Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A horse. A horse. My kingdom ... by guest blogger Steven Head

The other night I attended an outdoor presentation of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III”. That is the play that begins with, “Now is the winter of our discontent…” and includes the famous ‘horse’ reference. For people of a certain age the ‘winter of our discontent’ is associated with a John Steinbeck book more than a Shakespearean play. It is interesting how many common phrases have been plucked from the works of Shakespeare. A small sampling of “Hamlet” yields: Neither borrower nor lender be. To thine own self be true. All the world’s a stage. Get thee to a nunnery. Methinks he doth protest too much.

What is even more interesting is how many contemporary plot devices have been extracted from Shakespeare’s plays. But in all fairness Shakespeare borrowed liberally from Ovid, but that’s another entry. There are plenty of soap opera episodes, plays, books, and movies where the writer’s have consciously, or unconsciously, repeated a fragment (or more) of Shakespeare. If you do not believe me then start going to Shakespeare plays, or watch video productions on cable.

Over the past 8 years I’ve managed to see about a dozen Shakespeare plays. Most have been done by a local semi-professional company, a few by University theatre departments, and one by a traveling professional company. Not all productions are created equal and I ‘just kept walking’ at intermission of a couple performances.

And even though some plays are troubling, “Richard III” for one, I generally get something positive from the experience. Evil and duplicity is punished although the innocent pay a high price. Love conquers as separated families or lovers are re-united. And everyone is fair game for justified mockery.

Wisconsin is blessed with a summer theatre festival in Spring Green that includes Shakespearean plays. Unfortunately, I was not aware of it when I lived in Manitowoc. And I’ve not made it to a performance yet, but it is on my ‘bucket list’. There is both an outdoor and an indoor venue. I would prefer the outdoor offering but bad weather can be problem. There are even ‘play & stay’ packages available.

The schedule for the 2008 season at Spring Green ends on October 5 but it may be possible to get tickets for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” or “Henry IV: The making of a King”. You might want to bookmark http://www.playinthewoods.org/ and see what they are offering next season. I’ve already tagged it.

Shakespeare. Not everyone does it but everyone should. (Adapted from George Michael)