Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Birthday Boys


I mentioned yesterday that my son's birthday falls on the anniversary of Shakespeare's baptism. Luckily, my now-12yo boy loves the bard with all his heart and completely embraces their connection. This year, I arranged a few Shakespeare presents for him:

The Reduced Shakespeare Company - The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)We discovered a VHS copy of The Reduced Shakespeare Company - The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in our local library, many years ago. We checked it out over and over, eventually illegally copying the library's copy onto our own videotape. Well--we've come clean and now own our own DVD copy now.

My family loves the ridiculously nerdy slapstick of the RSC.  As the show starts, one of the actors tells us that the company is "proud to prevent the complete works of William Shakespeare"--and the laughs and groans get more intense as they work their way through the plays.  Othello is performed as a rap, Titus as Emeril's cooking show, and the histories as a football game.  The comedies are reduced to one medley of a play with a very long and very funny title.  Finally, the performance ends with Hamlet in several iterations--the last not only at lightening speed but backwards. 

If you haven't had the great pleasure of being introduced to the Reduced Shakespeare Company, go check them out right away. If you can't find the DVD in your library, you can check it out from Netflix.


Macbeth: The DVD Edition (Folger Shakespeare Library)A couple of years ago, my son and I were thrilled to be able to attend the Folger Shakespeare Library's performance of Macbeth.  The Folger, a theater I've discussed before, is one of our favorite venues.  And their production of Macbeth was one of our favorite productions there. Directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (from that famous duo of magicians Penn and Teller), the production combined subtle illusion with astounding (and sometimes gory) imagery.

A new Folger edition of the Shakespeare text has been released which includes a DVD of the live show..  We are thrilled--partly because A. and I both want to see it again, and partly because we are eager to show it to David (who was unable to see the live play with us).  I have high hopes that the Folger will produce other DVD/text editions--including, perhaps, the incredible version of The Comedy of Errors staged earlier this year.

Right now my son is learning his lines for a children's performance of Macbeth at the Shakespeare Theater Company in DC.  We've been talking a lot recently about the Folger performance as he prepares for his part and are looking forward to a viewing of the DVD this weekend.


Shakespeare in a Box: Taming of the ShrewOne more bit of Shakespeare silliness: Shakespeare in a Box: Taming of the Shrew contains instructions to put on your own version of a Shakespeare play with friends and family at home. All the living room's a stage!  We haven't tried it out yet, but the kit has excellent reviews of Amazon.  We've already thought of a few friends who might find this right up their alley.

The kit comes with director and technical director cards which explain how to cast the play, direct it, stage it, and create basic sets and sound effects.  It also provides cards for each of the major parts along with a summary of the characters and ideas about how to play them.  It also comes with multiple copies of an abridged version of the script.  Finally, the Shakespeare in a Box kit comes with props: a cheap wig, a plastic flute, and Groucho glasses--all modeled here by my son:

taming of the shrew

(There is also a "Shakespeare in a Box" kit for Shakespeare in a Box: King Lear.)


See his shirt in that picture?  I think he might have received it for his last birthday.  We found it in the Folger Library's small gift shop.  Don't you love the rebus?



  1. These Shakespeare presents are fantastic! I need to pick up a DVD copy of Complete Works abridged (my VHS copy is slowly falling apart). Hope you have a great time putting on a living room production of Taming of the Shrew!

  2. I love the RSC!! I first read Abridged back in 1998 in college, and have wanted to go see it performed live ever since. I've never seen the DVD version but it's definitely on my bucket list to see it performed live. I keep checking their website because supposedly they're doing a US tour with that particular play after they get back from their current tour.

  3. I'm so glad I've found some RSC fans! I promise to let you know how Shrew goes, Red.

    And I am thrilled to hear, Amanda, that they'll be touring with Shakespeare again. RSC has a few different actors now and I know we'll miss some of our old faves...but we will definitely be there if they come to this neck of the woods.

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I'm currently teaching Macbeth, and I'm definitely going to check out this new edition of Macbeth. Now if they would only do one for Julius Caesar!

    And just so you know, there are some wonderful audio versions produced by Arkangel. I use them to teach with, and I especially love the Arkangel interpretation of the scene where Macduff finds out about his family. I'll be honest: I cried the first time. Their Midsummer Night's Dream is hilarious; the Rude Mechanicals' play always had my students rolling on the floor with laughter.

    It's so awesome that your son loves Shakespeare! And I loved his Hamlet poem :)

  5. Great rebus! :)

    I've often wondered about the Reduced Shakespeare Company and wish now that I'd got their video when my own offspring were younger and home educating. I think I must get hold of it as I know they'd still enjoy it!


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