Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Shakespeare as Interpreted by the Next Generation of Great Playwrights

In honor of the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death this past April, we devoted the entire month to the Bard, featuring a different Shakespeare-themed blogpost, interview, competition or other feature each day.

When I thought it would be a good idea to have a stage play competition, I had a feeling there would be a really great response. As a playwright myself, I know how anxious we all are for opportunities and so many playwrights already have a play up their sleeves.

Several years ago, I was asked to write a short play for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. The play had to be no longer than ten minutes, and the only rule was that it somehow had to touch upon Shakespeare. Since I was the non-English major in college who took a full year of Shakespeare courses “for fun”, this sounded like a REAL thrill, and I thought about the possibilities. I thought about my former job, the publicist in an extremely chaotic Broadway producer’s office. Maybe I could write something inspired by that, and have the crazy office working on a Shakespeare play. I remembered once witnessing two tourists standing outside of Shakespeare & Co. bookstore and talking about how that was one of the places where Harry (Billy Crystal) met Sally (Meg Ryan.) Maybe I could write about that. There really were infinite possibilities. I finally settled on writing She Hathaway About Her, a play within a play about a Shakespeare studies college course writing a skit in which Anne Hathaway, the actress, played Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, in a movie. I was unable to go to the actual performance, but I was told it was very well-received with a lot of laughs, which, honestly, is all I really expected from a play about Anne Hathaway playing Anne Hathaway.

I was so excited to oversee Cambridge’s Channel the Bard Shakespeare short play competition because I know how many talented playwrights are out there and they would all have their own brilliant interpretation.

Within three days, we had over 100 entries, totaling over 300 by the deadline.

Picking a “winner” was a great challenge, but I did have numerous “favorites”, and we wanted to make sure to spotlight them all.

Daniella Vinitski Mooney, MEMORY

Daniella Vinitski Mooney’s MEMORY is the haunting story of a couple that are able to remember each other in the afterlife through Shakespearean quotes. The dialogue interweavers some of Shakespeare’s most haunting lines. Vinitski Mooney.’s characters have no idea who or where they are, but as the play moves on, it becomes clear they are in some kind of an afterlife after experiencing actual hell on earth. Lovely and lyrical and thought-provoking, I would love to see MEMORY live.


Cole DeNardo’s SHAKESPEARE’S LADIES is a laugh-out loud series of monologues from some of Shakespeare’s most beloved heroines.

Emilia of OTHELLO defends her marriage to Iago, saying, “Well, let’s look at my choices, as I said, hmmmm there’s naïve, annoying, utterly stupid Othello, there’s the pretty boy whiny brat Cassio and then there’s Rodrigo a man who has enough money, but can’t even buy a woman’s affections. Whip me such honest knaves! Now these men may have some form of a heart, which my husband lacks, however, Iago does have one thing going for him that they don’t , how about a brain?!

She certainly has a point.

DeNardo’s play would be a great piece for comedy troupes of young women.

Alison Reeger Cook, MACBARK

Alison Reeger Cook’s MACBARK retells the “play which never be named”, with, of course, dogs. The Three Witches are now Three Fleas and Macduff is now Macruff. It’s silly and ridiculous and I could tell the author had fantastic fun writing it.

MACBARK: Ah, three itches. (He spins in circles to get a better look at his rear end) Tell me more. I know I am Dane of Greatness, and bane to Cats. But to be king of the Dog Park, I cannot believe, as King Duncur’s mark stains yonder Oak tree, the tallest tree of our fair common. By arboreal claim, he is king. Say, from whence do you owe this strange decree?

Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos, THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON

Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos, THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON

Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON is so relatable to anybody who has ever been in a disastrous community theatre production. (And anyone who does community theatre has certainly been in at least ONE of those…) A community production of HAMLET is opening and “Gertrude”’s parole officer has whisked her away during intermission.

“At least he waited until intermission to cuff her,” one actor says. “Yeah, that’s just great. A real theatre lover.”

An unlikely understudy steps in when the janitor confesses she knows “every line to every play they ever put up here” after working at the theatre for 25. Hilarity ensues, and I actually found myself rooting for the janitor and was very happy for her as she made her triumphant exit at the end.



Lorenzo L. Sandoval’s ROMEO AND JULIET: THRICE TOLD TALES asks that age old question: What would have happened had Romeo and Juliet ended just a little differently?

I laughed out loud several times during this charming and thoughtful play.

JULIET II. No, Love. Look at me. Look at me with eyes of old and thus with the eyes of youth. Do I teach the torches to burn bright?

ROMEO II. What an odd question!

JULIET II. It was your phrase, Romey, from the night when we first met, just yonder in the great hall that was once my family’s and now belongs to Paris. You said that whilst gazing upon me as I danced in all my virginal splendor, you remarked to someone, “She doth teach the torches to burn bright.”

ROMEO II. (HE’s forgotten.)Oh.

JULIET II. You’ve forgotten.


JULIET II. One of the most beautiful things a man can say about a woman and you’ve forgotten it!

The ending of ROMEO AND JULIET: THRICE TOLD TALES is pretty satisfying for the hopeless romantics in us all as well.



As a playwright who has been involved with writers groups, I loved Tom Jensen’s WRITERS GROUP. Tanya and Harry are helping a young writer named Will (wink) work on his new play, and rely on Playwriting for Dummies to edit HAMLET.

TANYA:      (Browses) I love this one. “Write what you know”.

HARRY:      Have you ever lived in Denmark?

Will shakes his head.

HARRY:      I rest my case.

The play, Harry and Tanya suggests, needs some comedy.

HARRY:      It’s depressing, too.

TANYA:      You’ve got to remember your audience.

HARRY:      The last thing they want is murder and suicide.

WILL:         But what about the bit where –

TANYA:      “To be or not to be”?

HARRY:      Out of the question.

Now, I have never quite found much use from writers groups, and I have a feeling the author of WRITERS GROUPS feels the same way. Sure, they are always a good way to make new friends, but when it comes to writing, we are best left on our own.


Laurie Smilan’s delightful, rhyming THE PROBLEM WITH MEN is an excerpt from her full-length play THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF STRATFORD UPON AVON.

The dialogue gets quite bawdy, just like our friend Will would have appreciated:


You ladies doth protest too much! It’s mad! ‘Tis, true, my husband turned out quite the cad. But there are joys of marriage to be had!

Fool maids! Think kisses all the joys in bed

‘Twere true, one woman would another wed. Your Bene Dick — perhaps name’s as foretold? A good dick’s a good thing to have and hold.


I wish I could personally acknowledge all of the very creative and thoughtful entries we received for this competition, but that would take months! Thank you to all of this year’s participants.

I have learned that if you ever tell a group of bridesmaids that they can wear whatever shoes they want as long as they are “nude strappy shoes”, they will all interpret that differently and you will end up with eight girls in eight extremely different pairs of shoes. And the same goes for asking people to write a play inspired by Shakespeare. We all have our different interpretations and varying things that have stayed with us from the first time we read him at 14-years-old.

Stay tuned for an interview with our grand prize winner!





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