Though no one knows for sure the exact date of William Shakespeare’s birth, most experts have accepted today, April 23rd, as a guesstimate. In celebration of Will’s life and contributions, I’ve gone back through my movie archives and found a few fun – but easily overlooked – movies that own a debt of gratitude to the playwright.
These films are not adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays – that would be a completely different list – but rather stories that showcase the inspirational power of Shakespeare’s work. It’s a list that is eclectic, with something for everyone, so get some WIll power and check out one of these DVDs this weekend!
The Hobart Shakespeareans: Shakespeare really can be fun! This documentary from director Mel “WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” Stuart captures a slice of life in Room 56 where teacher Rafe Esquith proves that even elementary school children in Los Angeles can benefit from Shakespeare. Esquith and his diverse group of Central L.A. students have become internationally famous for their rigorous academics as well as their productions of Shakespeare’s works. This is actually a documentary that you might want to watch with your kids and it would be a perfect introduction to Shakespeare!
Shakespeare Wallah:This movie probably isn’t for everyone, but it is an interesting, based-on-a-true-story drama about a British theater troupe that traipses around India performing Shakespeare. It is a look at British colonial rule coming to an end as well as a glimpse of a girl coming of age.
Shakespeare in Love: I am not sure how truly authentically this move portrays the life and times of Shakespeare and I actually don’t this movie cares how accurate it is. This Oscar-winning film is too busy being saucy and silly as it imagines what Will’s life and loves might have been like.
Shakespeare Behind Bars: The inmate drama program at Luther Luckett Correctional Facility in Kentucky forever changed my life, first when I saw this documentary, and later on a second time when I visited the program in person. I have recommended this insightful, powerful film that captures the redemptive power of Shakespeare before, and I consider it a must-see movie.
Slings and Arrows: I still think this is perhaps one of the finest television shows ever made and I will be pulling out my boxed set and watching as much as possible of all three seasons of this smart, funny,very adult, tender look backstage at a Shakespearean theater festival that seems awfully similar to the acclaimed Stratford Festival of Canada.