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The Work of Shakespeare in Modern Day America

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 11:05 AM

John Mackay as Cassius, Greg Hicks as Julius Caesar, Sam Troughton as Marcus Brutus in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "Julius Caesar." (Stephanie Berger © 2011)

As The Greene Space embarks on our nod to The World Shakespeare Festival, I, admittedly not a Shakespearophile, am struck by the question of how The Bard plays out in a 21st century metropolis.

What attracts a younger generation to Shakespeare’s work?

Are the stories as enthralling today, as they were during the English Renaissance?

Does mastering this work still play an important part in an actor’s career?

Last year, I was fortunate enough to help produce a short documentary on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s residency in New York, a partnership between Lincoln Center Festival and Park Avenue Armory. The RSC built an exact replica of their Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, the playwrights birthplace, right here in New York City. This was a feat in and of itself, and an impressive one to witness. What I was truly struck by was the passion exhibited by each member of the team. Everyone from the heavy lifting guys, to artistic director Michael Boyd, to the actors and even the PR intern were truly passionate about the work they were doing. This rang true in the play I went to see, Julius Caesar. Despite Sam Troughton’s knee injury from a previous performance, he brought Marcus Brutus to life. The company expertly incorporated a crutch into the part making it seem like it was written to be so.


I say this not just to sing the--albeit well deserved--praises of the RSC, but to make a connection. Passion, a powerful emotion that comes from almost an instinctual place, is what carries Shakespeare forward. Be it the words, the stage sets and costume design, or the credibility that comes with a Shakespeare piece, the work touches people. I’ve seen it as young people master iambic pentameter in our high school residency programand as actors not typically known for classic work bring a character to life. The stories: star-crossed lovers, politicians vying for power, and personal turmoil are easily applied to modern times. Perhaps spinning those tales through a sometimes confusing and hard-to-follow language helps the audience dig deeper to understand their meaning. That is to say while an indivudal, such as myself, not trained or well read in Shakespeare’s work, must dive deep into the prose to truly dig out its significance, this deeper dive leads to a greater understanding of the texts meaning.


So as the world prepares to once again celebrate the work of a literary master, I will be on the look out for his modern day influence. I’ll also be filing away a few lines to toss out at dinner parties. All in all, I’m excited to see the passion William Shakespeare brought to his work carried out by those that participate in, and appreciate it, today.


As we embark on this endeavor and observe our great city take on Shakespeare, we will work to answer some of these questions here in The Greene Space.

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Comments [2]

The documentary you created is incredible. The process is fascinating to watch. Thank you for sharing!

Jun. 12 2012 01:02 PM

Keep us updated on how your Shaksepeare journey goes!!!

Jun. 12 2012 12:45 PM

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