Why Shakespeare?

Because acting is life. With every good playwright we find the realities we endure being played out on stage to help us understand. Without knowing the consequence, the moment needs to find reason, and if done properly, can teach all of us something. That is the beauty of theater. That is the marvel of Shakespeare.

I often in my classroom, whether it be English or theater would reference Romeo & Juliet. There is a scene where the star-crossed lovers cannot be with each other yet have each other in their hearts to a point of obsession. I will ask my class, or perhaps my cast, have they ever experienced waiting for someone? Have they known the anxiety of not knowing? When Romeo shutters himself in his bedroom, is that like putting on a headset and tuning out the world? Would both fathers reach out to friends to find out the state of mind of their children? All of these questions relate directly to our lives today. They speak to the anxiety that our children go through on a daily basis – much like the same for adults. So why is it so important we see that played out in the script and inflections created by actors on stage? It tells a story.

Our lives are stories, each and every one of us has experience. If not, then the likes of Neil Simon, Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates could not be embraced in the manner their words are heard. If not, then William Shakespeare would be just another hack. The truth is though every one of these names speaks to the human condition. Only a few have been mentioned, so many more exist and continue to evolve. The beauty of Shakespeare is his words and moments lifted our emotional bearing in a way that is hard to argue allows us to relate to situations that are as real now as they were centuries ago. Sophocles wrote of the demise of power with great reliance upon human interactions to suggest the deceit that can bury a society or at least mar their credibility.

Today is Shakespeare’s apparent birth date, so it provides reason to be grateful for his words and how they have become statements of who we are in today’s world. Who we are in his eyes of culture a long time ago in an English language often misconstrued. Shakespeare belongs on stage, and it is the mannerism, the expression, response of the actor on stage that lets the audience know there is evidence to the nature of life. We talk of existential crises in our lives, and look to find Shakespeare has played out the catharsis in some scene or soliloquy witnessed in its raw form. The actor is alive on stage..

When we think back to that moment with Romeo & Juliet experiencing teenage lives, imagine how students today go through the same. What better knowledge gained than playing out these lives on stage, with all the emotion and intellect of a simple analogy of the human spirit? The genius of a playwright deserves a lauding on their birthday.

The irony is the next scene in his day.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2022

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