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Questions From a Working Actor: Part 2

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

I feel like I’m not “academic” enough to understand what is going on in Shakespeare, let alone play a part in a Shakespeare play. Can you help or am I a lost cause? Steve W. Hi Steve,

Thank you so much for your question! You are absolutely not a lost cause! If you are a person who speaks and lives in the world, or even better - an actor - you can absolutely understand and play a part in a Shakespeare play. It drives me crazy the way Shakespeare has become elitist and academic, and that anyone, especially an actor, would feel like a lost cause. First, Shakespeare wrote plays. They are meant to be played. Spoken out loud. Felt. Lived in the imagination of an actor and given to the hearts, minds, and spirits of an audience. They are not meant to live on a page in a dusty bookshelf!

Second, as an actor - a player - you are uniquely suited to understand these plays. Shakespeare is like a piece of music: it has structure, rhythm, and dynamic changes that can only be felt and understood when read out loud. You get to play the text out loud, as a musician would play a piece of music.

Third, Shakespeare’s language is visceral and powerful. When you speak it out loud, you feel it in your bones as well as your heart. Sound = sense in Shakespeare; words sound like what they mean.

And this is just the beginning of the beautiful things actors get to investigate in Shakespeare’s text! Once you have the tools to get you started you can dive into all that universal and recognizable in these plays - truly a delight to do as an actor.

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