In a few short weeks, I will be facing the big 3-0 so I have been doing a lot of retrospective, nostalgic thinking lately. Evaluating the events, things, and people who've had an effect on the person I've become and the kind of person I want to become as I get older. One figure in particular looms very large for me: William Shakespeare. A man I have never met and never will meet, because he is 448, and I am only 29. But his words have touched me in ways that I am sure I can never fully express or appreciate.
When I was twelve years old, my parents took me to see Hamlet at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. We sat in the front row, and Horatio was very cute. It was funny when Hamlet crab-walked. It was, simply put, larger than life, and I had no inkling at the time how this experience would change the course of my life. A week later, I bought a copy of it at a bookstore. That fall I began middle school where I read the middle-school-staples: Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. High school brought Macbeth and Hamlet. And still every summer, we went to see a show at PSF in Center Valley, PA.
After so many summers of seeing Shakespeare's plays and many English classes of reading them, I learned that one of the local community theaters was holding auditions for As You Like It. What a fun thing to do over summer break! It was time to cross over to the stage. I can't believe that was ten years ago. I auditioned and was thrilled for the opportunity to play Phebe, the feisty shepherdess. I didn't realize how badly I'd caught the bug until after I graduated college and decided to become an actor.
My first professional experience in acting Shakespeare came in the summer of 2005 at Harrisburg Shakespeare Company (then Festival) in Henry V. The following summer I played Juliet in West Chester, PA. Following on Juliet's heels, I did an educational tour of A Midsummer Night's Dream as Hermia and Starveling. I was hooked!
|1 Henry VI, May 2008|
|2 Henry VI, November 2008|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream, August 2011|
*Nerd Alert* Can I just say how excited I am that our repeats are Merchant, the Henry VI's and R3 before we've even touched Much Ado or Shrew?
Looking back, I wonder what my life would be like if my parents had never taken me to the performance of Hamlet in 1994? Or what if Shakespeare's plays had been lost? Or if the man himself had never written these incredible works? What would all of our lives be like? I shudder to think. So let us give thanks, recite a sonnet, raise a glass, have some birthday cake and celebrate this man, his genius, his work, and our own good fortune. Thank you, William Shakespeare. Because of you, I have pride in my work. And humility. Because of you, I am smarter. Because of you, I have passion. Happy Birthday!
To connect with other bloggers taking part in this celebration, please visit www.happybirthdayshakespeare.