STAGE TUBE: Watch Previews for PBS' SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED with Morgan Freeman and David Harewood!
The next episodes of PBS' SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED features The Taming of the Shrew with Morgan Freeman (Friday, February 6, 2015 at 9 p.m.) and Othello with David Harewood (Friday, February 6, 2015 at 10 p.m.). Check out previews for the episodes below!
Freeman first discovered Shakespeare in school in Mississippi. He went on to play the hero of this play - Petruchio - in The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production in New York, set in the Wild West. Freeman notes this play has set the template for all of the battle-of-the-sexes comedies that have followed; many a romantic comedy has The Taming of the Shrew running through its veins.
It's a love story between two unlikely characters. The Shrew is Katherine, a woman who is bitter, viperish, wild - or simply not prepared to accept the conventions of her time - and thus "unmarriageable." Petruchio is after a wife, and the wealthier the better. We see some Petruchios who took on the "taming" - including Richard Burton, John Cleese and Raul Julia - and such famous Kates as Elizabeth Taylor, Fiona Shaw, Sinead Cusack and Meryl Streep. Freeman reunites with his own Kate, Tracey Ullman. Julia Stiles, star of the 1999 teen comedy adaptation, 10 Things I Hate About You, reflects on this contemporary version. And the Royal Shakespeare Company takes a version of the play to a school near where Shakespeare grew up, where viewers observe what children make of this very adult piece.
For many, this play is uncomfortable to watch. It was one of Shakespeare's very first plays and may seem too brutal for modern audiences. It ends with a speech about how women should obey their men. But is this the sexist propaganda that it first appears - or is there something more complicated (and interesting) going on? Freeman concludes that beneath the apparent cruelty is a message about equality in relationships. And we hear observations from many women who also admire the play, including pioneering feminist Germaine Greer (who appears as an expert commentator in several episodes).
Astonishingly, David Harewood was the first black actor to play the great Moorish Venetian general Othello at London's National Theatre, triumphantly taking on the role-but not until 1997. Now he returns to the play to discover how the centuries have changed our views of it.
Harewood learns about the Moorish ambassador who visited the court of Queen Elizabeth I and may have inspired Shakespeare. He meets the National Theatre's latest Othello, Adrian Lester, who has also starred in a play about Ira Aldridge, the 19th-century American actor who was the first black man ever to play the role in England; the reviews were shockingly racist. And he watches different Othellos on film, including Laurence Olivier's acclaimed if controversial "blacked-up" version from the 1960s.
Othello is actually a play dominated not by race, but by love and a great villain - Iago. A forensic psychiatrist helps to analyze this extraordinary psychopath and how he manipulates Othello by persuading him that his young wife is having an affair. Harewood meets Simon Russell Beale, who played Iago to his Othello, and they re-examine the lethal relationship. Imogen Stubbs and Sir Ian McKellen, who starred in Trevor Nunn's production; Julia Stiles, whose movie O was a modern take on the play; and Sir Patrick Stewart, who played Othello in a "color-reversed" production, also reflect on their characters.