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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Will I Am

Stafford Clark-Price, right, in Robert Brustein's The English Channel
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: I am a bit of a Shakespeare nerd. I blame my mother for the love of language and Mrs. Fitch, my 8th grade English teacher, for casting me as Macbeth in our classroom reading of the play. When I was given the opportunity to play Shakespeare in The English Channel in New York, part one in Mr. Brustein’s trilogy, I was thrilled at the opportunity to try and breathe life into such an enigmatic historical figure at the beginning of his career.

In Mortal Terror, we meet Will at a very different time in his life. He is now a successful playwright, having penned Hamlet, Lear, As You Like It and numerous other smash hits. Unlike many artistic geniuses, Shakespeare was celebrated during his lifetime and it is during this period that the curtain rises on our play. Queen Elizabeth has just died and James has just taken the throne, bringing with him a new religion and retinue.

When asked to write this blog, it was with the question of “what is my take on playing Shakespeare,” a man with so little known about him. My attack has simply been to discern the who, what, where and why’s of England at the beginning of the 17th Century and try to create a three-dimensional human life under those conditions. However, eventually I have to find all the answers from the script as I am not playing Shakespeare, but Mr. Brustein’s Shakespeare.

In this play, Shakespeare has many imagined interactions with numerous historical figures from Ben Jonson to Queen Anne. What Shakespeare’s opinions and motivations are in these scenes is fully dictated by the lines of the script and the wonderful interpretations being given them by such a talented cast. Besides, if I spend too much time thinking “I am supposed to have written Hamlet and Lear?” it becomes too daunting a task and is furthermore unplayable upon a stage.

The parallels between the shifting social and political geography of England in 1605 and our world now are striking, and I only hope that we as a cast bring the humanity, clarity and depth to the stage that these ideas deserve.

-Stafford Clark-Price, Will Shakespeare in Mortal Terror

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