Podcast Episode 121: Shakespeare, The Film's The Thing
Old Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein talks about the Bard on film
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another addition of listener’s supported KPBS Cinema Junkie podcasts. I’m Beth Accomando. Just a couple of weeks ago I woke up to find Shakespeare and Julius Creaser trending on Twitter. What, I asked myself could possibly make an ancient Roman leader and a playwright who’s been dead for centuries trend in 2017. And the reason made me realize that people need to brush up on their Shakespeare. [Singing] The answer it turns out involves a production of Julius Caesar by the New York Public Theater in Central Park. It stirred controversy for having its Julius Caesar look like President Trump and be assassinated on stage. Caesar’s assassination on stage is a crucial moment in the play. And some took offense at the image of a Trump like character being killed. Other productions over the decades at various theaters have had a Julius Caesar that looks like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But this production prompted enough controversy to make the corporate sponsors of Delta Airlines and Bank of America pull all their financial support from the theater. So that made the bar trend and that also made my idea of a podcast on Shakespeare seem all the more appropriate. Of course, my real reason for wanting to talk Shakespeare is that The Old Globe Theater is launching a second summer Shakespeare on film series and I wanted another chance to discuss Shakespeare on film with the Globe Artistic Director, Barry Edelstein. Edelstein is not only a scholar of Shakespeare but he's also an acclaimed theater director and someone who appreciates Shakespeare on film. This summer he'll also be directing Hamlet on stage. I speak with Edelstein about the four films he’s chosen for this summer's film series. Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Brooks King Lear, Al Pacino’s documentary looking for Richard and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. If you’re not in San Diego or you are unable to attend any of the films when they screen the good news is you can find them straining or on DVD and Blu-ray. But before we get to the films I wanted to talk to Edelstein about the Julius Caesar controversy. Here's a clip from the film version from 1953 with Marlon Brando delivering Mark Anthony’s famous speech in reaction to Caesar’s assassination. People condemning the New York Public Theater productions as advocating assassination don’t seem to be aware of how that scene fit into the context of the play. [movie playing] Barry the old Globe is doing another season of Shakespeare films to complement the summer Shakespeare plays. And before we start talking about the films that you have chosen I just want to bring up a recent controversy about a Julius Caesar theatrical production that took place in New York, The Public Theater, the free Shakespeare in the park. And then what I wanted to ask you about is can you remind people of what Julius Caesar the play itself is about because it does deal with some very complex ideas about politics and politicians. Barry Edelstein: Sure, well, two things before I answer the question about Shakespeare, one is that The Public Theater is my alma mater. It was of the formative institution in my life as a theater professional and I spent five years of my life producing Shakespeare in the park where this controversy has taken place. And my friends and colleagues who are on the staff there have been physically threatened by certain people who’ve objected to this production. And so, it's difficult for me to talk about this objectively because the safety and wellbeing of my friends and an institution that I revere is in question. That's number one. Number two, I also run a great American Shakespeare Theatre and what we've seen is that theaters with the name Shakespeare and their names have also received threats even though they are completely unrelated to this production, the globe has not, thank God, but as a guy who runs a Shakespeare Theatre devoted to the idea that these plays continue to matter and that artists have the right to freely express themselves. I fully and completely support the public theaters right to interpret Shakespeare’s play as they wish. I also saw the production and found it completely thrilling, exciting in many ways of setting and horrifying and moving and just overwhelmingly powerful. And I came away from that fear of provoked to some deep thought about politics and thrilled to see an American theater institution using this 400-year-old play to grapple with contemporary politics. So, I'm a great supporter of their effort even though I regret to the tremendous controversy that its cost and in particular a backlash that has involved threats of violence. Now, I’ll turn to the question of Shakespeare. I think that to suggests that William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar advocates for political violence is to willfully misread the play. The play puts this assassination in the middle of five acts there are two and a half acts of play after this assassination takes place in which the consequences of this assassination are unrivaled. And what happens is plain and simple it just leads to more and more violence and more and more chaos. In Shakespeare takes pains to chart it out innocent people who happen to share the name of the conspirators who killed Caesar are wontedly murdered on the street famous scene, in which is a poet named Cinna, is murder by a mob because one of the guys who stabbed Caesar was also named Cinna. Then Mark Antony takes over the country in the wake of Caesar’s assassination and starts to round up political enemies and one by one killed them. So, the clear, to me irrefutable position of the play is that this act of political violence leads to a cascade of chaos and more and more violence. Oskar Eustis is production in the park made that clear from the moment the assassination takes place a violent horrible crest of political thuggery takes over. So, this is a play that is saying if you support in Oskar’s adaptation in any way or production I should say, if you support democracy then you must use democratic means to protect it. And you cannot resist anti-democratic forces through anti-democratic means. That is the absolute clear take away from that production and from Shakespeare’s play and to suggest otherwise is, as I said, a willful misreading. Beth Accomando: Well, it also seems to have consider that when Shakespeare was writing these plays you couldn't really write a play about either dethroning someone who’s in power or taking someone out who’s in using power because these were plays that were performed for the court which would not want to see stories about usurping or assassination take place. Barry Edelstein: There were examples, I mean, we're doing Richard II on our stage right now and he’s one of the famous examples of a time when Shakespeare’s plays were used to make political points in Shakespeare’s own period. There was a rebellion taking place against Queen Elizabeth’s rule and the forces of rebellion actually staged a production of Richard II which is a play about overthrowing a king. And allegedly apocryphally perhaps but allegedly Queen Elizabeth heard about this and said well, I am Richard II know you not that’s so she understood that plays can be bent to make a partisan political argument and that certainly has happened. There been times in American history during the American revolution of Julius Caesar was very frequently staged in which the assassin British who takes up the king as it were became a hero, however that required cutting the second half of the play, right and that's what they did. They would just take the text and wrench it around and change it in order to torque Shakespeare into saying something that in fact he's not saying. Once again, that's not happening in Central Park. Oskar’s being very loyal to Shakespeare’s play. But yes, Shakespeare trades in metaphor and his way of talking about contemporary politics in the England of the late 1590’s and early 1600s was to talk about the distant past. And it provided a buffer that could allow him to talk about what was going on in his world without seeming to directly talk about. Beth Accomando: And all these really just goes to show that Shakespeare’s plays are still resonating for contemporary audiences and that the ideas and things he deals with still have a power to move and affect people? Barry Edelstein: What’s been amazing to me is to see a production of a Shakespeare play in the epicenter of the national debate for a period of time. I supposed I have to look at that as a positive as somebody who love Shakespeare and believes that Shakespeare actually has something important to say to us right now I'm just very sorry that it has happened in this kind of context and I'm sorry that motives have been imputed to artists who have actually not been trying to do the things they’re accused of doing. Beth Accomando: Let’s move on to some of Shakespeare’s lighter or one of Shakespeare’s lighter plays which is A Mid-Summers Night Dream. And this is the film that you are going to be kicking off this summer’s Shakespeare film series which I have to say I'm thrilled to see that you’re bringing films back. I have not had the chance to see this one, its Julie Taymor’s production, I have had the privilege of seeing her to other film versions of Shakespeare Titus. And also, the Tempest where she had Helen Mirren as a gender bending prosper up. So, what was it about her production of Midsummer's Night Dream that made you want to show this particular version? Barry Edelstein: Well, let me go back to just talk about why we're doing this. So as a great Shakespeare theatre we are looking at Shakespeare in a hundred different ways, we have a program that take Shakespeare out to economically and culturally diverse neighborhoods around San Diego that don't necessarily have access to Shakespeare’s work. We have more splendid main stage work, we have a program where we’re training the Shakespearean actors of tomorrow. And we do all sorts of things I give lectures and we have panel discussions in behind the scenes towards we’re really trying to put Shakespeare in the middle of a kind of a turntable and just constantly turn around and look at in from this many different angles as we can. And so, bringing great Shakespeare films to the globe and offering them to San Diego for free in the summertime is a part of that. We’re trying to take us kaleidoscopic a look at Shakespeare and what he can mean and how great artist to have interpreted him as possible. So once again were very happy to do that and I want to stress again that these screenings are for free. So, you know, come on out and have a great time. Julie Taymor’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, I saw, I went to New York to a wonderful theater called Theater for New Audience in Brooklyn where she did this production to open a brand-new theater that they built. There's a sort of tradition in the Shakespeare world of opening the new Shakespeare theatres with productions of Midsummer Night’s Dream, so she did the splendid absolutely breathtaking production of Midsummer Night's Dream that is exquisitely faithful to Shakespeare’s text and wildly imaginative Julie Taymor is the genius behind The Lion King, one of the great imaginations in the contemporary theatre. And a film company came along and said let’s film it, so it's not a studio production of a Shakespeare play, it's basically a recording of this spectacular, urgent, funny vivid theater production and very, very unique and an opportunity for people who didn't have the chance like I did to sit in a 200-seat theater in Brooklyn and watch this amazing production, now they can. [movie playing] Beth Accomando: I did get to see some trailers for it and like Titus and Tempest it is visually dazzling and the imagery in it is amazing. And it seems very fitting for Midsummer's Night Dream. Barry Edelstein: It is. I mean, Julie Taymor’s imagination is kind of boundless in its extraordinary creativity, it is very, very thrilling to look at physically, visually there's puppetry in it, there’s extraordinary digital projection work that takes you into this fairyland and the most remarkable way there is a lot of children running around this big scene involving a pillow fight among all these children. It's just quite remarkable and some extraordinary performances of an old friend of mine named Max Casella plays bottom and he's just hilarious and wonderful. So, it’s this great hybrid of theater and film, it’s a great hybrid of Shakespeare and a visionary theatrical imagination really, really special. Beth Accomando: Oh, I understand the mechanics are like New York construction workers? Barry Edelstein: Yes which is just absolutely hysterical, yeah Max Casella is a sort of a compact Italian guy that you would see, I don’t know, selling ice cream out of a cart on the streets of New York, you know, and he's spectacularly funny and they speak the Shakespeare language in these range of New York accents which is its own very, very funny thing to listen to. Beth Accomando: And one of the other kind of innovations she has is a pocket kind of dominative women? Barry Edelstein: Well and androgynous sort of spirit, I mean, played by a woman, yes but played in this some strangely indeterminate gender world that’s some quite, yeah quite remarkable and as I recall the opening image is this bed floating up into of the sky and introducing this idea that the whole thing is a dream it’s just a series of remarkable moments like that. Beth Accomando: Midsummer’s Night Dream is going to be playing on June 26 at the outdoor stage which is going to be a perfect setting for it. And next up in the program is a much darker starker production which is Peter Brook’s King Lear, there are a number of King Lear film adaptations including an Akira Kurosawa’s samurai version run. What was it about Brook’s version that you felt you wanted to share? Barry Edelstein: There are a handful of great films of King Lear but not too many great films of King Lear in English. Ran is in Japanese and it’s a radical adaptation of King Lear. There's a Russian film of King Lear by the great Soviet era director Grigori Kozintsev’s Hamlet, but English language King Lear films are actually kind of fewer. And this is the great one, primarily because it got Paul Scofield playing King Lear. [movie playing] Paul Scofield arguably the greatest Shakespearean of the 20th century. He is stunning in this production but then, you know, Irene Worth plays Goneril, I mean, it's just this extraordinarily high-level cast. And directed by Peter Brook, who is one of the great stage directors and filmmakers of the 20th century as well. And they filmed it in, I don’t know, Greenland or Iceland or somewhere, I should look that up, but this wildly stark glacial looking place in black and white in there's a lot of stone and roughhewn wood and big fur gowns and it just captures the ancient-medieval world of King Lear better than not only other films I have in my view, but also the most theater productions have. It’s short, it’s cut that he uses all these cinematic techniques to condense the story of a play. There’s some narration, there are some title cards that tell you things that happened so it’s actually a much shorter and more roller-coasterish ride than watching King Lear in the theater. And just immensely powerful, and I love every once in a while, I’ll just get on YouTube because it’s a hard film to actually find. And watch a little scene of Scofield doing one speech or another and every single time it blows me away. So, I'm actually looking forward just to having the chance to see it on a film screen if only ever had a chance once before to see it I’ve watched it on DVD on a TV, but to actually see it screened cinematically is a really rare opportunity. Beth Accomando: There are some reviewers like Roger Ebert complained that Peter Brook put himself first and Shakespeare second and that he didn't feel that this play had any kind of its tended to ignore the goodness of Shakespeare’s play in favor of kind of a more annalistic approached. I’m talking little bit about Peter Brook’s interpretation of King Lear and kind of the vision he had of putting it on the screen. Barry Edelstein: So there was a polish literary critic in the sixties names Jan Kott and he wrote a famous book called Shakespeare, Our Contemporary written from the point of view of a liberal thinker living behind the iron curtain. And he saw in Shakespeare’s plays and in particular in King Lear, this metaphor for political life under the repressive Soviet regime. And therefore, the king is represented as this is crazy autocrat who’s violent, who’s decadent and who is removed from the actual life of the people who are struggling and poor and caught wrote these whole theory that inform very strongly Brook’s first stage production of the play and then this film of the play. So, to the extent that Brook is doing a very strong interpretative take on the play Ebert is right that’s true, he's looking for the bleakest underbelly of the play. However, to the extent that the play itself really doesn't offer a lot of redemption it's hard to see how that's in any way and inaccurate or illegitimate interpretation. It is Shakespeare at his absolute most absolutely most annalistic and dark. The ending of King Lear is absolutely shattering and more shattering than anything else in the cannon. And Brook seems to have put his finger on it and liberated that immense that extraordinary power in a way that I don’t think anybody else has come close to. Beth Accomando: Well, I think that goes to what I love about Shakespeare so much which is that different people can interpret it in different ways at different times in history. And mine it for different things and it still holds up. Barry Edelstein: That’s what’s glorious and wonders about these plays, you know I've been working deeply in Shakespeare for the better part of 30 years of my professional life. And plays that I thought were about one thing when I was in my late twenties when I returned to know I find that there are about something completely else plays that seemed anodyne in 2016 are explosive in 2017 because the world changes and Shakespeare seems to keep up and Shakespeare seems also to anticipate which is the most extraordinary thing of all. Instead every time you think oh well the world has outstripped even Shakespeare’s imagination you open up one of the plays and you say no he somehow miraculously appears to have digested all this way before we even knew that we got there. So that’s what great about it. And the second point I think and this is the crucial thing about to direct Hamlet. And so, lot of people are asking me what are you going to do with Hamlet? The simplest way to answer it because you can answer it in 30 seconds or you can answer it in 3 hours, right? What are you going to do with Hamlet? Simplest way to answered it is I’m going to get the most talented people I possibly get into a room together and work and respond to the play as we feel right now you can’t make a definitive Hamlet, you can’t make a definitive King Lear, you can’t make a definitive Midsummer Night’s Dream, these plays are too big, too capacious. They have too much in them, so all an individual artist can do is respond from their own self in this moment. And then two years from now another company is going to get together and they’re going to respond in a different way. And a year after that another company is going to get together and they’re going to respond in a different way. I’ve seen Hamlet this will be my own production, it would be my 23 Hamlet then I will have actually sat through. I know how it’s going to end, why do I keep going back? Because I want to see what a difference set of artists in a different time a different context are going to find in these remarkably rich and deep plays. Beth Accomando: I also had to ask about your choice of King Lear not necessarily just Peter Brook’s but the fact that you choose King Lear as one of the films this summer. I believe the first play; the first Shakespeare play you directed here was Winter's Tale? Barry Edelstein: That’s right. Beth Accomando: And I'm wondering if Winter’s Tale is kind of the flipside to King Lear on a certain level where Winter’s Tale, you have a king who behaves badly and thinks his wife has died and at the end it's kind of like the oh-she-breathe, but it’s oh-she’s-warm and he kind of gets to have her back. And in King Lear, it’s kind of he behaves badly, he doesn't believe the person who loves but he doesn’t get to have her back. Barry Edelstein: Well, Shakespeare wrote the Winter's Tale six years after he wrote King Lear and, you know, in one way to look at his canon is it starts happy, it's extremely dark and then it finds a kind forward passed. That’s extremely reductive needless to say but there is a clear sense of Shakespeare descending in the middle of his writing life into this exceedingly dark place. And then at that the very end of his writing life with his last four plays that we variously called the romances or the tragicomedies, his late works in his career defines a kind of possibility of redemption, a kind of sensitive religious faith has renewed and the possibility of second chances which in his middle period he really couldn’t seem to find. So, I suppose that's true but as for why I chose King Lear there's a list of maybe 25 truly great Shakespeare films. And we seem to have the capacity at the globe just to stream four of them every summer, so I’m just cranking through my list. And we've got a couple comedies and a couple of tragedies and I thought okay, this summer we’ll do King Lear. It was an – I’d love to tell you that there's some great unified field theory behind it but in fact it's a list that I keep in my office and I’m checking them off as we go through the summer. Beth Accomando: All right, when King Lear is going to be screening on July 17 and that will be endorsed at the globe to keep you warmer since it's a chilly play. Now, next up is one of my all-time favorite Shakespeare films, I believe firmly that this should be shown in every high school English class. This is Al Pacino’s documentary looking for Richard. Barry Edelstein 1: I did looking for Richard because I wanted to do Richard but I wanted to find a way to do it, how could I pull it off? And I had the idea of what about an actor with my problems of how do you communicate Shakespeare to an American audience? And how do you do Shakespeare yourself being an American actor? And I just crisscrossed everything and that's when I worked on and it took me four years, but I kept, I kept alive by and it was exciting, it was such an exciting time I just only could, I only going to open, it happens to everybody, I hope it can happen to me again. It hasn’t but would be great if it would but you actually wake up and you're excited because you’re looking for something to say because you got something to say. Who the hell has anything to say? You look at the news and said the same [indiscernible] [00:26:18] Beth Accomando: His enthusiasm for Shakespeare is boundless and its infectious. This is, I think the first documentary of showing in the series, so what is it about this that you felt you wanted to show? Barry Edelstein: Well, I agree with you that Looking for Richard is one of the great Shakespeare movies and a tremendous way to introduce people to Shakespeare who haven't had any contact with it before. I love this movie because a few years ago I had the chance to work with Al Pacino, he played Shylock in a production of the Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare In the Park in New York which then transferred to Broadway. He was nominated for a Tony Award for it just an amazing time. And I work really closely with him on the text of the play, got to know him pretty well and was impressed by the questing hungry nature of his mind. A guy who has achieved so much and is in his 70s but still approaches the work with the appetite and curiosity and openness of a young artist. And that's all over this movie, he sees getting ready to play Richard III who’s thinking about Richard III and he just travels around the world like a Magpie and he’s got this sidekick who’s a friend of his is kind of crusty old Jewish guy. Barry Edelstein 3: You’re making this entire document in order to show that actors truly are the possession, the possessors of a traditions the proud inheritors of the understanding of Shakespeare for Christ’s sake. And then you turned it around and say I’m going to go get a scholar to explain it to you, you know what the point is this, brother? No, yeah, a person has an opinion. It’s only an opinion, it’s never because someone being right there’s no matter wrong. It’s an opinion and this scholar has a right to an opinion as any of us. So why does he get to speak directly to the camera and they make this weird double act is to the sort of Laurel and Hardy pair, one is a giant movie star and one is a sort of crotchety old guy and they travel around the world, they go to Shakespeare’s house in Stratford Upon Avon, weirdly the fire alarm goes off so suddenly the fire departments is coming into Shakespeare’s house. There’s also a scene in it in which she interviews an Oxford Shakespearean, one of the great academic Shakespearean experts who happen to be my teacher when I was at Oxford, so it's fun to see him a guy named Ember Jones now dead sadly, who gets one of the big laugh lines in the movie. And it's this some it's this brilliant wonderful actor with insatiably curious mind tracking down Richard III and this Shakespeare play and trying to figure out how to make it work and you see him do scenes from it fully realized in medieval costume then you see him in the rehearsal room, you see him working with other actors, Kevin Spacey Rhiana Ryder is in it, Alec Baldwin and all kinds of people. And it’s funny and it’s fun and mostly what it is it’s kind of cockamamie, it's just this wild adventure in Al Pacino going on this crazy Shakespeare adventure and he's a fun travel companion. Beth Accomando: Oh and he also seems to be trying to prove the point that Shakespeare still has meaning today, I remember there is a scene where he just goes out on the streets and says like everybody knows Shakespeare, they may not know they know it but they know it. And he just goes to random people and just said reads a line or ask them if they know something. And he just seems like so passionate about trying to prove this point and he also points out people complain that they don't understand Shakespeare and he gets, I forgot which actor was talked about but I said it’s like listening to rap music, it's a different rhythm and you just have to learn to get used to it. Barry Edelstein: He comes from a generation of actors, when the Public Theater in New York was just growing up and Joe Papp, the great impresario was building the public theater and Shakespeare in the Park on the premise that Shakespeare belongs to everybody. And it's a legacy that we the Globe really embraced because we believe that Shakespeare belongs to everybody and you need to approach Shakespeare as if he's writing the plays today and then you find that there's something in it that’s immediately connected to the real world in which we live in. So, I love that he takes that view all the way to this extraordinary film because after you’re done watching it you have this amazing instinct to just go run and open up a volume of Shakespeare and look at it and hear it, listen to it, feel it, touch it, so he’s done the world of Shakespeare tremendous service by making this movie. Beth Accomando: I can’t recommend this film enough, so it’s August 7 and this one is also inside the Globe and if you make the trip to see any of these please see this one... And the last film in your series is another wildly inventive one to kind of match with Julie Taymor’s and this is Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. So, there are a number of other interpretations of the Sunfield famously Franco Zeffirelli, why was this the one that you want to show? Barry Edelstein: Well, maybe it was last summer, the summer before when we did this film series we close out with Westside story taking the view that Shakespeare is also a legitimate source of inspiration when adapted into some other kind of form. And so, I thought it was important to do that than to them that we inject into this film series a production of Shakespeare’s that's aggressively contemporary. We have that discussion here at the Global lot where we’re asked are you doing a traditional version or are you doing an interpreting version, some kind of contemporary version? And I think that we need to mix it up and so I wanted there to be at least one film in the series that really put Shakespeare very, very strongly in a contemporary world view. And this is one of the best at that. It’s set in some sort of undefined gigantic transnational metropolis that looks a lot like Mexico City or something a big sprawling gigantic city bigger than anything in the United States and there are two rich families and they’re having this big fight, there’s a big joke involving a Federal Express type of delivery service that solves one of the conundrums I’m going to do a spoiler there's a the message that there's a secret plan to pretend that Juliet is dead is supposed to reach Romeo by a friar who is to deliver a letter. And in Shakespeare’s play the friar gets all the way to the town where Romeo is only to find that there’s been an outbreak of the plague and the gates had been sealed shut, we can’t get in. So, the message never reaches Romeo when Romeo goes to Juliet’s tomb, he fails to understand that she’s only fake dead and not real dead then he kills himself and she wakes up and then he’s dead and it’s too late. So, in this movie the reason the message does not reach Romeo is because the FedEx truck has a flat tire in the middle of the desert, right and it’s really fun because the language in the place deliver this lesson deliver this letter to Romeo posthaste dispatch, posthaste dispatch is Shakespearean for very quickly, right. So, the name of the FedEx company on the side of the truck is posthaste dispatch, right. And it just so clever and such a wonderful funny witty silly way of taking this 400-year-old idea of a letter that doesn’t get to somebody and translating it into terms that we immediately understand because we’ve all have the experience of waiting for something from FedEx that did not showing up on time. So that's what I love about it is it's got a real rye twinkle in its eye and it’s got a real sense of fun but manages to capture the vitality and the vibrancy of it and also I think has a very moving version of the tomb scene at the end because it involves these two exceedingly young and beautiful as Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio and they're just gorgeous and young and that the horrible sense of loss when they are lying there dead at the end of this comparable and moving, so you get a huge wide range of experiences through this thing and I just think it's a hoot. Beth Accomando: It did receive criticism for cutting the tags Stanford, some people follow didn’t revere Shakespeare’s words enough but the thing that I appreciate about it is that he Baz Luhrmann really seems to be trying and not in a heavy-handed way but trying to make that text understandable and I just remember the opening with the prologue, two households, both are like indignity in fair Verona where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes up here of start cross lovers take their life who’s miss adventure piteous overthrows dock with their death, buried their parent’s strife. The fearful passage of the death marked love and the continuance of their parent’s rage which but their children and not could remove is now the two hours traffic of our stage. Delivered by news anchor and then you see headlines and then you see it as text. And so, it’s like it’s giving you multiple times to understand what it is and he does that like throughout and trying to bring this text to life. Barry Edelstein: Reverence is deadly, I mean, reverence is a deadly force in when it comes to art and vitality, right. You know you got old museum and there’s some glorious object and it’s behind a – it’s in a big Plexiglas box and you stand to look at it but you can’t touch it, you can’t feel it, you can’t smell it, you know, Shakespeare shouldn’t be that way we shouldn't put Shakespeare in a glass between and remove it from us. We should be able to touch it and recognize that it's messy and it's dirty and it's sweaty and it’s bloody and it has human fallibility and if you know, so I don't have a lot of patience with people criticizing Baz Luhrmann because he dared to cut a few lines here or there do something, that’s somehow not pure with it because what he does is he captures the real vibrancy of this play, those of the real sexuality, the real muscularity, the real thrill, the real daredevilry of these two young teenagers who would have the temerity and the guts to defy the conventions of their society. So, to meet it’s a triumph, it’s a triumphant exploration of Romeo and Juliet is it a reverent one? No, but it doesn't, that doesn't interest me I’d much rather see somebody messed around with it and have fun with it because again we know that next year somebody’s going to do a different version of it. And if we look at the Baz Huhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet we say that’s too aggressive for my taste, you can just go get the Zepherlli which is full of flowing locks and medieval clothes and sentimentality and soft-focus photography's and you know and you can get that Romeo and Juliet. So, to me to return to any means that I used before the more kaleidoscopic of view we take of Shakespeare the more Shakespeare continues to live. And that's what we're trying to be all about at the globe which is to say this is a living vital force that has a lot to talk to us about in our contemporary world has a lot of ways to help us understand what's going on in the universe and then in life and yes even in our country. And so, we want to approach Shakespeare in as many different ways as we can. Beth Accomando: And Romeo and Juliet closes out the program and that will be on August 28 and that will be outdoors again that's another fitting one to have outside. So, thank you very much for talking about Shakespeare films, I’m so excited that the film programs are back again and remind people of the Shakespeare plays that are going to be performed live here on stage. Barry Edelstein: Richard II opened this weekend to greater claim I’m happy to say and continues for another couple weeks, in our outdoor theater and then next up is Hamlet which will go from the middle of August to the end of September. Beth Accomando: Well thank you very much. Barry Edelstein: Thank you, good to see you. Beth Accomando: That was Old Globe Artistic director Barry Edelstein, the Globe summer Shakespeare film series starts June 26 and screens four films during the next three months. Thanks for listening to another edition of Listener’s supported KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcasts. Until our next film fix I’m Beth Accomando, your residence Cinema Junkie.
San Diego's Old Globe Theatre has an eight decade history of performing Shakespeare on stage. Now Artistic Director Barry Edelstein wants to highlight the Bard on film.
The Old Globe's summer Shakespeare film series provides the perfect excuse for a discussion of Shakespeare on film with Edelstein who is not only a scholar of Shakespeare but also an acclaimed theater director and someone who appreciates Shakespeare on film.
Shakespeare wrote for the stage some four centuries ago but his plays are readily adaptable to film in the hands of a talented director. I speak with Edelstein about the four films he has chosen for this summer's film series: Julie Taymor's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Peter Brook's "King Lear," Al Pacino's documentary "Looking for Richard," and Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo and Juliet." If you are not in San Diego or are unable to attend these films when they screen, the good news is you can find them streaming or an DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
What also makes this discussion of the Bard timely is that Shakespeare has been in the news and even trending recently because of a production of "Julius Caesar" by the New York Public Theater in Central Park. Oskar Eustis’ production stirred controversy for having its Julius Caesar character look like Trump and be assassinated onstage. Other productions over the decades at various theaters have had a Julius Caesar that looks like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But this production prompted enough controversy to make the corporate sponsors of Delta Airlines and Bank of America pull their financial support.
But saying that Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" advocates the assassination of a political leader is like saying his "Romeo and Juliet" advocates teen suicide. So I speak with Edelstein about the play "Julius Caesar" and its complex themes about politics that resonate today.