What's the No. 1 thing that inspires a kid to become a Shakespearean actor? A great teacher.
What’s the No. 1 thing that inspires a kid to become a Shakespearean actor? A great teacher.
“When I was at school, learning Shakespeare was all about sitting down at the desk and reading,” said Debbie Korley, 32, an actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company. “But I had a teacher who said, ‘No. We’re going to do it standing up. We’re going to try to perform a little bit.’”
The teacher allowed the class to interpret the words through dance and gestures, helping Korley and her peers to appreciate the playwright’s complex dialogue.
“Everything is possible with the language,” Korley said. “[Shakespeare] has given us this amazing gift, and however you want to see it and visualize it or hear it is OK.”
Dharmesh Patel, 30, wasn’t interested in theater until he met Paul Hunter — a co-founder of physical theater troupe Told by an Idiot — and was floored by the actor’s talent.
“When you’re inspired by people like that, you genuinely want to see what you’re capable of doing,” said Patel, who portrayed the title character in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s abridged version of “Hamlet” last weekend at the Columbus Performing Arts Center.
The prestigious English theater troupe’s condensed, young people’s “Hamlet” gave the cast a chance to become teachers themselves, exposing kids to the playwright. Korley and Patel took a break from rehearsing to talk about the challenges of sparking kids’ interest in Shakespeare.
“It’s all about engaging people at a younger age so by the time you get to 16 or high school or college, Shakespeare isn’t actually one of those scary sort of texts that you’re forced to sit at a table and read,” Patel explained. “Once you put Shakespeare on its feet, it becomes innovative, it’s exciting.”
Shortening the script might make the play easier for kids to manage, but it makes the play more difficult for actors.
“If you were to play Hamlet in a four-hour production ... you have four hours to go from A to B to C to D, whereas our condensed version you have an hour to get from A to Zed,” Patel said. “Your emotions are dragged from one direction to the other within a split second.”
As if putting on a Shakespeare production isn’t already difficult enough.
“For me, Shakespeare is the testing element of a performer,” Patel said. “If you can do Shakespeare, everything else is pretty easy.”