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CASTING CALL

Othello is the only minority member of the Department, so Desdemona, currently serving as Department Chair, is running an affirmative action search. A likely candidate reminds her of Othello in the old days, before he smothered her to death with a pillow. Against her will she develops a crush on the applicant. Iago gets into the act, making trouble as before. Will it all end in tears once again?

 

PLAYING HENRY

Clare, a highly successful actress in a repertory company, is cast in a role she dislikes. She will play Henry IV in a gender-neutral production of Shakespeare’s Second Tetralogy. She struggles as much with her dead father, who objected to her very choice of acting as a career, as with Terri, the obnoxious guest director responsible for her role. The power politics in the Shakespeare plays cast light on her own and her father’s varying investments in the American Ideal. Clare is forced back to basics as an actress, a daughter, and a citizen. Her Argentinian boyfriend gets an earful of all her issues.

 

CLEOPATRA AND ANTONY

Cleopatra and Antony love and drive each other nuts. Octavian moves in to end the Roman Republic and found its Empire. “Cleopatra and Antony” alternates between scenes of high tension among the characters and entertaining digressions into history and politics on the other. Parallels between the late Roman Republic and George Bush’s America are lightly evoked. The characters speak in a contemporary idiom, laced with dialogue from the actual play.

 

THE GROSS CLINIC

Edwina thought she wanted to be a doctor but hated medical school. She quit to become an art historian and is currently obsessed with Thomas Eakins’ “The Gross Clinic,” which depicts a surgical operation. Her former husband, now dead, shared her love of Eakins; her current husband does not. Edwina’s dilemmas circle around the two dissimilar men she married as she endlessly riffs on Eakins’ paintings and his own troubled life.

 

THAT WAS THEN

Things aren’t going well in the world of As You Like It. Orlando has left Rosalind for a shepherdess, and her cousin Celia is unsympathetic. Soon Rosalind escapes to a whole other play, Henry IV Part One. She ends up dating the three principal men, with mixed results. The King himself is too old; the Prince is super-smart but unromantic; only Hotspur is really fun.

 

TIME TO TEACH JANE EYRE AGAIN

Every November Carolyn teaches Jane Eyre. She once loved the novel, but the challenge of dishing it up for successive cohorts of undergraduates has taken its toll. Moreover, she feels unequal to Jane herself, compromised as she is by a marriage Jane would surely leave. She faces her class anyway, as teachers must. What happens next is unexpected.

 

IN THE FOREST

Unconvincingly disguised as a man, Rosalind encounters Orlando in the forest and teases him about his love for “Rosalind.” Her father, a Duke, enjoys his exile among his courtiers and the local deer. Everyone who needs to repent has done so by the end, and they all go home to get married and/or resume their former lives; but a shepherdess they leave behind is disconsolate. She has fallen in love with Rosalind’s masculine impersonation, and can’t adjust.

 

AN INCARCERATION OF HAMLETS

An African-American prisoner serving a sentence for murder, plays Hamlet in a prison production. Interrogated by an anonymous journalist, he has a lot to say about prison, Hamlet, and his past. His story is woven in and out of 1. a This American Life episode about an actual prison production of Hamlet, 2. scenes from a movie about another prison program called Shakespeare Behind Bars, and 3. re-invented moments from the play, narrated primarily by Horatio.

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