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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”