Much Ado About Some Things

March 2012

Events   Literary News
SUNY Update of Dickens
Feb. 23-Mar. 3, Albany, NY: The University at Albany--SUNY premieres an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. By Chad Larabee, the adaptation takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1960s. For more details, click here.

Black Pearl at U Tennessee
Feb. 23-Mar. 11, Knoxville, TN: Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, stages Frank Higgins' Black Pearl Sings! about a Library of Congress song collector and a Texas prison inmate with expertise in folk music. For more info, click here.

Almost Maine in Houston
Feb. 23-Mar. 3, Houston, TX: The University of St. Thomas stages John Carini's Almost Maine, "nine tales of love in the time of frostbite" and the most-produced play in No. American high schools. For details, click here.

Merry Wives with Ale
Mar. 1-Apr.1, Atlanta, GA: Atlanta Shakespeare Company stages the Bard's Merry Wives of Windsor at the New American Shakespeare Tavern. For show and menu info, click here.

Angels in America at UCLA
Mar. 7 and 17, Los Angeles, CA: UCLA undergrads stage the two parts of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Pultizer-prize winning pllay about gay life and AIDS in 1985 New York. For further details, click here.

Kansas State U’s The Crucible
Mar. 8-11, Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University presents Robert Ward’s Pulitzer-prize winning opera The Crucible, based on the play by Arthur Miller about the Salem witch trials. For more details, click here.

Shipwrecked with the RSC
Mar. 8-May 19, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK: The Royal Shakespeare Company performs a trilogy of shipwreck plays: Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors, and The Tempest. Click here for individual show dates and ticket info.

African-American Caesar
Mar. 10-Apr. 1, San Francisco, CA: The African-American Shakespeare Company performs Julius Caesar with a focus on the politician who will say anything and do anything to win. Click here for more info.

Yale Rep's The Winter’s Tale
Mar. 16-Apr. 7, New Haven, CT: Yale Repertory Theater stages Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, in which King Leontes banishes his wife and daughter because of his own consuming jealousy. For details, click here.

Harvard-Radcliffe's Glengarry
Mar. 23-31, Cambridge, MA: The Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club presents David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, about four underhanded real estate agents. For more info, click here.

Times Literary Fest at Oxford
Mar. 24-Apr. 1, Oxford, UK: Held at Christ Church College, the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival features author interviews, a creative-writing course, and more. For event listings, click here.

WRITING CONTESTS
Poetry Prize at U Pittsburgh
Apr. 30 deadline; Pittsburgh, PA: The University of Pittsburgh is accepting submissions to its Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize contest for a first full-length book of poems. Manuscripts must be in English with a length of from 48 to 100 pages. The prize includes $5,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Click here for more info.

  Man Asian Literary Prize Shortlist
Sometimes it's just impossible to choose--or so thought the judges of the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize when they expanded its shortlist from 5 to 7 titles because of too many excellent entries. The Prize awards $30,000 to the best novel written in or translated into English by an Asian writer. Announced last month, the shortlist includes Rahul Bhattacharya's The Sly Company of People Who Care. Its protagonist-narrator, a 26-yr-old cricket journalist of India, goes to Guyana. He had visited it once before and "afterwards had dreams" about the country; it struck him as an "accidental place."

Partly it was the ethnic composition. In the slang of the street there were Chinese, puagee, buck, coolie, Blackman, and the combinations emanating from these, a separate and larger lexicon. On the ramble in such a land you could encounter a story every day.

His desire for adventure sends the unnamed narrator diamond hunting in the rainforest and traveling to Venezuela with his exotic love interest, Jan. Already the winner of The Hindu Literary Prize for Best Fiction 2011, The Sly Company has been praised for its depiction of diverse cultures and races and for its depths; beyond adventures, it laces its story with the issue of multiple betrayals. That some reviewers wish for a few refinements (e.g., less description at times) gives hope to the other contenders: Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke (China), The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto (Japan), Please Look After Mom by Kyung-soon Shin (South Korea), Rebirth by Jahnavi Barua (India), River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh (India), and The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad (Pakistan). The Man Asian winner will be announced March 15 in Hong Kong. For more on the other shortlisted titles, click here.

Rahul Bhattacharya and his shortlisted novel.
Rahul Bhattacharya and his shortlisted novel.

U.S. Literary Medals for 2011
Flag of Germany Recent (winners of the Medal of the Arts (awarded February 13, 2012) include poet Rita Dove; the National Humanities Medal recipients include poet John Ashbery, and literary scholars Andrew Delbanco (Columbia U) and Ramón Saldívar (Stanford U). For more details, click here and here.

Julius Caesar Alive and Well in an Italian Prison
The Humanities, World Literature, Shakespeare—disicplines that in 2012 are more relevant than ever, judging by some prison inmates. On February 18, directors Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani won the Berlin International Film Festival's highest prize, a Golden Bear Award, for Caesar Must Die (Cesare deve morire). A docudrama, the film follows real-life prisoners over six months of preparation to perform Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The actors are actual inmates of Rebibbia Prison, a maximum-security facility in Rome. During the audition process, which is filmed, we learn details that humanize them, including the length of their sentences and their crimes, which range from Mafia-related offenses to drug trafficking. The Tavianis, now in their eighties, chose Shakespeare's Caesar (a pared-down version) because of how pertinent its issues are to the lives of the inmates. In the film, the director urges them to relate their own experience to the play, and they clearly rise to the challenge. First performed about 1599, Caesar pulsates with issues that resonate today—ambition and the drive for power, male rivalry, a sense of honor, loyalty and treachery. The roles of Calpurnia and Portia have been excised from this all-male production, which otherwise preserves some vital aspects of the original. Mark Antony's funeral oration proves gripping in the rehearsal of it, as are other parts of the tragedy. In many ways a lonely play, Caesar seems suited to the harsh prison environs used to practice speeches and scenes: stark corridors, cells, the harsh courtyard. Black-and-white rehearsal footage switches to color for excerpts from the final (well-received) public performance. Accustomed to speaking various Italian dialects, the prisoners were asked to retain these variations in performance. Such touches prove effective, as even those of us who speak no Italian can glean. For credits and movie stills, click here; to see a film clip (in Italian), click below.

     
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