When I was in first grade, I was reprimanded for disrupting class. I was more interested in making the girls at my table laugh than learning proper penmanship technique (to this day, my handwriting is hardly legible), so I was sequestered to sit at a special desk that was fashioned with blinders on all sides. This desk was very effective at removing any comedy routine from my teacher’s lesson plans, and equally effective at shaming the occupant. My parents were contacted, and I knew I was done for.
Instead, my father took me on a walk around the school grounds, encouraged me to pay attention in class, and gave me an old brass keychain with a five cent stamp of Shakespeare’s likeness encased in clear plastic. I was puzzled, but this ShakesStory has more to do with my father being a great dude than my first grade teacher’s classroom management skills.
Throughout my childhood, my father often recited poetry and talked with me about the language. He took me line by line through Shakespeare, Whitman, Elliot and others, decoding the words and putting me in touch with deeper meaning. I tagged along to rehearsals while he directed Sophocles’ Antigone and Aristophanes’ The Birds in the high school gymnasium. I lead on blind Tiresias, and carved a flying pig out of Styrofoam. We built a Greek temple and pretended to be ghosts and fish in a Mark Twain story. When I was older, my first Shakespeare role was Corin in As You Like It, acting scenes with my older brother as Touchstone, in another of my father’s productions.
Some years have passed and I’m still treading the boards, my dad continues to influence young minds, and I still have that keychain.
– Colin Ryan