I’ve been mulling over what ShakesStory I would share, and then I realized there are too many indelible images and moments with Shakespeare. Here are ten highlights:
10. Reading my first Shakespeare play: Romeo and Juliet. It was my freshman year of high school. Mrs. Wallenberg guided us through the language of the opening scene (glossing over the bawdiness). We shrugged and scratched our heads over the thumb-biting. But I never forgot it and have bitten my thumb at Balthazar and Abraham many, many times.
9. Attending my first live Shakespeare play: Othello, presented by a Guthrie Theater touring production. This is when Shakespeare clicked for me. I had never read the play. Iago’s spit launched into the first row at one point (I was in the second row). This whole production was visceral and immediate! I didn’t always understand what was going on, but it didn’t matter.
8. Reading Hamlet – I was a senior in high school. We had a big test on the play, and I remember studying with my friends at Barnes and Noble. One of the sections involved important quotes. We had to identify the speaker and the significance of the text. I have yet to be in a production of Hamlet, but that language continues to swirl in my head.
7. Standing on the Globe stage in London – enough said.
6. Playing Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors – I was in college, and this swift production had me thinking this is something I could do professionally. So far, so good. That play, as silly as it is, holds a special place in my heart.
5. Witnessing Five Actors from the London Stage pull off Twelfth Night – so much doubling! The actor playing Sir Andrew also played Malvolio. The gulling scene was especially funny as he popped behind a tree branch to read the letter (the other actors playing Feste and Sir Toby held on to Andrew’s wig/hat when he was Malvolio).
4. Seeing a giant bear chase Antigonus in The Winter’s Tale – I saw this beautiful production at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I’d never seen or read the play, but I knew about the famous stage direction. I didn’t know when it was coming, however. The beast was massive. Some people screamed, others laughed. Shakespeare is chock-full of these surprising moments.
3. The panic of forgetting my lines in Julius Caesar – During grad school, we had an annual “Turbo Project.” At the end of the fall term, the head of acting gave everyone a script and a role (or two) to learn over the break. We came back in January with a week to rehearse the show. The first rehearsal was a run-thru off book. This is much like the Actors’ Renaissance Season–except we didn’t have a prompter. I was playing Brutus. During a performance, the conspirators had arrived at my house, and I had no idea what to say. I actually considered running off stage. After a lengthy pause (in which everyone knew what was going on. This wasn’t one of those “a couple seconds feels like ten minutes” moments that frequently occur in the theatre), the words FINALLY came to me. The terror was real, and it makes me shudder as I type this.
2. Slings & Arrows – This Canadian television series highlights the artistic and administrative hijinks of a Shakespeare Festival. I love it. The show is hilarious and full of heart. I watch it at least once a year.
1. Entering the Blackfriars Playhouse for the first time – Last summer, I arranged a visit to Staunton to see some grad school friends acting at ASC. I was attending The Two Gentlemen of Verona and the troupe was playing a song by Bruno Mars in Elizabethan costumes. It was a bit jarring at first, to be honest. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the collage of old and new the ASC provides.
– Tim Sailer, 2013 Summer and Fall Seasons Troupe Member