• Alex King

Bard in the Ward: William Shakespeare's Vaccination a Good Sign for Actors

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them" - Twelfth Night


On Tuesday, a gentleman by the name of William Shakespeare became the second person in the world to get a welcome shot in the arm - in the form of Pfizer's newly-delivered coronavirus vaccine.


Naturally, Mr. Shakespeare's vaccination kicked off a worldwide wordplay bonanza - including some efforts we reckon The Bard himself would have curled a lip at.


We'll get on to why we're taking this particular injection as a sign that the entertainment industry has turned a corner to a brighter future (and it has). For now, though, let's look at some of the best quips we've come across in the past couple of days.


The New York Post kicked things off with a commendable effort emblazoned across Wednesday's front page.

Measure for measure, the New York Times was to respond in kind:


"History records that he was pricked, but it was not clear if he bled," wrote the paper's reporter - a charming allusion to Shylock's speech in The Merchant of Venice.


Meanwhile on Twitter: puns galore. "Is that a needle that I see before me?" asked one user; "Sharper than a serpent's tooth?" replied another.


Macbeth and King Lear aside, there have been unavoidable references to 'The Gentleman of Corona' - accompanied by a general sense in the Twittersphere that All's Well That Ends Well.


And the National Theatre, one step ahead of the pack, are already thinking about casting for a forthcoming coronavirus movie. The Comedy of Errors? Hopefully not.

It seems clear that, if his Elizabethan namesake was born great, the living Mr. Shakespeare, 81, has instead had greatness thrust upon him. Some tin-hat types are even taking the resurfacing of the playwright's name as a harbinger of high drama to come.


As you like it - we're of the opinion that the winter of our discontent is coming to an end; that the tempest that us actors have been fighting through is finally calming. And we have evidence to prove it.


Taking Stock


It's true that quarantine, lockdowns, and social distancing have all felt like the direct opposite of what theatre and cinema needed in the 2020s. Struggling playhouses and picturehouses did not need a global pandemic this year. Nor did actors making their first forays into careers on stage and on screen.


The data is bleak. Omida have reported that the global cinema industry is set to lose $32 billion after lockdowns this year. In Hollywood, some 120,000 people have been out of work since March; in the UK, it's been around 50,000. If you want to support the industry you love, you can donate to your favourite theatre here, or to charities and organisations that support actors here.


On the other hand, this year we've seen the world lurch decisively towards digital platforms. The tech sector has been one of the only industries to actually grow this year. FlairBox is really nicely positioned to absorb this 'new normal' - and our community is set to enjoy the benefits of an increasingly digital casting set-up.



Silver Linings


Despite some of the gloomy stats, there are definitely reasons to be cheerful about 2021. The cloud of the pandemic looks now to be passing - and before it retreats over the horizon, we believe it's worth noting its silver linings.


After years of campaigning, 2020 has been a breakthrough year for equality, access and inclusivity - all of which are now top of the agenda for most casting directors. We're especially chuffed to see Equity publish a list of 10 Equality Essentials that the industry must follow, and The Casting Society of America committing to greater inclusivity. At FlairBox, equality is in our DNA - so we've been delighted to see this progress across the industry.


Elsewhere, we've been enjoying the lockdown creativity boom. Actors are nothing if not resourceful - and we've been watching with pride as you upload your incredible videos to FlairBox. Shakespeare wrote the whole of King Lear while quarantined by The Plague; this year, actors have gone above and beyond to keep their craft alive. An illustrious gaggle of West End stars are even offering doorstep performances to keep themselves busy this winter!


Signs of a Bright Future


Happily, there are plenty of signs that the industry is picking itself up by its bootstraps and dusting itself down for a revival in 2021. Yes, crews are likely to be a little smaller. True, FX teams are likely to paint extras in to recorded scenes. But there's a reason why stocks in the big entertainment companies are on the rise. A vaccine means a return to the theatre - and long-awaited trips to the cinema, too.


Already, theatrical productions are back in the UK - though only in regions that are currently in Tier 1 and Tier 2 lockdowns. This great interview shows how much it means to stage actors Jenny Seagrove and Martin Shaw.


Elsewhere, the word State-side is that New York is abuzz again with film crews - and that all major studios there (like Kaufman Astoria Studios, and Silvercup Studios) are full to the rafters. Georgia - a couple of years into its new role as a 'second LA' - is currently hosting a number of exciting productions, too.


And, if anyone fancies a sabbatical in Mumbai, we're hearing that Bollywood is gearing up for a boom year after India's struggle with the pandemic looks set to end.



What Should You Do?


Obviously, all this is cause for celebration. A return to some semblance of normality is just what us actors have been waiting for. We're so excited for casting calls to pick up on FlairBox as the industry goes through the gears in 2021. Get your self-tapes perfected to stand the best chance of getting shortlisted and cast by the industry professionals that are flocking to our platform.


We have taken the time to peek at the types of roles that are currently being cast - on stage, and on screen - and we've gathered a few tips to leave you with.


Going Solo


Until the vaccine has gone into a few million more arms, social distancing will remain a requirement in the UK. That means you're not about to be cast in a muck-in musical or a Lord of the Rings battle scene. The Bridge Theatre and the National Theatre are both running solo shows until restrictions ease. Your solo work, reading scenes written for a single character, are important here.


Day Rates


Acting unions have succeeded in guaranteeing jobbing actors the pay they deserve for getting themselves on-set each day. That means that actors in minor and non-speaking roles are actually getting paid - hallelujah! Look out for these smaller roles to keep yourself ticking over until you land a larger role.


Streaming Supreme


In case you didn't get the memo, streaming is now squatted firmly over the future of film and TV. Warner Bros threw down the gauntlet fairly decisively last week when they announced they'd be releasing all 17 of their 2021 productions on streaming services. Even the National Theatre has set up a pay-per-play streaming channel. Jump on this bandwagon wherever possible - it's going places.


The COVID Gap


All that said, the public are certainly craving all that they've missed during 2020. Cinema, plays, musicals - Edinburgh, Hay, Latitude - these will all see a resurgence next summer. The uproarious reception of live-streamed plays in the first lockdown showed just how enormous our appetites have become for a spot of proper live entertainment. Get ready for that surge - by preparing your FlairBox profile for the roles that are soon to return to the industry in the UK.


In As You Like It, Jaques performs one of Shakespeare's most beautifully-crafted monologues. "All the world's a stage," he declares, taking a wrecking ball to the fourth wall and implicating The Globe's seventeenth-century audience in the drama of the play itself.


At FlairBox, we agree with Jaques - and, as the world shakes off the shackles of COVID, it's time to get yourself under the spotlight of our Digital Stage, winning the roles that'll engineer the revivial of the industry we love.






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