“In disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,” a reincarnated Bard finds inspiration outside the Old Town Bar at Union Square, Manhattan. John Hayden directed this film for The Sonnet Project. Tom Degnan is the lead actor.
The background information on the sonnet’s page at the website includes this interesting tidbit:
The feeling of uselessness, outcasting, and disgrace in this poem is thought to be related to the 1592 closing of London playhouses as [a] result of an outbreak of the plague, causing Shakespeare and other actors to live with small wages, and be looked upon as filthy by town society.
Also, click the “actor” tab there for more information about Degnan than either IMdB or Wikipedia currently provide.
Needless to say, if Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be writing screenplays for television, and probably penning rap lyrics in his spare time.
Mary Ann Walsh shines as a bartender with attitude in this spoken-word interpretation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 58. Directed by Olivier Bertin for The Sonnet Project, where the film’s page notes the poem’s intended subject: “an emotionally enslaved lover, the object of his affections behaving wantonly while he quietly suffers, unquestioning.” But the best thing about the Sonnet Project films I’ve watched so far is the freedom with which the directors have reinterpreted the texts.
And of course the specific New York location always co-stars in the film. This time it’s the White Horse Tavern in Manhattan. As the webpage puts it,
The White Horse is perhaps most famous as the place where Dylan Thomas drank heavily, returned to the Chelsea Hotel, became ill, and died a few days later of unrelated causes. Other famous patrons include James Baldwin, Bob Dylan, Richard Farina, Norman Mailer, Jim Morrison, Delmore Schwartz, Hunter S. Thompson, and Mary Travers.
Another of the White Horse’s famous patrons is Jack Kerouac, who was bounced from the establishment more than once. Because of this someone scrawled on the bathroom wall: “JACK GO HOME!” At that time, Kerouac was staying in an apartment in the building located on the northwest corner of West 11th St.
About the same time, the White Horse was a gathering-place for labor members and organizers and socialists, as well. The Catholic Workers hung out here and the idea for the Village Voice was discussed here. The Village Voice original offices were within blocks of the White Horse. Much of the content was discussed here by the editors, a practice we at NYSX believe would be much approved by W. Shakespeare.
a completely crazy idea dreamed up by Ross Williams from NY Shakespeare Exchange. 154 sonnets, 154 NYC locations, 154 actors. It’s a tapestry of cinematic art that infuses the poetry of William Shakespeare into the poetry of New York City. It’s huge, it’s visceral and it’s right here.
It became apparent that each sonnet was not simply a ‘video’ – not simply an actor standing at a monument reciting a sonnet – but a short independent film. Every single sonnet required time and effort beyond our imagining. But the finished product! Each one is expansive, narrative – a work of art.
We decided to focus on the journey rather than the destination – the Project will not be finished by April. But that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok because the Project has exploded into a sprawling, barely controllable, ever-growing, ever-changing tribute to Shakespeare’s art, New York City, and the artists that live here. And we love it.
I’ve barely begun to explore the films on the website, but I like what I’ve seen so far. They do seem to be quite varied in their approaches to the poems, imaginatively filmed and well acted. I love the whole idea of this project, and have added it to the recommended links on the front page of Moving Poems as well as to our links page. Here’s what the Times had to say about this film:
The [New York Shakespeare Exchange] group, which started the project in 2013, just completed its 100th film: Sonnet 27, starring Carrie Preston, an Emmy award-winning actress, and filmed on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, It will premiere April 8 on the Sonnet Project website and app.
Ms. Preston and the director, Michael Dunaway, met their share of surprises too, while filming Sonnet 27, about an obsessive love creating a jangle of nerves. Ms. Preston plays a married commuter on her way home, exhausted but excited by a workplace affair. But the drive over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, in a hired car, went smoothly. Too smoothly. “We were hoping for a traffic jam — it’s the perfect metaphor for being stuck in your own mind at the end of a long day — and we filmed at rush hour, but the traffic flowed perfectly,” Ms. Preston said.
Ms. Preston said she, Mr. Dunaway, and Karin Hayes, the co-director, went back over the bridge 10 times to get the shots they wanted, running up a much higher than expected bill. “What we forgot about was the toll,” Mr. Dunaway said. “I chalk it all up to the sacrifices we make for art.”
And finally, some notes about the use of the Sonnet Project website: Clicking on a sonnet/image on the front page gallery brings up a page with not only the YouTube embed of the film but also, if one scrolls down past the photo stills of the NYC location and the Next and Previous links, a tabbed menu with Text Analysis, Location, Actor, and Film Team. The analysis also reproduces the text of the sonnet, followed by an informal commentary in a populist style. Here, for example, is what they say about Sonnet 27:
Sonnet 27 plays with the duality of night and day, with day being full of work and night full of beauty because that is when the speaker can think on his lover.
Here Willy reflects on how thoughts of his beloved keep him awake, and even in darkness the image floats before him, like a jewel on a night-dark background, making the night beautiful. By day he is made weary by work and travel, and by night rest is denied him, for he has to make journeys in his mind to attend on the loved one, who is far away.
This sonnet is the only one in the canon that is pangrammatic. A pangram or holoalphabetic composition uses every letter of the alphabet at least once!
The other tabs are equally informative. I’ll be interested to see whether the app is as useful as the website. Have I mentioned I love this project? Many thanks to Erica Goss for bringing it to our attention with a link on Twitter earlier this week.