Shakespeare on Film Series

John Long, Shakespeare scholar and frequent lecturer in Drama and Film at UConn, will lead a four session screening and discussion on film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays. This series, beginning Monday, July 31, 2017 @ 1pm and continuing each Monday through August 21, 2017, will take place at Gunn Memorial Library in Washington.

The series of Shakespeare plays adapted for film will show different styles and approaches to the original scripts while also illustrating their power and continuing relevance. Shakespeare plays have always been protean: able to be interpreted for the time period of the production while also holding onto its original core intention. There have been countless stage interpretations over hundreds of years and a film is no different: it needs to develop its own version of a classic script.

Participants will discuss the choices made by each film to bring the story and characters to life. The discussions will also explore other questions such as: what does film interpretation bring to the story? Are there important pieces of the original play missing? Does the film capture the spirit and intent of the play? Why do these stories and characters last and make connections with us hundreds of years after their premiere? Do film techniques change the impact or is it simply a different experience that is equally important? We will also consider questions brought up by audience members.

The first time Shakespeare was put on film was in 1899 when film was a very new and primitive medium showing excerpts of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree in King John with no sound. The film was shown to promote the stage version and sell tickets for the live performance.  But it wasn’t long after that silent film versions of specific plays were produced because the stories intrigued audiences. Since that beginning, film artists have consistently returned to tackle Shakespeare’s plays and audiences watch them, eager to discuss the interpretations. This series at Gunn Memorial will continue that tradition.

Henry V – Monday, August 7, 2017 @ 1pm – Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh (1989). The first film directed by Kenneth Branagh was also his first lead role in a film and it was an immediate success. This version was inevitably compared to Laurence Olivier’s film of the same play made during World War II, but Branagh establishes his own interpretation and style to the story. The focus is on Henry’s transformation from a callow young man to a King ready to lead his men into war against enormous odds. The battle scenes are vivid, showing the glory of one of England’s greatest triumphs, while also depicting the brutality and loss of war. Not rated / 138 minutes

Twelfth Night or What You Will – Monday, August 14, 2017 @ 1pm -Directed by Trevor Nunn and featuring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley (1996). Trevor Nunn was Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company for eighteen years and he sees this play as having a greater range of emotion that other Shakespeare comedies. The film incorporates both high and low comedy to explore gender switching, the meaning of love, the pain of grief and dangers hidden in vengeful pranks. The play is set in the late nineteenth century when there are still strict roles in society but Feste, the fool and narrator, sees and tells the truth in a very modern attitude. Rated PG / 133 minutes

Richard III – Monday, August 21, 2017 @ 1pm – Directed by Richard Loncraine, starring Ian McKellen and features Annette Benning and Jim Broadbent(1995). This history play is moved to 1930s England to show Richard as he maneuvers to become the fascist dictator leading a movement that parallels Hitler’s Nazi party. The setting is detail perfect, including the fashion, decorative styles and music of the time period while also capturing the tension of impending war. Ian McKellen presents an unforgettable performance of one of the greatest villains in theater as he acknowledges and relishes his evil actions while treating the camera and audience as co-conspirators. Rated R / 104 minutes

John Long is the principal of ZeeLand Productions, LLC which produces stage and video productions. John is producer, director and writer of video documentaries: Pursuit of Precision, about the Hendey Machine Company in Torrington, CT, that has been broadcast on CT Public Television and won a Gold Aurora Award for historical documentary, and A Christmas Village Story, a documentary for the Torrington Historical Society. On stage, John has worked as a playwright and director in New York City at the Fringe Festival, Seventh Sign Theatre and Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has also worked with Connecticut theatres, such as Phoenix Stage Company, Warner Theater and Thomaston Opera House. John recently retired after ten years as a program officer for the Connecticut Community Foundation in Waterbury.

Monday, August 7, 1pm and continuing each Monday through August 21, 2017


Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road