Premieres Friday, January 25th at 8:00pm on WTVP-HD.
– A Six-Film Series Telling the Stories Behind Shakespeare’s Greatest Plays –
In a unique series of six films debuting on WTVP-Public Media Friday, January 25 at 8 p.m.,
Shakespeare Uncovered will combine history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis, and the
personal passions of its celebrated hosts – Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely
Richardson, and David Tennant – to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
Produced by Richard Denton for Blakeway Productions & THIRTEEN for WNET in association with
the BBC and Shakespeare’s Globe, each episode explores and reveals the extraordinary world and works of William
Shakespeare and the still-potent impact they have today. The films combine interviews with actors, directors and
scholars, along with visits to key locations, clips from some of the most-celebrated film and television
adaptations, and illustrative excerpts from the plays staged specially for the series at Shakespeare’s Globe in
Behind every Shakespeare play there is a story: for instance, how he and his company dismantled
their theater and rowed it across the river Thames when their landlord cancelled their lease – then staged
Henry V for the first time. There are echoes of the playwright’s life -- who named his twins Hamnet (a boy,
who died at age 11) and Judith -- in plays like Twelfth Night, where the plot turns on the adventures of
separated twins; and Hamlet, where the drama begins with the grief of a son who has lost his father. The
series shows Shakespeare as an impresario who, four centuries ago, defined early the tenets of show business –
drawing on historical sources, stealing and adapting ideas, bringing back popular characters, writing prequels,
and developing dramatic ideas from the politics of the day.
Each program’s host has deep personal experience with Shakespeare’s work and relates not only
the stories of the plays themselves, but also the stories of how they came to be written, how they have been
performed, and how they have survived over 400 years.
The six episodes will air as follows:
Friday, January 25th
Shakespeare Uncovered: Macbeth with Ethan Hawke - 8:00-9:00 p.m.
Ethan Hawke invites viewers on his quest to play Shakespeare’s murderous Thane of Cawdor by researching the
true story and real-life events that served as the play’s inspiration. Historian Justin Champion visits the
actual Scottish sites of the story on Hawke’s behalf, introducing him to Dunsinane where Macbeth supposedly
lived, and to the history books that distorted the true story and consequently led Shakespeare to do the
same. Immersing himself in some of the most memorable and innovative productions of “the Scottish Play,”
Hawke gleans extraordinary insights into Shakespeare’s understanding of the criminal mind. Lady Macbeth’s
relationship to the titular Thane is a critical role in the play and is examined by observing Shakespeare’s
Globe actors rehearsing and performing scenes from the play, as well as by revisiting recent productions
starring Patrick Stewart and Antony Sher.
Shakespeare Uncovered: The Comedies with Joely Richardson - 9:00-10:00 p.m.
Joely Richardson investigates (with her mother Vanessa Redgrave) the legacy of these two brilliant
cross-dressing comedies, with their missing twins, mistaken identities, and characters in disguise; their
connections to Shakespeare’s personal life; and the great romantic heroines created by Shakespeare in two
perennially popular plays. Richardson investigates the comic and dramatic potential of female roles written
for male actors to play. At the same time, Richardson demonstrates that Shakespeare revealed an acute
understanding and sympathy for women when he wrote these characters. Redgrave’s portrayal of Rosalind in
As You Like It made her a star in England and soon after, all over the world, and the show reveals
the legacy of strong, sassy, witty women that we inherit from William Shakespeare’s great comedies.
Friday, February 1st
Shakespeare Uncovered: Richard II with Derek Jacobi - 8:00-9:00 p.m.
In returning to the role of a deposed monarch whose crown is taken from him, Derek Jacobi takes a
360-degree view of this great political thriller whose title character he played more than 30 years ago.
Jacobi shares insights on the play’s political twists – and their modern equivalents – that have kept
Richard II resonant for centuries through its understanding of power’s tendency to corrupt and
distort the truth, and how quickly power may be lost. While coaching actors at Shakespeare’s Globe,
Jacobi describes how the play was used by the Earl of Essex in his attempted coup against Queen Elizabeth I,
and persuaded Shakespeare’s own company to stage it to encourage the Earl’s “plotters.” Jacobi reveals
how the plot nearly cost Shakespeare his life. Also featured are notable excerpts from the upcoming
Great Performances film adaptation starring Ben Whishaw and Patrick Stewart.
Shakespeare Uncovered: Henry IV & Henry V with Jeremy Irons - 9:00-10:00 p.m.
Jeremy Irons uncovers the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s most iconic “history plays,” from the true
English history embedded into the works to the father-son drama that Shakespeare created. In disclosing
Shakespeare’s sources – and steps the playwright took to distort them – Irons uncovers the historical
truths behind the story and how they inspired some of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues. On a journey
to the battlefield at Agincourt in Northern France, the climactic location of these plays, it’s revealed
how the Bard was more subversive and less patriotic than his ardent admirers often think. Irons also
invites viewers behind the scenes at the filming of key sequences in the new Great Performances
adaptation starring Irons himself as the father-king, Henry IV, and Tom Hiddleston as his son, Prince Hal,
who becomes Henry V.
Friday, February 8th
Shakespeare Uncovered: Hamlet with David Tennant - 8:00-9:00 p.m.
An acclaimed Hamlet in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s hit production (also a recent Great
Performances production), David Tennant meets fellow actors who’ve tackled this most iconic of roles,
including superstar Jude Law, and compares notes on the role’s titanic challenges. Tennant digs deep
into the text about the doomed Danish Prince alongside the actors Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw.
With them he works to plumb the deeper meanings of the play and the reason it is widely considered the
greatest of Shakespeare’s canon. The historical sources and religious wars, existential questions of the
meaning of life and death, the idea that ghosts exist and may speak – all these and a searing personal
drama, too – comprise this Everest of a play. Tennant also finds that many actors who have played Hamlet
share an experience that is deeply and profoundly personal. This is also, perhaps, the reason audiences
feel the play touches them more than any other before or since.
Shakespeare Uncovered: The Tempest with Trevor Nunn - 9:00-10:00 p.m.
Trevor Nunn, the legendary director who has helmed 30 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays – and aims to complete
them all before he retires – takes us through the magical and mysterious world created in the playwright’s
last complete work. Nunn considers The Tempest as Shakespeare’s farewell from the stage, and
explores the biographical nature of the play and its connection to the playwright’s often troubled family
life. He also explores the stagecraft – the fact that The Tempest is a play of special effects,
apparitions and magic. Some of The Tempest’s most famous and most enthusiastic fans contribute their
ideas about its lead role of Prospero, including Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, Academy
Award-winner Helen Mirren and acclaimed film and theater director Julie Taymor, who recently directed a
film adaptation that features Mirren in which the lead role was recast as a female named Prospera.
For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people
of New York and the world, reaching millions with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and
culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature,
and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.
Shakespeare Uncovered is produced by Richard Denton. Bill O’Donnell is series
producer; Stephen Segaller and David Horn are executive producers for Thirteen; Fiona Stourton for Blakeway.
Shakespeare Uncovered is made possible by the National Endowment for the
Humanities and the generous support of the project’s lead foundation sponsor, the Howard and Abby Milstein
Foundation. Major funding is also provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Polonsky Foundation, Virginia and Dana
Randt, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, and PBS.
In 2012, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media provider. As
the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public
affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series
as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know,
Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural
offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking
series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for
educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s
unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today
and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region.
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