by Paul Pierog
At the time I write this a success is on the airwaves in Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Kuchner’s play Angels In America to a well-received and much watched two part television special. Around 1970, Mike adapted a notorious play of its time, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. bringing in the star power of the Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck of that time, Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Burton. In 1998, this director adapted the Off Broadway play Wit for an HBO special that is now available on DVD. Mike Nichols had been a student both of the Strasburg Method and Improvizational Theatre, which he brought to success on Broadway in partnership with Elaine May.
In 1962, the traditional musical Chicago, made as a film that emphasized its theatrical origins, dominated the academy awards. Furthermore, Broadway Television Network has worked out a system to producing Broadway shows starting in 2000.
At a time when dvds have become common to own and fairly inexpensive to make, there is a small number of plays on dvd.
Of course, William Shakespeare is usually considered not only the greatest dramatist but also the greatest writer ever. The Shakespeare Bulletin is a good ongoing record of his stage productions taking place constantly throughout the world. In addition, they have taken into its pages a previously independent production covering Shakespeare on film. The subject of how Shakespeare play in film as such is a subject of study. A book in that field is Filming Shakespeare’s Plays, the adaptations of Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Peter Brook and Akira Kurosawa, by Anthony Davies (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
Hamlet, sometimes considered the greatest play of all time, is represented on dvd in versions featuring Laurence Olivier (1948), Richard Burton (1964), Kevin Kline (1990) and Kenneth Branagh (1996). There is a filmic adaptation starring Ethan Hawke (2000). There is a television version starring and directed by Campbell Scott that was welcomed with Emmy attention in 1970-71.
Kenneth Branagh is further represented in his direction of and acting in Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and Love’s Labor’s Lost (2000). Further, he plays Iago to Laurence Fishburne’s Othello (1995).
Orson Welles work as an actor and director by Shakespeare is represented by Othello (1952). Laurence Olivier is represented in As You Like It (1937), Richard III (1956), Henry V (1946) and King Lear (1984). Ian McKellen’s Shakespeare work is represented in Richard III (1995). Leonardo DeCaprio appears in director Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet.
A 1999 A Midsummer Night’s Dream featured Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer and Stanley Tucci. Adrian Noble directed a 1996 version of the play. There’s the Much Ado About Nothing for television in 1974 from The Public Theater. There’s a BTA Taming of the Shrew, 1976.
Filmmaker Franco Zerrfilelli made a Romeo and Juliet in 1968 and a Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor
Kultur presents a set of Shakespeare plays under the general title The Plays Of William Shakespeare, describing them as the “clearest and most understandable Shakespeare productions ever made. These are Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear, Richard II, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Tempist. Ambrose Video offers the BBC Shakespeare Series in conjunction with Time Warner, offering major British actors in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, Henry V, Henry VI Part I, Henry VI Part II, Henry VI Part III, Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, King John, King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Macbeth, Measure For Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Pericles, Richard II, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, Timon of Athens, Titus and Andronicus, Trolius and Cressida, Twelfth Night, and Two Gentlemen of Verona.
A 1912 version of Richard III is described as the earliest surviving American feature film. Earlier then that is The Milestone Collections The Silent Shakespeare, a collection of earlier silent films based on Shakespeare plays. An 2000 entertainment is the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works of Williams Shakespeare. An entertainment inspired by Shakespeare is the movie Shakespeare in Love, written by playwright Tom Stoppard. Films considered cinematic interpretations of Shakespeare are Kurasawa’s Throne of Blood, based on Macbeth, and Ran, based on King Lear.
Click Here for more of Paul Pierog's "Search For The Important Plays On DVD's" about Modern Plays.