Accomplished Shakespearean actor Sarah Harlett will be teaching Intro to Shakespeare this fall. In this interview, Sarah talks about her experience as an actor and how she goes about making Shakespeare accessible.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your background in Shakespeare?
A: I performed in Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was a Sophomore in High School. I had an incredible High School Drama teacher who passed on her love of Shakespeare. Since that I studied Shakespeare in college (Cornish College of the Arts) and then at BADA, British American Drama Academy, at Oxford England. At BADA, I studied with actors and directors from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Particularly John Barton who was a renowned Shakespeare director and scholar. Since 2006, I’ve been lucky to work with on several productions with several companies here in Seattle.
Q: Understanding the language of Shakespeare presents a challenge for many people? How do you help students overcome that?
A: Shakespeare put clues in the writing for his fellow actors. These were words, speeches and scenes a theater maker wrote for other theater makers. It can be truly fun detective work. Discovering clues in iambic pentameter, anti-thesis, imagery, alliteration in relation to the creation of character and the discovery of play between characters.
My approach teaching Shakespeare is to give students those tools and to dive into detective work together. I also try to look at them as if they are new works. To examine the problematic language, stories, and characters that Shakespeare wrote in the late 1500’s to early 1600’s and interrogate– why this play now? What are new frameworks we can put on these plays, new prisms to look at them through that allows them to be fresh, live experiences?
Q: Anything else you’d like people to know about you or Intro to Shakespeare?
A: I approach this class as an actor. I’m not an English Professor, but an actor who uses tools to make this language, these plays become alive. The tools we will use are also tools that you can apply to other non-Shakespeare plays.