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March Madness

Photograph by Lauren Muney

So, just so we're clear...this is not a blog about basketball. I am fairly certain I will never post a blog about basketball...the NFL, perhaps...Go Giants!... but I digress. My March Madness is about Shakespeare and my love of Shakespeare. It's summer Shakespeare audition season and I look forward to this time of year with a passion. The fact that I have put the words love and Shakespeare together in a sentence and in thought is not something that has always been a truth.

For years...years... I loathed Shakespeare. I didn't get it. Didn't understand it. Couldn't follow it. Couldn't mine it for emotional content. Hated it! My BFA was from a classical program, The Greeks, the Restoration, the great Americans and Shakespeare....semesters of Shakespeare. I was banging my head against a wall. I even took Shakespeare for English requirements. Nothing.

At one point I turned to my advisor...."help me!" I said in frustration, "I just don't get it!" To this he replied, "Callie, Shakespeare is like a door. And right now it's closed but once you get there, once you open that door, you'll never go back."...oh. That was helpful. So I continued to bang my head against the wall and then a couple of wonderful things happened.

In the summer between my junior and senior year, I was cast at The Sterling Renaissance Festival in upstate New York. I was cast as Rosiland in an abridged As You Like It and as a female pirate street character. Now, why this was a game changer was the training we received. As street performers, we were required to stay in character for close to eight hours on faire days. In these eight hours we were required to improv only in Elizabethan English. Anachronism free. We were taught vocabulary, sentence structure, history, drinking songs, customs and traditions etc. Ah ha! The door cracked...cracked but the chain was still on.

That same summer a group of us traveled up to The Stratford Festival in Ontario and I saw what was to be the first Shakespeare show I completely understood and... what...enjoyed?! It was a production of Taming of the Shrew and I was mesmorized. I cried. I actually cried because the door opened and I got it! I got it!

A couple of years later, I moved to Chicago and the first show I did in Chicago was a production of Richard III and while my understanding of the language was getting better, it wasn't until I took a class in the folio method with Chicago Shakespeare Theater that the door flew wide open and I have never looked back.

I love mining the folio texts for the coding....breaking it down in order to build it up. The thrill of making a folio discovery...finding a capital letter changed in later script editions that completely informs the direction of a scene...actually gives me an adrenaline rush. And that rush, those discoveries, keep me coming back. I love Shakespeare. I love the language, the universality, the stakes. I love it.

And that love has given me March Madness as I head in to the start of audition season hopeful for another summer of outdoor Shakespeare.

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