I’ve been thinking a lot about Shakespeare lately. This is not just because I think about Shakespeare at least once a week. My beloved Bard was the idol upon whom my entire current love of English literature is founded. If that sounds passé, I have no apologies to make.
However, despite my fondness for the Bard, I’ve only acted in one production of Shakespeare. That production was during my Winedale Shakespeare class at the University of Texas-Austin, and the play was “All’s Well That Ends Well.” It’s that performance that has brought my thoughts back to Shakespeare. It’s been a year since that production, and I miss my All’s Well.
Now if I could have had my pick of Shakespearean plays in which to act, that would not have been one of them. All’s Well is justly dubbed a “problem play.” When you’re reading the bare text as I did, none of the characters are particularly likable and no one comes out of the scenario looking good. There is literally no Shakespearean work I dislike or even think ill of, but there are some I really can’t understand, and All’s Well is one of them ... or rather, it was one of them.
I played a relatively minor character, the Second Lord Dumaine. Yes, I’m a woman who played a man in a Shakespearean play. I’ll go out on a limb and say I think Shakespeare would appreciate the irony of that. The character takes part in the black comedy subplot involving the closest thing the play has to a true antagonist, if you don’t count the changeability of the human heart.
Shakespeare at Winedale is a program held in both the spring, with one play, and in the summer, with three plays. You perform the plays in a barn at a farm out near Round Top. If I have one big regret about college, it would be that I never indulged in a Winedale summer. More accurately, I feel I should have indulged in all of the Winedale summers.
If there was one reason I refrained, it was because Winedale means living in a small house with several strangers for months. I’m not exactly neurotic, but that went a little outside my comfort zone. At the time, I didn’t think I could overcome that feeling.
During the spring class, I spent several weekends out at that house with my classmates. I can now say that my love of Shakespeare overrides any social anxiety I possess. If it can have that effect on me, I wonder if it could have that effect on everyone.
I would propose that everyone who wants to try acting but feels anxious about the prospect should try losing themselves in Shakespeare.
Bias on my part is inevitable, but there is a reason Shakespeare’s plays have been performed with the regularity of a cuckoo clock for hundreds of years.
Shakespeare tells stories that, with a little bit of a primer on the language, anyone can understand. Who among us can’t relate to stories of unrequited love, or frustrated ambition, or unending grief and sorrow? If I never act in another play again, I’m glad the one I can take the most pride in was written by one of my oldest friends, William Shakespeare.
Rachel Kaser is a Herald correspondent. Check out her gaming blog “The Play Button” at KDHnews.com/blogs.