News / Arts & Entertainment

Shakespeare? There's an App for That

Ron Cohen (right) and fellow actor Mike Spence (left) record one of Shakespeare’s sonnets in a New York bar. (Ashley Milne-Tyte for VOA)
Ron Cohen (right) and fellow actor Mike Spence (left) record one of Shakespeare’s sonnets in a New York bar. (Ashley Milne-Tyte for VOA)
Ashley Milne-Tyte
Ross Williams is passionate about Shakespeare. He studied acting and directing and is the founder of a theater company called the New York Shakespeare Exchange. But he’s well aware that many people don’t share his enthusiasm.

Four hundred-year-old English is tough to decipher, he says, and many think of Shakespeare as dusty and dull.

“I started thinking about how I could deliver Shakespeare to people in small chunks, things that would be manageable and get people to experience Shakespeare in their day-to-day lives without having to make the commitment to go see a full show," Williams said. "And so we started with the sonnets because they’re contained.”

He and his colleagues founded The Sonnet Project as part of their theater company. The idea is to film each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, which are 14-line poems, and release each one before the bard’s birthday next April.
NY Theater Company Brings Shakespeare's Sonnets to Online Audience
NY Theater Company Brings Shakespeare's Sonnets to Online Audiencei
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

This is Shakespeare for the tech savvy. You can watch the films on the Sonnet Project’s website, or download the app to your phone and get regular sonnet deliveries. Each piece is filmed in a different location in New York City.

Today, a crew is shooting sonnet 3 in a Brooklyn bar. The establishment is decades old, with a dark wood floor and a heavy, old-fashioned cash register against one wall. In this sonnet, an older man urges a young one to find someone to bear his child, so that his good looks are replicated and he does not die without heirs.

Actor Ron Cohen performs the verse. He plays a seasoned barman encouraging a young male customer to check out two girls at the end of the bar, lest he miss his chance to reproduce.

“...For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb disdains the tillage of thy husbandry? Or who is he so fond will be the tomb of his self-love to stop posterity...”

The sonnet ends with the words, "Die single, and thine image dies with thee." After that, the white-haired barman tosses back a shot of liquor and seems to contemplate his own life.

Updating Shakespeare for a modern audience includes using an iPad slate at the start of each take. (Ashley Milne-Tyte for VOA)Updating Shakespeare for a modern audience includes using an iPad slate at the start of each take. (Ashley Milne-Tyte for VOA)
x
Updating Shakespeare for a modern audience includes using an iPad slate at the start of each take. (Ashley Milne-Tyte for VOA)
Updating Shakespeare for a modern audience includes using an iPad slate at the start of each take. (Ashley Milne-Tyte for VOA)
Cohen has acted in Shakespeare plays from "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" to "Othello." He’s intrigued by the idea of delivering Shakespeare in short bursts.

“Fantastic," he said. "Great idea,especially the idea of doing it in different locales in New York, tying in the contemporary feeling of Shakespeare.”

Today’s locale, Sunny’s Bar, has been at this spot for 150 years. But the bar was badly flooded when Hurricane Sandy swept through New York last year. It’s looking to renew itself, just as the old barman hopes his young customer will renew himself by having a child.

To complete a project this big requires the talents of many artists, so Williams put out a call to filmmakers on the Sonnet Project’s website and by word of mouth. Noemi Charlotte Thieves, 25, was one of many who signed up. He directed sonnet 71 a few months ago. He was not a Shakespeare fan at school and when he came to The Sonnet Project, his knowledge was pretty sketchy.

“I thought sonnets were like monologues or soliloquies from his plays," Thieves said. "I totally had no idea what they were, so I was completely naïve and ignorant to the whole thing. So I was like, 'Oh, sonnet, okay, cool, whatever.' And then I read it and I was like, 'Ah, okay, I can do something with this.'”

What he remembered when he started studying the sonnet in question was how visual Shakespeare’s language is. Thieves compares the playwright to a famous contemporary filmmaker.

“When you’re talking about what makes his language so unique, he was in a lot of ways like [Quentin] Tarantino is today. I always say if Shakespeare was an artist living today he wouldn’t be a playwright, he would be a screenwriter, he would be a filmmaker.”

Ross Williams, founder of the Sonnet Project, agrees. He wants people to see Shakespeare as part of pop culture, which, he says, the playwright was in his day. He hopes the films will help dispel some of Shakespeare’s mystique.

“It is a little tricky sometimes but it’s still words, telling a story, and sharing emotion,” he said.

Even if instead of coming from a stage, that emotion is emanating from the tiny screen on your phone.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Trumpeter, percussionist and bandleader Etienne Charles was born in Trinidad and blends island rhythms with modern jazz. He and his stellar band perform a rich gumbo of jazz, calypso, reggae, and rock-steady that Charles calls “Creole Soul” on "The Hamilton Live."