Trying to understand the place of Shakespeare in modern theatre--starting with the mighty Macbeth.
By Kimberly Lew (Playwright/Blogger)
I am going to come out and say it, blasphemous as it may be: I have always had a problem with Shakespeare. Okay, maybe not with Shakespeare. Never met the guy, so I can't say it's a direct kind of thing. Maybe it's more like I have a problem whenever I see a production of Shakespeare.
I've always had difficulty getting through Shakespeare's text, whether on the page or on the stage. Part of it is the language. I can't tell you how many times I've read some soliloquies over and over again, realizing halfway through that I had no idea what exactly the words I was scanning meant. Another part of it is the sheer reverence that his work seems to garner-- this pressure that everyone has to not only respect his work, but also know it, too. As a result, productions of Shakespeare's work, adapted and reinterpreted every which way, always abound, and everyone feels an obligation to go to these shows and familiarize themselves with these stories because there is an obligation to the cultural zeitgeist to do so.
A few weeks ago, Ali Gordon asked whether or not artists (and critics) should ask of productions "Why bother?" And while I wholly agree that this question should never intimidate artists from creating work, I actually think that the question "Why bother?" should always be on the table, especially with revivals in the case of Shakespeare (and Orphans, which her post originally referenced). I think in some ways people view Shakespeare as being an easy choice, because of its reputation and public domain status, and as a result, lots of new productions attempt to reinterpret the text with modern concepts that only highlight some aspects of Shakespeare's work on the page, or drudge through the text without any attempts to inject new life into the show. While both of these approaches attempt to put Shakespeare front and center, in a lot of ways they only seem of point out the irrelevance of his work to our everyday lives. Yes, we owe him much both in language and in theatre in general-- but does that mean that we need multiple commercial celebrity-studded interpretations? Maybe we could afford to cut back a bit...