This is a complaint about Shakespeare. I have just spent a long time auditioning many young women, of many varied educational backgrounds for an acting job with Spotlites. Many had MAs, many BAs, some BTECs or diplomas from their drama college. However what none of them had, including those many who have spent 3 years on their degree and then two further years on their MA at either uni or drama college, coming out with goodness alone knows how much debt around their necks, is even the most basic knowledge of Shakespeare.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a classical phobe. But I do think that Shakespeare is part of our dramatic heritage and a quintessential part of acting in the UK. Even our soaps like EastEnders or Coronation Street draw their plots from his works.
What are our universities and drama colleges doing for three years if they are not covering Shakespeare? How can they teach a degree in any aspect of Acting, Theatre, Drama, Performing Arts or whatever title they choose, without ensuring that a good solid foundation in Shakespeare is given? How can you appreciate anything that has followed his works in the last 500 years without at least a basic knowledge of what these other works are consciously or subconsciously drawing on? Even Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’, for example, is belittled without knowing Shakespeare.
Now I auditioned some wonderful girls with a lot of talent. They went across the social spectrum and they all had one thing in common. Appalling training. They couldn’t deliver a simple Shakespearian monologue competently in relation to metre and with genuine understanding. Why?
I am all for new works. I write and direct them all day everyday at Spotlites and mix genres as much as possible. But, with respect, all these courses that teach students nothing but Devising and Stage Combat for 3 whole years, are prioritising the budgets and not the students. Good Shakespeare tutors are expensive and hard to find, teaching Shakespeare is a time consuming process, requiring a lot of resources. The training which these girls are paying for though, is letting them down. This angers me as it is hard enough to make it in this industry with every advantage. These girls deserve better.
- William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (cmldbookreviews.com)
- Spotlites Director Blog – Auditioing (spotlitesblog.wordpress.com)
- RSC to broadcast direct into UK schools (economicvoice.com)
- Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays? Stanford professor lets you decide (3quarksdaily.com)
- To devise and devise (extraggestika.wordpress.com)
- Off Broadway Review: Julie Taymor’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (variety.com)