Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shakespeare 450th Birth Anniversary Festival – Workshops on Apr 24 & 25, 2014: Romeo & Juliet, and Macbeth

'My only love sprung from my only hate'

Our UK visitors, Madhav Sharma and Miranda Lapworth, conducted two workshops, introducing Shakespeare to participants through stage acting. On Apr 24 they took up scenes from Romeo and Juliet for acting, and on Apr 25 it was Macbeth. The film shows of the two plays had been arranged on the day prior to the workshops.

'this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine'

The participants were divided into groups of two or three as required and handed out the text of short scenes, for example, the opening scene from R &J where the servants of the Capulet and Montague families go about insulting and taunting each other until swords are drawn and a brawl ensues.

Miranda Lapworth with participants in the Romeo & Juliet Workshop on Apr 24

First, the workshop attendees focused on what the scene was about, the emotions and underlying tensions, and how they are manifested by the characters playing the scene. Then one had to visualise how to occupy the space on the stage and the orientation of the players and significant gestures by them. Imaginative recreations of the atmosphere and the physical locale (e.g. framing the balcony with two pairs of hands forming an arch for the Balcony Scene from R & J) were constructed with the guidance of the workshop conductors.

Madhav Sharma with participants in the Romeo & Juliet Workshop, Apr 24

The participants were carried away with enthusiasm for the scene being enacted and put all their energy in getting it right. The scene was repeated several times by each group to introduce improvements. Madhav Sharma reiterated that there is no one way to do a scene, and the same actor will try out different methods, proving thereby that the play has riches to be discovered only by studying and working on the underlying text.

Anna Raju & Sudakshna Thampi, Amita Palat at the R & J Workshop, Apr 24

In what follows is the text of the scenes from the play (all edited for brevity), and pictures of the workshops in process.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Shakespeare 450th Birth Anniversary Festival – Symposium on Apr 27, 2014: Shakespeare in My Youth by Joe Cleetus

Joe recalled events from his youth which bore the impress of William Shakespeare and briefly considered a string of sonnets dealing with love. 



He noted what made them attractive in youth. Some even had bawdy content but the wit was charming.  The sonnets in the plays are particularly poignant. 


The Palmer's Kiss – Romeo & Juliet, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey

Illustrations from boyhood speech in school mimicking Shakespeare demonstrate the liberating influence he had. 


Joe Cleetus

A year ago Joe decided he owed something to Master Shakespeare and would repay him partially by gathering people for a festival celebrating his words on his 450th Birth Anniversary. His talk ended with a sonnet of homage.

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Shakespeare 450th Birth Anniversary Festival – Symposium on Apr 27, 2014, The Symbolism of Food in Shakespeare's Plays by Miranda Lapworth


Music, as we know, is the food of love, but in Shakespeare, the love of food is all-consuming. All jollity is rounded off with a grand feast of celebration. 

Miranda Lapworth, director, drama coach an actor

Ms Miranda Lapworth who is currently writing a book on the symbolism of the different kinds of food in the plays, told us of her researches. She was also the person who co-devised the one-man play, Bharat, Blighty and the Bard  Shakespeare for Everyone with Madhav Sharma.



The text of the plays is generously stocked with food, sometimes informing us of a person's character by their likeness to a particular ingredient, or their habits of eating revealing to us some vital part of their thought-processes.

Banquet Scene in Macbeth

Miranda Lapworth opened up the dining rooms and kitchens of Shakespeare to reveal their significance for love, celebration, deception, revenge, and death.

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Shakespeare 450th Birth Anniversary Festival – Symposium on Apr 27, 2014, The Magic of Shakespeare by Shri V.N. Venugopal


Shakespeare as Prospero  the magician

What is the magic of William Shakespeare that 400 years after his death the world still rings with his praise? This is the central question to which Shri V.N. Venugopal addressed himself. 



Shri V.N. Venugopal, Patron of the Kerala Fine Arts Society


The variety of characters and human portraiture in Shakespeare's plays are unparalleled.  His female characters are equally colourful and interesting. 

Jeanette Nolan from Orson Welles’ Macbeth (1948)

Longfellow summed up Shakespeare’s work as “the rarest essence of all human thoughts.”

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Shakespeare 450th Birth Anniversary Festival – Symposium on Apr 27, 2014, Prof Thomas Duddy on The Sonnets


The dedication page of the Sonnets published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609

The Sonnets would not have been printed except that Thomas Thorpe got hold of them through W.H., thought to be William Harvey, the 3rd husband of Countess Southampton to whose son, the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesely, Shakespeare’s patron, the sonnets were addressed.

WS revealed himself in the Sonnets in all his vulnerability and as far as people know it was not meant for publication, but sent to his patron and close friend, to whom they are addressed. They were not literary exercises at all, but intimate personal correspondence in the form of sonnets from WS to his patron. But some were circulated among friends of the Earl and came to the notice of Francis Meres, a Cambridge man, who refers to them in 1598.

They probably date to the plague years of 1592-93. Prof Thomas Duddy confesses his frank love of the Sonnets, scores of which he has memorised, for his macular degeneration makes reading very difficult now.

Prof Thomas Duddy  


Yet Prof Duddy  stood with his mike in front of the audience and thrilled them with the riches that lay in the complex mind of William Shakespeare as evidenced in the sonnets. He chose Sonnets 18, 29, 65, 73, 97, and 138 which were given as handouts to the audience. Then he proceeded to treat them one by one, reciting them first and expatiating on what was noteworthy, raising questions to think on as a mentor would.

Later a number of KRG readers wished he would lead a seminar on the Sonnets when he returned in Sept from Brooklyn. What follows is Joe's recollection of the talk, but it has equal parts of  Helen Vendler's The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets and his own reflections.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – May 9, 2014

The Great Gatsby - First Edition cover 
(eyes are from the all-seeing billboard of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, oculist)

This novella about one man's fixation on a girl after a brief acquaintance, and then an enforced absence, has become a classic of American literature. It continues to sell in tens of thousands of copies 80 years later

KumKum reading

Five films have been made, and the last two are far better than the novel, in that by applying the scriptwriter's art and the cinematographer’s , the scenes acquire a lustre and the jerky gaps in the tale are filled out.

Pamela, Kavita, Talitha, Priya

Three new members joined us to read. Our welcome to them, and we hope they will be able to stay the course, participate avidly, and enjoy.

Govind & Priyadarshini, new readers

Here we are at the end of the session on a day the sky had cleared after several days of rain.

Joe, KumKum, Ankush, Vijay, Priyadarshini, Talitha, Priya, Esther, Kavita, Pamela, Mathew


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Monday, May 5, 2014

Shakespeare 450th Birth Anniversary Festival – Birthday Celebration on Apr 23, 2014

Shakespeare 'Sanders' portrait - A scholar at the University of Guelph believes that in this we have the best mirror of Shakespeare's face

Shakespeare's 450th Birthday was being celebrated all over the world, and KRG readers were leading the celebrations in our part of the world - Kochi, Kerala. First, we had a reading of excerpts from the two poems with which Ben Jonson adorned the First Folio, published in 1623, six years after the poet's death.

The First Folio - the book by fellow actors Heminges & Condell without which half of Shakespeare's plays would have been lost to posterity

Jonson admonished readers not to look for Shakespeare's likeness, instead:
Reader, looke/ Not on his Picture, but his Booke.

We had a beautiful cake decorated for the occasion by Brunton hotel, and sang Happy Birthday to Master William Shakespeare.



Following the merriment the participants had tea and cake in  spacious courtyard and returned to see the second performance of Bharat, Blighty & the Bard – Shakespeare for Everyone, the one-man Play by Madhav Sharma and Miranda Lapworth.



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