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JONI versus THE BARD, the Shakespeare Smackdown


by Marla Lewin

JONI versus THE BARD, the Shakespeare Smackdown

Tonight Joan Darling presented her solo show, JONI VS THE BARD, the Shakespeare Smackdown as a benefit for Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills. We all know Shakespeare but who is Joan Darling? It is safe to say that without Joan Darling it might have been impossible for Katherine Bigelow and many other women to have had their careers. Joan is a true pioneer and has done much to shape both male and female directors over the years.

Theatre 40’s David Hunt said the Theatre will be entering it’s 44th year of operation this year. Recently, they had another benefit , URANIUM AND PEACHES, a reading of a Peter Cook play, starring Ed Asner and Joe Estevez, which we also truly enjoyed.

Joan said recently the theatre in Strafford, Connecticut closed and mushrooms were now growing on the walls.  She reminded us all to become members of our local theatres, because civilization needs culture  to feed our souls.

We know that even in Shakespeare‘s time there was the threat of the original GLOBE THEATRE closing, and still his words thrill us today. The genres he created remain popular and can be recognized even in most modern tv sitcoms.  The sounds of his language still resonates as Joanie demonstrated from her years of experience as one of the all time great actresses of the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Rep. The audience was taught how to read in iambic Pentameter, and then we were  treated to a Shakespearean recital where we participated in learning what Shakespeare’s phrasing might have really meant. The balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet was read, and we were reminded that West Side Story and many other modern romances tell a similar tale of love and loss.  But none other resonates in the same way. After performing a speech from Julius Cesear, we were reminded too by Brutas that there are still many “good” men in politics. How that turn of phrase also resonates today illustrating how little has truly changed in the affairs of men and women, as we move through time.

Joan Darling was a student of the infamous Bill Ball,  founder of the American Conservatory Theatre and a protégé of  B. Iden Payne, the renown Shakespearean Director/Performer.  She even remembered to thank Alan Newsome, her English professor at Brookline High School who taught her to love Shakespeare.

Joan also thanked Norman Lear who was in the audience for giving her the opportunity to direct Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman on TV.  Darling is considered the first woman director on tv because of this assignment.  Her “Chuckles the Clown” episode is considered a classic of the Mary Tyler Moore show. “Chuckles the Clown”was hailed by the New York Times as the funniest half hour ever on television. TV Guide called it the number one television episode of all time. Joan was the first woman nominated for an Emmy for directing. She has been nominated four times and won once.

But Joan wasn’t only a master of the television sit-com.  She was the first woman to direct Magnum P.I. and her many other television credits include Rich Man, Poor Man, Doc, Rhoda, Doogie Howser, M.D., and Civil Wars. For the last seventeen years Joan has served as a creative adviser at the Director’s Lab at the Sundance Institute and created the “Directing the Actor” workshop.

After the show we talked about the relevance of the politics in the poet’s words,  Joan said she once did Julius Ceaser around the time of the Nixon impeachment.

I asked her if she knew my teacher and friend Dr. Marion Taylor who wrote many books on Shakespeare, including some textbooks.  Joan did know of her work.  Her goal is to do an extended run of the show in Los Angeles, and then to travel to colleges and schools to share her enthusiasm with young students who will keep the love for Shakespeare alive for future generations.

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.


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