The Bard Is The Word
By Big Sexy
I love the Bard. William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon. The 400 plus-year-old playwright whose words still permeate today has become an integral part of my existence. Being a theater major I suppose this is no surprise. I feel empowered when I perform his works.
Even when I have a small cameo where I get my head chopped off one minute after I step on stage only to come back for a monologue with a gnarly scar on my neck. That was my most recent major performance. An adaptation of the Scottish Play… that’s right, I won’t even say the name in print (you could end up reading this while in a theater out loud and curse whatever show you are currently doing and I just don’t want to be responsible for that).
It began in elementary school with the Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet film. At first, I was unimpressed with and didn’t relate to a bunch of white people in tights running around speaking funny.
Then they brought out the swords. WHAAAT?? They fought, people died, emotions ran high and at some point I could understand what they were saying.
After watching the movie, we then read the story in class. I no longer understood what was being said. It wasn’t until years later in high school when my theater teacher said the words that made everything make sense. He said, “plays are meant to be watched, not read; seen in action on a stage instead of static words on a page.” I knew then what I had to do and that was to become an actor.
Studying Shakespeare is hard. Remember, the whole “read versus watch” situation. When I finally made it to college (if you know me you know this took a while and if you don’t know me, now you do) I got a chance to perform the Bard on stage in A Comedy of Errors and I had a blast. It was amazing to be saying those words and making people laugh. Night, night, sleep tight, I let that Bard bug bite. Shakespeare was going to be a part of my life forever. I was excited but as time went on I performed him less and less. It got to the point when I couldn’t remember any of the monologues or scenes I had done. These days were bleak days.
Upon moving to Vegas I eventually ran across a local Shakespeare company that was beginning to ramp up their shows. They held auditions and I was cast. It was a snippet of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I was playing the part of Francis Flute, The Bellows Mender. If you are unfamiliar with the play within the play I will enlighten you. Shakespeare wrote a parody of Romeo and Juliet called The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisby. It is performed by a small acting troupe made up of regular townsfolk. Flute is one of those and he ends up playing Thisby. “Nay faith, let me not play a woman.”
My return to Shakespeare suddenly had me in a purple dress, red wig and balloon boobs.
We performed in a park (like you do) for an audience of our friends and family and city dignitaries (like you do). I was in heaven!
It took another year and a half before I got the chance to work with the Shakespeare Institute of Nevada again. They rolled out a Taste of Othello. As an African-American actor I had to learn it! It was kind of mandatory. It was to be performed for the Clark County School District as a part of the Institute’s schools program. They also were doing the Midsummer Taste I had done prior and a handful of others. The joy I found in presenting Shakespeare to the school kids of Las Vegas was intense. I realized it was one of the things I was born to do. I haven’t looked backed. I love the bard!
The next year we took 10 different Tastes to over 50 schools and performed Shakespeare for over 18,000 students and teachers. I felt so very fulfilled and my place in the company grew to include Artistic Director and currently Director of the Shakespeare In The Schools Program. As we continue to bring the Bard to Vegas, youth I continue to be able to witness the lights go on and their eyes light up as they realize the same thing I did… Shakespeare is meant to seen. When they see it, they understand they have seen it all along.