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Shakespeare 400

Two New Reasons to Join the Provincetown Film Society

by Rebecca M. Alvin   

Above Photo: Simon Schama at The Globe © 2012 Dave King

Four hundred years ago on April 23, William Shakespeare died at the age of 52. It’s hard to believe someone with so great an influence and so many works to his credit died so young, and despite all the scholarship that’s been done on Shakespeare’s life and work, the cause of his death remains a mystery.

Be that as it may, all this month, all around the world, there are 400th anniversary celebrations taking place, including right here on Cape Cod. Earlier this month, Peregrine Theatre Ensemble produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, local actor and writer Stuard Derrick produced a program of Shakespeare’s works at the library  just this past week, and coming up the weekend of April 22 in Orleans, the Elements Theater Company presents “Labyrinth: A Legacy of Language,” a program of scenes and works by playwrights influenced by Shakespeare, such as Ibsen, Stoppard, and Miller. But at Provincetown’s only movie theater, the bard is celebrated through the cinema.

Jaime Murray as Bianca Minola, Shirley Henderson as Katherine Minola and Twiggy as Mrs. Minola – © 2005 BBC

Waters Edge Cinema has been screening a program of BBC films based on Shakespeare’s plays, including As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, every Sunday for the entire month. The remaining two include a fabulous interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew on April 17 and Shakespeare and Us, a documentary about Shakespeare and the context of his time, on April 24.

This version of The Taming of the Shrew is a broad, hilarious interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy, taking its—depending on whom you ask—somewhat misogynistic view of women and turning it on its head with Rufus Sewell’s portrayal of a transvestite Petruchio. Both Sewell and Shirley Henderson as Katherine Minola (the “shrew”) are over-the-top in their portrayals, making this a wonderful version both for lovers of the bard and those who have not been able to appreciate him. This play about a headstrong woman who is to be tamed by a Lothario has certainly ruffled feminist feathers in the past, but in this brilliantly acted BBC version, we are left wondering who tamed whom.

Rufus Sewell as Petruchio – © 2005 BBC

The final film in the series, the documentary Shakespeare and Us, is a wonderfully thorough exploration of Shakespeare in his own time, in particular looking at his relationship to and with royalty. Host and narrator Simon Schama explores the creation and reception of some of Shakespeare’s most important works, including Henry V, Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, and King Lear with great depth and clarity. He also takes us through the theatrical context into which Shakespeare was born. It is an excellent piece to give perspective to Shakespeare’s work. For even as widely known and beloved as he is, his work can still take some effort to understand given the centuries between our lives now and the lives of his characters over 400 years ago. And while his work stands on its own today (a testament to its brilliance), the context provided in this film provides many more avenues into understanding the playwright’s inspirations and motivations.

The Taming of the Shrew and Shakespeare and Us will screen on Sunday, April 17 and 24, respectively. Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are FREE and available to Provincetown Film Society members. For information or to find out about membership, call 508.487.FILM or visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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