Welcome to Episode #008 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

I believe that if you want to understand Shakespeare’s plays, then understanding the life of William Shakespeare, the man, is essential. This podcast is designed to help you explore early modern England as Shakespeare would have lived it by interviewing the historians, performers, authors, and experts that know him best.

Today’s guest knows better than most that when you study Shakespeare, you almost synonymously study 17th century theater. Ben Crystal is an actor, writer, producer, adventurer & explorer of original practices in Shakespeare, and was the Artistic Director at Passion in Practice, an original practice based theatre company specializing in performances that rework the speech, rehearsal techniques, and performance methods of Shakespeare’s theatre.

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Ben Crystal is a self proclaimed explorer and adventurer in Shakespeare with accomplishments aplenty to mark his journey through performance with the bard. He is the co-writer of Shakespeare’s Words (Penguin 2002) and The Shakespeare Miscellany (Penguin 2005) with his father David Crystal, Ben’s first solo book, Shakespeare on Toast – Getting a Taste for the Bard (Icon 2008) was shortlisted for the 2010 Educational Writer of the Year Award. In 2011 he played Hamlet in the first Original Pronunciation production for 400 years, as Artist in Residence with the Nevada Repertory Company. In 2012 he was the curator, producer and creative director of the first CD of extracts of Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation for the British Library. (Which is sitting in my office currently and well worth the listen!) Ben gives workshops & talks on performing Shakespeare around the world. His 2017 TEDx talk was called Original Practices: Shakespeare’s Craft.

In this episode, I’ll be asking Ben about :

  • what Shakespeare’s theater would have been like when he was performing his own plays
  • If his plays were performed using these conventions originally, why do you think we lost touch with that format somewhere along the way?
  • What is a cue script? Why did Shakespeare use them?
  • Since Ben pays close attention to the silent stage directions when producing plays in original practice, I also ask him to settle a mystery and share with us: How does George Plantagenet REALLY die in Richard III?


Books Ben Recommends:

Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

Richard II by William Shakespeare

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