Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bardolatry now!

Hey everybody, today is Shakespeare's (probable) birthday! Yes, the day we celebrate the birth of the immortal bard, who, it turns out, wasn't literally immortal, just literarily immortal. Huh...if there was a joke there, I'm pretty sure I blew it.
Above: Shakespeare's portrait, again, probably.
Above: Harold Bloom verbally
fellating Shakespeare for 768 pages.
As you probably know, William Shakespeare was a sixteenth century English actor and playwright whose 36-ish plays, 158 sonnets and frequent appearance in local court documents (dude loved to sue) are among the greatest contributions to literature by any person in the history of the world. He also single-handedly invented the English language and the human. That's according to noted literary critic and master of understatement Harold Bloom in his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. Because hey, why not?

George Bernard Shaw coined the term bardolatry to describe the practice of praising to the point of worship Shakespeare and his works. It's not entirely unjustified, after all Shakespeare's writing has an almost unparalleled ability to illuminate the soul and explore the human condition. Also he made like a ton of dirty jokes. All over the place. But the point is that people love this stuff and can get super worked up about it even 400 years later.
"Do you think I mean country matters? Get it? Did you...
did you see what I did there? Country matters? Because sex?"
-Hamlet, Act III scene II
To put this into nerd terms, she's the
Ninth Doctor of Artistic Directors.
Speaking of...have you been following this Emma Rice thing? She's the current, soon to be former Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe, a replica of the Shakespeare's original theatre. Last summer they hired Rice, a hip, edgy director to come in and shake things up. And she did. Just not in the way the theatre's board had hoped. Rice and the Globe had...differences. It wasn't working out and last October, after just a few months on the job, she resigned effective eventually. 

Eventually as in April of 2018, so she has a whole year to go which promises to be fun for everyone who works there. So what's up? Was Rice just too damned out there and rebellious for those stuffy be-neckruffed board members to handle? Or was she just stubborn and unwilling to work within the boundaries established by the board. As a person who lives on the other side of the world and knows none of the people involved, I feel pretty qualified to assess the situation and I'm going to say it's probably both. 
What? People who like sports have all kinds of opinions about
how coaches and players should do their jobs, why can't I?
Pictured: Emma Rice, shortly after
trying some xtreme new energy drink
or possibly a new Dorito flavor. 
Rice published an open letter to her as-yet-unnammed successor laying out her beef with the theatre and the board:

"I chose to leave because the Board...did not understand what I saw, what I felt and what I created with my actors, creative teams and the audience...Nothing is worth giving away my artistic freedom for, it has been too hard fought for."

-Emma Rice, 
not loving the job

Also, she did crazy shit like this.
Yikes. The Globe's board made decisions without her, didn't trust her leadership and laid rules and restrictions on her that weren't discussed when she took the job. Who can blame her for wanting out? Oh, right, the board. On the other side, Dominic Dromgoole, Rice's predecessor also wrote an open letter which suggests that she pissed off audiences by using modern theatrical equipment like a sound system and lighting instruments instead of more period appropriate things like musicians and the sun.

At first might sound a little too specific and petty, but in the board's defense, these are things The Globe typically doesn't do because it flies in the face of the replica '16th century theatre' vibe the they're going for. There's more to it, but that seems to be the big sticking point. And you know, while people love authenticity, any Renaissance Festival devotee will tell you, sometimes too much can get in the way of everyone actually enjoying themselves. So I think I'm with Rice on this one.
Sorry to burst your bubble Ren fans, but at no point between the years
 1300 and 1500 did anyone pay nine dollars for a goddamn turkey leg.
The Globe: all the fun of Elizabethan drama
with a somewhat reduced risk of plague.
So you've got an artistic director who wants to innovate and take risks and you've got a board who wants to stick to the original vision of The Globe. These are kind of opposite goals and it sounds like everyone will be happier once this is all over. Rice can be somewhere where she can have the free rein she needs and the Globe can have an Artistic Director who wants to replicate what it was really like to see a play in Shakespeare's theatre but with fire code compliance and fewer patrons taking a leak in the corner during the boring parts. 

But if there's a bright side to all this, it's that four hundred years after Shakespeare's death, creative people are still getting into pissing contests over how to produce his plays. Oh, and if you want Emma Rice's job, it's posted on The Globe's website right up their with a opening for a tour guide and an internship. No, for real.
Here's a picture of Harold Bloom, the literary critic whom I earlier
invited you to picture performing a sex act on William Shakespeare.
Remember? I just thought you'd appreciate a visual. You're welcome.

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