"Shakespeare was meant to be performed, not read."
I hear that often. We discuss it, often. For the most part, however, I've been a defender of Shakespeare-as-literature. It's simple reality that most people, in their entire lives, will not have the opportunity to experience most of Shakespeare. And even when they do, they will at best be seeing one particular company's vision of Shakespeare. You need to see multiple versions to begin to get an idea of the whole. Or...you could just pick up a copy of the Complete Works and read what Shakespeare wrote. Nothing's stopping you. I flinch when people suggest that the way to interpret the opening quote is "Shakespeare was meant to be performed, not read - so go see it performed, don't read it." Argh argh mother fricking argh. No no no. The proper interpretation for me has always been - "Shakespeare was meant to be performed, not merely read - so don't *just* read it. See it performed at every opportunity, and read to fill in the gaps."
But I've had an epiphany. I'm changing my interpretation, and it goes a little something like this.
"Shakespeare was meant to be performed, not read. SO PERFORM IT, DAMNIT."
I would love to live in a world where every child, from the time they can sit still for a story, knows the stories of Shakespeare like they know the stories of Cinderella and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. The problem has always been that not every child will grow up to be an actor. Most, in fact, won't. So it is unfair to say that unless you perform it, you will never get it. Most won't ever perform it, therefore most won't ever get it? Unacceptable.
But who says that perform must mean "become a professional actor" or even "join the school play"? Three Steps, right now off the top of my head, so that everybody can perform Shakespeare, wherever you are, whenever you are:
1) Say it out loud. If you do not ever hear the words you will never fully internalize the words.
2) Stand up. You are not reading a novel, you are speaking an actor's lines. When you speak, you move. Therefore when your actor speaks, you move.
3) Interact. Shakespeare's got plenty of soliloquies and sonnets, so if you've really got no Shakespeare geek friends you're not out of luck. But, seriously, if you bust out some Shakespeare and then somebody in your immediate vicinity follows up with the next line? Spontaneous freaking Shakespeare?? I swear to god I don't know how you don't sleep with that person immediately. Ok, well, maybe that's unrealistic. A bit. But I can't promise it wouldn't cross my mind. ;)
I'm long out of school and never been an actor. I say Shakespeare, out loud, any and every chance I get. I only wish that I knew more, and that I had more opportunities. My confidence is not always perfect - every time there is a "toasting" opportunity I secretly wish for someone to turn to me and say "How about some Shakespeare?" but I never step up and just do it. I'll work on that.
You know what they say, Be the change you want to see in the world. Don't dream it, be it.