Did I really have a positive experience with Shakespeare this week? Until the past couple weeks I honestly didn’t think it was possible. I’m currently in BU SOT’s Shakespeare Project working on Cymbeline.
Any experience with Shakespeare leading up to this semester had been grueling. Like pull-my-hair-out-rip-off-my-fingernails painful. As rehearsals began I was incredibly hesitant, but the first day everyone working on Cymbeline was called I was thrown for loop.
We were asked to create individual movement pieces based on the essence of the character each of us were playing. I went. Received a couple notes. Went for it again. For the next 2.5-3 hours we moved. One movement piece at a time, sometimes two or three in the space at once feeling how the relationships between a physical embodiment of these people interacted and impacted one another.
I couldn’t help but think of all the times throughout middle school and high school I was banging my head against a table and holding my eyelids open so that I could at least make an attempt to understand Billy’s plays. Granted, reading (both for speed and comprehension) had never been my thing, but I’ve always been a critical thinker when I could finally wrap my head around something. But what’s been so surprising and refreshing about this experience is that I skipped right over the head banging, sore eyed, migraine ridden difficulties of deciphering the language and instead trusted in my knowledge of the character, put it in my body, and allowed it to take flight in any shape and direction I found myself going.
I think about what my mom’s face would look like if I was telling her about this experience over dinner or a cup of coffee. The countless hours in the late night or early morning she heard or saw me struggling with this material, fighting it. It doesn’t feel like a fight anymore. Like a struggle sometimes, but the kind of struggle from which growth is birthed.
I had no idea how alive Shakespeare’s plays could make me feel.