July 7, 2014 by kendrickheather
To understand why I love the Bard begins with an influence, fate, and a journey.
Shakespeare changed the course of my life and my chosen career.
I was first captivated by Shakespeare in 8th grade when the words of Romeo & Juliet fell over me like a musical tempest marked in measures by alternating waves of piercing beauty and melodic ferocity.
Then I truly, deeply, madly fell in love with Shakespeare when I was a Junior at The Westminster Schools thanks to the most incredible “disciple” of Shakespeare, my profoundly-passionate-inspiring English teacher, Mrs. Margaret Lauderdale. She was the magnetic conduit to his world of words- making him accessible, relevant, engaging, and resonant. She brought him to life as she knighted us “groundlings” Lords and Ladies, as we traversed the landscapes of Othello, Hamlet, the Contention, and more. She taught us to dance with taut power the meaning of his words. We acted out every word, performing ACT V of Hamlet: fencing on tables, opening windows, jumping through, and fencing the final palpable hit on the verdant lawn of Campbell Hall.
Her class was not an English Lit class. It was the class where Life rushed into our bodies, where we were transformed by the power of words from page to stage, where we were placed on center stage as: curators, custodians, editors, interpreters, historians, critics, and performers of Shakespeare’s Canon and Elizabethan England.
As her “darling Desdemona”, Mrs. Lauderdale had no idea at that moment, she had opened up 1564-1616, a country, a culture, a man, and a canon of work to me by which I would be forever transformed.
The beauty of his words, the theatrical and linguistic innovations, the iambic pentameter with its galloping heartbeat, the Saucy and the Cerebral, the Heroes and the Villains, the Wars, the Lovers- whether star-crossed, quick-witted, sharp-tongued, caught in triangles or woods, imprinted upon my heart. The sonnets with their structured desire and longing and the mysterious cryptogram of the KJV Bible Psalm 46 lured me into their captivating abyss.
Falling in love with the Bard, turned me away from a career in medicine, sending me instead on a journey to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) to further discover him on stage and in performance, and in turn discovering him, helps me understand the timeless themes and rather unchanged narratives of: Politics, History, the Human Psyche: Experience & Emotion in all of its various forms and incarnations.
Shakespeare IS Swag and Swagger- certainly makes sense when you realize he invented the word!
One feels completely alive when exploring & performing Queen Margaret’s transmogrifying journey from hopeful youth to vengeful old age, Desdemona’s purity, Katherine’s independence, Olivia’s vanity, Ophelia’s heartbreak & madness, Miranda’s wide-eyed innocence.
Shakespeare speaks to the human heart, the very nature of what is means to endure this world- for better and for worse. He gives voice to the human condition; and though the Ages may change, he is indeed “for all ages”.
I never set out to bring Shakespeare into the lives of children ages 5-18 by founding a Shakespearean educational arts company, or directing them in his plays, or teaching them all about his world, his legacy, his work, but he beckoned to me to do so…
It was a calling.
Sounded by Shakespeare. The Conduit- Mrs. Lauderdale. A calling that I not only stopped to hear, but decided upon which to act, and in doing so am passing the Torch of Shakespeare’s legacy to a new generation- the future guardians and curators of his work.
This is how we keep Shakespeare (and all great authors & pioneers of inspiring works) alive because we are all passionate participants in his work-“the long and short of it”- because we all LOVE him.
This is also how we keep great mentors and teachers alive because we are active in championing and passing on their legacies and methods of inspired learning.
In the spirit of educational blog posts this month centering about who would you put on your Mt. Teachmore, I offer up the idea that inspiring teachers and mentors, are not always traditional classroom teachers; they are the influences in our lives who shape, mentor, guide, inspire and challenge us to be the best we that we can be. Whether teachers, coaches, directors, friends, family members, colleagues, literary giants, or mentors- great teachers can be found everywhere. The impact is eternal. The impressions imprinted upon our hearts and minds last not only for our lifetimes but for future generations if we too remember to carry the torch of their legacies on!
For me, my Mount Teachmore is carved out of three “Teachers”.
A traditional Teacher- Mrs. Lauderdale, A Literary & Stage Figurehead-Mr. William Shakespeare, and my Teacher of Life Learning- my Mama (more on her later, I digress!).
A toast to Mrs. Margaret Lauderdale, to Mr. William Shakespeare, to my Mama, and to ALL who teach, inspire, shape, and guide us. The stars still dance because under the stars were you born. May your star-powers shine forth for all time, illuminating the way for all of us to see.