Writing this blog has allowed me to meet a lot of very cool theatre people and has led me into some pretty great conversations (including the one on John Moore's Running Lines blog that is still going strong).
My conversation yesterday was with Mell McDonnell, Media Relations Representative of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
We were talking about why some audiences are afraid of Shakespeare. They think that they won't understand it - that they will be lost or bored - so they don't go.
Mell said that she runs across people who think that the "Old English" is too hard to follow. As Mell likes to point out, though, Shakespeare isn't Old English. It's not even Middle English. In fact, on the timeline of the evolution of the English language, Shakespearean language is basically modern. Yes, there's a slightly different way of putting things. "Tis poetical," after all. Yes there are words that we don't use anymore or that mean something different now, but that could be said of more recent eras. Have you encountered any "dewdroppers" lately? You have. You just didn't know it. And telling Doc Holliday in his time that you thought he was "gay," probably wouldn't have got you shot. Probably.
The truth is, that most people who are intimidated by going to see a Shakespeare production are recalling their last experience with the bard: compulsory reading in high school.
It's a shame, really, because, when Shakespeare is done well, it is enriching and beautiful and inspiring and moving.
And when it is done very well, it is the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's productions of Hamlet
and Much Ado About Nothing. Hamlet I talked about last week, so I'm going to spend a little time today on Much Ado. Karen Slack (featured in my last video blog with Caitlin Wise) is absolutely the best Beatrice I've ever seen in this rollicking romantic comedy that is the inspiration behind 30% of Julia Roberts movies, 65% of Meg Ryan movies, and 100% of Sandra Bullock movies. (Well, except for that one about the mailbox. What the hell was that?) Slack is a gifted comedienne who also has the acting chops to skillfully maneuver through Shakespeare's broad comedy into moments of intense heartbreak.
Caitlin Wise deftly demonstrates how Hero is so much more than the foil and the victim that she is often thought to be. In a scene where just about everyone else on stage is yelling and screaming and waving their arms in the air, I could not take my eyes off of Caitlin Wise's blighted bride.
Geoffrey Kent, as Benedick, just owns the stage. He is perfectly matched with Karen Slack in this cunningly penned battle of the sexes.
I love Much Ado About Nothing, and I loved almost everything about this production. (No, I won't tell you what didn't float my boat -- that's not what I do here. Besides, it really didn't take away much from this great show, and it may have bothered me only, anyway.)
If you or someone you know is one of those intimidated by Shakespeare, then Much Ado About Nothing may be just the show to cure you of that affliction.
The plays of Shakespeare represent our language at its best. It is a celebration of the human condition. There is a reason why these plays are still around and still being performed.
If you don't know that reason, perhaps it's time you found out.