What I Have Planned With Shakespeare

Gorilla and HamletSometimes creativity can feel like you are caging a gorilla.

Most days it will stay in its cage, happily eating a banana, maybe even doing sign language with the audiences, making everyone grin. But, from time to time, it needs to be released. Go wild, get crazy.

I’m having a gorilla moment.

With the blog, with the book reviews, with the new book (which I am really proud of and currently working with an agent on), my creativity wants to do something out there. Everything has felt too safe for a while. I need to do something a little dangerous, something that is honestly… very unsellable.

This screams vanity project in all caps.

This screams vanity project in all caps and bellowed from the top of a mountain.

Wait! I need to back up. I can’t just jump to the introduction.

I need to begin with my last novel Permanent Spring Showers, talk about Shakespeare and then I’ll beat my manly ape chest some more. 

Permanent Spring ShowersIf you are new to my site, you might have missed out during the writing of my last published novel. Permanent Spring Showers was an experiment on my site the last time I was feeling a little creatively risky. I took one of my screenplays, broke it into 24 chapters and began writing a novel. After three chapters, my screenplay was pretty much thrown out the window and I was just winging it.

It was a lot of fun, but it also meant a lot of late evenings and very early mornings.

After I was done with the work, I took it off the site and it was later published by 5 Prince Books (you can find it on Amazon here). I’m really proud of the book and still (honestly) shocked at how well my little writing experiment turned out.

I’ve been considering doing something again on my site, but with my recent work with an agent and my last book (which I’ve been working on for over a year), I didn’t feel comfortable just throwing a new opus on the website.

But a book that no agent or publisher would be interested in… Well, that is a different story, my readers.

Have you heard of the Hogarth-Shakespeare series?

For Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary of his death, they are having modern literary greats taking on his plays, turning them into novels.

This is a good idea… at least in theory.

On WKAR, I reviewed Shylock Is My NameShylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson (you can listen to the review here), and to say I was disappointed is putting it mildly. It quickly showed to me what a misstep such an enterprise is. I saw this before when Shakespeare was reinvented on BBC as part of the ShakespeaRe-Told series. Another mess.

I get where they are going with these projects, and I’m sure it’s all coming from a place of love, but when you are dealing with a poet like the Bard, a writer’s own inadequacies become pretty obvious when his own lines don’t measure up.

So what am I going to do?

Well, I might be sharing on my website how inadequate I am… for all to see.

I’ve been obsessed with Shakespeare for as long as I can remember. And while I have some doubts about who the real author of the plays may be (CoughDeVereCough), it doesn’t take away my adoration for the works.

One of the things on my bucket list is to see every Shakespeare play performed at least once by a reputable theatrical company. So far I’ve been lucky enough to see six done by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which means if I keep on this schedule I should never die.

Ever since I was a teenager I was fascinated by the play Hamlet. I even spent an entire summer memorizing it while working a summer job in college. The job was picking up cables for the phone company. And while other drivers were moving around listening to their right-wing radio and country music (that is not a stereotype, I know for a fact that is what a majority of them listened to), I was listening to Kenneth Branagh perform Shakespeare, reciting the lines right along with him.

One of my side projects for as long as I can remember was adapting Hamlet into a movie screenplay. The trick was finding a unique setting and finding a unique way to deal with the speeches and language. This was a joy for me, sitting quietly working through a soliloquy, figuring out if it could be delivered in a new way or has a hidden meaning.  It was a great experience and I still love the work, even though I know it might never be seen on the big screen.

No seriously, that screenplay may be the best thing I do and no one will probably see it.

So here are the ground rules for my new literary experiment:

  1. I’m going to adapt my screenplay of Hamlet into a new novel (which I guess would make this a double-adaptation).
  2. On Friday (May 20), I’m going to put up the brief prologue and first chapter. So come back this weekend to check it out!
  3. I’m not going to force myself (like Permanent Spring Showers) to do a chapter a week. I’ll put one up as I can (I’m still working with that agent on my new book and I have other responsibilities). This may go on for a few months or a year or more.
  4. I hope to not fail miserably.
  5. And even though I’m sure Shakespeare fans will possibly attack me for the enterprise, I promise to just continue to have fun with it.

Yeah, I arrogantly think I can do a better job than the Hogarth people. I know, I know… I’m going to fail spectacularly, but it should be fun to watch, right?

If I do this correctly, I should end up with a very readable and very new story about the melancholy prince of Denmark, easy for audiences to follow, full of literary touches and great dialogue from the Bard. If I do this right, the Shakespeare nerd in me is going to have a field day.

And who knows, if this turns out to be as fun as I think it will be, I might take on other plays in the future. (Maybe a comedy then!)

For now, my gorilla and I have a date at Elsinore. I hope you will join us.

There will be bananas.

P.S. The book will be titled Uses of this World.

1 thought on “What I Have Planned With Shakespeare

  1. Pingback: Catch up on the new online book- Uses of this World | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

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