Yeah, Something Like That

I am afraid I found another subject to preempt the articles I bumped yesterday. Last night I was watching Looking for Richard on the Sundance Channel and realized it was a good illustration of how arts organizations can make their offerings more accessible to the general public. (It is playing about 5 more times this month.)

The movie stars Al Pacino making a documentary about filming Shakespeare’s Richard III. I was really excited to come across the movie because I realized it was a good example of everything I have been writing in regard to letting people see/know about the the production process.

I had never seen Shakespeare’s play, nor did I know much about it other than Richard’s physical deformity and the “kingdom for a horse” line. Since Pacino’s purpose was to make the play and the process more accessible and transparent to general audiences, test then was how well it communicated this information to me.

I was rather impressed by his efforts. The movie was sort of a stream of consciousness mix of explainations, casting and rehearsal scenes and portions of the actual play. The pacing and shifts were probably well suited to the short attention span of audiences.

They did a good job explaining the play. There were people discussing the historical perspectives and voice overs commenting on hard to understand changes in the plot. There was commentary by Sir John Gielgud and other notable British actors about why Americans actors are intimidated by Shakespeare.

The movie provided opportunities to see rehearsals where the actors discussed and sometimes argued about the play and the choices each was making about their character. It also offered insight into the variables considered when deciding what actor would be best for what part.

They also got into the language, how to act Shakespeare, iambic pentameter and what it sounded like. They talked about how audiences have difficulty with the language and essentially said people are not required to understand every single word as long as they got the gist and understood the power of the words.

For the most part, it was well done. Even if you didn’t know Pacino has a history with the play, his manner clearly indicated he was asking questions for the benefit of the audience’s comprehension. Theatre’s don’t have the resources to offer such a slick presentation prior to opening night (though could certainly film and edit a similar piece to offer as a resource). However, the film does illuminate the general elements that would be valuable for an audience member to know. This means more than just covering these topics in a study guide, but also in blog entries and perhaps thinking aloud in rehearsals that are open to the public. Obviously, some of the material would best be covered in a discussion prior to or after a show or rehearsal. It would probably sound stilted for an actor to be musing aloud about the challenges of the text in a postmodern world.

Speaking of educational resources, I found this website maintained by the Richard III Society which contains a viewers guide and lesson plan for the movie.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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