Ira hates Shakespeare. Or maybe he doesn’t.

Aug 4, 2014   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Shakespeare

Last week’s Ira Hates Shakespeare furor illuminated one of the dingier corners within the house of social media: lots of heated, inflated, reductivist and binary declaiming. “Shakespeare’s amazing! “Shakespeare sucks!” This strikes me as particularly unhelpful and more than a little overwrought; can an art form really be undone by one ‘off the cuff’, late night tweet by a usually more thoughtful public figure? By the light of day, even Mr. Glass backed away from his late night pronouncement.

In my head, I kept hearing Paul Simon’s Dangling Conversation: “is the theatre really dead?” followed by Monty Python’s “I’m not dead yet … I’m feeling better.”

Making theatre is hard; let’s thicken our skins and trust what we know to be true. Shakespeare is powerful, but he can be very difficult to get right. There are more off-putting and misguided, ‘we don’t quite trust the text’ productions of Shakespeare than there are inviting, engaging, well-spoken and truthful ones. If one has only seen the dull stuff, the theatrical oat bran, ‘this is supposed to be good for me’ stuff, one can be not only forgiven but empathized with for concluding that Shakespeare sucks.

We tell good stories over and over again because they speak to us. They help us to understand what it means to be human at a particular historical intersection or across time. They contextualize our journey. But if we, the practitioners, cannot trust the text, if we judge that we have to tart it up or dumb it down for our contemporaries, we are disrespecting the audience as well as the work.

Let’s get back to telling good stories well, making sure that we truly invite our diverse communities to the theatre and worry a little, or a lot, less about Ira.


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