Sharing Shakespeare’s Influence
Like many student actors of my generation, I hung on every frame of the Royal Shakespeare Company videos, Playing Shakespeare. RSC co-founder John Barton led then-current company members through a series of master classes on, well…playing Shakespeare. These programs were opportunities to learn acting technique along with Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Ben Kingsley, Sinead Cusack, Patrick Stewart and Michael Pennington.
Recently, Michael Pennington was traveling through the Pacific Northwest finishing a tour of his one-man show Sweet William. He paid a brief visit to our offices, and, of course, I was star struck. But I was also reminded of a desire I’d had for some time to expand upon Seattle Shakespeare’s commitment to the universality of Shakespeare’s works. In addition to our own local view on Shakespeare’s broad and universal resonance, I’d been toying with the idea on how to share more voices from other regions and perspectives. Michael’s show seemed a great starting point.
Our work with upstart crow collective and the influence of the renowned Shakespeare interpreter Lisa Wolpe lead me to her solo show, Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender. It was another piece of the puzzle for a series showcasing Shakespeare’s universal, and yet individual, influence on how we see the world.
More exploring brought me to Stephan Wolfert and his work with De-Cruit, a program that uses Shakespeare to help veterans transition back to the civilian world. I’d read a review of his solo show, Cry Havoc!, that inspired the program, and was intrigued. Cally Shine at Path with Art (daughter of former SSC Artistic Director Stephanie Shine) had seen the show at a Shakespeare conference, strongly recommended it, and that sealed the deal.
Here was an opportunity to pull together a series of personal and yet widely resonant stories about how a life with Shakespeare has shaped these distinct artists. It’s exhilarating to have each of their voices brought to Seattle. To affirm again, the true universality of this great dramatist, and to connect across time, across the country, and across the globe, to our shared, yet singular, humanity.