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Playing Shakespeare

Playing Shakespeare is a series of master classes with Director John Barton and a group of the leading actors of the day, considering the art and technique of acting in Shakespeare's plays. Sit in on nine intensive acting workshops conducted by the legendary John Barton of the Royal Shakespeare Company. How does this world renowned troupe make classic plays accessible to modern audiences, without compromising the texts integrity? How do actors search Shakespeare's verse for hidden clues to their characters motivations? How do they balance intellect and passion to make theatres most famous soliloquies seem fresh?

The answers come from Barton and 21 of Britain's finest actors, including Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love, Iris), Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Schindlers List), Peggy Ashcroft (A Passage to India), Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings, Gods and Monsters), Patrick Stewart (X-Men, Star Trek: The Next Generation), and David Suchet (Agatha Christies Poirot). Also starring Sinead Cusack, Susan Fleetwood, Sheila Hancock, Alan Howard, Donald Sinden, Michael Williams, and more.

Episode 1 - The Two Traditions
Shakespeare wrote for a performance style that differs in many respects from modern, "naturalistic" acting. Barton urges the actors to marry both traditions for the richest, most faithful characterizations.

Episode 2 - Using the Verse
By varying the stresses contained in a line and using other poetic techniques, Shakespeare planted subtle clues for the actors playing a scene.

Episode 3 - Language and Character
Barton and the company search for antitheses in the verse to reveal complexity of character, working to make dialogue seem fresh and spontaneous.

Episode 4 - Exploring a Character
Patrick Stewart and David Suchet demonstrate their individual approaches to one of Shakespeare's most fascinating characters - Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice."

Episode 5 - Set Speeches and Soliloquies
Understanding the underlying poetic structure of long speeches and soliloquies helps the actor engage the audience in the character's thought processes.

Episode 6 - Irony and Ambiguity
How do actors identify ironic dialogue? How do they use it to reveal character? And how do they communicate it to the audience?

Episode 7 - Passion and Coolness
In many instances, Shakespeare expressed overflowing emotion and profound thought in the very same speech. How do actors balance the heart and the intellect?

Episode 8 - Rehearsing the Text
Without stage blocking, Barton and four actors explore Shakespeare's verse as they would in rehearsal, using a scene from "Twelfth Night."

Episode 9 - Poetry and Hidden Poetry
Barton examines three ways in which performance falls short of hopes, and members of the company reflect on changing styles of Shakespearean performance.


Related Links
Shakespeare After All: The Later Plays
Instructor: Professor Marjorie Garber. This course focuses on Shakespeare's later plays beginning with Measure for Measure and ending with The Tempest.
In Search of Shakespeare
This is a documentary series presented by Michael Wood, about William Shakespeare' life somewhat obscured by the historical record.
Will Shakespeare
Will Shakespeare, also known as Life of Shakespeare is a 1978 historical drama series created and written by John Mortimer, about the life of William Shakespeare.