Shakespeare is not just important, it’s urgent!

“If we get addicted to only having frictionless encounters with carefully selected people we are retreating from the reality of life and retreating also from the world of discussion, the world of politics.” – Declan Donellan

Photo by Johan Person Cheek by Jowl's Produciton of Measure for Measure

Cheek by Jowl’s Measure for Measure Photo by Johan Person

Theatre has many functions. One of those is to make us uncomfortable, to expose So yesterday we went to Jade Baucom’s wedding. As we entered through the red doors I noticed the three tall arch features on the wall directly in front. I thought to myself. “That would be an awesome place for a triptych icon” #baptodoxprobsus to people and ways of seeing the world that are not our own. In this excellent article in Time Out, Matthew Clayfield discusses this aspect of theatre with UK Director Declan Donnellan. Donnellan is in the middle of a Russian language production of Measure for Measure.

Why putting Shakespeare on stage is not just important, it’s urgent!

To Donnellan, art and theatre are crucial to politics. In his view politics is not politicians, campaigns and elections. It is much broader than that. It is the discussion of ideas and different points of view in the public forum. We tend to seek out people who think and act like us. “If we get addicted to only  having frictionless encounters with carefully selected people we are retreating from the reality of life and retreating also from the world of discussion, the world of politics.”

“In theatre we see people who are not the same as us, feeling things that are not necessarily what we feel, doing things that we probably would not do. And yet we connect. We connect in empathy. Theatre teaches us, helps us live in a world of difference.”

“All of Shakespeare’s plays,” he goes on, ” help us to be with people who are not necessarily like us. I cannot imagine anything more politically useful as this present moment.”

What he says is that what Shakespeare creates is an illusion. We know it is an illusion. The audience knows it is as well. What we as producers, directors and actors ask the audience to do is to investigate that illusion, that lie, with us and to see things from a different perspective.

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