overpowers) what she finds on stage. The classic example is the historical Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the hatchet-job Willy Shakes did in Richard III. A king known for legal reform that helped the common man, the historical Richard suffered from scoliosis but did not appear deformed. Shakespeare’s Richard, however, is a hunchbacked, withered-armed, limping personification of evil. And that dictates the kind of Richard we continue to get on stage.

Why do I bring this up?

We face the same problem in this play with the distaff half of Antony and Cleopatra.

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Antony’s history, man…

As I’ve noted many times in the past, Shakespeare and history have a rather tempestuous relationship. When it suits his dramatic purposes, history becomes a blueprint for structure. When history doesn’t play well with his dramatic purposes, he does what any playwright would do: f(orget) history. We know in Julius Caesar, he left out much, and compressed time greatly. Let’s see what the relationship is like in this pseudo-sequel Antony and Cleopatra.

Before I actually read Antony and Cleopatra, I thought the play took place a long time after the events of Julius Caesar. Boy, was I wrong…

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A tease

OK, folks, you know me, always thinkin’…

And you know, I do workshops and presentations on Shakespeare. In the last year and a half, I’ve delivered talks on sonnets, blank verse, teaching Shakespeare, Shakespeare resources, the historical context of Julius Caesar, and Time in Romeo and Juliet.

But now I’m working on something new…

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