Sunday, 13 December 2009

Bard Fiction

When I took The Girl to America in 2008, an old friend of mine showed me his writing project -- he and his online collaborators were rewriting the film “Pulp Fiction” as a Shakespearean play.

If you’re familiar with the movie, you probably remember the early scene where two hit men, played by Samuel Jackson and John Travolta, discuss one character’s recent trip to Europe.

VINCENT: You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?

JULES: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?

VINCENT: No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn't know what a Quarter Pounder is.

JULES: So what did they call it?

VINCENT: Royale with Cheese.

JULES: Royale with Cheese. What'd they call a Big Mac?

VINCENT: Well, a Big Mac's a Big Mac, but over there it’s Le Big Mac.

JULES: What do they call a Whopper?

VINCENT: I dunno, I didn't go into a Burger King.

Now this is the Shakespearean version they created:

VINCENT: And know'st thou what the French name cottage pie?

JULIUS: Say they not cottage pie, in their own tongue?

VINCENT: But nay, their tongues, for speech and taste alike
Are strange to ours, with their own history:
Gaul knoweth not a cottage from a house.

JULIUS: What say they then, pray?

VINCENT: Hachis Parmentier.

JULIUS: Hachis Parmentier! What name they cream?

VINCENT: Cream is but cream, only they say la crème.

JULIUS: What do they name black pudding?

VINCENT: I know not;
I visited no inn where't could be bought.

This past summer, I revisited Minnesota to spend time with friends, conduct interviews and give some lectures at a university and a church. I saw my friend again, and found that he and his collaborators had turned the project into a full stage play – Bard Fiction. They submitted it to the Minnesota Fringe Festival, were accepted, and performed it for thousands of people.

I got one of the last tickets of the last show, and while the Girl was happily ensconced with my friends’ children, and rushed to the theatre and managed to get a front-row seat.

They were the hit of the festival, made the cover of the local weekly paper City Pages and the Arts section of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and were called back for an encore performance. I told him they should try to take it to Broadway.

P.S.: Any nominations for other current works that could be made "classical?"


Aaron said...

Glad you liked it! While I won't give any public hints just yet of other classical hybrid pieces I'm working on, I do want to give 'props' to two forerunners of our work, who helped to serve as inspiration and set the stage:

* David Mann's "Corleone": A Shakespearean retelling of "The Godfather". It was really well done when I saw it at MN Fringe a few years back, and I was horribly sad to have missed its recent remount (just closed this last weekend) in expanded format.

* Walking Shadow's "Shakespear's Land of the Dead": I didn't see this Shakespearean take on Romero's Zombie epic, but it was one of the breakout hits of the '08 MN Fringe, and was *very* well recieved. I'm hoping that Walking Shadow will take a page from Corleone and do a remount (and not just because that would set us up for a remount of "Bard")

People ask us frequently, were we involved in the other productions. No, it's been a new company each year - this is one reason we're hesitant to go to this same well twice, ourselves. That said, there does seem to be a present and persistent appetite for new works in classical modalities. What that says about us culturally . . . I don't know.

There are, though, a few connections (the Twin Cities theater community being close-knit): John Heimbuch of Walking Shadow (who wrote and directed Land of the Dead) did some dramaturgical work for us on "Bard Fiction", and our Stage Manager (Sarah Bauer) also served as SM for this most recent production of Corleone.

OK - enough commenting in your blog for one day!

Brian Kaller said...


I loved it, and have been meaning to mention it for months. I didn't know about your predecessors; "The Godfather" seems perfect for that sort of treatment, but "Land of the Dead" did not jump out in my mind as Bard material. I suppose I'll have to see it.

I hope to be in America again for your next project.