Spelunking with Shakespeare

Essay by Lou Douthit | 30 September 2015

My name is Lue. And when it comes to Shakespeare, I’m afraid I might be just a little bit tone-deaf.

And after working at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for more than twenty years, I am grateful that there isn’t a competency test because I would not have had the terrific career I have had. But there is much relief in finally confessing my dirty little secret.

I am also a frustrated theatergoer. Because I know what I am missing: I have been in the rehearsal room and participated in the lengthy discussions that take place about what is being said; I have been involved in preparing texts which includes annotating; I have adapted two of the plays for small casts; I have written numerous articles for our publications and delivered as many lectures to our patrons. So of course I get the gist. It’s that I want more. I can hear it at 16 rpms, but not often at the zippy 78 speed that the language is designed to run. It can be as foreign to me sometimes as, well, a foreign language.

And oh boy, how I envy those of you who can hear it! My frustration (and confession) has led me to embark on a large-scale project to examine the language in Shakespeare. Thanks to the generosity of Dave Hitz, a longtime OSF patron, OSF is launching a new program called Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare.