In Shakespeare’s day, the ephemeral nature of playacting meant that Shakespeare didn’t expect his plays to survive past his lifetime – and he himself never sought publication of his plays. But being a modern-day writer, it’s harder for me to see some of the wonderful and varied performances being staged that use In the Shadow of the Globe as their springboard for creativity, without some record of them being preserved. So, on this page, I’ll attempt at least to give a flavor for the various staged readings and performances inspired by In the Shadow of the Globe. I hope they will encourage others to contact me if they are interested in using the book in this way!
The Vintage Players present In the Shadow of the Globe adapted from the novel-in-verse by Michelle Cameron
at NOMA Gallery, 648 Main Street, Middletown, Connecticut
Saturday, October 22, 2005, 7:30 pm
The Players: Pat Farrell, Lynne Fiducia, Ed Hall, Richard Kamins, Phillip Klein, Carolyn Kirsch, Jane McMillan, Gerry Matthews, Carmen Melillo, Charles Rich, and Peter Sipples
Director: Terri Klein; Assistant Director: Barbara Jukes; Producer: Jane McMillan; Music: Bob Alexander; Choreography: Carolyn Kirsch Set: Marian Katz
“It was a dark and stormy night…” but that didn’t keep a capacity crowd from showing up at the NOMA Gallery in picturesque Middletown, Connecticut. I had been communicating with Terri Klein for many months over first the possibility, and then the actuality, of her adapting In the Shadow of the Globe for the stage, and I was completely delighted with the results.
Terri’s adaptation followed Mary Burbage’s story faithfully, which meant many new poems were put onstage. It was a delight to have distinct actors playing Mary, Will, Cuthbert, Will Slye, Anne Hathaway, and all the rest, and to watch them interacting with one another. The addition of music (including liturgical music during the church scene) enlivened the performance, and there were many particularly memorable moments: Anne standing over Shakespeare’s shoulder as he read her letter, the fact that the Dark Lady was played as a disembodied voice, Anne Phillips hitting the apprentices “upside the head” when they were stealing apples from her table, Slye and the boys throwing dice against one another… in fact, too many memorable moments to list them all!
The cast showed tremendous enthusiasm for the work, bringing a real verve to their acting. I felt privileged to be in the audience and, once again, watch my words come to life.
Shakespeare in Performance II In the Shadow of the Globe by Michelle Cameron
A Staged Reading of Selected Poems Presented by the Capersen School of Graduate Studies, The English Department and Dr. Frank Occhiogrosso
Concert Hall, Dorothy Young Center for the Arts
June 30, 2005, Drew University
Directed by W. David Wilkins; Leonie Higgins as Mary Burbage, Orange Girl, Queen Elizabeth I, Master Phillips, Neighbor, The Dark Lady; Sandra McLauglin as Samuel Gilbourne (apprentice), Anne Phillips, Tim (apprentice), Anne Hathaway, The Dark Lady’s Servant; David Spellman as Cuthbert Burbage, William Shakespeare, Alexander Cooke (apprentice); W. David as John Heminge (narrator), Nicholas Tooley (apprentice), Ralph Crane (scribe and bookkeper), Will Slye (hired actor), Will Kempe (clown), Samuel Gilbourne, Night Watchman, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, Ben Jonson
This was a production where I was involved in developing the script, and attended all of the rehearsals. One of my concerns was the fact that we were playing to an audience that had studied this material all their lives, so we created the narrator character of John Heminge, one of the two actors who collected Shakespeare’s works posthumously to publish the First Folio, and had him explain that this was both a work of fiction and that, while it was based in history, some liberties were definitely taken with the chronology of events and the characterization of the roles. This role was taken by our director, W. David, a tremendous Shakespeare scholar and particularly knowledgeable in the sonnets.
Once W. David had set the stage, the other actors (David Spellman, Leonie Higgins, and Sandra McLaughlin) walked on to where four stools are set up, scripts in hand, and sat down. It is worth noting the beauty and facility of the venue we were in — Drew’s new Music Hall, which is stunning visually and technically tuned to an inch of its life.
We kept this particular version very much about Mary — so we led off with “My Father, Builder, Dreamer.” I won’t offer a blow-by-blow description (it was a 75 minute version), but highlights included David Spellman as the perfect Cuthbert Burbage (in rehearsal, he said he wanted a voice that would be diametrically opposed to his famous actor brother, so he spoke from the mouth rather than the diaphragm); the ability to actually incorporate the songs from “Apprenticed” and “Sudden Fever” (which I never get to read, because I can’t sing a note); a good portion of the Kempe/Shakespeare argument — this audience audibly loved Kempe’s answer to Shakespeare’s “Speech the Speech” — and the ability to integrate two or more voices as needed into the poems. In “Drink Up, Lads,” all four of the actors actually had lines. One of my absolute favorites was the way they handled “Bear Baiting,” with the two men taking lines, reading it as though they were actually watching a sports match. And W. David was perfect as Nick Tooley, frightened of his first performance before the Queen and half believing Alex Cooke who said he was smelling roast servant/boiled apprentice (the audience roared at that).
The audience (about 100 people) were spellbound immediately, and I don’t think we ever lost them. One woman reportedly told the actors that we should have handed out tissues for “Sudden Fever” and “No Longer Mourn.” Several of the professors noted some of the allusions that were particularly pertinent to their own work, which delighted me (those several years of research were worth something!). We had challenged this audience to discover the main fictional character, and of course they were able to figure out it was Mary (although they also offered the Dark Lady’s servant and Orange Girl, both of whom are fictions as well).
All in all, a wonderful version, ably acted by amazing veteran actors. It is my sincere hope to work with this particular group again — and I hope they were not just being polite when they said they hope so, too!
Erin Lynlee Partin & Michael R. Pauley from the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey Give a Dramatic Reading from In the Shadow of the Globe at the College of Saint Elizabeth Alumnae Weekend
June 11, 4:30 PM
There’s always a danger in planning an event outside in hot and muggy weather, but the Shakespeare Garden at the College of Saint Elizabeth was such an exceptional venue to stage a dramatic reading from In the Shadow of the Globe that we simply couldn’t resist taking the chance. Even when the skies grew threatening that June afternoon, everyone still hoped that we would be able to “blow the clouds away.”
Unfortunately, our luck didn’t hold, and just as we were about to start the performance, the skies opened up. The actors and I huddled under one of the canopies; most everyone else sought shelter in the Greenhouse. However, it was obvious that this was a summer afternoon thunderstorm — violent but short lived. And, ten minutes later, the skies cleared. So we began.
Of course, a downpour and a delay couldn’t dampen the absolute professionalism of the two actors from the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ. Erin Partin played Mary Burbage, Anne Hathaway, the Dark Lady’s servant, and Queen Elizabeth, altering roles through the magic of her voice and stance. Michael Pauley mostly portrayed Will Shakespeare, but also played the two apprentices, Nick Tooley and Alex Cooke, to the delight of the 100 people or so who gathered on the damp seats, under the blue canopies. The audience’s reception laughed, clapped, and mumured to one another, the garden was the perfect venue, and, despite the clouds and the rain, it was a beautiful, though all too brief, presentation of many of the poems.
Shakespeare Benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids at the Stella Adler Studio Presents: In The Shadow of The Globe: A poetic narrative of the life and work of William Shakespeare By Michelle Cameron Featuring Sonnets and Scenes by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jason Little
Saturday, April 2nd, 7:00
Stella Adler Studio, Second Floor
The rain and high winds didn’t stop this from being the best attended Shakespeare Benefit at the Stella Adler studios yet! The studio itself was very New York City — a bare, narrow space. It was packed to capacity with students and parents and friends of the actors: easily more than 200 people. People were standing in the back, sitting on the floor in front of the chairs that took over half the room.
A mass of young men and women come onstage — later, looking at the program, I see there are 28 of them. They find their spots, bow, and sit down onstage. The applause dies down, and a young woman stands up.
“Shakespeare…Seeks a Position,” she announces. Putting a hand to her chest, she adds, “Mary Burbage.”
And we were off. It was, in a word, amazing. Having these kids perform my work on a bare stage blew me away. They were phenomenal: funny, filled with pathos, angry, passionate, loving, argumentative, competitive. They had been extremely well trained and well directed, and the entire production was a delight. Each of the 28 got a “solo” so there were a dozen Mary Burbages, a dozen Shakespeares, three Anne Phillips, four Anne Hathaways, two Dark Lady’s servants, a smattering of apprentices. And, in between, as advertised, was work from Shakespeare himself. The director selected amazing passages to mirror poems from the book. He followed “Lust in Action” with Sonnet 129, and preceded “No Longer Mourn” with Sonnet 71. After “Remembering Hamnet” came Constance’s mourning the death of her son, Arthur, from King John. And so on…
A memorable evening for an worthwhile cause. I was honored to have In the Shadow of the Globe be its centerpiece.
Arts Access Program at Matheny Medical & Educational Center
March 11, 2004
Arts Access is a groundbreaking alternative fine arts program for people with disabilities, employing visual and performing artists to be facilitators. Facilitators are neutral parties in the art making process, who literally act as the arms and legs of the artists with disabilities. Arts Access drama facilitator, Marian Akana, spearheaded the program.
The group used the book to inspire their own writing. As Marian explains, “Each week I read a number of poems with related themes, analyzed the symbolism of the poetry, and explained some of the language to the class, relating it to the customs of Shakespeare’s time as well as to our own. I asked each actor to select one of two possible themes to write about.”
For example, in the ‘Orange Girl’ segment, Cheryl Chapin responded to the questions ‘Have you ever felt the longing for something that might be impossible for you to attain, yet seems so close? What is it you seek?’ with:
Running, reaching for my new life.
Oh to lose my wretched old one
And bury it
To embrace a new life –
Sweet and juicy.
It smells like sweet melons,
I could drown in the dew of them
And linger there forever.
During their discussions, the group found that some things are universal, regardless of the era.They also watched several films relating to Shakespeare and his work. The result was a chapbook titled “Poetic Responses to Michelle Cameron’s In the Shadow of the Globe.”
The reading that followed included facilitators reading the class’ poetry along with the poems that had inspired it from the book.
Featured Photo: West Caldwell Library Reading, Photo Credit: Judith Lindbergh