CONVERSATIONS WITH SHAKESPEARE
How would William Shakespeare apply his talents were he alive today? How would he respond to current events and contemporary beliefs? While we’ll never know what Shakespeare would say, we know what he did say, and his insights remain as astute and profound today as they were in his lifetime. Not for nothing have his plays been performed for packed audiences worldwide for over four centuries, and never more so than in these trying times, when audiences are yearning to understand and find meaning in the tumult.
But how best not only to make this point but to share it firsthand with the widest possible listening audience, to give listeners moving and germane experiences with Shakespeare that they can assimilate directly into their lives? Rhona Silverbush and renowned director Daniela Varon have created a unique and innovative series of programs, presented before a live theatre audience at New York’s Symphony Space, and in development for future broadcast on public radio. In it, they have chosen topics both timely and timeless – a different topic for each program, have brought together distinguished experts in those fields along with superb actors – from renowned, award-winning Broadway veterans to emerging stars of the classical stage – and have moderated scintillating discussions of the issues as they play out both in Shakespeare’s times and today. Throughout each program, they've contextualized for the audience relevant speeches and scenes and given everybody the pleasure of hearing the actors perform them. The result – a thought-provoking, inspiring, entertaining and joyous marriage of theatrical performance and impassioned discourse.
They call this series “Conversations with Shakespeare.”
To date, Ms. Silverbush and Ms. Varon have produced eight programs, reaching approximately fourteen hundred people. Their topics have been Ways to Woo; Time and the Universe; Deportation, Banishment and Exile; Marriage – Desires, Discords and Deals; Depression and Melancholia; Sex – Sins, Sacraments, Seductions and Satisfactions; The Uses of Revenge; and When is War Justified? Because of the shows' singular format, it has been able to attract preeminent experts to tackle these pressing issues and outstanding and renowned actors to bring Shakespeare’s words alive. Energized by their involvement, they have all expressed interest in being invited back to participate in future shows…and some already have been.
Experts have been physicist Dr. David Albert; author, humorist and professor Dr. Regina Barreca; Dr. Bob Berkowitz; professor Dr. Roger Berkowitz (no relation to Bob); public intellectual Dr. Drucilla Cornell; psychologist Dr. Barry Farber; anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher; playwright Eduardo Machado; social psychologist, ethicist and feminist Dr. Carol Gilligan; professor and human rights attorney Daniel Kanstroom; physicist and award-winning novelist Dr. Alan Lightman; couples’ therapist Terry Real; psychologist Dr. Paul Siegel; philosopher Dr. Michael Walzer; and psychosexual therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Actors have been Mary Bacon, Cherist Boothe, Allyn Burrows, Jonathan Cake, Bill Camp, Michael Cumpsty, Richard Easton, Jonathan Epstein, Jacob Fishel, Stephanie Roth-Haberle, Michael Hammond, Jennifer Ikeda, Malcolm Ingram, Peter Francis James, Hamish Linklater, Melinda Lopez, Elizabeth Marvel, Kelly McAndrew, Joe Morton, Christianna Nelson, Alex Organ, Michael Potts, Tod Randolph, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Douglas Thompson, Benjamin Walker, Rutina Wesley, Treat Williams, and Jeffrey Withers.
Live Theater and Radio Broadcast
The theater is the traditional and enduring venue for the performance of Shakespeare. In recent years, the medium of film has brought Shakespeare greater visibility and a wider audience. Radio, however, has become neglected territory for the Bard – a pity, because Shakespeare is a natural fit for the medium. In his day, people spoke of going to "hear" a play, not of going to see it. The theatrical experience appealed more to the aural sense than to the visual; indeed, as many audience members in an Elizabethan theater could not actually see the stage, Shakespeare embedded the events and images of the plays into the dialogue so that the audience could follow the action whether they actually saw it unfold or not.
This series celebrates the aural tradition. The actors perform their scenes in a concert reading format, allowing the theater audience, as well as future radio audiences, to complete the performance with their own imaginations. Because these programs are recorded in front of a live audience, they will bring the energy and excitement of live theatrical performance to their radio broadcasts.
The eight programs already produced are in the process of being edited for distribution for radio broadcast. Ms. Silverbush and Ms. Varon have partnered with two-time Grammy Award-winning audio producer and director David Rapkin, as well as with I Openers, a strategic marketing firm, to develop the programs for the medium of public radio and to achieve their goal of bringing the Conversations with Shakespeare experience to a national radio audience. We have been advised that the series has a viable market of approximately fifty public radio stations nationwide, reaching a broad national listenership. We will also be offering the program to radio stations abroad, which will further expand our radio audience.