Segments in this Video

Shakespearean Workshop (03:38)


Sir Peter Hall says that Shakespeare is not meant to be read but to be heard. Hollywood actors bring John Barton to the U.S. to run workshops. Barton opens the first session by reminding performers about the bard's unique writing qualities.

Creating a World with Words (04:21)

Kevin Kline performs the prologue from "Henry V." Barton comments on the meaning of the words. Shakespeare's words invite audiences to use their imaginations to fill out the play.

Clues Are in the Text (05:26)

Actors read from "Troilus and Cressida," Act V, scene ii. Barton gives the actors advice and encouragement.

Shakespeare's Text and Patrick Stewart (02:52)

At a Royal Shakespeare Company 1984 workshop, John Barton coaches actor Patrick Stewart. Stewart says he has never met a director with such intensity as Barton, who values every word in Shakespeare's text and teaches actors to do the same.

Coaching Modern Actors (03:38)

Peter Hall, co-creator of the Royal Shakespeare Company, talks about his approach to dramatizing Shakespeare. Dustin Hoffmann rehearses Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice." John Barton coaches Mia Tagano as she rehearses "Henry VI" Act V, sc. ii.

Play the Story (03:00)

Cynthia Nixon rehearses "Twelfth Night" Act II, sc. ii. Barton coaches her to play the storyline.

Shakespeare's Advice to an Actor (06:08)

Kevin Kline performs Hamlet's speech to the actors he has hired ("Hamlet" Act III, sc. ii). The job of modern actors is to take their modern audiences into another world. When he coaches actors, Barton often refers to the text itself to give actors the "character of the situation."

Shakespeare: Prose to Verse (03:45)

Actors read from "Othello," Act IV, sc. iii. In this demonstration, Shakespeare uses prose to make light of a matter, but when the topic is serious, he shifts back to verse. Great Shakespearean actors "never miss the beat of the verse."

Questions Reveal Character (05:55)

John Barton discusses what kinds of questions actors should ask themselves. Kevin Kline begins the "To be or not to be" soliloquy, and Barton gives him an "acting tip." Kline performs the entire soliloquy.

Handling Emotion (01:43)

Actor Liev Schreiber performs part of "Hamlet," Act III, sc. i. It is through the words themselves that actors "handle emotion."

Set the Word Against the Word (04:44)

In the scene between Beatrice and Benedict in "Much Ado about Nothing," it is a dialogue of passing the ball one to another. David Hyde Pierce and Cynthia Nixon perform a dialogue. The clues to the character are built into the writing.

Connect with the Audience (05:22)

Actor Charles D. Dutton performs a scene from "Othello," Act V, sc. ii. He and Barton discuss how to keep an audience.

Performance by Charles D. Dutton (04:57)

Actor Charles D. Dutton performs a scene from "Othello" after discussing the scene with John Barton. Barton enthusiastically compliments Dutton on his performance. Dutton adds words of advice for Shakespearian actors.

Credits: The Shakespeare Sessions (00:57)

Credits: The Shakespeare Sessions

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The Shakespeare Sessions

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This fascinating program brings viewers into a workshop run by John Barton, cofounder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, that demonstrates how vividly accessible Shakespeare’s language can be when it is heard rather than read. Barton explains that Shakespeare’s text gives subtle cues to actors about how a scene should be played, and that audiences can become immersed in the action by a verbal invitation to the imagination (“Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them…”). With commentary and rehearsal footage that features Kevin Kline, Patrick Stewart, Cynthia Nixon, Charles S. Dutton, Dustin Hoffman, Sir Peter Hall, and others, the film includes some of Shakespeare’s most famous scenes in compelling new interpretations. (57 minutes)

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL52388

ISBN: 978-1-61753-491-1

Copyright date: ©2002

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

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Not available to Home Video customers.