Sophie Okonedo Is Queen Margaret in ‘The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses’ (On PBS Dec 11-25)

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-11-19 01:57Z by Steven

Sophie Okonedo Is Queen Margaret in ‘The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses’ (On PBS Dec 11-25)

Shadow And Act

Sophie Okonedo

“The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” is a lavish three-part follow-up to the BAFTA winning “The Hollow Crown,” which aired in 2013 on THIRTEEN’s “Great Performances.”

The first series of “The Hollow Crown” covered the so-called Henriad comprising Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I and II and Henry V. Now, “The Wars of the Roses” – which comes to “Great Performances” on three consecutive Sundays beginning December 11 at 9 p.m. – picks up the story with epic film versions of Henry VI (in two parts) and Richard III

The new series aired to great acclaim on the BBC this May. A Neal Street co-production with Carnival/NBCUniversal and THIRTEEN for BBC Two, the series was filmed in locations around the UK. Award-winning director Dominic Cooke (former Artistic Director of The Royal Court theatre) makes his TV directorial debut with the three films.

The series features some of the UK’s finest acting talent including Sophie Okonedo who has been cast to play Queen Margaret.

Okonedo joins Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III, Tom Sturridge as Henry VI, Hugh Bonneville as Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Judi Dench as Cecily, Duchess of York, Sally Hawkins as Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, and Keeley Hawes as Queen Elizabeth

Read the entire article here.

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Dear Mister Shakespeare – inspired by Othello

Posted in Arts, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Videos on 2016-10-16 16:01Z by Steven

Dear Mister Shakespeare – inspired by Othello

British Council

Multimedia visual artist Phoebe Boswell has written an original piece, ‘Dear Mister Shakespeare’, in which she questions Shakespeare on the inherent racial tensions within his writing of Othello in the 1600s, and how these tensions continue to resonate today.

The film, directed by Shola Amoo, is a collage of modern black British experience, and follows Othello’s (Ashley Thomas aka Bashy) journey as a ‘man through time’.

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“Not a Moor exactly”: Shakespeare, Serial, and Modern Constructions of Race

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-08-23 00:13Z by Steven

“Not a Moor exactly”: Shakespeare, Serial, and Modern Constructions of Race

Shakespeare Quarterly
Volume 67, Number 1, 2016
pages 30-50
DOI: 10.1353/shq.2016.0009

Vanessa Corredera, Assistant Professor of English
Andrews University, Berrien Springs Michigan

As scholars of early modern literature know, Renaissance constructions of alterity were inconsistent and varied. This critical consensus regarding the fluidity of early modern conceptions of otherness has produced a dichotomy between “then” and “now” with which early modern race scholars in particular must grapple, and one that challenges all scholars and teachers of Shakespeare who engage with race in the classroom—if we concede we can talk about “race” at all. In the quest for responsible historical contextualization of early modern race, scholars have vigilantly attended to the differences between Renaissance culture and our own, leading to the assertion that early moderns conceived of race in a more protean way than our modern scientific, phenotypical, stable approach. In doing so, however, they enact a different methodological pitfall—imposing an assumed set of views about race upon moderns. This approach blinds us to the reality of our own racial discourses, which, I suggest, likewise depend on and perpetuate a fluid understanding of race. In turning to a specific example—the nexus of issues raised by a Shakespearean reference to Othello in season 1 of the hit NPR podcast Serial—we find that myriad factors like language, religion, and descent play pivotal roles in modern constructions of race. By recognizing this multiplicity, we can more effectively use nuanced understandings of early modern race to help us uncover the complexities of contemporary racial ideology. And just as significantly, we can employ current conversations about racial identity as a fresh way of reconsidering canonical Renaissance texts.

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Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America by Ayanna Thompson (Klett review)

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive on 2013-06-03 18:27Z by Steven

Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America by Ayanna Thompson (Klett review)

Theatre Journal
Volume 65, Number 2, May 2013
pages 303-304
DOI: 10.1353/tj.2013.0043

Elizabeth Klett, Assistant Professor of Literature
University of Houston, Clear Lake

Ayanna Thompson’s exciting book analyzes a wide variety of sites for performing, interrogating, and dismantling Shakespeare and race in contemporary American popular culture. Arguing that “Shakespeare’s American cultural value and legacy cannot be weighed through performances in traditional venues only” (7), Thompson extends her purview beyond expected forms (such as professional theatre productions and literary and film adaptations) to include nontraditional modes of performance (such as YouTube videos and prison and youth-oriented productions). The book as a whole provides a fascinating and multilayered appraisal of the uses (and misuses) of race in American appropriations of Shakespeare and his plays.

One of the most notable aspects of Thompson’s book is her ability to work with conflicting statements and oppositional ideas, which she often presents, at least initially, as epigraphs to her chapters. For example, she tackles the debate over so-called color-blind casting by foregrounding the very different views of August Wilson and Robert Brustein. Similarly, the book revisits the eternal tensions between universalizing and historically particularist interpretations of Shakespeare, suggesting that Shakespeare is both freeing and something from which one must be freed. Thompson does not attempt to resolve these kinds of contradictions and instabilities; instead, she revels in them, exploring what they reveal about contemporary American culture and its preoccupations with Shakespeare and race. She does take sides, however; as her first chapter warns, the book is occasionally polemical, “because this is a project that requires action and not just passive reflection” (14). Her main goal is “to bring contemporary race studies and contemporary Shakespeare studies into an honest and sustained dialogue,” contending that many performances, citations, and analyses of Shakespeare ignore or elide racial issues (3).

The second and third chapters focus on two films and a young adult novel that engage with Shakespeare and race in varied ways. Thompson’s analysis of each is intriguing and made me want to watch the films and read the novel for myself. In Suture (1993), a film noir about two brothers, one white and one black, Thompson finds a vexed “desire for colorblindness in contemporary American life” (27); although the film strategically ignores the racial differences between them, it also exposes the seam of the racial divide in a culture that elevates stereotypically white standards of beauty. Her argument is fascinating, but the connection to Shakespeare (cited several times in the film) feels somewhat tenuous. Her analysis of Bringing Down the House (2003), a studio vehicle for Steve Martin and Queen Latifah, however, is brilliant. Unpacking the meanings implicit in the character of “William Shakespeare,” a dog owned by a rich conservative, played by Joan Plowright, Thompson concludes that in this satirical film, “Shakespeare represents the epitome of Western culture because he represents the exclusivity of white culture” (37). Targeting both bardolatry and the false universality of whiteness, this big-budget film thus reveals larger ideas circulating in American culture about the meanings of Shakespeare and race and justifies Thompson’s choice of popular materials for her analysis. She goes on to place a more obscure source, the 1992 novel Black Swan by Farrukh Dhondy, in the context of other writers (such as Maya Angelou) who have imagined a black Shakespeare. While she argues that the novel “asks the reader to interrogate if/how the identity and race of Shakespeare impact one’s understanding of the plays,” she also notes that reviewers of the novel tend to whitewash the main characters’ racial identities (55).

Thompson’s fourth chapter is one of the strongest, offering an intelligent discussion and analysis of cross-racial casting. In it, she analyzes the rhetoric employed by classical theatre companies, such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), to describe their approach to race and casting practices, revealing how these companies attempt to yoke Shakespearean universality and multiculturalism together to create “relevant” performances (73). Thompson does not find the results wholly satisfactory, even at well-intentioned companies like OSF. Her “holistic” approach to multicultural casting would incorporate “diversity initiatives” at every level of production to ensure…

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“Incestuous Sheets” and “Adulterate Beasts”: Incest and Miscegenation in Early Modern Drama

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-10-29 03:31Z by Steven

“Incestuous Sheets” and “Adulterate Beasts”: Incest and Miscegenation in Early Modern Drama

University of Michigan
199 pages

Kentston D. Bauman

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (English Language and Literature)

This dissertation explores the centrality of incest and miscegenation in the early modern cultural imaginary. Incest, which occurs with surprising frequency in the drama of the period but with equally surprising scarcity in everyday social life, is frequently invoked in conjunction with miscegenation in all of its various forms (social, religious, ethnic/cultural/racial). As boundary phenomena – the two extreme ends of the spectrum of sexual alliance – incest and miscegenation served as powerful and surprisingly flexible dramatic tropes, providing a useful means of interrogating the social processes that create, instill, and redefine acceptable choices in sexual and social partners. I divide the project into two sections. In the first, I investigate the interplay among incest, social miscegenation, and social mobility. Looking at Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, I explore how these issues become filtered through the figure of the incestuous widow, whose treatment serves as both a critique of aristocratic hierarchies and a means of promoting sexual and social mobility. The second, which examines the relations between incest and ethnic miscegenation, centers on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Noting that Shakespeare takes the incestuous rape in Ovid’s tale of Philomel and replaces it with the miscegenistic rape of Lavinia, I investigate how this transposition interrogates the family’s relationship to itself and to the state. I situate my readings of these plays in a socio-political context that takes into account two different, yet intricately connected, cultural issues: the painful transition of a society still highly stratified along feudal lines to one suddenly faced with the possibilities for radical economic and political advancement; and the anxieties of a culture just as suddenly exposed, through exploration and trade, to other geographic and cultural realms. The attempt to navigate the new terrain opened up by changes in the social, political, and geographic climate, I argue, disrupts long-established institutions – the family, marriage, hierarchical stratification. Significantly, the tensions between incest and miscegenation so apparent in the period’s drama express, in part, cultural anxieties fostered by a new social openness combined with a newly heightened sense of an enticing yet threatening Other.


    • Introduction. Incest and Miscegenation on the Early Modern Stage
    • One. The Incestuous Widow and Social Mobility in Early Modern Drama
    • Two. Aristocratic Endogamy and Social Miscegenation in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi
    • Three. “Unkind and Careless of Your Own”: Incest, Miscegenation, and Family in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
    • Epilogue. Looking Forward: A Pattern for Reading

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America

Posted in Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2012-09-04 00:06Z by Steven

Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America

Oxford University Press
April 2011
240 pages
Hardback ISBN13: 9780195385854; ISBN10: 0195385853

Ayanna Thompson, Professor of English
Arizona State University

Notions, constructions, and performances of race continue to define the contemporary American experience, including America’s relationship to Shakespeare. In Passing Strange, Ayanna Thompson explores the myriad ways U.S. culture draws on the works and the mythology of the Bard to redefine the boundaries of the color line.

Drawing on an extensive—frequently unconventional—range of examples, Thompson examines the contact zones between constructions of Shakespeare and constructions of race. Among the questions she addresses are: Do Shakespeare’s plays need to be edited, appropriated, updated, or rewritten to affirm racial equality and retain relevance? Can discussions of Shakespeare’s universalism tell us anything beneficial about race? What advantages, if any, can a knowledge of Shakespeare provide to disadvantaged people of color, including those in prison? Do the answers to these questions impact our understandings of authorship, authority, and authenticity? In investigating this under-explored territory, Passing Strange examines a wide variety of contemporary texts, including films, novels, theatrical productions, YouTube videos, performances, and arts education programs.

Scholars, teachers, and performers will find a wealth of insights into the staging and performance of familiar plays, but they will also encounter new ways of viewing Shakespeare and American racial identity, enriching their understanding of each.


  • Productively engages a topic of perennial debate: race and Shakespeare
  • Offers first sustained examination of the relationship between contemporary American constructions of Shakespeare and race
  • Explores the seldom considered ways Shakespeare has infiltrated American popular culture, from films like the screwball comedy Bringing Down the House to DIY performances on YouTube

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction: The Passing Strangeness of Shakespeare in America
  • 2. Universalism: Two Films that Brush with the Bard, Suture and Bringing Down the House
  • 3. Essentialism: Meditations Inspired by Farrukh Dondy’s novel Black Swan
  • 4. Multiculturalism: The Classics, Casting, and Confusion
  • 5. Original(ity): Othello and Blackface
  • 6. Reform: Redefining Authenticity in Shakespeare Reform Programs
  • 7. Archives: Classroom-Inspired Performance Videos on YouTube
  • 8. Conclusion: Passing Race and Passing Shakespeare in Peter Sellars’s Othello
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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