RIFFS 2015
A Taste From the TOC
Published May 19, 2015
Willie the Shake in the Cherryland
"Shakespeare In America" hot off the presses

Though Willie the Shake knew of "the Indies" (a common contemporary reference for the New World) he never did make the liquid road trip across the big pond to dig the scene in the wilds of the soon to be jumpin, swingin', wailin' new nation. But he did mention the Cherryland in several of his plays including "The Comedy of Errors", "As You Like It", "The Tempest" and others.

Imagine if this great cat had made the scene in Jamestown or Manhattan, Niagara Falls or Yellowstone Park. The whole glorious riff would have stoked his wig to endless goof.

Fast forward to 2015 and we have a delightful new book that lays it all right and tight for the beautiful bard's influence on our home turf. "Shakespeare In America - An Anthology from the Revolution to Now" is a gorgeous 724 page tome authored by many, edited by James Shapiro and forwarded by former head Patrillo Bill Clinton. The book is published by Library of America.

And dig this, The Swingin' Lord Buckley made the cut with "Hipsters, Flipsters and Finger-Poppin' Daddies"

Lay your peepers on editor James Shapiro's swingin' intro

“The history of Shakespeare in America,” writes James Shapiro in his introduction to this groundbreaking anthology, “is also the history of America itself.” Shakespeare was a central, inescapable part of America’s literary inheritance, and a prism through which crucial American issues—revolution, slavery, war, social justice—were refracted and understood. In tracing the many surprising forms this influence took, Shapiro draws on many genres—poetry, fiction, essays, plays, memoirs, songs, speeches, letters, movie reviews, comedy routines—and on a remarkable range of American writers from Emerson, Melville, Lincoln, and Mark Twain to James Agee, John Berryman, Pauline Kael, and Cynthia Ozick. Americans of the revolutionary era ponder the question “to sign or not to sign;” Othello becomes the focal point of debates on race; the Astor Place riots, set off by a production of Macbeth, attest to the violent energies aroused by theatrical controversies; Jane Addams finds in King Lear a metaphor for American struggles between capital and labor. Orson Welles revolutionizes approaches to Shakespeare with his legendary productions of Macbeth and Julius Caesar; American actors from Charlotte Cushman and Ira Aldridge to John Barrymore, Paul Robeson, and Marlon Brando reimagine Shakespeare for each new era. The rich and tangled story of how Americans made Shakespeare their own is a literary and historical revelation. As a special feature, the book includes a foreword by Bill Clinton, among the latest in a long line of American presidents, including John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Abraham Lincoln, who, as the collection demonstrates, have turned to Shakespeare’s plays for inspiration."

Special thanks goes to Roger Mexico for hipping us to this new ripple in the pond.