19 April 2015

Second Shepherds' Play, Video Adaptation

I teach medieval drama in various contexts -- in lower-level survey courses, upper-level and graduate courses in medieval literature, and in courses on environment and literature. I've been trying for years to get The Mate (known to some of you as Doug Morse) to make a movie version of The Second Shepherds' Play: short enough to show in a class meeting and still get discussion time, and it's funny -- or should be, if played right.

Last year, he finally agreed. I applied for and got a small grant from my university to help pay the production costs, but it won't cover the full cost. So he's put the project on Kickstarter so that people can pre-purchase the film to raise additional funds for equipment and costume rentals, location fees, and to feed cast and crew for the six days of shooting.

Doug and I had arguments about whether the play should be shot in the original Middle English or in modernized form. In the end, we settled on a version using the language of the Towneley manuscript -- all the archaic vocabulary -- but pronounced in contemporary British dialects.

There will be a sheep, a live sheep, in the scene where Mak and Gil dress a sheep up as a baby.
Kenny wouldn't take milk from his mother and had to be brought indoors, where the family hand-fed him. He gets his name -- or maybe her name; apparently it's hard to tell with new lambs -- from the Kenmore Microwave box in which he spent his first few days.

Costumes will be period. The film will be shot on fields outside Cambridge that haven't changed much since sheep first grazed on them. Songs included in the play will be performed using medieval tunes.

Kickstarter is a fundraising platform that allows people to pre-buy a product in development, thus providing the cash for people to make a project rather than going into debt to get started. Doug just finished making a movie about board-game designers that was funded through Kickstarter. He's also completed adaptations of Everyman, The Merchant of Venice, and The Jew of Malta, all available from Films for the Humanities, where they're priced for library or departmental acquisition.

With this movie, he's trying to make it easier for individuals to buy a copy for classroom use. For $20, you can pre-buy a digital download of the video adaptation of The Second Shepherds' Play, and for $35 you get a DVD that also includes a copy of Everyman. He's also planning a documentary about contemporary shepherds on the farm where the video will be shot; that will be included with either the digital download or the DVD copy.

Previews of Everyman and Doug's other Renaissance adaptations are available on his website, Grandfather Films. Click here for more information about The Second Shepherds' Play and the accompanying documentary, or for advance purchase details.

Questions? gimme a holler.