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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."