Archive for the ‘ShakesFilm’ Category

The next Shakespeare Film at the Bama Theatre will be Shakespeare Behind Bars, which was postponed last month due to tornado warnings.Shakespeare Behind Bars

Also, if you missed The Bad Sleep Well last week, you can find Brett Chatham’s program notes here:

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (~1600)

Despite its reputation among Shakespeareans, The Bad Sleep Well is not “Kurosawa’s Hamlet.” To clarify, the Japanese film does not merely set the play’s plot against the backdrop of a corrupt corporate culture. Several adaptations of the English play are just that and little more (see, for example, Michael Almereyda’s 2000 film), but Hamlet has more than proven its richness as a source of artistic inspiration. Of course, the Bard borrowed most of his plots; his audience was likely familiar with the cry “Hamlet, revenge!” before ever seeing Shakespeare’s Ghost on the Globe stage. Revenge tragedies dominated Elizabethan stages and pages, and generic conventions—such as murder, usurpation, and the supernatural—certainly perpetuated the popularity of Shakespeare’s play early on. But as Western culture began to focus more on the individual and interiority, directors still found Hamlet easily adaptable to the zeitgeist. From Germany to Russia to Japan, cultures quite different from Shakespeare’s England have interpreted the Prince of Denmark as a man who speaks and thinks for them as well. The role’s versatility helps explain its universality, and in a way, Shakespeare’s play has become everyone’s. Consider as well Kurosawa has acknowledged his admiration for Shakespeare generally and Hamlet specifically on several occasions—though he never mentioned it as an inspiration for The Bad Sleep Well. So, while we can claim Kurosawa does not, strictly speaking, adapt the play in his film, we can hardly deny he appropriates many of the play’s themes to serve his own story of madness, suicide, and especially, revenge.

Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

Laurence Olivier famously introduced his 1948 film adaptation of Hamlet as “the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind”; Kurosawa’s hero, Nishi, is not that man. Throughout the play, Hamlet wavers between killing his uncle and killing himself, revenge or suicide. Nishi, however, commits to his plan, avenging his father’s coerced suicide, long before the action of the film even begins. The Bad Sleep Well begins with an accusatory wedding cake and ends with an ominous phone call, and in every scene between the two, the film upsets the expectations of any audience who presumes to know how “Kurosawa’s Hamlet” should play out. Parallels to the play abound, but they are so intricately woven into this tightly knit noir that teasing out each strand would prematurely unravel many of the film’s mysteries. Film critic Chuck Stephens calls The Bad Sleep Well a “gray flannel ghost story in which the living haunt the dead,” and so, we may expect uncanny film noir. Shakespearean Kaori Ashizu claims the film is about “the ways in which an extraordinary mixing of feudal and modern attitudes empowers corruption,” and so, we may expect a sociological analysis of postwar Japan. Kurosawa himself said he wanted to expose those who “hide behind the facade of some great organization like a company or a corporation—and consequently no one ever really knows how dreadful they are, what awful things they do.” And so, we may expect fictionalized investigative journalism. And although no one above mentions the play, we can readily read references to Hamlet in each comment. The more we try to think about the film and the play separately, the more we dwell on their relationship. Should we view the film as commenting on the play’s themes or vice versa? The answer, quite clearly, is yes.

~Brett Chatham

The Bad Sleep Well, Shakespeare Film Posters

The staged reading of Richard III was a great success, and I’ll have some audio posted from it later this week. First I have an announcement about two Shakepseare events happening next week.

Shakespeare Behind Bars

Shakespeare Film Posters, Shakespeare Behind Bars copy

Hudson Strode’s next Shakespeare On Film offering will be Shakespeare Behind Bars, next Monday, October 13th, at 7:30pm at the Bama Theatre. Here’s what Ben Moran has to say about the film:

Shakespeare Behind Bars, directed by Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller (2005)

The Luther Luckett Correctional Complex might be the last place one would expect to find Shakespeare. A medium-security Kentucky prison surrounded by guard towers and razor-wire, it houses 1100 convicts, including murderers, rapists, and child molesters. Yet once a week, Curt Tofteland, program director of Shakespeare Behind Bars, visits this island of concrete and steel to help a group of inmates prepare a Shakespearean play. As part of their rehabilitative efforts, the members of this troupe spend a year with one text, rehearsing for a springtime production to be staged before their families and fellow inmates. For the year depicted in Shakespeare Behind Bars, the cast selects The Tempest as its play. Almost instantly, the prisoners begin unwittingly merging with the characters they perform. Between rehearsals, they play out their own anger and guilt, relaying, as Prospero does, their histories and the causes of their present conditions. Hal (Prospero) grapples with his troubled family history, sexuality, and role as a father, all while playing a different father on stage. Red (Miranda) initially rebels against his role; he bickers with his stage father during practice before recounting his own difficult upbringing. A beast of a man, Big G (Caliban) also must come to terms with his crime and the fact that he, like Caliban, has grown up in bondage. Each man has reason enough to remain angry at the world around him. Yet each holds onto the hope that somehow he can atone for his sins. Realizing they too are “such stuff / As dreams are made on,” bound to fade “like this insubstantial pageant,” the cast members desire the smallest of salvations. As Leonard (Antonio) articulates, they can only aspire to be remembered for something other than the worst things they have done. Staging Shakespeare does not resolve their problems, but by the time of their spring performance, the prison troupe gives us reason to believe that doing so has set their sole aspiration within reach.

~Ben Moran

Shakespeare and the First Folio


On Thursday, October 16th at 7:30pm at the Paul R. Jones art gallery, IF will hold its third Shakespeare in Performance workshop, Shakespeare’s First Folio: An Actor’s Tool, led by Nic Barilar. This hour-long workshop explores the creative and interpretative hints “hidden” in Shakespeare’s First Folio and how actors use these cues in performance. The workshop will include an introductory history of the Folio (the first collection of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623), a demonstration of some of the major differences between the Folio and modern editions of the plays, and, of course, explanations regarding how to use the text in performance. The evening will conclude with a brief exercise practicing the technique.

There’s an abundance of Shakespeare in Tuscaloosa this fall! Here are some of the offerings.



This fall, Improbable Fictions will be hosting a series of one-hour workshops on Shakespeare in performance. Our first event will be this coming Thursday, September 11th at 7:30, when Mark Hughes Cobb will lead a workshop entitled “Rude Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing and Outdoor Performance.” Mark will discuss the history of the Rude Mechanicals, a Tuscaloosa Shakespeare troupe, and will break down key skills actors and directors use when preparing Shakespeare’s plays for a contemporary outdoor setting. Audience participation will be encouraged.

Later workshops include: September 25th: An Introduction to Shakespearean Acting, led by Prof. Seth Panitch; October 16th: First Folio Techniques, led by Nic Barilar; and October 23rd: Speak the Speech, led by Prof. Steve Burch.

All workshops will be held downtown at the Paul R. Jones Art Gallery, 2308 6th Street, Tuscaloosa at 7:30pm each evening. These events are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies at the University of Alabama.


Shakespeare Film Posters jpg

This year the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies begins a Shakespeare on Film series at the Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa. All films are free and open to the public. We’ve scheduled a range of films, some you’ve no doubt seen and loved, others you’ve not. We offer a teen Taming in Ten Things About You, which stars Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and we offer an African American Taming in Deliver Us From Eva! We offer the unnerving noir of The Bad Sleep Well, in which a young Japanese executive tracks down his father’s killer; we balance that Hamlet with To Be or Not to Be, a serious comedy starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard, shot during World War II. We offer song and dance in West Side Story and Love’s Labor’s Lost. We offer Robby the Robot and film’s first $1,000,000 budget in Forbidden Planet. Inspiration is offered for a lot less; in Shakespeare Behind Bars, one can appreciate the efforts of theater professionals working with inmates as they try to change their lives. Please enjoy for the first time or again! 

Here is the line-up:

* September 15, 2014: Strode Film SeriesTen Things I Hate About You
* October 13, 2014: Strode Film Series – Shakespeare Behind Bars
* November 4, 2014: Strode Film Series – The Bad Sleep Well
* December 16, 2014: Strode Film Series – To Be Or Not to Be
* January 19, 2015: Strode Film Series – West Side Story
* February 16, 2015: Strode Film Series – Deliver Us From Eva
* March 11, 2015: Strode Film Series – Forbidden Planet
* April 27, 2015: Strode Film Series – Love’s Labour’s Lost

All films start at 7:30pm, and are free and open to the public.

Staged Readings:

Improbable Fictions will present two staged readings this semester: Richard III on Wed, Oct 1st, directed by Nic Helms, and As You Like It on Thurs. Dec 4th, directed by Deborah Parker.  Both staged readings will be held in the Dinah Washington black box theatre at the Tuscaloosa Cultural Arts Center. Shows start at 7:30pm, with pre-show music at 7:00pm. Free and open to the public.

On Stage:

The University of Alabama’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, adapted and directed by Seth Panitch, from November 18-23. The play is set in 1920s New Orleans, and will involve elements of jazz and voodoo. Tickets can be purchased online or at UATD’s box office on campus.

POSTPONED. Cause April is crazy.

Film noir.  Boxing.  A plot straight out of Greek tragedy.  Come see Robert Wise’s 1949 The Set-Up this Sunday at 7:00 in MR 301.


Shakesfilm: Chimes at Midnight

Posted: March 31, 2011 by nrhelms in ShakesFilm
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Join us this Sunday at 7:00 in Morgan 301 for Orson Welles’ 1965 masterpiece Chimes at Midnight, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV.1, Henry IV.2, and Merry Wives of Windsor. Welles’ film catches all the best bits of Falstaff and gives the knight a tragic tale fit for his stature.

As always, free and open to the public.

Shakesfilm: Branagh’s *As You Like It*

Posted: February 26, 2011 by nrhelms in ShakesFilm

Sunday at 7:00 in MR 301: Kenneth Branagh’s 2006 As You Like It.