Editing Shakespeare

The world’s greatest playwright!

The Bard of Avon!!


First, my warning: I do not hold the works of William Shakespeare on a pedestal, to be revered from far away, where only those with the malady of StickUpTheButtitis can be the only ones, the elite, to treasure the man’s work. I would not be the one on the stage balcony of the Globe, only wishing to be noticed, and in so doing, care only about that (take that, bourgeoisie!).

I’d want to be with the groundlings (not the famous, and well deserved to be, Improv company…although if they asked me to join, it couldn’t hurt). The groundlings, the common people, that made up the majority of the audience. The popular culturist of his time. I truly believe, and I say this to my students, that if Shakespeare were alive and writing today, he’d be writing for HBO or be a rapper.

So…considered the “English world’s greatest writer,”… but what chutzpah we have, in that editing Shakespeare’s plays is TAUGHT in schools/higher learning!! Meanwhile, a certain playwright who I won’t name (NS) would sue your pants off if you even changed an “A” in one of his plays and,  in my opinion, NS is no Shakespeare.  We edit Shakespeare for a number of reasons, time being one of them (well over two hours, in most cases, if the play is done in it’s entirety). Then we play around with setting, time periods, etc. as fits the whims of the director &/or the location it is being performed in.

So, I am in the process of EDITING SHAKESPEARE: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“, one of my favorites. I have to take this way over two hour play and not only it edit it down for time, but also to make it an age appropriate program for a Drama Camp. If you don’t know, Shakespeare is full of bawdiness and innuendo, and his satire was aimed at the  elite, the folly of men and women, and overall the plays that he adapted (yes, I said it: Shakespeare was one of the worlds greatest adapters) were rife with the socio-political climate of his day.

I’m almost done with my first edit. Since I am adding singing and dancing to the production, I am adding time as well, and more edits will have to happen. BTW… Thank YOU to Mr. Mark Rylance. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing “Measure for Measure” at The Globe Theater in London when he was the Artistic Director. He directed and starred in the production, and his going to the roots of how a show might have unfolded in days of yore was eye opening. Easily one of the best productions I’ve seen, and heard. You go to hear Shakespeare. It’s language is musical, when done well.

So, I will most likely have to edit this down even more after the first read through. I had a tough time “selling” this as the play I wanted to direct this summer. Big and splashy musicals always seem to hold more sway over the minds of what should be done. Audience pleasers. I hope that with the enthusiasm I have I can show what can be just as pleasing.

Shakespeare: never for just the “elite,” even if they still think it is so.

More over the summer about these trials and tribulations.

Have you ever edited a Shakespeare play? Why and werefore and to whit and hencewhy?

What was the best edited WS show you’ve ever seen?

Above, Mickey Rooney as Puck!!

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tori Mize
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 10:13:49

    Okay, Mickey Rooney as Puck and YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR! XP

    I kid, I kid..mostly. Some of the niftiest things are the modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays. I am not even remotely ashamed to say that I absolutely adored 10 Things I Hate About You and though it wasn’t Shakespeare, in the same genre- I LOVED A Knight’s Tale. 😀

    …hated Romeo and Juliet, though. HATED IT. XP


    • bornstoryteller
      Jul 01, 2011 @ 10:19:05

      Hey Tori: Rooney’s Puck and that movie was my first introduction to WS. So, it holds a special place in my movie loving heart. It made me open to see more.

      You hated Zeffereli’s R&J? or another version? I disliked INTENSELY Decrappio’s Romeo+Juliet (well, Baz Lerhman’s version).


      • ♥♂►The Perfect Birth◄♀♥
        Jul 01, 2011 @ 21:08:19

        As a teen, I greatly liked that version (Baz). As an adult, I am just more indifferent.

        In any case, I think this sounds like a very entertaining, amusing idea.

        @ Tori: do you just like Heath Ledger? 🙂

      • bornstoryteller
        Jul 01, 2011 @ 21:55:06

        Hi…it will be. Right now, my headache came when my computer was down for two days, and I still have ten pages to finish. Not insurmountable, but…want to be done with this part of the process. Thanks.

  2. Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 11:38:42

    First of all- a pox on you! I LOVE Shakespeare- always have. I went to every weekend performance of the Stratford Theatre (Connecticut) they had- and was sorry to see it gone.
    Second of all- his lowness notwithstanding- editing for age and length is an age old process. (Needed to get that play on words in- again.)
    Finally- kudos to you to bring Shakespeare to kids. I recall my son’s 6th grade class performing this masterpiece (and use the photo of him as Puck to remind him).


    • bornstoryteller
      Jul 01, 2011 @ 13:01:44

      Well Roy, tis the long and the short of it. I posted a few posts ago about Rafe and his work with the Hobart Shakespeareans. I’ve been bringing WS to elementary schools for a while now. Always having fun.

      BTW…I actually did a pre-show at Stratford Theater YEARS ago with my company. Twas quite fun.



  3. The Happiness Group (Bec Owen)
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 11:55:35

    I like your suggestion that if WS were alive today he would be rapping or writing for HBO…I’ve often thought something similar about Mozart – I’m sure he would be a Justin Bieber if he were around today!

    One of my fav WS shows was Love’s Labor’s Lost by the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare in the Park.

    Great post!


  4. penniej2
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 17:00:49

    Hmm. Editing Shakespeare. I commend you on even trying to do this, but from the sounds of it, you are familiar enough with the Bard to preserve the essence of his work. And when kids learn that Shakespeare can be fun and funny and naughty, they can relate to him more and may turn into real Shakespeare lovers. I agree with whoever mentioned that some adaptations (such as the DeDraggio version (that I never saw because I didn’t want to see WS’s words massacred) can have the opposite effect.

    I was brought up on WS because my mother quoted him all the time according to her moods and needs and not necessarily in context, “Now is the winter of our discontent” to my father who just threw back the next line “Made glorious summer…” at her.You might say that I’ve had a lifelong relationship with the Bard.
    Penelope J.


    • bornstoryteller
      Jul 01, 2011 @ 21:54:06

      Hi Penelope: that sounds amazing. My parents did not do that (my mother was NOT a fan of Shakespeare) but my dad used to throw out other reference. That was me about the Baz Lerman version. Not one I enjoyed at all. I understand the attempt, but…not my favorite version whatsoever.


  5. charlie nitric
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 21:09:38

    Hey Stuart –

    You surely have your plate full. I can see where a portion of your dramatic writing style comes from: your involvement in theater. Kudos for working your fanny off and enjoying Mr. Shakespeare. 🙂


  6. Adriene (Sweepy Jean)
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 22:03:26

    Very interesting, Stu. At the end of the day, bringing Shakespeare to a wider audience, especially to children, is a testament to the Bard’s greatness, not a slight. Best of luck with it and have fun!


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