Anna Castle’s Kit Marlowe


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DbDAnd so, as I said I would, I read the second volume of Anna Castle’s Francis wonderful Francis Bacon series.* In Death by Disputation the action moves from London to Cambridge, with Tom Clarady installed at Corpus Christi college – ostensibly to get his degree. But of course, there is more to it: Tom is there as Bacon and Lord Burleigh’s intelligencer, to uncover a Puritan conspiracy against Queen, State, and Church. Who is smuggling incendiary Puritan tracts from the Low Countries, rallying religious malcontents and generally raising mischief? And then Tom’s tutor** – the man who informed Lord Burleigh in the first place – is found murdered, and Tom’s commission suddenly becomes a good deal riskier…
Continue reading

Running Revisions


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playwriting-101-2011I love “backstage” stories of playwrights tinkering with their plays after the first contact with the audience – mostly in response to the audience’s response, but a few times just because they… well, there’s no other way to put it: because they changed their mind. I love the stories almost as much – and in at least one instance even more than – the works they refer to… Continue reading

A wee bit of magic

tib2Remember the other playwright’s staged reading? The one where I was called in at the very last minute to do the lights?

You may or may not have wondered: how did it turn out? Well, let me tell you: surprisingly well. That is, surprisingly, given how things were after the first rehearsal I attended. And then they went surprisingly – period – for other reasons… but more on that later. Continue reading

Something Rotten! ♫


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PinI trust that, if I confess that I sort of collect plays about Shakespeare and Marlowe, nobody will die of shock. I even have a Pinterest board to show for it, gathering both things I have seen or read, and things I haven’t yet – but a girl can hope.*

One good thing about collecting plays about Shakespeare and Marlowe is, there always seems to be more: both Kit and Will being endlessly fascinating subjects to playwrights, the happy collector can go ahead and be reasonably certain to find something more, and more, and more… Continue reading



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524458_closed sign. jpgYes, I’m posting late – but you see, it’s Ferragosto today in Italy.

Feriae Augusti, back in the day (and the day was 18 b.C.) when Augustus thought it both nice and expedient to have a public festival right after the harvest season, and named it after himself.

It used to be a mixed affair of rest and play for men and beasts, a holiday of eating and drinking toasts to the Emperor, horse races, a day of rest even for oxen and donkeys… Continue reading

Climbing after knowledge infinite


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Robert Stewart Sherrif

Robert Stewart Sherrif

I love Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great – and by that I mean the first of the two parts. It may be rougher around the edges than his later work, but it’s breathlessly fiery. With his blank iambic pentameter, with the historical subject-matter, and his unpunished bloodthirsty hero, the boy was breaking ground in many ways – and knew it well. Continue reading

Call to Arms


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HowSo, there is this other playwright. She and her husband hate my guts. I mean, he pretends not to see me when we happen to meet, she doesn’t return greetings – plus, they say unkind things about my plays.

This kind of things.

Being a civilized adult, I once stepped in to play two smallish roles in this lady’s play when the company that stages us both happened to be one woman short the day before first night. I did it for the company, not for the author, but still. And I have done lights for it, too. A number of times. Continue reading

A glimpse of Don Carlos


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For several reasons I was put in mind of Don Carlos, yesterday – both Schiller’s and Verdi’s. So I thought I’d post a few images…

Let us begin with the frontispiece of the first published version in Der Teutschen Merkur, in 1787.

2005-1_038a_Dom_KarlosThen a highly romanticized view of the eponymous hero in a 1859 engraving by Friedrich Precht.

CatturaAbout the same time, here is an illustration by Wilhelm von Kaulbach:

Kaulbach_9_Bilder_Mueller__500x763_Now Conrad Veidt and William Dieterle as Carlos and Posa in the 1924 silent movie Carlos und Elisabeth:

bp1592And a 1936 Ukrainian production of the play:

pic_F_R_Franko New Drama Theater Schiller Don Carlos (Kyiv 1936) (stage design by A Petrytsky)And the opera? Here a 1963 production at La Scala, in Milan, with Leyla Gencer as Elisabeth:

hqdefaultAnd the great Boris Christoff as King Philip:

ChristoffI find that both play and opera have fascinating histories… maybe we’ll talk about it, eh?


As Good as a Good Rejection


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First_Draft_440x300So I received something – something that, by and large, amounts to a specimen of the famous Good Rejection.

Not quite that – no publisher was involved – but close enough: it was a reader’s report from a high-level competition. My entry didn’t even make the long list, but the anonymous reader who sent me the report had quite a few flattering things to say about my premise, my writing, my grasp of period language, and my characters. Also, and more importantly, they had some very interesting, very punctual advice to offer about what didn’t work.

Now, all of this is going to be very, very helpful: the competition being open to unfinished work (provided it would be finished by the time the long-listed entries were called in), I submitted the beginning of my work-in-progress – the one whose word count you can see in the left column. And the fact that the word count has not changed in a few months doesn’t mean I’m not working on it. I finished the first draft at the end of May, then I let it rest for a month or so, and now I’m busy revising. I plan to begin the second draft in a couple of weeks – and this is where the advice from the reader’s report will come in handy.

The report is not long, either – perhaps some 300 words: a little, concise, punctual thing that packed encouragement, food for thought and sound, clear advice… Whoever you are, o anonymous Reader, thank you.

Also, having received it right now, as I make ready to rewrite, makes it all the more valuable because I’m at the right stage to make the best use of the advice it contains. Now the perfect timing has been a nice piece of serendipity, but it goes to show how useful a bit of feedback between drafts can be.

So, back to work – buoyed by the knowledge that there are things I have done right the first time around, and even what I didn’t has “bags of potential” – and with good advice to digest and take into account as I rewrite.

A good rejection indeed.


A Baroque graphic novel


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Artaserse3Do you ever wish you could give some stories (whether yours or otherwise) another life? Translate them to a different medium, make them visual, retell them the way you imagine them?

I do – all the time. Which is one of the reasons why I fell in love with The Idle Woman’s Artaserse graphic novel. I think I told you elsewhere about this wonderful blog about history, historical fiction, music, theatre and Baroque opera – but now Leander had done something even more wonderful. She has taken an opera – Leonardo Vinci and Pietro Metastasio’s Artaserse, and turned it into a graphic novel. She did it for fun and then shared the delightful result on her blog, in the hope that she might entice someone to try out the opera…* Continue reading


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