Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, April 22, 2016

A post modern birthday party fit for the Bard

On April 23, it will be the 400th birthday celebration for the legacy of William Shakespeare, the prolific playwright and poet whose works still live on today.

How well are they living, is the question. Some may feel that his collected writings are simply strangely worded stories and poems that only stuffy English professor types care for.

The fact that many of his plays are assigned reading for high school students tends to make folks think of Shakespeare as the bookish version of "eat your vegetables", something that's supposed to be good for you but not very tasty. Fortunately, we have many fine examples of  pop culture creators who are keeping Shakespeare as fresh and fun with a dash of post modern flavor that excites and inspires. In honor of his birthday, let us peruse a a fine assortment of  millennial Shakespearean delights:

KEEPING IT OLD SCHOOL: The YouTube series Thug Notes has covered a good number of Shakespeare's plays with Professor Sparky Sweets giving you the real on such works as Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Hamlet. I thought Macbeth would be a good starting point, getting the tragic side of Shakespeare up front and center.

The mix of humor and analysis(which is part of the Wisecrack channel that was founded due to the success of Thug Notes) given to each play is not just a spoonful of sugar to get the educational medicine down. Rather, Thug Notes has become a brilliant showcase for many literary classics, with Shakespeare being one of the many recipients of such lit largess that helps it maintain it's smart street cred:

ROMANTIC RAP BATTLE: The gang over at Epic Rap Battles of History have tackled the Bard(directly, in one bout) and even had a double team battle as lovelorn teens Romeo & Juliet squared off against lovelorn criminals Bonnie and Clyde.

An odd pairing to be sure, yet the assist of comediennes Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart made this match-up all the more amusing:

 ONCE MORE WITH FEELING: The film versions of Shakespeare's plays number in the double digits, with many of them being elaborate costume affairs.

However, Joss Whedon proved in 2010 that you didn't need all of those cinematic fuss and feathers to bring a Shakespearean work to new audiences. Filming in black and white(as well as using his own house as the setting), Whedon was able to cast many of his acting friends to take part in his production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Yes, modern dress and locations have been used before for Shakespeare but by keeping the whole outer layer of the story simply styled, Whedon and company were able to give this tale of romantic misunderstandings a contemporary feeling that made all the right moves:

TO DO OR TO DO NOT, THERE IS NO TRY: In the spirit of their pop culture mash-ups like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, the good people at Quirk Books have come out with William Shakespeare's Star Wars, giving Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia a chance to use the Force in iambic pentameter.

The original trilogy is complete, with titles such as Verily, A New Hope and The Jedi Doth Return. I'm afraid to say that the prequels are also available in this format but perhaps a blending of the Bard can make them more bearable.

I don't know if The Force Awakens will be reforged in this creative fire but I do know one thing and that it would be immensely entertaining to see these sci-fi sagas acted live on stage:

I hope you all have enjoyed this present day look at the glories of Shakespeare and celebrate his birthday with much vigor and joy. It just goes to show how a true classic never goes out of style on any stage, not to mention how hard it can be to be the Bard:

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