Jacke had big plans to make this episode all about the poetry of William Butler Yeats…and then listener feedback to the last episode overtook him. So instead of lazing about on the Lake Isle of Innisfree, he returns to the subject of Sophocles and the power of literature, as introduced in the conversation with Bryan Doerries, the Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions. After checking in with Friend of the Show Margot Livesey as she reads Boswell’s Life of Johnson, Jacke turns to a special message from a longtime listener whose own life had been changed by the work that Bryan and his theater company do. We hope you enjoy this special episode devoted to the power of literature.
As the Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions, Bryan Doerries has joined his colleagues in using dramatic readings and community conversations to confront topics such as combat-related psychological injury, end-of-life care, radicalized violence, incarceration, gun violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, the refugee crisis, and addiction. In this episode, he joins Jacke to talk about his new translation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Trilogy, his vision for contemporary theater, and how classic texts and age-old approaches to literature can help individuals and communities heal from trauma and loss.
In February of 1895, the playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) continued an astonishing run of theatrical success with the opening of his artistic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest. Three months later, he was imprisoned on charges of “gross indecency.” In this special St. Patrick’s Day episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the career of Oscar Wilde, Irish boy wonder, and the forces that led to his tragic demise.
Just after World War II, the poet and critic W.H. Auden said that Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (ca. 1959) is “of great relevance to our time, though it is gloomier, because it is about a society that is doomed. We are not doomed, but in such immense danger that the relevance is great. [Rome] was a society not doomed by the evil passions of selfish individuals…but by an intellectual and spiritual failure of nerve that made the society incapable of coping with its situation.” Why is Julius Caesar so continually important to those living in a liberal democracy? What does it tell us about the relationship of an individual to society and the state? And as the citizens of a republic lose their faith in institutions, how do we reconcile the noble ambition of a Caesar with the high-minded (but bloody) principles of the assassin Brutus?
In this episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at Shakespeare’s play, the portrayals of Brutus (James Mason) and Mark Antony (Marlon Brando) in the 1953 film, the fraught morality of assassination, the surprising links between John Wilkes Booth and the play, and an essay from The Journal of Democracy describing the declining faith in liberal democracies in 2016.
In 1964, the Oxford professor John Barrington Wain wrote: “…Romeo and Juliet is as perfectly achieved as anything in Shakespeare’s work. It is a flawless little jewel of a play. It has the clear, bright colours, the blend of freshness and formality, of an illuminated manuscript.”
First produced in 1594, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet became an immediate sensation, and the story of the star-crossed lovers has been a core part of Western civilization ever since. Why is the play so popular? What does it tell us about falling in love – and how does that differ from being in love? And what does any of this have to do with George Carlin?
Think swordfighting is two people faced off, lightly tapping each others’ blades, highly choreographed – En garde SHING, SHING, ching ching ching ching ching ching ching, oh, I say, you got me, but ’tis a flesh wound…
Right? A hundred taps, side to side, side to side, then maybe one thrust if a character is supposed to die?
That’s great theater – those hundred taps are dramatic and let the characters dance around the stage, maybe delivering a few witty ripostes as they do so.
But is it real? Was that how things looked in the days when people actually fought with swords?
No, it wasn’t. A new team of documentarians has gone back to historical sources to determine just how swordfighting actually worked. And it turns out that in the middle ages, swordfighting was brutal. Clang, bam, straight for the throat.
This was all put together as a Kickstarter project on Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) by Cédric Hauteville. The entire movie is available now on Youtube:
Any directors out there brave enough to alter the way they stage a swordfighting scene? (Just not The Princess Bride. Don’t touch The Princess Bride!)