I grew up on Shakespeare. When I was much younger (8-9 and 14), my parents would take us to Shakespeare in the Park in Fort Worth. It was performed in this park where a permanent brick building was built that faced a high berm (see picture). We would take a picnic lunch and eat.
I remember seeing Macbeth and listening to the bagpiper on the top of the berm before the performance and during intermission, that was amazing. Well, one year we saw The Tempest, and my mother, while she certainly enjoyed it was a bit lost, so during intermission asked me what was going on. I gave her a summary, to which she replied, ‘I can’t believe you know that, you should earn a living translating Shakespeare for people!’ I didn’t quite have the heart to tell her…
In High School, my English teacher shared my love for the Bard. I would often find myself in her classroom after school talking the finer points of one of his plays. She was a most amazing lady and she pushed me in ways I didn’t know I could be pushed. I remember giving her a card when I graduated and a couple years later when I came to see her, she had that card in her top desk drawer. Unfortunately, she passed away before I got married, that was definitely a hard day when I learned that. She was the cement for my love of Shakespeare, that is for sure.
When I asked my wife to marry me, one of the first people she introduced me to was David Zimmerman. The reason she wanted us to know one another was because, ‘she could talk intelligently to either of us about Shakespeare and we both understood her.’ Since then, I have grown to consider that young man a brother.
So, just after my wife and I were married we were able to see a Shakespeare troupe in Richmond, also in a park, billed as ‘Not your Teacher’s Shakespeare’. They performed As You Like It, and April and I quickly became the center of their attention, because we were the only ones in the audience that were laughing and interacting appropriately to their performance. Several times the asides were done directly to us. I felt like E. F. Hutton with everyone around us trying to get us to tell them what was going on during the performance. Sheesh!
A few years ago, my good friend David Zimmerman was performing with ASC when the company came through Lynchburg and did a performance of All’s Well That Ends Well at Randolph College. Ask anyone and they will tell you that I am not shy about enjoying any performance I attend. At this performance I first encountered Rick Blunt on stage, in the role of Parolles. I do not remember exactly the dialogue but it occurred when Parolles had been taken prisoner and was talking to what he thought was himself, and David Zimmerman, pretending to be a tree, answered him. It was a combination of the moment and knowing Zimm that I laughed out loud very hard. This caused Rick to look at me and laugh as well, even though he was supposed to be serious at that point in the play.
Afterwards he comes up to me and tells me ‘You caused me to break character!’ We had a good laugh about that. Well, later my wife and I came to Staunton to see Romeo and Juliet (still one of my favorites, because I first read it around age 11 or so) and we sat front and center. One of the first actors we met was Rick, who shook my hand and welcomed us to the Playhouse. He didn’t recognize me at that point, but thought I looked familiar. Well, at intermission he comes out, finds me and says, ‘You looked familiar but I wasn’t sure where I knew you from. Then I was sitting in the green room and heard THAT laugh.’ I do have a rather distinct laugh, to be sure.
I certainly enjoyed getting to know the cast a bit from the couple days my wife and I were in Staunton. I was ever so impressed by their amazing talent.
I love Shakespeare. It has helped me ‘get a wife’ and without it days are grayer, stories are duller and language is not fit to speak.
- Hud McWilliams, Lynchburg, VA