Cuttlefish Shakespeare Fanboi Squee!!!!

So today is, as far as you know, William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday (no one knows for sure, but it’s as good a day as any, and better than most, to pretend that it is). Which is cool. The odds are very much against anyone knowing I ever existed nearly 4 centuries from now (and if you exclude whatever future version of is in use then, the odds are even lower), but Shakespeare will be known for pretty much as long as people are known. If the last copy of any human book that ever exists is a version of one of Shakespeare’s plays, it would not surprise me (yes, assuming that I still exist to be surprised by the heat death of the universe), and if it is something else instead, more’s the pity.

Anyway, I loves me some Shakespeare. So how is it I have not heard about this? Co-directed by Teller (of Penn & Teller, and a genius of the first rank), with music by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan (geniuses of the rank that could look down on the first rank condescendingly and smile, were they not doing genius things that are much more important) and choreography by Pilobolus (geniuses who don’t actually have to say a word to let people know how fucking genius they are), a brand new staging of The Tempest.

The Tempest. Which I have seen in multiple versions, from the minimalist (six British actors and a sheet, remarkably well done and just a little bit pretentious) to fully-realized spectacles (my favorite, from the Stratford [Ontario, Canada] Shakespeare Festival), which I have performed as a one cuttlefish show (well, sorta–don’t ask), which contains my all-time favorite lines from Shakespeare (Caliban’s “Be not afeared” speech, which I have recited more times than I can recall)… yeah, that The Tempest.

So… I must find a way to see this version. I simply must. I have two kidneys; surely I can sell one…

Anyway… First, a bit of Teller introducing The Tempest (and some snippets):

Second, not nearly enough (but all I could find) about the Waits/Brennan music for The Tempest:


  1. colnago80 says

    Everybody knows that Sir Francis Bacon wrote the plays and sonnets (just kidding).

  2. Al Dente says

    I liked Teller’s comment about high school students being taught to read Shakespeare rather than seeing the plays first and then reading them. I had to read Macbeth in high school and I thought it was dull and confusing. It wasn’t until I saw the play on stage that I understood what was going on. Shakespeare was not writing to be read, he was writing to be seen.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    Al Dente– Not to be read but to be seen…

    I was just talking to a student today about this. Compare Stephen Fry’s audiobooks of Harry Potter to your typical grade-school monotone recitation of the same words… A well performed recitation of The Tempest (which is really what the “six Brits and a sheet” version was) is so many worlds away from a monotonic reading, that a full-fledged production may or may not be another step up! Ideally, of course, you will see amazing actors, amazing readings, amazing staging and amazing effects… but the bedrock will be the reading (in my opinion, anyway); the best sets and effects ever will not make a bad reading good (I’m talking to you, Leonardo DiCaprio!) (Romeo and Juliet AND Titanic, that’s which one!).

    But yes, I have had high school classes that seemed bent on sucking the life out of Shakespeare’s plays. Julius Caesar. Romeo and Juliet. Macbeth. The Tempest. Would you believe it, not one word of any of those was meant in a bawdy fashion? No, it’s true! Well, true according to my high school classes!

    Teller’s shadow illusion was the first time I knew he was a genius, not just a magician. Teller knows what he is talking about. I don’t need to defend Waits/Brennan, nor Pilobolus, to those who know them. This whole enterprise seems as far removed from high school Shakespeare as… well, as high school Shakespeare is from the real thing.

    I have got to see this thing…. Nifty, let me know if you make plans. Preferably before you set them in stone; it would be nice to have someone sitting next to me who is not just complaining…

  4. says

    I actually did recall this date
    As Shakespeare’s birth. ‘Twas hammered in my pate
    By high school teacher who loved what Will penned
    And made us memorize lines without end.
    Each night one hundred lines I swallowed whole;
    To scribe them on the morrow was the goal.
    What marvels he produced on every page
    While all about the pestilence did rage.

  5. machintelligence says

    Would you believe it, not one word of any of those was meant in a bawdy fashion? No, it’s true! Well, true according to my high school classes!

    My daughter had rather the opposite experience. In her HS English class they were reading Romeo and Juliet in a scene where the bard was waxing bawdy. Since she seemed to be the only one in the room who “got it”, she was asked to explain it to the rest of the class, which resulted in some embarrassment on her part. She laughs about it now, though.

  6. Johnny Vector says

    I got to see Teller and Posner’s Macbeth in DC a few years ago, and it was stunning. Most of the magic, while good, was just magic (and I know enough about magic that none of it was mysterious). What really blew me away was the directing. Every word made sense, and sounded as if it could have been someone I saw on the street outside the theatre. Spectacular performances.

    Also, their set designer Dan Conway has designed a lot of sets in DC, including that Macbeth (and immediately after, a horrifically brilliant The Lieutenant of Inishmore). The ones I’ve seen have ranged from excellent to amazing. Yeah, this is going to be an awesome show.

  7. Mary L says

    I saw “Twelfth Night” on stage when I was a high-school freshman. Seeing that performance changed our minds about Shakespeare. We had read some the play in class and it didn’t seem funny at all.

  8. Cuttlefish says

    Lucky you! I have been to the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival, but thus far Oregon is one of the states I have yet to visit.

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