Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! My name is David Windrim, and I am a recent addition to the Shakespeare In Action family. Like any situation where a long-absent relative turns up out of nowhere, I’m therefore expected (and happy!) to tell enough about myself that it becomes clear I’m not a charlatan here to steal the family inheritance. (Which I imagine is the performance rights to the collected works of Shakespeare, also known as A Gigantic Tree Of Money. Seriously, everything here is made of gold-plated diamonds. Or at least, based on the work these people do, it really ought to be – somebody extravagantly wealthy who’s still reading this entry, you know what to do. Have your butler(s) contact me.)
Right – this here on the left is me, looking essentially as I do now except for a) less hair, b) somewhat shorter and c) far less happy – for what did I know of Shakespeare then? If all the world’s a stage, and each person’s acts thereupon comprise seven ages, here I was merely a literary caterpillar, somewhere in between
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms […]
[and] the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
(As You Like It, II.vii.142-46)
I started reading quickly thereafter, acting after that, and in my time have played parts ranging from Snoopy (complete with Sopwith camel) to Macbeth (complete with violent executions) in a variety of settings. I’ve even had the prior opportunity to do some work interning and training at the Tarragon Theater and Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Ultimately, however, the written word and the lonely scholar’s desk called to me more than the stage. I’ve worked for my Bachelor’s Degree in English, Theatre and a Neuroscience minor at McGill – no, the combination makes no sense to me either – and my Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Master’s Degree in Literature at the University of Toronto, where I’m taking more classes this fall while trying to help the SIA Team save civilization, education and every student in Ontario, one sonnet at a time. I’m a jack of all trades that don’t require me to pick up anything heavy – “Heaven forfend! I would not kill [my] soul” with that kind of thing. I’ve tutored, taught, workshopped, proofed, prepped, served, edited and facilitated across many an office floor and classroom, and have the tiny paper-cut scars to prove it.
All the way through, Shakespeare has been one of my foundational influences. His “Sonnet 116” was the first poem I ever memorized – just ask me in person, I’ll prove it! – and his plays are renowned among people who study them for casually, brilliantly, beautifully breaking rules of narrative and language that would make other playwrights seem like dreadful hacks even for trying.
“A play can’t really support that many mixed metaphors, and if there are far too many characters the audience will barely care about any of them,” someone will quite reasonably say.
“Well, Shakespeare does it in <Play X>.”
“Yes, but he’s Shakespeare.” In the game of literary technique, he turned on God Mode long ago and gave himself infinite ammo. The ammo is brilliance. This metaphor could use more ammo.
More importantly, the world could use more Shakespeare. In any one of his plays, his words and stories are variously compassionate without being condescending and critical without being cruel; he writes out verbal fireworks on top of a rigorously exacting structure, capturing all the complex, exciting passionate action of history and myth without ever portraying his characters as more or less than wonderfully, often frustratingly human. All this has made the plays survive where many, many other authors’ work died with them, challenging and thrilling theater professionals and audiences for centuries – if nothing else, while watching a Shakespeare play you can always be aware that you’re sharing in an experience that people of your age, whatever that might be, have been enjoying since before we knew the Earth revolved around the Sun.
If anything I do here can at all assist the hard-working, exceptional people behind this organization in expanding and continuing their efforts to give everyone the chance to truly benefit from exposure to Shakespeare, then I’ll have done something worthwhile. Albeit that “to climb steep hills / Require slow pace at first”, I’ll be here learning what I can and applying what I know for the next while. See you next Tuesday, where I’ll be writing the next “What If Shakespeare Were A…” post. Until then, may your week be full of neatly resolved marriage plots and crews of dimwitted peasants making elaborate jokes about animal husbandry. Just like the Bard intended.