Press Release: Festival kicks off season with performance of original hip hop song

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival celebrated the universality of the Bard last night during the company’s opening night party with a surprise performance of a new hip hop song “Show Time,” commissioned to promote its 2011 season.

“Hip hop springs from the energy of the street,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff, “and Elizabethan playwrights were far more in touch with that same kind of energy than is commonly realized. They used to take witty swipes at each other in their plays, like hip hop artists trading insults. And many died young, several of them violently – just like such ill-fated stars of our times as The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.”

“The Festival has always held true to the principle that classical theatre and Shakespeare know no boundaries, and that the appreciation of this work can be universal,” adds General Director Antoni Cimolino. “With this new song, the Festival explores the connection between Shakespeare’s poetry and urban music of today: both are full of wordplay and lyricism, and hip hop, just like Shakespeare’s work, is all about the rhythmic tension of words.”

Bryan Cockett, founder and producer of Stratford-based Game Records, was approached by the Festival in the fall of 2010 to create the promotional track, which highlights the plotlines of each play in the 2011 season. It features six artists: Matt and Nate Appel, Ryan Clark, Bryan Cockett and Todd Thomas-Glennie rap the verses, and Larissa Currah sings the chorus. An audio clip of company actor Chilina Kennedy can also be heard in the song.

“It was an interesting process, as the content of this song is very different from what we usually rap about,” says Mr. Cockett, “but we’re really excited to work with the Festival. I feel as if we’ve been given the opportunity to showcase our music to Canada, the U.S. and potentially the world.”

The six performers took to the stage in the Festival’s scene shop last night to surprise company members and employees with a live performance of “Show Time.” A music video was also unveiled that featured staff members from behind-the-scenes lip-synching to the new song. Check out the video on the Festival’s YouTube channel and watch for more throughout the season.

The Festival plans to host a public event in June at a Stratford bar, Molly Bloom’s, to officially launch the song, which, says Mr. McAnuff, “embodies our philosophy of combining tradition with innovation to bring classical and contemporary theatre alive for all audiences.”

Watch the music video for “Show Time” on the Festival’s You Tube channel here

Download “Show Time” as a ring tone here

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