Shakespeare Star Wars

No news like good news

ArtsWatch Weekly: I Am MORE, Broadway Rose's 'Story of My Life,' PDX Jazz Fest, art around Oregon.

A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO MY FRIEND (AND OCCASIONAL ARTSWATCH CONTRIBUTOR) STEPHEN RUTLEDGE, who writes the Born This Day column and other stories for The WOW Report, sent along a YouTube link to an old clip of Sam Cooke singing Good News on American Bandstand. Along with the link he sent high praise for the recent movie One Night in Miami, a fictional imagining of an actual meeting in a Miami hotel in 1964 of Cooke, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and football star Jim Brown to celebrate Ali’s heavyweight-championship victory over Sonny Liston. Rutledge’s note reminded me that, yes, even in traumatic times there is good news, it’s worth singing about, and its triumphs so often are the result of hard creative work and leaps of the imagination.
 

S. Renee Mitchell (left) and, from left, Jeanette Mmunga, Justice English and Johana Amani of I Am MORE.

In Building Resiliency with the Arts, the latest chapter in our occasional series The Art of Learning, Brett Campbell relates another story of Good News, one with deep Portland roots. The poet, activist, and former Oregonian newspaper columnist S. Renee Mitchell, he writes, “had been recruited to Roosevelt High School to teach journalism. But she also helped mentor students with their personal issues; brought in fruit, day-old bagels and cream cheese; revived the Black Student Union; created a Black Girl Magic Club, and invited in community members to perform, speak, encourage and share their wisdom with the school’s low-income students.”

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Bard to the bone: A Star (Wars) is born

Ian Doescher has built a mini-empire of modern pop stories retold in Shakespearean style. (Read through the history plays with him, online.)

Ian Doescher’s favorite Shakespeare line comes from Hamlet, Act 5 Scene 2. “If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.” I find this line most relatable in this moment as we all are forced to contend with matters out of our control. Sickness, political unrest, racial tension; while these forces are ever present in 2021, they are also ever present in Shakespeare’s work. In focusing on Shakespeare’s universality, verse and literary devices, Doescher has carved out a place for himself as the bard of reframing modern classics as poetic tales.

Portland author Ian Doescher: modern pop classics with a Shakespeare beat.

Since the beginning of his William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series of books in 2013, the Portland writer has been exploring this literary niche within a niche. Doescher has always loved writing, though his background is in music and theology (with a B.A. in music from Yale, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary and ordainment from the Presbyterian Church, this background is extensive). But he never thought he would find himself here. Academic writing, maybe. Pop culture as Shakespeare stories, no way.

What do you get when you combine rewatching the Star Wars trilogy, reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and taking a trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival? If you’re Doescher, you get William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Ian is a prolific writer with work spanning the Star Wars Universe, Mean Girls, Back to the Future, Clueless, A Christmas Carol, Deadpool, and Frankenstein. He is also co-author,  with Jacopo della Quercia, of MacTrump: A Shakespearean Tragicomedy of the Trump Administration. In addition, he’s completed a four- part volume covering the complete Avengers series, coming out in July.  

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