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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.

Blogs