Intro to Shakespeare: From an Actor’s Perspective

My first introduction to Shakespeare was in junior high school reading Romeo & Juliet. My memories of it were that it was dry, kind of boring and felt inaccessible or at least just not for me.

That was until I worked on Shakespeare as an actor. Shakespeare wrote his plays for his company of actors. Those actors would get only their parts, not the entire play. So, 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 suddenly became 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?