By Dennis Abrams
We at Publishing Perspectives hate to toot our own horn, but it’s hard to find it merely a coincidence that just a little into a year of our epic examination of the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare in our online reading group The Play’s The Thing, The Huffington Post reports that “Shakespeare is Hot Again.”
According to Lesleyann Coker, “A slew of current projects — ranging from young adult novels to television to a rumored Anne Hathaway film — aim to make Shakespeare accessible to a contemporary audience.”
Among the YA novels:
Merit Press, a newly launched YA imprint headed by Jacqueline Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean), will base two of its first five debut releases on retellings of classic Shakespeare works: Twisted Lit Books Tempestuous, a comic retelling of The Tempest in December; Exposure, a modern version of Macbeth set in an Alaska High School was published on January 18th of what will be at least three “Shakespearean” titles by co-authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes.
Helmes told Coker, “We loved the idea of taking Shakespeare’s plays and reinterpreting them for the 21th century. Our novels pay homage to the Bard while putting our own modern spin on his works. Retellings are popular in the YA realm right now, from new twists on fairy tales to Greek mythology. Shakespeare’s themes are so common; we knew they’d be a perfect fit for the YA genre, especially if we could find a way to make his tales less intimidating and more relatable. We knew the Shakespeare angle would appeal to teachers and librarians, but the enthusiasm we’ve seen from young readers has been even greater than we’d anticipated.”
Other projects in the works in film and television include:
Academy Award nominee Anne Hathaway is attached to an updated remake of The Taming of the Shrew.
Johnny Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil has partnered with Scandinavia’s Yellow Bird Productions (the company behind the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo films), and Emmy winning writer-producer Tom Fontana to produce a scripted series based on Shakespeare’s plays, in a project described as “as a modern take on the plays of The Bard, building on the existing characters and plots from several of his most notable plays.”
And there’s even a new Shakespeare app series available in Apple’s App Store. In October, we told you about the release of Sourcebook’s “The Shakesperience;” just one month later, the UK publisher Cambridge University Press released the first of its “Explore Shakespeare” series of apps, which pairs the text of Shakespeare’s plays with audio performances, commentary, and interactive materials.
As Exposure author Amy Helmes, told The Huffington Post, it’s all about bringing Shakespeare to the people. “We’d love to hear that our books help make Shakespeare more accessible, but our primary goal was to simply write entertaining books using his stories as a springboard. The novels are written with both Shakespeare fans and Shakespeare-phobes in mind. And if it prompts people to want to read or revisit the original plays, that’s great too!”
My take? Shakespeare used other people’s stories as a springboard for his plays, so it seems silly to get all purist about using his plays as springboards for their works. On the other hand, if, as Helmes said, you “want to read or revisit the original plays,” please join us at “The Play’s The Thing” as we continue our reading of Hamlet. To be followed by Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, Othello…