The year after I turned twenty, the university I attended put on a Shakespeare festival. Sitting in the audience was one of the formative artistic experiences of my life.
Sadly, these performances have disappeared from the university’s meticulously kept theatrical archives, possibly because they did The Taming of the Shrew as one of three plays, and are now ashamed to admit it. However, I really don’t know why. Their records go back decades before that; and that year looks suspiciously thin on listed performances.
Great theatrical performances change us in ways no other art form can. It’s similar to movies, but more intimate and tangible. Elements of virtually all of the other arts are present, as well.
Measure For Measure was one of the plays I saw as part of that festival, and its exploration of sexual harassment and double standards for people in power made a tremendous impression on me. Because it has a happy ending, it is classified as one of Shakespeare’s comedies; few of his tragedies, however, are more disturbing.
The main thing I noticed about The Taming Of The Shrew was how well the joking innuendo came across almost 500 years after being written. I didn’t take the plot terribly seriously, as this play is truly a comedy, in the modern sense.
As You Like It was magical in every way. The performance I saw combined music, dance, scenery, and costumes in a brilliant manner. That play has a lot of famous dialogue, which, placed in context, increased exponentially in meaning for me. When I heard a setting of Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind sung by my youngest daughter’s high school chorus, I was taken back in memory to seeing this play in college.
For those of you involved in producing art, of whatever kind: you never know how it will effect people, or for how long. When the winter wind of life blows, it is a very good thing to have the experience of great art to warm you.