Jul 27, 2009
A group of UCLA undergrads are getting ready for the trip of a lifetime: traveling to Shakespeare's old stomping grounds with a pair of profs to study the Bard's plays, then watch them in the theater.
It's an extravagant spin on the usual English-major Shakespeare requirement, and a mash-up of serious studying, big-budget shows and traveling abroad. Throughout the month-long trip, a handful of the students will blog about their visit, from being a groundling in the audience of the famous Globe Theater, to hanging out post-performance with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the actors' favored pub, the Dirty Duck.
The students — mostly English majors — will get expert insight from UCLA professors Jonathan Post
and A.R. Braunmuller
before experiencing the plays on the stage. They'll live in London, where many of Shakespeare's plays debuted, and Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's home and the site of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Among the treats awaiting them are a London performance of Hamlet starring movie star Jude Law
and The Winter's Tale featuring
famed Shakespearean actor Simon Russell Beale and film star Ethan Hawke.
Read more about the program in this article from UCLA Today, Bruins in Bardland: blogging abroad
, or read the UCLA news release
. Bruins in Bardland is a joint project by UCLA Today, UCLA Magazine, UCLA's International Education Office, and our wonderful volunteer bloggers.
Jul 29, 2009
When I was in college, I don't think I ever had a syllabus that looked this much fun. The students will attend seven performances of Shakespeare's plays, including two each of The Winter's Tale and As You Like It, getting a chance to compare two different theater companies' styles. Here's an abridged version of the schedule provided by Professor Jonathan Post. Students have class two to four hours daily, and after seeing a performance, chances are one of the actors, a director, set designer, costumer or otherwise awesome member of the cast or crew will appear in class to answer questions and explain interpretations.
LONDON - STRATFORD SCHEDULE: SHAKESPEARE 2009-Draft
Fri., July 31 Check into the hotel in London
Sun., Aug. 2 The Winter’s Tale lecture + section
Mon., Aug. 3 The Winter’s Tale lecture
The Winter’s Tale PERFORMANCE (Old Vic)
Jul 31, 2009
The Bruins have arrived in London! They're settling into the hotel today, weighing what to explore first: Westminster Abbey? The British Museum? The Rose Theatre? The Tower of London? So many capitalized choices.
Class starts Sunday, and Monday they see The Winter's Tale at the Old Vic theater, with famed Shakespearean actor Simon Russell Beale and film star Ethan Hawke (Gattaca, Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites).
On a bit of a pop-culture note, Hamlet will have a Hollywood-studded cast, too. The students have to wait until Aug. 19 to see the performance, with Jude Law (Cold Mountain, Alfie, The Talented Mr. Ripley ... and Gattaca) in the title roll, but Simon Pegg fans (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and devotees of Disney's Pirates franchise will also recognize all the parents: Gertrude is played by Penelope Wilton, aka Shaun's sweetly dippy mom Barbara in Shaun of the Dead; Claudius is played by Kevin R. McNally, or Jack Sparrow's alcoholic right-hand man Mr. Gibbs from all three Pirates; and Polonius is played by Ron Cook, known as George Merchant, the "little drunk" "fridge magnate" in Hot Fuzz. I'm trying to imagine the version of Hamlet those three will cook up. I would love to see that play.
Aug 05, 2009
Curious to know more about what the bloggers are up to? Get some background from the UCLA Today article. The blog is also the topic of a UCLA news release issued this morning:
From being a groundling in the audience of the famous Globe Theatre to...
Aug 10, 2009
With visits to places like The Old Vic and the historic Globe Theatre, this ain't no community theater the students are attending. Critics are also attending — and reviewing — these plays. Immerse yourself a little deeper in the travel-study experience by reading up on the plays these Bruins bloggers have seen so far, starting with The Winter's Tale
, performed at The Old Vic
. You can also read the students' impressions, collected here
.Reviewed by The Guardian
Its high point comes when Rebecca Hall as a wonderfully ashen Hermione tells Simon Russell Beale's Leontes, "My life stands in the level of your dreams." ... I was less taken with the festive scenes, which take the form of a pastoral hoedown suggestive more of Oklahoma than Bohemia.Read more reviews...
Aug 11, 2009
The students are attending popular, high-end performances of plays during their time abroad — and so are the critics. Immerse
yourself a little deeper in the travel-study experience by reading reviews of
the plays these Bruins bloggers have seen so far. This time, read up on the second performance they attended: As You Like It at The Globe Theatre
. Compare the reviews to the students' impressions
.Reviewed by The Telegraph
almost continuously enchanting ... At this address one always feels
especially close to Shakespeare and individual lines take on a sudden
resonance. When Jaques delivers his great Seven Ages of Man speech,
beginning "All the world's a stage", it seems to have been written
explicitly for the Globe.Reviewed by The Guardian
Thea Sharrock serves it up exactly as I like it: a production of such
sweet humour and wit that you find yourself surrendering to it just as
Rosalind allows herself to surrender to love. ... There is a growing
physical abandon in [Naomi] Frederick's performance [as Rosalind] as
she lets love in. Watching her makes you feel a little giddy.
Read more reviews...
Aug 11, 2009
The Shakespeare bloggers have had their taste of big-city life in London; now they've moved to the English countryside. They'll return to London, but for about a week, they'll live in Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, where they'll wa...
Aug 12, 2009
Vacationing vicariously through the Bardland bloggers? Join more of the action by reading up on the plays the students are seeing. Read what critics have had to say about the Royal Shakespeare Company's Julius Caesar performance the students attended Tuesday at The Courtyard Theatre. You can also read the Royal Shakespeare Company's plot synopsis, or compare the professional reviews to our bloggers' reactions. Reviewed by the Daily Express
[Director] Lucy Bailey's production of Julius Caesar does not stint on blood and even manages to squeeze a few laughs out of the political tragedy ... With a bank of swivelling screens and a larger video wall at the back, Bailey conjures up the crowds and architecture of ancient Rome with reasonable economy, even if the video loops tend to be a bit distracting after a while. ... It is powerful, muddy and bloody but at the expense of clear political argument and humanity. Schoolboys, however, will love it. Read on...
Aug 14, 2009
Feel like you're missing out by not attending the plays? Let the local critics take you there with their rundowns of the same plays the bloggers are attending. The students latest visit was to the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of The Winter's Tale in Stratford-upon-Avon
, giving them a unique chance to compare two theater companies' performances of the same play.
Below are the reviews of the Stratford play; click here
to compare it to critics' take on the London production, or read the RSC sysnopsis
.Reviewed by the London Evening Standard
David Farr, in an exuberant first job as the RSC's new associate director, certainly throws everything at it. To his great credit, nearly all of it sticks, leading us meaningfully from the chilly, jealous Sicilia of the first half to the loopy rural Bohemia of the second, to that wonderful ultimate thawing of winter-hardened hearts.Reviewed by The Guardian
We are in a cultivated, frock-coated world where all seems high pleasure until the eruption of Leontes' jealousy. And Greg Hicks offers a riveting and plausible portrait of a man who seems the victim of an insane dream. ... Sure-footed in Sicilia, the production goes a bit berserk in Bohemia. Antigonus, instead of exiting pursued by a bear, sacrifices himself to a monster-puppet. ... [and] although Brian Doherty holds things together as Autolycus, my heart sank when a satyrs' dance was performed by more book-swathed forms with aubergines between their legs. But the play itself works.Read on...
Aug 14, 2009
Read all about the latest play the bloggers attended — the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of As You Like It at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford
— in the newspaper reviews of the same show. Catch yourself up on the story by reading the RSC plot synopsis
, and compare the critics' thoughts to our bloggers' reactions
.Reviewed by the London Evening Standard
There should be lots to charm us in this delightful comedy of disguised identity and wooing by proxy but here too much is strain and struggle. ... [The] production shifts gradually from traditional to modern dress ... [the] tedious design makes an IKEA-look white backdrop for the court scenes open partially to reveal stacks of straw for a tree-less forest, a peculiar decision when a key plot point has Orlando (Jonjo O'Neill) carving his love poems ... on the trunks. No wonder O'Neill looks as though being in love is a hassle he could well do without.Reviewed by the Guardian
Duke Frederick's court is a tyranny where black-costumed Elizabethans move in regimented order against an imposing, white-panelled wall. ... [Set designer Tom] Piper's back wall slowly opens up like an advent calendar to give us glimpses of a flowering countryside ... [Director Michael] Boyd gives us the play's dark side, but, as shown by the way we discover Orlando's love letters strewn on the streets around the theatre, he captures the profligate ecstasy of passion, too.
Aug 14, 2009
Aug 14, 2009
Sean Fallon, an English major and recent UCLA grad who traveled England
on the Shakespeare program last summer, shared this enviable
remembrance of Stratford when I interviewed him about the program:
"When we were in Stratford, on Sundays there would be a big roast dinner they would have for us at the hotel, and prior to that, we would go to church for Evensong, a ritual service that the Church of England has had forever. It usually involves a lot of singing — it's like a sung mass.
"Even when I'm in L.A., I'm not a devout or even practicing religious person, but it was really nice to go and experience that particular ritual, in that particular church where Shakespeare is buried and where he worshiped during his life— that was one of the few places I felt a real connection because there I was, performing the same thing he had.
"I mean, they had houses of his and things, but God bless 'em, that's not his real bed, that's no longer his furniture, or how he decorated— it's an interpretation.
"But that's his real church. That's the real place, and it's the same service."
Read on, but beware the geese...
Aug 20, 2009
I don't know enough about the London theater scene to recognize what are surely major stage stars, but there are four actors many Americans know from the movies. Hamlet is played by movie star Jude Law (Cold Mountain
, The Talented Mr. Ripley
); Gertrude is played by Penelope Wilton, aka Shaun's sweetly dippy mom Barbara in Shaun of the Dead
; Claudius is played by Kevin R. McNally, or Jack Sparrow's alcoholic right-hand man Mr. Gibbs from all three Pirates of the Carribean
movies; and Polonius is played by Ron Cook, known as George Merchant, the "little drunk" "fridge magnate" in Hot Fuzz
. Although, who knows how many of them will join Jude Law when the production hops the pond and appears on Broadway
Regardless, with a cast like this, you know you want to know more about the production
. Read the bloggers' impressions of the play here
, and read below to see what the professional reviewers thought:The Guardian's review of the reviews
There is nothing very radical in the production, the critics agree, but ... surely the most important thing is that [Jude Law's presence] will trick thousands of yobbos into watching Shakespeare. ... Which is surely no bad thing — unless you don't like Jude Law, of course, as the Spectator's editor Matthew d'Ancona clearly doesn't. "Jude Law is too delighted to be Jude Law to ask the question 'To be or not to be' with any conviction," he sneers. "You feel that what he really means is — 'To be fabulous, or to be even more fabulous.'"Read more reviews...
Aug 25, 2009
The Bardland students were privileged to see the final performance of The Globe Theatre's Romeo and Juliet
Get a feel for whether the bloggers' reviews are spot-on or off-base by
joining them vicariously in the theater through these reviews of the Romeo and Juliet
they watched. The critics mostly cheer the performance, but come down hard on the youthful leads' lack of intense passion:The Daily Telegraph's review
sometimes feel that Romeo and Juliet is no play for middle-aged critics
... yet [director] Dominic Dromgoole's brisk, unfussy production, which
opens the new season at the Globe, kept me hooked almost throughout.
... The production's secret weapon is Ellie Kendrick as Juliet ... the
way she skips round the stage and leaps into the arms of her nurse
(excellent Penny Layden) when she finally learns that Romeo will marry
her has an irresistible childlike innocence and joy. The Guardian's review
all its initial urgency, and a beautifully staged ball scene where the
young lovers first catch each other's eye, this evening, like a great
many love affairs, simply peters out. ... Romeo is clearly a nice lad,
and might be more passionate if Ellie Kendrick's touchingly serious,
doll-like Juliet showed a little more emotion. The untrained Kendrick,
making her stage debut at 18, always looks as if she would be happier
on the lacrosse field than having wild sex in the bedroom.
Read more of the reviews.
Aug 26, 2009
Just last week, UCLA senior Katie Gronewold blogged about the night
in Stratford when she and several other Bruins were recruited to sit in
the the popular pub, The Dirty Duck, to play extras in an upcoming movie.
Well, their efforts did not go unappreciated. An assistant to the producer, Karl Jennings, sent in a letter thanking
the students, reprinted below. He followed up with a second letter
(excerpts also below) when the production moved to London, seeking a few more of them as extras on a location also used in the Harry Potter films:
As an assistant to the
Producer of a small independent feature film, Will's Diaries, Quercus
Productions, I would like to thank the UCLA seniors (English majors, mainly)
who volunteered a couple of hours of their time, in Stratford-upon-Avon in mid
August, to appear as background artistes on the movie.
We had been filming in The Dirty Duck, AKA The Black Swan, which is just on the banks of the River
Avon, near to the main RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company] theatres in the town.
The Dirty Duck was something
of a favorite with the students, and they were a well-liked group, ID carded
every time from what I could see, even after repeated visits! They were a
credit to themselves and UCLA.
Read on for details about the movie, the second letter, and the Harry Potter location.
Aug 31, 2009
The title of Shakespeare's play All's Well That Ends Well
doubles nicely as a parting phrase for the Bardland blog. A full 100 posts since we started, the month-long trip has ended and the plays have all been seen. Hopefully, you enjoyed the journey as much as we did.
You can take the vicarious voyage by reading over the old blog postings below, or narrow it down to a topic you like with the links to many categories in the right-hand column.
For more information about the blog, read the UCLA Today article Bruins in Bardland: blogging abroad
, or read the UCLA news release
For more information about the Shakespeare Abroad program, visit UCLA's International Education Office
or IEO's Shakespeare in Stratford and London