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Drama Desk Lunch Panel, at Sardi’s, Explores "Why Shakespeare? Why Now?"
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Drama Desk Lunch Panel, at Sardi’s, Explores "Why Shakespeare? Why Now?"

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Drama Desk Panel and Reception
Why Shakespeare? Why Now?

(Drama Desk Website)
Isa Goldberg, Drama Desk President, Producer of the Drama Desk Awards
Joey Parnes Productions, Producer and Manager
Keith Sherman & Associates, Drama Desk Awards PR
(Sardi’s Website)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 4, 2014

Moderator Carol Rocamora
Director, Daniel Sullivan
Actor, Michael Pennington
Actor, Scott Shepherd
Director, Julie Taymor
Actor, John Glover

The Drama Desk presented its annual theater panel discussion at Sardi’s today. The panel participants, listed above, were eloquent and effervescent, truly happy to be in the spotlight, with so many theater aficionados in the crowd. This sold-out event is always a big hit for Drama Desk members, and, after Moderator, Carol Rocamora, completed her questions, the audience was invited to add questions or comments to enhance this lively exchange. Today’s lunch topic was “Why Shakespeare? Why Now?”. Carol Rocamora, theater professor, commented that Shakespeare attracts the finest theater artists, as she introduced the participants. Michael Pennington, a founder of the English Shakespeare Company, said he doesn’t accept a role unless it makes the blood boil. He mentioned Peter Brook’s play that adapted Shakespeare’s sonnets, in which he appeared, called Love Is My Sin. He said one has to play “when you’re old enough to do the role and young enough to learn the lines”. Later on Mr. Pennington mentioned the difference between British and American audiences, with American audiences predictably warm, and the British prone to “clap for themselves or sit on their hands”.

Daniel Sullivan, a renowned director of Shakespeare, including at the Old Globe Theatre (Taming of the Shrew) and Shakespeare in the Park (As You Like It) , sparked a discussion of historical editing through the centuries of Shakespeare’s plays, including Shakespeare, himself, as directors take liberties to eliminate what they can’t make clear. Julie Taymor, also a renowned Shakespeare director, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Public Theater, spoke about the challenges in that production, including special multilevel set devices. That is, a bed sheet became a wedding tent, hammock, and table cloth. Ms. Taymor said the director should assume that many in the audience are not familiar with Shakespeare, and the action should be clear and understandable. Her film Titus Andronicus, which she said became a cult film, was shot in Sarajevo. Titus, Ms. Taymor said, was a popular play in Shakespeare’s day. At one point in film production, she covered the actors in clay.

John Glover, actor, who will appear this season in Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare in the Park, said he has played Hamlet, as well as the witch in Macbeth. He spoke about the extra-feminine ornamentations to his witch’s costume, thanks to designer, Catherine Zuber. For his upcoming role as Leonardo, Mr. Glover said he’s in the process of absorbing the character. Scott Shepherd, a member of the Wooster Group, who has starred in the Group’s production of Hamlet, talked about the Richard Burton film version that plays a role in the Wooster Group’s play. It was a rare copy of the film that the Group acquired, and it became intrinsic to Mr. Shepherd’s interpretive lead, with clips appearing in the background. Mr. Shepherd also appeared in the Wooster Group’s Cry Trojans, as well as in the original co-production of Troilus and Cressida with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). In the original London production, the RSC played the Greeks and the Wooster Group played the Trojans. They rehearsed separately, Mr. Shepherd explained, and then prior to the premiere they brought the groups together in late rehearsals, to magnify different styles and accents. Back home, the piece became the story of the Trojans. Everyone seemed to have a great time at Sardi’s, while learning more about the Bard, whose 500th birthday is now being honored. Don’t miss the 59th Drama Desk Awards on June 1, 2014 at Town Hall.

(l-r): Moderator Carol Rocamora, Director, Daniel Sullivan,
Drama Desk President, Isa Golberg, Actor Michael Pennington,
Actor, Scott Shepherd, Director, Julie Taymor, Actor, John Glover.
Courtesy of Russ Weatherford

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at