Shakespeare Meets Spoken Word At The Boston Public Library

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Marlon Carey, Alison Keslow and Regie Gibson of Shakespeare to Hip Hop. (Photo by Jesse Costa)
Marlon Carey, Alison Keslow and Regie Gibson of Shakespeare to Hip Hop. (Photo by Jesse Costa)

The Boston Public Library has been honoring the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death with exhibitions of rare first and early editions of many of his plays. The library holds a vast Shakespeare collection and the exhibit, "Shakespeare Unauthorized," makes The Bard's world come alive.

Part of the collection is a monthly performance by "Shakespeare to Hip Hop" of unique works that aims to connect a younger audience with Shakespeare's works and characters.


Reggie Gibson, artistic director of "Shakespeare to Hip Hop." He tweets @regiegibson.

Marlon Carey, literary performance artist and co-creator of "Shakespeare to Hip Hop." He tweets @inphynit.

Alison Keslow, bassist who performs with "Shakespeare to Hip Hop" on First Fridays.

Interview Highlights

On Bringing Together The "Root And The Fruit"

Reggie Gibson: "We're bringing together the root and the fruit of the literature that we love. Shakespeare being the person who's given us so many words and phrases — over 3,000 I think was the last count. And we see that hip hop also gives us a lot of words and phrases that also gives us a lot of words and phrases that enter into the American lexicon. What we're hoping to do, and what we have been doing is combing what we find in Shakespeare about his love, his life, the mysteries surround his life, and what we love about hip hop, which is wordplay and humor along with that and bring that all together, so that people can have a good time with both."

Marlon Carey: "Years ago, Reggie and I started sharing performances. If I had a school, and it's a really large performance, I'd like to have someone come along with me, or I need help if we did workshops, I would call him in or he would call me in. So four years we decided to create something and call it something. We originally wanted to call it 'Homer to Hip Hop,' but when you search 'Homer' on the internet, about 60 to 70 percent of it is Homer Simpson. We didn't want to get muddled into that, so we decided that 'Shakespeare' had a more poetic sound."

On Quoting Shakespeare

Gibson: "We do use a text which will be found on the wall of the Globe if people go there, it's by [Bernard] Levin, he wrote a piece called 'You're Quoting Shakespeare,' so we use a little jazz to talk about that... if someone says, 'I'm more sinned against than sinning,' people might think of course that because of the religious language in that that you're quoting the bible, but you're not. It's actually 'King Lear.' "

On Shakespearean Smackdowns

Carey: "Hip hop has this history also of the MC Battles, so some of that has survived in different forms. We find that young people are attracted to these. Some of what happens in Slam Poetry has gotten misinterpreted as that, but sort of they're rap battles. So this is a smackdown where Shakespearean characters, in this particular case Lady Macbeth and Iago, like who's the worse villain? So we took that spin off of the battle rap, or the smackdown."

This article was originally published on December 19, 2016.

This segment aired on December 19, 2016.


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