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Public Broadcasting Service

Shakespeare Uncovered Documentary Series
Returns for Season of Six New Episodes

White bust of Cleopatra profile with sculpted head dress from the left looking right, and Cattrell in black leather coat and leopard print scarf in the background looking at the camera
Kim Cattrall with a bust of Cleopatra from an episode of Shakespeare Uncovered airing on PBS beginning Jan. 30. Photo by Richard Wyllie. Below, Hugh Bonneville, right, reunites with the actor he understudied for the role of Lysander, Ralph Feinnes, at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Photo by Andrea Southam.

The landmark Shakespearean documentary series Shakespeare Uncovered returns for a second season on PBS, beginning Friday, Jan. 30, at 9 p.m. (check local listings) and continuing the following two successive Fridays. This second set, like the first, will comprise six one-hour episodes combining history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis, and the personal passions of each episode's hosts—Hugh Bonneville, Kim Cattrall, Joseph Fiennes, Morgan Freeman, David Harewood, and Christopher Plummer—to tell the stories behind the stories of William Shakespeare's greatest plays.

The new season investigates A Midsummer Night's Dream, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and The Taming of the Shrew. As before, the broadcasts will be accompanied by a rich Web site and community outreach.

Produced by Blakeway Productions, 116 Films, and THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET in association with PBS, Sky Arts, and Shakespeare's Globe, each episode reveals the extraordinary world and works of Shakespeare and the still-potent impact his plays have today. The films combine interviews with actors, directors, and scholars along with visits to key locations, clips from celebrated film and television adaptations, and illustrative excerpts from the plays staged especially for the series at Shakespeare's Globe in London.

Each of the six hosts has a personal connection with the play he or she presents. Plummer is one of the great Lears of our time; Cattrall has played Cleopatra twice on the English stage; Freeman has taken on The Taming of the Shrew's Petruchio at New York's Shakespeare in the Park; Harewood was the first black actor to play Othello at London's National Theatre; Joseph Fiennes portrayed Shakespeare playing Romeo in the Academy Award–winning movie Shakespeare in Love; and Bonneville began his career as an understudy in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Shakespeare Uncovered reveals not just the elements in the play but the history of the play itself. What sparked the creation of each of these works? Where did Shakespeare get his plots, and what new forms of theater did he forge? What cultural, political and religious factors influenced his writing? How have the plays been staged and interpreted from Shakespeare's time to now? Why at different times has each play been so popular—or ignored? And finally, why has this body of work endured so thoroughly? What, in the end, makes Shakespeare so great?

The first season of this ambitious project explored Macbeth, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, Hamlet, and The Tempest, and was met with wide acclaim in both the U.K. and United States, including here on (click here for review).

Here are synopses of the six new episodes:

Shakespeare Uncovered is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Major funding is also provided by The Joseph & Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Dana and Virginia Randt, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, the Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Polonsky Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Jody and John Arnhold, the Corinthian International Foundation,and PBS.
For Blakeway Productions, Richard Denton and Nicola Stockley are series producers, with Fiona Stourton as executive producer. For THIRTEEN, Bill O'Donnell is series producer, with David Horn as executive producer. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge.

January 7, 2015

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