The Bard has been getting good treatment lately. The last four Shakespeare scenes I’ve seen in the Advanced level classes, all in the last month:
1) Act I, Scene 1 of Hamlet. Yeah, Act I Scene 1. Who does Act I Scene 1? Just a functional little scene to introduce Hamlet’s ghostly Dad, right? Not in this incarnation, directed by Peter Leake. Working for over a month at midnight and beyond, Peter directed four of his fellow actors in the class to a terrific, funny, well-armed, sound-designed-within-an-inch-of-its-life realization of scene that is usually overlooked and under-realized.
2) King Lear a la Deadwood. Not to be outdone, two gentlemen in the other advanced class did a brilliantly original take on Lear, set amidst the wild west aesthetic of David Milch’s profane and poetic HBO series from 2005-2007. So from the cacophony of Milchesque “motherfucking”s and “cocksuckers” (to name two of the tamer words) emerged the Bard’s beautiful language, and an ambitious plot to turn a father against his favorite son.
3) Taming of the Shrew – another directed effort by an actress who had herself done a Bronx version of Kate last year, in which she kicked the shit out of a much larger actor as her suitor, this time addressing Kate’s beatdown of her favored sister. This one was just an hour of fight choreography away from being the most rewarding girlfight I’ve seen on stage.
4) Henry VI Part II. Fodder for every scene study class, right? The night after Taming of the Shrew, the Monday/Wednesday class counterpunched again, with a “monologue” (as written on my teacher pad) containing 10 strapping guys from the class in full war paint and costume, with the actor playing York tied to a wheeled arch at the Skylight Theatre and tossed about in a paroxysm of death lust, before Margaret entered, as played and conceived by Audrey Moore, and delighted in her own version of revenge. Jeremy Radin still tried to steal the scene, and almost did as a hapless throne mover who is exhausted by his lowly task.
Each on of these scenes was alive, passionate, joyful, imaginative – everything Milton would have wanted from his students attacking the Bard.