In a unique series of six films debuting on PBS Friday, January 25 at 9 p.m. (check local listings), Shakespeare Uncovered will combine history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis, and the personal passions of its celebrated hosts – Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely Richardson, and David Tennant – to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare's greatest plays.
Produced by Richard Denton for Blakeway Productions & THIRTEEN for WNET in association with the BBC and Shakespeare's Globe, each episode explores and reveals the extraordinary world and works of William Shakespeare and the still-potent impact they have today. The films combine interviews with actors, directors and scholars, along with visits to key locations, clips from some of the most-celebrated film and television adaptations, and illustrative excerpts from the plays staged specially for the series at Shakespeare's Globe in London.
Behind every Shakespeare play there is a story: for instance, how he and his company dismantled their theater and rowed it across the river Thames when their landlord cancelled their lease – then staged Henry V for the first time. There are echoes of the playwright's life -- who named his twins Hamnet (a boy, who died at age 11) and Judith -- in plays like Twelfth Night, where the plot turns on the adventures of separated twins; and Hamlet, where the drama begins with the grief of a son who has lost his father. The series shows Shakespeare as an impresario who, four centuries ago, defined early the tenets of show business – drawing on historical sources, stealing and adapting ideas, bringing back popular characters, writing prequels, and developing dramatic ideas from the politics of the day.
Each program's host has deep personal experience with Shakespeare's work and relates not only the stories of the plays themselves, but also the stories of how they came to be written, how they have been performed, and how they have survived over 400 years.
The six episodes will air as follows:
Friday, January 25, 2013
Shakespeare Uncovered: Macbeth with Ethan Hawke
9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Ethan Hawke invites viewers on his quest to play Shakespeare's murderous Thane of Cawdor by researching the true story and real-life events that served as the play's inspiration. Historian Justin Champion visits the actual Scottish sites of the story on Hawke's behalf, introducing him to Dunsinane where Macbeth supposedly lived, and to the history books that distorted the true story and consequently led Shakespeare to do the same. Immersing himself in some of the most memorable and innovative productions of "the Scottish Play," Hawke gleans extraordinary insights into Shakespeare's understanding of the criminal mind. Lady Macbeth's relationship to the titular Thane is a critical role in the play and is examined by observing Shakespeare's Globe actors rehearsing and performing scenes from the play, as well as by revisiting recent productions starring Patrick Stewart and Antony Sher.
Shakespeare Uncovered: The Comedies with Joely Richardson
10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Joely Richardson investigates (with her mother Vanessa Redgrave) the legacy of these two brilliant cross-dressing comedies, with their missing twins, mistaken identities, and characters in disguise; their connections to Shakespeare's personal life; and the great romantic heroines created by Shakespeare in two perennially popular plays. Richardson investigates the comic and dramatic potential of female roles written for male actors to play. At the same time, Richardson demonstrates that Shakespeare revealed an acute understanding and sympathy for women when he wrote these characters. Redgrave's portrayal of Rosalind in As You Like It made her a star in England and soon after, all over the world, and the show reveals the legacy of strong, sassy, witty women that we inherit from William Shakespeare's great comedies.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Shakespeare Uncovered: Richard II with Derek Jacobi
9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
In returning to the role of a deposed monarch whose crown is taken from him, Derek Jacobi takes a 360-degree view of this great political thriller whose title character he played more than 30 years ago. Jacobi shares insights on the play's political twists – and their modern equivalents – that have kept Richard II resonant for centuries through its understanding of power's tendency to corrupt and distort the truth, and how quickly power may be lost. While coaching actors at Shakespeare's Globe, Jacobi describes how the play was used by the Earl of Essex in his attempted coup against Queen Elizabeth I, and persuaded Shakespeare's own company to stage it to encourage the Earl's "plotters." Jacobi reveals how the plot nearly cost Shakespeare his life. Also featured are notable excerpts from the upcoming Great Performances film adaptation starring Ben Whishaw and Patrick Stewart.