Tonight PBS finishes their special 6-part series on several plays by William Shakespeare. These special one-hour programs are presented by some of the world’s finest actors/directors, who are all lovers of the bard’s work.
Tonight on your local PBS stations David Tennant discusses Hamlet, a play he is very well versed in having done a brilliant production for The Royal Shakespeare Company in 2008. The play was later filmed and shown as part of Great Performances on PBS in April 2010. The production also stared Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius, the usurper king, who steals the throne and marries Hamlet’s mother. Great drama, great actors.
The second show tonight is on The Tempest with director Trevor Nunn.
Shakespeare Uncovered: Hamlet with David Tennant – Friday, February 8, 9:00-10:00 PM
An acclaimed Hamlet in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s hit production (also a recent Great Performances production), David Tennant meets fellow actors who’ve tackled this most iconic of roles, including superstar Jude Law, and compares notes on the role’s titanic challenges. Tennant digs deep into the text about the doomed Danish Prince alongside the actors Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw. With them he works to plumb the deeper meanings of the play and the reason it is widely considered the greatest of Shakespeare’s canon. The historical sources and religious wars, existential questions of the meaning of life and death, the idea that ghosts exist and may speak – all these and a searing personal drama, too – comprise this Everest of a play. Tennant also finds that many actors who have played Hamlet share an experience that is deeply and profoundly personal. This is also, perhaps, the reason audiences feel the play touches them more than any other before or since.
Shakespeare Uncovered: The Tempest with Trevor Nunn, 10:00-11:00 PM
Trevor Nunn, the legendary director who has helmed 30 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays – and aims to complete them all before he retires – takes us through the magical and mysterious world created in the playwright’s last complete work. Nunn considers The Tempest as Shakespeare’s farewell from the stage, and explores the biographical nature of the play and its connection to the playwright’s often troubled family life. He also explores the stagecraft – the fact that Tempest is a play of special effects, apparitions and magic. Some of The Tempest’s most famous and most enthusiastic fans contribute their ideas about its lead role of Prospero, including Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren and acclaimed film and theater director Julie Taymor, who recently directed a film adaptation that features Mirren in which the lead role was recast as a female named Prospera.
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Shakespeare Uncovered is produced by Richard Denton. Bill O’Donnell is series producer; Stephen Segaller and David Horn are executive producers for Thirteen; Fiona Stourton for Blakeway.
Shakespeare Uncovered is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the generous support of the project’s lead foundation sponsor, the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation. Major funding is also provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Polonsky Foundation, Virginia and Dana Randt, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, and PBS.
Photos: Alex Brenner