Sunday, June 30, 2013

Revisiting Degrees Past: Embracing the Bard

Between my recent immersion into design and my ongoing endeavors in medicine, I sometimes forget that I have scholarly interests beyond those domains. My undergraduate degree was in English. My focus within the major was linguistics, though getting an English major does require a fair amount of reading and writing. When I dabble in my language interests, I still tend to gravitate towards linguistics. I love learning about the history and structure of our language. As a descriptive grammarian, sometimes I smugly snicker at how wound up people get at perceived lapses in grammar.

While I still fancy myself an avid reader, I haven't delved much into the classics lately. That has changed in a wonderful way. I have become reacquainted with the Bard. In the last few weeks, I have had four exposures to Shakespeare, and once again I am hooked!

Part of my job involves caring for performing artists. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the actors from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a regional Tony winning company that is one of the gems of the Chicago theater scene. A few weeks ago, the company manager gave me a behind the scenes tour of the theater. What a thrill to see how all of the elements of a great production are pulled together, from concept to details. That evening, I returned to see Henry VIII. With all the recent fascination with Elizabeth I, it was great to see a glimpse into her father's life, from the perspective of a piece written so soon after her reign. While I knew the story from history, it is so much more raw on stage.

One of my neighbors is an actor and comedian, and he has been encouraging us to join him to see the Improv Shakespeare at the Improv Olympic. Generally, I'm not a huge improv fan, but I do love doing things with this neighbor. From a title thrown out from the audience, the five member troupe fashioned a Shakespeare-esque play. The language was remarkably similar, including long stretches of rhyming couplets. There were many characters; even the minor characters were distinct. I was amazed at how well they adhered to the typical structure of the acts, with multiple storylines woven throughout and coming together. I loved it so much, I plan to return next week with an out-of-town guest.

Last night, we returned to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to see Othello: The Remix. This was Othello retold in a hip-hop setting, using hip-hop language and verse. Again, I'm not a big hip-hop enthusiast. I was blown away. While the story was set in the hip-hop recording industry, it was instantly recognizable. The story structure stayed true to the original, but it still felt fresh. It was some of the most innovative theater I have seen in a long time.

I'm itching to see more. However, I need to remind myself that it is not just Shakespeare that has me so excited. I adore having my love of the liberal arts awaken in me. It is one more side, one more world, for me to continue to explore.

1 comment:

  1. I'm always intrigued at what excites people and how that mixed with their experiences incorporates into how they view the world and then what they can do to change the world. We draw are inspiration from so many places.... Thank you for sharing!