By Ann Dunham
What do you think when you hear the word "Shakespeare?" Do you remember the exciting play you saw at the Opera House last summer or the tedious, boring books you had to read in Junior English class? Does Shakespeare instill a sense of terror in you, or one of happiness and fun?
I decided to find out what the residents of Deer Isle and Stonington think about Shakespeare. Feeling quite pessimistic, I predicted most of my interviewees would find Shakespeare a stuffy old man who wrote a few dull plays too many years ago to matter much anymore. I thought I would have to drag answers out of most of the people I questioned; I thought they wouldn't really care about Shakespeare.
My presumptions couldn't have been further from the truth. People weren't apathetic about Shakespeare at all. In fact, everyone had a strong, definite opinion already formed in their heads. A few of my subjects, of course, didn't appreciate Shakespeare, but their reactions were at least fervid and full of feeling.
Below is a sampling of residents who shared their impressions of the Man Himself:
Student: “Powdered wigs, betrayal, shallow characters. Dandies in stockings frolicking around the stage with poison and swooning floozies.”
English Teacher: “Romance, love, Romeo and Juliet.”
Math Teacher: “Hearing 'Shakespeare' strikes fear in my heart. Miserable reading, falling asleep during productions, misery.”
Maid: “Shakespeare fills me with much inspiration. Reading his words of wisdom makes me feel more knowledgeable.”
Stay-at-Home Mom: “It is very difficult to understand. The language is confusing and hard to grasp. I was forced to read it in high school, and I have no desire to read it now.”
Student Actress/Musician: “Fun, comedy, physical theater. It is timeless. It can be interpreted to fit any time period.”
Professional Actress: “A world packed with riches.”
Even if Shakespeare doesn't strike joy in everyone, he does evoke passionate, excited responses and really makes everyone feel something. When I asked "What does Shakespeare mean to you?" I didn't think everybody would have a response. However, much to my pleasant surprise, Shakespeare seems to mean something to a wide variety of people.
Love him or hate him, Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing will be performed June 30-July 16 at the Stonington Opera House on Deer Isle.
PHOTOS FROM OPERA HOUSE ARTS PRODUCTIONS:
Top: A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009)
Bottom: As You Like It (2006)