William Shakespeare is arguably the most influential figure in the history of theatre, and to commemorate his birthday on April 23, we have decided to express all the ways in which he has influenced us as artists, producers, teachers, and theatre goers.
Summer Crockett Moore (Managing Member)
When I was 16, growing up in Paris, TN, I knew I wanted to go to New York to college for theatre school. To do that, I needed to audition with one contemporary monologue and one Shakespearean monologue (so said all the college brochures). I was only slightly terrified, having not really ever worked on Shakespeare (beyond the sophomore required reading of Romeo & Juliet) because I had one of the most amazing drama teachers Tennessee had ever seen! After several weeks of prep, I nailed my regional audition in Nashville, and was proud to learn that I had received a partial scholarship to my theatre school of choice the following fall in NYC! I arrived at that school, wind in my sails, and proceeded to my first ever Shakespeare class. For our first day, we were told that we were to perform the audition monologue that “got us in to the school” and so I embarked with the same gusto as I had in my little town of TN … and was flatly told by my very first “official” Shakespeare teacher that “because I had such a strong southern accent, I sounded “uneducated”, and therefore could never “properly” perform Shakespeare”. I literally picked myself off the floor and sat in my seat, my face on fire, as my new theatre classmates patted my hand and whispered words of “hang in there”. That said, this did not deter the 17-year-old girl sitting there … it only fueled me. Angered me. Called me to action. I wanted to be better for Shakespeare himself — (not to mention how hilarious it was the following week when several of my newfound theatre compatriots showed up in bib-overalls w/ thick southern accents to do their weekly Shakespeare assignments … all as a call to action for my honor.) *Did I mention I was merely 17, and the average age in this post-graduate class was 26? Yea — my fellow students rocked, and I was the baby in the class.*
So, yes, I signed up for speech therapy, and practiced extensively outside my regular classes each week, with a wonderful speech teacher, and I began to “neutralize my dialect,” all while working on Shakespeare. Each week I was less and less afraid, and more and more empowered. Shakespeare was empowering me. His wonderful women were teaching me. I was finding a new identity through the wonderfully diverse characters in his plays. There are many sub-stories that I could share, but just know, that I realized that the humanity in all of his characters was accessible no matter what accent I had been gifted with.
And to this end …. one year later, I had achieved “standard American speech,” all trace of my southern dialect now hidden — unless I decided to whip it out for dramatic effect — which proved very useful on dates, might I add — but I digress … and I was cast as one of the female leads in the graduate production of the play As You Like It. #successachieved = perhaps.
What I take away is this: I brought who I was to the Shakespearean table, and came up a better, stronger, more well-rounded person as a result. All in the name of “Shakespeare,” which is not nearly as scary as it sounds.
Lucy Di Rosa (Executive Director)
When I was in high school, William Shakespeare introduced himself to me, grabbed me by the collar, and shook me. And he’s continued to shake me ever since. Between the ages of 14 and 18, I read Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet. I found them magical, scary, and gorgeous. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, not too far from Stratford, which is the home of one of the largest Shakespeare festivals outside of England. My school organized periodic visits to the festival. The live performances I saw on the beautiful thrust stage at the Festival Theatre influenced me deeply. I found it mesmerizing to see the actors perform, using such beautiful language and filling this distinct and striking space. Getting to know Shakespeare at a young age was one of the single most influencing factors in awakening my fascination with theatre.
As an adult, my first experience with The Private Theatre’s Artistic Director, John Rubin, came when I worked on a scene from Macbeth in John’s acting class, playing Lady Macbeth. This was Act I, scene vii, in which Lady Macbeth must convince her husband to kill the king after she realizes that he his having serious doubts about doing so. The scene is so powerful and the work was so engrossing that I still think back to the scene as though I had experienced Lady Macbeth’s complex emotions myself. And I had! In the moment of performance, Shakespeare (and John) made me feel a wave of panic as I realized that my ambition to become queen was slipping away, and made me realize that I had to somehow overpower Macbeth in order to get my way. Doing this work taught me how intense and how human Shakespeare’s characters are. I think his writing continues to influence us because not only is it astoundingly eloquent, it is also startlingly real.
Shane Bly Killoran (Literary Committee Member)
Admittedly, I groan with resistance at the thought of sitting through yet another Shakespearean production. This would be true if Sir Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton roused themselves from the dead to perform. My reluctance is not one of disrespect. Rather (with the exception of two outstanding productions), my love affair has always taken place on the page.
As a school-girl, he had me at, “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!” Since then, his iambic worlds of language, history, love, the after-life, war, loyalty and dreams, have continued to work their way through me into my womanhood.
I couldn’t have known then, but this bard was the first to place me on the path to dramaturgy. Every play, every sonnet, is a fresh awakening to decode and demystify. Sitting with a Shakespeare text, armed with certainty only to find there is yet another universe to uncover, presents indescribable joy. He remains the constant reminder that I know nothing, but will forever find a universe altering something.
William Shakespeare, where you would, I humbly don’t have the eloquent words of thanks for properly introducing me to the text. Because of you; I consider, read, look, accept and seek differently.
“When you do dance, I wish you
A wave o’ th’ sea, that you might ever do
Nothing but that…”
Salomé M. Krell (Managing Member)
As a teen, I first fell in love with the mystery of Shakespeare’s language. I fell in love with uncovering the meaning of the text, a process which for me often required reading out loud and embodying his words. As the daughter of an academic, I was inspired to discover that I could understand Shakespeare’s texts by bringing his words to life. I didn’t have to simply think more or study harder or analyze intellectually. I could understand and discover by playing! It opened a whole new world.
In high school I was lucky enough to attend the Stratford Theatre Festival in Canada. I saw a rock and roll production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring the epically talented Colm Feore. I was blown away. It was one of the most breathtaking, inspiring, moving and earth shattering experiences I’ve ever had in the theatre. To witness Shakespeare’s play interpreted in such a wildly creative way left me filled with awe. I remember weeping during Puck’s closing lines (“If we shadows have offended, think but this; and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear….”). I wept and wept. Because it had felt like a dream. And I didn’t want it to end. I sat in the theatre, stunned. I wanted to stay in that world, to be part of it. It was an experience that made me so proud to be human. I was deeply inspired and filled with wonder at the beauty and power of what people could create together, and what we could witness together. It broke my heart…open.
Jean Gould Rubin (Artistic Director)
Shakespeare taught me the humbling intimidation of great writing; that craft produces poetry; that emotion is inspired automatically by words well crafted and properly spoken; and that art is larger than life.