<![CDATA[154 Sonnets - project blog]]>Sun, 27 Dec 2015 02:58:18 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[THE PROJECT LAUNCH DAY]]>Mon, 23 Apr 2012 23:51:00 GMThttp://www.project154.com/project-blog/the-project-launch-dayChampagne corks at the ready!

Happy 448th Birthday Mr Shakespeare, and welcome to the official launch of an exciting Shakespeare project online that sees 154 actors from around the globe team up with 154 Shakespearean sonnets.

Over the next days and weeks you'll see more names joining the project and more recordings available to you the visitor. Slowly but surely the project inches towards that magic number. Actually, the total number of recordings will be closer to 180, since the site has a page dedicated to 18 versions of "Shall I compare thee..." and a few more tricks up the sleeve too. 

Right now, we're just delighted to have launched the site successfully, are confident it won't collapse under the weight of all those audio files, and trust that the recordings will be a useful Shakespeare resource and a chronicle of  the Bard's work in a fun and accessible way. 

I'll report back to you soon with more Shakespeare musings and the latest project development.

Enjoy the site!]]>
<![CDATA[Project background and first uploads]]>Thu, 19 Apr 2012 00:19:01 GMThttp://www.project154.com/project-blog/project-background-and-first-uploadsThe first sonnet upload is read by Karen Tarleton. I want to spare her blushes but must tell you that she has done a wonderful job. Her reading is quite delightful, and that's very much the point of this project: delightful readings of delightful poetry. Thank you Karen.

This project began while I was still doing research for my forthcoming book on acting Shakespeare. Studying a few of the sonnets, I came across one that I was less familiar with, and which, frankly, I found perplexing. I read and reread the text, spoke it aloud several times over but the meaning eluded me at every turn. That's quite okay, I thought, because doubtless within a few clicks of a button, I'd be online, listening to a superlative reading of the text by an accomplished actor, whose delivery would make everything clear. 

Having scoured the internet for several hours, a fruitless search had sown the seed of this project in my mind and a short while later, here we are, under way and progressing from this humble beginning, the day of our first uploads, to a  day when will have all 154...and some more, by which I refer to several sonnets that we know predate the 1609 edition.

A small handful of the sonnets, some of which appeared as early as 1599, include some textual differences that give a different flavour to versions that appeared in 1609. 

Furthermore, since the 1609 edition may not have been authorized by Shakespeare, these earlier renderings may be closer to Shakespeare's original MS than the later material, and so I felt it important to include them. 

An excellent edition of the sonnets and one that includes the alternate versions of 2 (entitled "Spes Altera"), 106, 138,and 144 is the Oxford University Press edition, edited by Stanley Wells. 

Click here for a link to the OUP edition.

Incidentally, in the wake of "Anonymous" the movie, and a rising tide of anti-Stratfordian rhetoric, Stanley Wells co-authored (with Paul Edmonson) the polemical essay on the Shakespeare authorship discussion. The essay,  Shakespeare Bites Back, is a free download, terrific stuff and available here.]]>
<![CDATA[Sonnet 145]]>Mon, 09 Apr 2012 23:09:22 GMThttp://www.project154.com/project-blog/sonnet-145What do we make of 145? I flippantly dismissed its worth in a previous blog but what do other people think?
Structurally, it stands alone among the sonnets with two distinct differences. 

Firstly, we are presented with lines of tetrameter, not pentameter. Nothing unusual in that, poetically speaking! 

Iambic tetrameter has in fact given us some of the glories of English poetry:

"I wandered as lonely as a cloud 
That floats on high o'er vales and hills..."

or how about:

"She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies..."

While Shakespeare adheres to the fourteen lines of the sonnet form, he dispenses with the rule book when it comes to both meter and rhyme scheme. Yes, the sonnet form had progressed and changed over the centuries but by Elizabethan times it had generally settled on fourteen lines of iambic pentameter with an abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme. 

In 145, Shakespeare gives us seven rhyming couplets of iambic tetrameter. Not a sonnet at all then. Right?
Well, if we know anything about Shakespeare and form, it is that he was constantly pushing against conceived notions and boundaries. Look at how the blank verse in his plays may divide a line between two, or three actors, introduce caesura, feminine endings, and an array of substitutions, all the while switching between rhymed verse and prose.

These changes do nothing to diminish the poetry. On the contrary, they breathe life into a form that when rigidly adhered to, can bore to death. 

However, 145 remains a challenge. In many way it is a simpler poem that clearly lacks the depth and feeling of some of his more masterly examples of the form. None the less, taken for what it is: a lighthearted poem, flirtatious and cheeky, it is fun and fluffy but not perhaps fine. 

There lies the real challenge of this project, and I throw down the gauntlet. The challenge lies not delivering the gems but giving some polish to those forgotten and roughly hewn stones. 

O brave soul, where art thou?

<![CDATA[Many years ago...]]>Sun, 08 Apr 2012 02:41:50 GMThttp://www.project154.com/project-blog/many-years-agoI used to have a rather nifty party trick. It went like this: pick a number between 0 and 155...then I would recite the sonnet.

An impressive feat. Actually, the "trick" was that I had only memorized about ten sonnets and no matter what number you picked I would recite one of the ten declaring it to be your chosen number and hoping that in the early hours of the morning and having imbibed copiously you might not suspect my trickery.

My dear friend Tony was far more accomplished with his variation of this party trick by asking his audience to pick a number between 0 and 155, whereupon he would tell them the corresponding dish on the menu of the local Chinese takeaway. 

Joking aside, every actor should have at least a handful of the sonnets committed to memory. They provide an excellent workout for the speech and voice, for tuning up the chops, and waking up the vocal chords. 

They are, of course, so much more too; self-contained and exquisitely told stories (well, maybe not 145), in fourteen lines: beginning, middle and end.

However, while we are still on the subject of "tuning up," try one before your next voice over casting. Better still, try one with you tongue stuck out. You may attract some unwanted attention from other motorists in the morning traffic but it really does work a treat. 

<![CDATA[The patchwork quilt that is Project 154]]>Fri, 06 Apr 2012 22:46:31 GMThttp://www.project154.com/project-blog/the-patchwork-quilt-that-is-project-154An executive decision has been made to upload the content as and when it arrives. This means that in the next days and weeks you can watch and listen to the various submissions and witness the patchwork quilt that is Project 154 grow and grow. How long it will take to have all 154 on the site I have no idea. 

The sonnets will appear chronologically but obviously the submissions will not be made chronologically so check back from time to time on the progress of the project and to listen to the work of some truly talented recording artists from around the world. 
<![CDATA[Beginnings ]]>Thu, 05 Apr 2012 03:02:23 GMThttp://www.project154.com/project-blog/beginningsA steady stream of emails, phone calls and submissions have started to arrive at the Project 154 office. Many thanks for the contributions. Keep them coming! I'll try and keep up by making order out of the chaos that is my desktop - a jumble of files, names, and numbers; if Calculus and "Who's who" were to collide this is what it would look like. ]]><![CDATA[First Post!]]>Thu, 10 Mar 2011 23:43:23 GMThttp://www.project154.com/project-blog/first-postA very warm welcome to the project blog!

Over the next few days and weeks, I'll do my best to keep you updated on the progress of the site, news and all the latest developments. I have always believed that poetry deserves to be read aloud and part of this project is to give voice to something that belongs to the air, not simply the page of a book. 

So, today heralds a bright start and exciting new addition to Shakespeare online - the beginning of Project 154, a free educational resource for students, professionals, and Shakespeare aficionados alike. 

The site is dedicated to Shakespeare's sonnets, and bringing a unique element to this worthwhile educational project are the 154 contributing artists from around the globe, who represent a wealth of theatrical experience, Shakespeare know-how, professionalism, and depth.  

The site features the work of some distinguished countrymen of mine alongside contributing artists of distinction from around the world - a veritable feast of talent and diverse range of accents.  

I have already received the first contribution and will endeavour to upload as many of the sonnets on the 23rd April, Project 154's official launch date and not only the Bard's birthday but St George's day too. My day will be dedicated to the Bard, my evening to St George, as I seek out a decent pub in Los Angeles, or at least one that serves a decent pint of English ale. 

With good luck it will also have a wi-fi connection so that I can sit down, relax, and simply listen. 

I am tingling with anticipation at the very thought. 

You may have noticed that one of our pages is dedicated to Shakespeare's most famous sonnet, 18. The page will feature 18 versions of the sonnet recorded by artists in their native tongue (not English). 

In the telling of a sonnet, the actor must balance the sharing of a story with the internal debate and psychological journey of the poem.

Structurally, the Shakespearean sonnet follows an abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme and might be viewed as three movements, or three quatrains rounded with the couplet. On line nine comes the all important "volta," a turning point or shift in the story of the poem. Most actors know this instinctively, viscerally, but it's always worthwhile considering technically.

How the actor brings it all together in the reading...how he shares with the audience and yet preserves that sense of internal debate inherent in these poems...well, that is the alchemy of the actor's craft and one that we will see, or rather hear, starting on 23rd April, 2012.