Artists I admire: Shakespeare

Last evening in my Shakespeare class, I had one of those humbling reminder moments that tend to happen when I least expect it.

For people who know me, this week's entry is a no-brainer. I love Shakespeare's plays, I've been teaching courses about the plays for years, and I've directed a number of youth theatre productions of the plays.

Four of my students presented scenes from Measure for Measure last evening, which is my favorite comedy. I've directed it with young people, I've got a passage from it tattooed on my arm, and I love the darkness of it.

The humbling part came when I watched two actors play a scene between Angelo and Isabella, when Angelo first announces that Isabella can save her brother Claudio from death if she agrees to have sex with him. The actor playing Angelo made very bold choices, and she helped me to see something about this character who is described as having blood as cold as ice. The request for Isabella to have sex with him does not come easy, and that's where the comedy lies.  It's the character's internal wrestling match with even posing the question that brings out why an Elizabethan/Jacobean audience might have laughed, and why we should too.  The actors took the note, explored this notion, and gave one of the most memorable workshops of a scene in my time teaching this class. Truly enlightening. They taught me something about the play and these characters.

Because Shakespeare managed to create plays and characters that seem to be bottomless in possibilities for exploration and discovery, I'm citing him as the artist I admire this week.