Tag Archive: shakespeare


“William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back” 18666146
by Ian Doescher
Read by Ian Doescher, Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Jeff Gurney, January LaVoy, Marc Thompson
Published by Random House Audio
Listening Length: 3 hours and 25 minutes

 
Holy cow, how much nerdy fun can be had by reading Shakespeare? Well thanks to an acting teacher back in college, I can have lots of fun reading Shakespeare. That teacher taught me how to appreciate the quirks written into the characters. So imagine the fun this sci-fi nerd had when I discovered that someone was doing a Shakespeare/Star Wars Mashup. I love sci-fi but I was never a huge Star Wars Fan (I was on the Star Trek side of that fence) but I couldn’t resist this mashup.

There are many aspects of this audiobook to love from the vocal performances to the sound effects, the audio version of this book really brought it to life. Back to that old college acting teacher, he once said that Shakespeare is meant to be performed not merely read, that is proven even more so in this audiobook. While the author captures all aspects of Shakespeares plays in his writing, with iambic pentameter, choruses, asides, soliloquies, and the language of the Bard, once you hear the performance there is no turning back.

I forced my brother, who has got to be the biggest Star Wars fan on the planet, to listen and from the first ten syllables he was hooked and laughing out loud. Knowing the film, The Empire Strikes Back, inside and he knew exactly what line was happening next and, along with me, loving revisiting the story while at the same time feeling smarter for enjoying the rhythm of the speech.

This audiobook perfectly retells the story of the film, but adds in some extras in the mashup that create a story that could have been easily performed on the Old Globe stage. One of the interesting aspects of the writing is the speech of Yoda. In the movies all fans know Yoda has a unique reverse speech pattern. Doescher works with this in giving Yoda a unique style different from any character in the book. At first I was thinking, wait, he’s not speaking the backwards Yoda speak, but it stood out and was different. After looking up more info on the book, I discovered that Yoda was speaking in Haiku. Every time Yoda spoke it was in the form of a Haiku poem.

Another great aspect was that of the voice actors. There are several which makes for unique characterizations for each character in the story. The best part is the voice of Han Solo sounds exactly like that of a young Harrison Ford, which makes the story that much more fun and appealing to all fans.

All in all I highly recommend this audiobook to all nerds everywhere. You will laugh out loud while at the same time learn some techniques of classic literature. I think this book would make for a great teaching device, for example teaching Shakespeare to a group of high school students burnt out on Romeo & Juliet.

“Macbeth”
by William Shakespeare
Multi-cast performance starring James Marsters
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
Approx 2 hours

While getting my degree in Theatre from Southern Illinois University, I learned to appreciate the works of Shakespeare.   The first thing I learned is that the plays are meant to be performed not just read.  Once I started performing scenes from Shakespeare’s collection I saw how much fun and in depth the stories were.  Yes, even the tragedies were fun, from a performance perspective.  So now when I hear of students having to read Shakespeare I cringe a little knowing they may never learn to appreciate Shakespeare.  In comes  L.A. Theatre Works and their releasing in audiobook format theatrical performances.    I’ve had the chance to listen to several of these and, to be honest, I was leery at first.  I was thinking, how can you turn such a visually dependent medium into an adequate audio book?

L.A. Theatre Works goes well beyond the adequate, and are able to produce superb audio versions of some great performances.  Most of this lies in the excellent production using sound effects that make sense in the right places and with even more excellent casting.  The many plays always feature accomplished actors, not just famous ones but ones that are capable of filling the role to perfection.  In the case of this release, James Marsters is cast in the lead as Macbeth, and just knocks it out of the park.  There is one scene where the ghost of Banquo sits in Macbeths chair at a dinner party and the issue is that Macbeth begins yelling at the spirit and the other members of the party don’t see the ghost.  In his vocal gymnastics alone on this recording, Marsters is able to explain to the listener that only he sees the ghost.  Great performance throughout by all the actors.

As for the story of “Macbeth,”  this is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays and carries with it some baggage.  “Macbeth” is considered a cursed play, so much so that theatre tradition does not allow one to mention the name of the play within a theatre,  many refer to it as “The Scottish Play” and when referring to the main characters, just call them “Mr. and Mrs. M.”  The reason behind this superstition goes back many years, the origin is that Shakespeare used some actual witches’ spells when writing it, and as revenge for giving out the secrets of the craft some real witches cursed every mention of the play.

The play is about a General in the Scottish army who becomes king, but not in a traditional happy sort of way.  Two generals, Macbeth and Banquo are returning from a battle and stumble across three witches in the forest where the tell the two of their fortunes.  Macbeth will be king and Banquo will have his children for many ages become King.

Putting the thought of becoming King into Macbeth’s head leads to the murder of King Duncan and the fall into madness that surrounds Macbeth.  Soon he must go to the witches again to find out more of his future.  This time around the witches tell him that no man born of a woman can kill him, leaving Macbeth with the false belief that he is invincible.  Tragedy ensues and another classic has been engulfed.  Enjoy this classic performed by wonderful cast.

“Wondrous Strange”
by Lesley Livingston
read by author
Produced by Harper Audio
Approx 7 Hours

Kelly Winslow, an aspiring actress in New York City, has just had her big break, when the actress portraying Titania in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” has been injured and Kelly goes from being the understudy to the lead actress.  But not all is as good as it seems.  Kelly soon learns the world of Fairy and Fae is real, and worse yet, the Winter King, Oberon is not only real but is her real father.  This at first may sound good to suddenly find you are a Fairy Princess, but the Fairy-folk are really not a friendly bunch.   Someone in the Fairy world has decided they don’t want Kelly to realize her birthright.

The troubles all begin when Kelly is rehearsing her lines in Central Park and Sonny Flannery, a Janus Guard for King Oberon (unbeknownst to Kelly) notices something different about Kelly.  Spying on her from the bushes he sees she is having a bad day (seems she forgot her lines during rehearsal and the director was a bit cruel).  Sonny can’t shake the feeling that she is different from most humans so curious he presents her with a rose.  Kelly asks why and Sonny says you look like you needed something nice.   When they part Kelly begins walking home through Central Park and hears the sound of someone screaming from a pond.  It turns out not to be someone but a something, a horse.  With Sonny long gone, Kelly realizes no one is around to help so she dives in to save the drowning horse.  Kelly risks her life to save the horse that seems to be tangled in the vegetation of the bottom of the pond.

The next day Sonny discovers the area where someone was dragged on shore the mud in the grass and some mysterious black beads and copper colored horse’s hairs.   Sonny knows the hairs for what they are, Kelpie hairs.   Kelpies are fairy creatures that lure people into the water and eat them.  When Sonny finds Kelly’s script nearby he fears the worst.   Sonny shows Oberon the beads which Oberon immediately knows them as part of a spell that is set to begin the Great Hunt in which all the evils of the fairy world will be unleashed into the mortal world killing all in sight until the quarry is found.  This time the target is Oberon’s daughter.

Sonny must save Kelly from the fairyworld by letting her know who she is.  At the same time he must find out who is trying to unleash the Hunt.  He suspects Queen Maab, but with a very interesting twist in the tale, the author, Lesley Livingston, creates a bit of a mystery into this fairy tale set in modern day New York City.  Very entertaining bit of young adult fiction that will keep you enthralled until the end.   This book is part one of a three book series but is easily a standalone novel.

I have to note that at first I was a bit leery at the idea of the author reading her own work as the audiobook.  While the authors may have a great feel for what is in the book, the performance as a reader can sometimes lack.  Not so with Lesley Livingstone, she does a superb job of performing the many different voices and expressing all necessary emotion.  This audiobook is an excellent choice from that aspect alone.

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