As an English major, I studied Shakespeare in school on multiple occasions. I think most English majors have—it may even be a requirement. Whilst studying Shakespeare, I appreciated it for what it was. Sure, the language and writing style takes some getting used to, and without much stage direction a lot of imagination, and at times re-reading comes into play. If you manage to see a production of one of his works the magic opens up for you a little more. A lot of things begin to make sense and you see the beauty in the stories he is telling, and get an even bigger hint at his genius.
I did all of that, of course, but I never truly fell head over heels until recently. Late last winter PBS, aired a series called Shakespeare Uncovered. It was a documentary of sorts that followed actors around as they either prepared for, or just finished appearing in a Shakespeare production. The purpose of the program, I think, was to showcase to the general public an actor’s process in preparing to play Shakespeare.
After watching the show, with much excitement, I called my local community theater and asked the executive director there if he knew of any Shakespeare theater groups in the area. He said “no” but since his background is in Shakespeare he was really interested in putting one together. We met and decided to stage a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor this coming up spring. I was elated, but my acting experience is very minimal. My next step was to ask him about adult acting classes. His theater only offered kids programs, but he really wanted to do an adult class, so we put one together.
Now, in preparation for Merry Wives I am studying Shakespeare in a new way…not as a writer or reader, but as an actor. Let me tell you, that is a whole other ball game!
I honestly think from my experience in preparing for this audition, so far, that it is extremely hard to understand and fully appreciate the magnitude and passion behind Shakespeare until you start acting in it. Its also interesting to learn that the typical acting “rules” or “methods” don’t apply to Shakespeare. Instead you let the words drive your acting choices and decisions. They tell you how to react, feel, be. The hardest part about doing Shakespeare is pulling yourself out of your little “acting box” that you have been stuffed in and seeing the experience from a fresh perspective. It’s quite freeing.
Does anyone have a favorite Shakespeare play? Have any of you performed Shakespeare?