BILL BARCLAY, composer, actor, director and teacher, is the Director of Music at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and the first American to join the Theatre Staff in the company’s 17-year history. A Shakespeare specialist, he has collaborated with the Globe (two seasons as a composer including the international tour of Hamlet), Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA (ten seasons as actor, director and composer incl. Resident Music Director ’06-’11), the Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Boston (nine seasons, former Artistic Associate and director of the acclaimed Timon of Athens), the Tanglewood Music Center (four seasons), and is a past member of the Acting Company at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, England and a composer with ConsARTium, an art installation collective in Geneva, Switzerland. Bill is the creator of several original musical works including CALL OF THE WILD (with playwright Jon Lipsky), THREE SISTERS (with adaptor Fly Steffens), THE HAMLET SYMPHONY, EVERYMAN FOUND, THE MAD PIRATE AND THE MERMAID (with playwright Michael Burnet), and has created several solo performances including MUSE ON FIRE; SHAKESPEARE & THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES, which has been performed in universities and theaters in the US and abroad. He has performed roles or composed original scores for regional theaters in Boston and throughout the US including The Huntington Theatre, SpeakEasy Stage, W.H.A.T., Central Square Theatre, North Shore Music Theatre, the New Repertory Theatre, the Vineyard Playhouse, The Olney Theatre Center, Connecticut Rep, La MaMa ETC and Theater Row (NYC). In the last five years he has held Artist Residencies for directing, composing, or conducting at Columbia University, the University of Connecticut, Purdue University, Brandeis University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia, has taught acting at Emerson College and Boston University and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University. This year Bill made his Boston Symphony Hall debut narrating Peter and the Wolf and has performed as narrator with the Longwood Symphony, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the ALEA III Orchestra. Bill has appeared on television in recurring roles on Showtime (Brotherhood) and PBS, and can be seen in the films Ocean Boulevard and The Time Machine (Dreamworks). As an educator, Bill has led Shakespeare and devising workshops in over 50 schools, theaters, and youth treatment centers throughout Massachusetts. He has longstanding collaborative relationships with the Aurea Ensemble (who commissioned Bill’s latest concert work, Five Sonnets to Orpheus), and is a founding member and past Chorus Master of The Mahagonny Ensemble in Poughkeepsie, NY. A 2008 WINNER of the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship (the nation’s largest grant for actors in the country), Bill is also a winner of the Boston Globe Monologue Scholarship Competition, a two-time Elliot Norton Award Nominee for sound design, and has twice received Metlife’s Meet the Composer Grants in 2009 and 2010. A 1999 Weston High School graduate, Bill is an alumnus of Vassar College and the National Theatre Institute and earned his MFA at the Boston University School of Theatre.
He is currently editing a two-volume anthology of the plays of Jon Lipsky, beloved Boston-area playwright, to be published by Smith & Kraus in 2013.
Bill playing the Balinese gender with his teachers in Bali.
Shakespeare Aloud, or Billy Does Willy as my friends like to call it, chronicles my attempt to read the entire canon of William Shakespeare out loud and in public, hopefully, if the stars be pleased, within one year’s time starting October 1st, 2011. I play all the parts and aim to have an experience of his words out loud in the most accurate chronology possible. Along the way I am tracking and exploring several musical instances in the text. The project began by imagining a new book that could be a practical guide to all of Shakespeare’s many musics: the myriad songs and dances in the canon, the roles of various musician characters, the all-too-frequent uses of music as metaphor throughout the plays, the reliance on the Music of the Spheres as a cultural belief, the many instruments called for and described in the plays, Shakespeare’s great knowledge of music theory, and finally, the musicality of the verse. This last bit is without question the thorniest, and has presented great issues to ponder. Dare I write anything close to a ‘how-to’ regarding speaking Shakespeare’s verse? Certainly not like that. But how does one address the musicality of speaking without being prescriptive? I thought the only good way to start would be to read (in most cases re-read) the whole canon again to track WS’s development as a poet. And in order – why not? It soon became obvious this task should be done out loud, as Shakespeare’s audiences went to hear plays, not see them, and after all I’m looking for the musicality of language. Then I thought, (and here is where I may be taking it too far) I should really do this in public. And a friend suggested that no one would believe that I did the whole thing unless I taped it. Suddenly, a blog was born (or worse, a vlog…) that has me skipping all over the planet, reading bits wherever I can, and taking my show (stunt) on the road to perplex a growing number of previously unbothered people.
How musicality supports clarity of thought.
With great homage to Shakespeare, the master word inventor, I have imagined a completely made-up word that summarizes the single concept I am pursuing by reading the canon aloud. I call it musiclarity. Prosody is probably the closest Webster word here, but it means little to most people, and meant little or nothing to Shakespeare (it doth not appear in the plays). ‘Prosody’ as defined and used, typically encompasses all the elements of musicality in poetry – meter, rhythm, rhyming, assonance/consonance, and other aural thrills. [Etymology: mid-15c., from L. prosodia, from Gk. prosoidia "song sung to music," also "accent, modulation," from pros "to" + oide "song, poem."]
Musiclarity is using the sounds and rhythms of the language to serve the clarity of thought. Language is musical – sublime poetry can take us closer to a musical experience – closer to absolute music. It must be noted, probably often, that I am not interested in making anything prescriptive – no ‘how to’ here. The thoughts are the goals here, not the music, or even the musicality. The way words sound and our experience of saying and hearing them unconsciously serve our thoughts every day – it’s why many famous four letter words are so darn fun to say. But to be sure, this is not to control how the words sound – good musiclarity does not mean pretty, or beautiful, or mellifluous. If your audience is really getting the point, you must be doing just fine. Musiclarity can define the style and character of a passage and expand its wonder in performance.
O THE PLACES…
My methodology is essentially simple and straight forward. I will read each scene in order (see order below), and wherever I am in the world I will plug along, reading in a different place each time. Yorick, my quietly skulking friend, is with me at every reading and is my witness and only prop. I began at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, and have finished the first play mostly in Europe, reading scenes in London (in front of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, in front of the statue of Oliver Cromwell, and in front of Buckingham Palace), in Paris (Eiffel Tower, Notre Damn, along the Seine), Geneva (in front of the United Nations building, in a treehouse), and have finished this opening parade lap in Boston. Serendipity, which in my case is the marriage of great location with scene (and occasionally weather), has already occurred and I find this truly exciting. I’m using facebook to post the best videos of random and curious interactions.
I am self-funded, and though I have no drive to start a Kickstarter or other campaign to cover my costs, I hereby express my zeal and eagerness to invite anyone who would like Shakespeare Aloud to involve them, their family, their theatre company, stage, lovely gardens, etc., to contact me and we can arrange travel to your destination. Have a grandfather with an upcoming birthday who loves Shakespeare? Want your Shakespeare company to be represented along with Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts? You can contact me here.
See Bill’s SIGNIFICANT PROJECTS BY YEAR