Thursday, April 29, 2010

RSC's Hamlet

I was incredibly excited for the new RSC’s film of Hamlet. The wonderful David Tennant starred in the title role with Patrick Stewart in the role of Claudius.
The production was very solid, but didn’t completely live up to my wildly high expectations. For one horrible moment, I thought I might be tired of David Tennant, but I realized that I am actually a bit tired of Hamlet. That play has followed me for years and after heavy scholarly and theatrical study, I can never look at certain passages the same way and cannot keep from analyzing as I watch.
I must say that Gregory Doran and the cast did explore many linguistical nuances in ways I’ve never seen in a film or stage production of Hamlet before. While some aspects of the production may have lost a certain amount impact when moving from the stage to film, Doran used the film medium to its fullest being appropriately subtle with many portions of it, not trying to replicate or simply film a theatrical performance. Visually, he explored images of mirrors and then their shattering during the latter part of the play as various characters experience cracks in their sanity or perception of identity- reflecting the distortion that fills the play. The use of cameras in the film even beyond the paranoia inducing surveillance cameras around the castle, but also in Hamlet’s own attempt to record events and through an introspective video diary style conversation during some moments of soliloquy, are unique.
The first appearance of the Ghost is only shown by the reaction of Horatio and the guards, my hope was that he wouldn’t be revealed until the meeting with Hamlet late in the first act. Unfortunately he was shown later in the scene to limited impact in my opinion. David Tennant’s Hamlet starts out as a depressed, overgrown schoolboy, more full of tears than fire. I think that it was an effective approach, he is already in a contemplative and melancholy place in the first moments of the play. Once bent on revenge he gains energy and his “antic disposition” seems less like an act and more like a true affliction of his own unraveling.
The castle of Elsinore is a contemporary setting with glassy floors, surveillance cameras and two way mirrors. Hamlet is playing a role, aware that he is seldom unwatched. Before the “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” speech he literally tears a camera off the wall and then utters, “Now I am alone.” Tennant’s “Get thee to a nunnery” scene is charged with more than just Hamlet’s play acting, but with true hurt and feelings of betrayal.
Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius is at times mildly comical with his pontification, seeming to be a man who often repeats his little words of wisdom- to the point where other characters are mildly irritated and very familiar with nearly every lengthy phrase that escapes his lips. Sam Alexander and Tom Davey play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play Hamlet’s school friend, and quite certainly, partners in debauchery. Patrick Stewart brings an understatement to Claudius, not playing him as a great villain, and showing believable affection for Gertrude as well as guilt over his brother’s murder. From the first time we see him, it is also easy to note that he and Hamlet have never gotten along.
Mariah Gale, as Ophelia was very curious. She starts out a little playful and with a sense of independence, a trait I’ve never seen in Ophelia. As the play continues, that small stubbornness in her proves to be more like childish bravado as she crumbles inside. Though, I wish she had shown more reaction to the “Get thee to a nunnery” scene when next she sees Hamlet. At the play, she hardly registers anything being wrong until Hamlet starts interrupting the performance and acting out.
The infamous closet scene with Gertrude was where the play truly picks up momentum. Tennant and Penny Downie gave the scene incredible intensity without going in the uncomfortable and largely unwarranted incestuous direction that so many production go in thanks to Freud and Lawrence Olivier.
Though my favorite RSC is probably still the Macbeth with Ian McKellan and Judi Dench from the 70s, I can say it definitely topped the Mel Gibson Hamlet and could be a great tool for studying the play in an academic setting, though enjoyable for pleasure watching as well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Scripts: Mine and "The Runaway Train"

I thought I'd feel worse about quitting Script Frenzy. I'm really pretty okay about it, I will come back to my script over the summer, but right now it's not the proper time for it. Actually, I've been considering rewriting a novella I wrote last summer as a full length novel or script. I'm not sure yet.
Now for a not mine script: "The Runaway Train," a Doctor Who audio drama read by Matt Smith. Such things are not usually produced in America, but I find them very interesting. Actually, I'd love to write radio plays, but anyway, I digress. "Runaway Train" is a pretty good story about a terraformer from an alien planet that is sent to earth to make it habitable to this other species (which would make it uninhabitable to humans). This all happens to be in the middle of the American Civil War. When I found out that Matt Smith was the only actor lending his voice to the drama, I was a little skeptical, but I am incredibly impressed by his ability to create character voices and accents. What I like to refer to as his "bad cowboy" voice is quite sexy. Just hearing his versatility makes the program worth a listen.
Definitely check it out. Matt Smith is constantly surprising me in wonderful ways. Though I will always love David Tennant, he is carving his own lovely niche into the heart of the Whoniverse.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Doctor Who Oops

Apparently this past Saturday when the fourth episode of the new season of Doctor Who, "The Time of Angels," was shown in the UK a little animated advertisement for the upcoming program came across the bottom of the screen during the tension filled last moments of the episode obscuring Matt Smith's lower face for a moment. Viewers were in a bit of an uproar, the BBC received a barrage of calls and emails and they have now issued an apology for the ill timing of the advertisement.
Incidentally, the upcoming show was "Over the Rainbow," another one of those shows searching for the next big west end star (see "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria," "Any Dream Will Do," etc. as other examples. Andrew Lloyd Webber needs to put his time to better use, have you heard the music for the Phantom sequel? Anyway...). Graham Norton, the host of "Over the Rainbow" appeared in animated form in the screen blurb. I hope when they do the next DW special on The Graham Norton show Matt Smith brings up that he ruined most of Britain's Saturday night tv. That would make my day
Honestly, I didn't find the blurb that obnoxious, not compared to the steady stream of such advertisements we get on most US stations. To see the offensive clip (the clip doesn't spoil too much of the episode for those that are waiting for BBCA to show the episode in two weeks), watch it at my new favorite Who blog here. >

Sonnet Sunday: Open Edition

Since I am running out of favorite sonnets I am opening today's entry up for anyone to post their favorite sonnets. It's either this, or I post one of my rubbish sonnets. No one wants that.
Please, I am desperate for fresh 14-liners.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Non- Sonnet Saturday: Anna Akhmatova

One of my favorite poems by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, "You Thought I was that Type"

You thought I was that type:
That you could forget me,
And that I'd plead and weep
And throw myself under the hooves of a bay mare,

Or that I'd ask the sorcerers
For some magic potion made from roots and send you a terrible gift:
My precious perfumed handkerchief.

Damn you! I will not grant your cursed soul
Vicarious tears or a single glance.

And I swear to you by the garden of the angels,
I swear by the miracle-working icon,
And by the fire and smoke of our nights:
I will never come back to you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poetry Reminders

This National Poetry Month is nearing its close, but their are still exciting events to look forward to:
-Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 23. Carry around your favorite poem and share it with everyone you know (and maybe a few you don't... but don't get injured or arrested)
-Shakespeare Day, also April 23. William Shakespeare, by all records seems to have been born and died on the same day. Weird.
Combine both aforementioned celebrations by carrying a Shakespearean sonnet in your pocket. That's what I'll be doing.
Now I need to research dopplegangers in literature and get some sleep.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Viewing Guide

On Saturday night the first episode of Doctor Who premiered in the US. Many fans breathed a sigh of relief- though still warming up, both Matt Smith and Steve Moffat presented an excellent first effort. The show had energy, Amy and the Doctor had great chemistry and a story arch for the whole season has already been hinted at. Prisoner Zero tells him "the silence is coming," that someone is leaving cracks in time. I've already seen the second and third episodes that have aired in the UK and can say without giving away much, that cracks appear in those episodes as well. Amy's memory also proves to have inexplicable gaps that the Doctor doesn't understand in the third episode. On the Doctor's radar in the end of the first episode something that looked like one of the cracks blipped across the screen, but I could be wrong. It was late when I was watching. When watching Who attention to detail is extremely important, but some people get carried away. I don't want to be one of those people, but it's easy to make wild speculations in a show like this.
The trailer for the fourth episode shows the return of River Song and the Weeping Angels, both pet creations of Moffat from his episodes "Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead" and "Blink." Rehearsals have been running late for me on Saturday nights, so the DVR and I are becoming best friends.
This Sunday was the first part of Small Island on Masterpiece Classic. I've never read the book, but find the story very interesting and would like to read it now. Masterpiece has been struggling to re-define itself and bring in a younger audience, they seem to be hitting their stride with this season's stories taking place in the early part of the 20th century around the World Wars. I eagerly anticipate what their next season will bring.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sonnet Sunday: Neruda

Sorry it's late: busy day.
Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Non-Sonnet Saturday

I took a literature class once where we studied song lyrics as the most highly circulated form of poetry in the modern world. With that in mind my poem today is a song by The Decemberists, a very eccentric band. They have specific signatures and sounds in their music, but at the same time they experiment with quite a variety of styles. I highly recommend them. I've been listening to them quite a lot this week, re-realizing their genius. Something quirky and humorous today:

"Apology Song"
I'm really sorry Steven
But your bicycle's been stolen
I was watching it for you
'Til you came back in the fall
Guess I didn't do a good job after all

I was feeling really sorry Steven
And I spent all morning grieving
And everybody's saying
That you'll take the news gracefully
Somehow I don't think I'll be getting off so easily

I meant her no harm
When I left her unlocked
Outside the Orange Street Food Farm
I was just running in
Didn't think I'd be that long
I came out, she was gone
And all that was there was some bored old dog
Leashed up to the place where your bicycle had been
Guess we'll never see poor Madeleine again

Let this be consolation, Steven
That all the while you were in England
I treated her with care and respect
And have her lots of love
And I was usually pretty good 'bout locking her up

Where has she gone?
Well, I bet she's on the bottom of a Frenchtown pond
Rudely abused on some hescher's joyride
So I wrote you this song
In the hope that you'd forgive me
Even though it was wrong
Being so careless with a thing so great
And taking your poor Madeleine away, away

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Script Frenzy Halfway Point....

Uh oh. I'm about 20 pages behind. I started out with good momentum, filling pages takes so much less than it did with NaNo. My NaNo was about 250 pages, so 100 pages seemed pretty easy. I scoffed at the task. I scoff no more. My spring semester is extremely busy, this is the last month of classes and there is much to be done before finals. The Greek tragedy I'm in goes into tech next week. I'm also slightly strung out on allergy medication.
Another thing I realized about writing for the screen is that things happen alot faster plot wise than in a novel or even a stage play. A camera angle mentioned as a direction can describe what might take a half a page of text or dialogue. So, I'm at that "Wow, I'm running out of plot" moment I was at around this time in November. Part of my problem is I really like things to be in a semi-presentable state by the time the first draft is finished. Editing along the way is not an option here.
I'd really like to win Script Frenzy this year, but it cannot be my top priority right now. Not even in the top ten actually.
A bit of good news is that I've recieved an editor position on the paper, I'm the assistant Arts editor, but I'll mostly be training to completely take over the old editor's job sometime next spring, she won't be able to do it anymore.
And I have to ask: Was anyone else utterly desolate after the season premeire of Glee? It was terrible. Most of the best characters weren't used and I am tiring of the Sue Sylvester vs Will plot. The writers lean way too much on it. It's reaching beyond irony and breaching the realm of cheap farce.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don't Panic! Glee Season Two Premieres

Where was all the advertising for Glee Season Two? I missed it. The only reason I know it's premiering tonight is because I did a DVR search since I knew it was coming sometime this month. Come on Fox, I almost missed this sickeningly addictive show.
So, here's a quick "Glee-run" of where we stood at the end of last season:
-In spite of almost falling apart the "New Directions" wins at sectionals and is now moving on to regionals
-Finn knows that Puck is the father of Quinn's baby
-Will found out that Terry's been faking her pregnancy and ended the show by kissing the neurotic, but adorable Emma
-The villain the writers can't quite pin down, Sue, left the school vowing revenge (of course she'll be back)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Since I'm Not Busy Enough Already...

I applied to be a contributor to the popular music and film blog "The Playlist". It's a different style than I'm used to here and in the paper, but it might be beneficial and it's always good to get one's name out. Who knows, one day someone might pay me to write something. *Dreams*
My first article appeared tonight under my real name, not my creative writing name (Odessa). I also realized that I must start watching more contemporary films and reading magazines like Entertainment Weekly.
You can check out the blog here.
And, because I promised I'd mention it: I had the most peculiar pleasure of meeting my friend Lynn's boyfriend last night. His name is Richard and he runs his own comic company, InterVerse Comics LLC. Our conversation started at a very strange point and hit several others before the evening was through and I had to go to rehearsal. Oh, yes, speaking of busy, I'm performing in a Greek tragedy in an outdoor theatre next month.

Sonnet Sunday: Frost

A sonnet by American poet Robert Frost, most famous for his poem "The Road Not Taken." Today, "A Dream Pang":
I had withdrawn in forest, and my song
Was swallowed up in leaves that blew away,
And to the forest edge you came one day
(This was my dream) and looked and pondered long,
But did not enter, though the wish was strong:
You shook your pensive head as who should say,
'I dare not--too far in his footsteps stray--
He must seek me would he undo the wrong.'

Not far, but near, I stood and saw it all
Behind low boughs the trees let down outside;
And the sweet pang it cost me not to call
And tell you that I saw does still abide,
But 'tis not true that thus I dwelt aloof,
For the wood wakes, and you are here for proof.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sylvia Plath: Mad Girl's Love Song

Our Keats Party had a small,but enthusiastic turn out. Tasha brought an amazing spinach dip that went over quite well, and my iced chai did not stay on the table long either.
Saturday non-sonnet poem is one of my favorite examples of early Plath:
Mad Girl's Love Song
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Throwing a Keats Party

Surprisingly, entering "Keats Party" or "Romantic Poetry Party" into a search engine yeilds little results. I, along with the rest of the campus literary club, are throwing a party tomorrow night to celebrate John Keats and his contemporaries. It is apart of the National Poetry Month festivities.
As a party theme, there aren't many activities that spring to mind for a group to participate in. I'm bringing my copy of Bright Star, but we really had a difficult time coming up with other activities. My suggestion of contracting tuberculosis was rejected with good reason, so we decided we will have a reading of our favorite Keats poems as well as those of other romantics, and there will be a Jane Austen board game. The film will likely occupy most of the guests for the majority of the time. There is a possibility of some Magnetic Poetry making an appearance as well, which will likely lead to many interesting compositions.
Our refreshments will consist of cupcakes, mushroom puffs, chips, soda, and iced chai tea.
Feel free to use this as a guide to throw your own Keats party for National Poetry Month or whenever the mood takes you.
Now, really stop distracting me, I’m a bit behind on my Script Frenzy page count.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Exciting Adventure that is... Sharpe's Peril

Sean Bean was at the top of his game in Masterpiece Theatre's Sharpe's Peril on PBS last night. The story picks up at the end of last week's Sharpe's Challenge with Richard Sharpe and Patrick Harper on their way home. When Sharpe is asked to take a stubborn young Frenchwoman to a hill station to await her fiance (who won her from her father during a card game we find out later), it seems like a simple enough task that will only delay them a day or two, but of course it is merely the beginning of another adventure in Imperial India.
A plot involving an opium crop leaves an entire troop of soliders and locals slaughtered. The story continues to play on themes of harshness and danger through the rest of the piece. The writers took a risk by allowing likable characters that the audience is emotionally invested in be killed off, but it gave a sense of realism to the story. It was brutal landscape to be in.
Sharpe has a very interesting journey as a character in this episode as well, going through a range of emotions and changes in his relationships with various characters. Most noticable was his relationship with Marie-Angelique played by Beatrice Rosen. It starts as the traditional hate-at-first-sight, both thinking the other to be repulsive, but they grow to respect and care for one another. Though it has a romantic undertone, the film never becomes a romance. It stays focused on the life of the solider and the socio-political conflicts of Imperialism. Ideas of comradery, betrayal, honor and other principals always underlie everything.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sonnet Sunday: Shakespeare

April 23 is the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and most likely his birth (he was christened on the 26th). On the 28th of this month the RSC’s Hamlet premieres in America on the PBS series Great Performances.

Sonnet 98
From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Symptoms of Love" by Robert Graves

Saturdays in April will see a non-sonnet poetry post by me to spread the poetic spirit and encourage Random Acts of Poetry.
"Symptoms of Love" by Robert Graves
Love is a universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason.

Symptoms of true love
Are leanness, jealousy,
Laggard dawns;

Are omens and nightmares-
Listening for a knock,
Waiting for a sign:

For a touch of her fingers
In a darkened room,
For a searching look.

Take courage, lover!
Could you endure such grief
At any hand but hers?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1st, a Day Crowded With Incident

In a literary sense this is an exciting day; April first marks the kick-off of Script Frenzy, April is also National Poetry Month (please perform RAPs Random Acts of Poetry!)
It is also a day of pranks and lampoonery. Google has not forgotten that tradition with this entry on their official blog: A different kind of company name. I must applaud them for this as well as their attention to detail. Have you Topeka'd today?
Let the Script Writing and Poetry Reading begin! Visit the websites: and Script Frenzy