Bringing Our Whole Selves: A Letter from Pilar O’Connell, Diversity Programs Associate

Growing up in New Mexico I wasn’t often offered a chance to see Shakespeare. When I did see it, it always seemed untouchable; like there was never a place for me in the work of what many believe to be “The World’s Greatest Playwright.” What I saw on stage told me: I was not white enough, femme enough, skinny enough, smart enough. The list goes on and on. For many years of my career I tried to remove pieces of myself in order to fit into the canon. It never worked. On the off chance I got cast, I always felt like an imposter, a fraud, like this work was not for me. Turns out, hiding who you really are and removing pieces of yourself to fit someone else’s narrative ends up taking away from your humanity, from your heart, and from your soul.  

Experiencing humanity, heart, and soul is one of the many reasons we return to this work. These words fly from the page and express our deepest desires, fears, sadness, and joy. Each human feels these things. The universality of these feelings is one of the many reasons Shakespeare’s work is still performed world wide year after year. This begs the question: if these human experiences are universal, then why is this work not for everyone? Why isn’t everyone welcome to the table as their whole self? My answer to those questions? Gatekeeping, colonization, fear of change, and a fear of the individual experience beyond our own.

As we welcome you to our 2023 Drum and Colours production of Henry IV, we invite you to join us, the Drum and Colours company, in dismantling these practices. We invite you to expand your hearts and minds. We invite you to ask questions. We invite you to be open to the universal experience of being human. No matter how different life is for each being that walks on this planet, one thing is for certain: we all feel deeply. We are the authors of our own stories; our individuality brings light and wonder to each thing we do. We invite you to embrace your individual experience and to welcome the individual experiences that may be different from your own.

Thank you for joining us and opening your hearts and minds.

Pilar O’Connell
Diversity Programs Associate