By Mike Pound
When I was in college, I took a Shakespeare class.
I took the Shakespeare class because, at the time, I was an English major, and that’s what English majors do. That way, when you land that big job flipping burgers, you can talk to your co-workers (who likely will also be English majors) about the plot turns in “Hamlet.”
Ha. That’s just a long English major joke.
I liked the Shakespeare class well enough, but my professor docked me a letter grade on my final paper because I constantly referred to Shakespeare as “Bill.” I thought calling Shakespeare that was sort of funny. My professor, on the other “forsooth,” did not.
As it turns out, Jim Lile, who heads up the theater department at Missouri Southern State University, said calling Shakespeare “Bill” is not only sort of funny, it’s also appropriate.
Jim said that Bill didn’t spend a lot of time thinking of himself as the great bard of England. Jim said that in Bill’s time, his work was not considered highbrow stuff. You might say that Bill actually dumbed down his plays.
“He was not writing for an elite audience,” Jim said.
Jim and I were talking about Bill because the university’s theater department is preparing a production of “Macbeth” as part of the Missouri Shakespeare Festival.
The play will be presented at 7:30 p.m. June 27, 28 and 29 and at 2:30 p.m. June 30 in Bud Walton Theatre on the MSSU campus.
Jim said the hope is that the Missouri Shakespeare Festival, being run by the theater department under the umbrella of MSSU, will become an annual event.
“We would like to get to the point where we can do two productions each summer,” he said. “This (the initial production of “Macbeth”) is a way for us to stick our toe in the water.”
From what little I know about theater, it seems to me that doing one of Bill’s productions would be about as tough as it gets for an actor. While saying that all acting is fundamentally the same, Jim did acknowledge that Bill does present a challenge for both actors and directors.
“The key is being very communicative,” he said. “After a few minutes, the context communicates what is being said.”
Jim said Bill’s plays, and their plots, are actually very recognizable. Granted, most of us don’t know much about killing kings, for example. But his plays are filled with real people doing real human things, which makes them much easier to follow than most people might think.
What that means is, once you get past the ornate language and the occasional long speech, one of Bill’s plays is pretty much like an episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” only with more tights.
For the record, I’m the one who made the “How I Met Your Mother” comparison, so you English majors out there can direct your angry emails to me and not to Jim.
The university’s production of “Macbeth,” which is directed by Tim Klein, is somewhat of a collaborative effort among current and former department staff members, alumni and current students. The chance for a diverse group of folks, who all have ties to the MSSU theater department, to team up is one of the added attractions for staging the initial production of the Missouri Shakespeare Festival.
“We wanted to do something for the community, but it’s also something that we’ve wanted to do ourselves,” Jim said.
Tickets for “Macbeth” go on sale on June 17 and are $10. For reservations, you may call the MSSU Box Office at 417-625-3190. To purchase tickets online, you may go to www.mssu.edu/ticket-office/theater-tickets.php.
In addition to gauging community interest in the Shakespeare Festival, the theater department also is hoping to attract financial support to help make the festival an annual event. Donations for the Shakespeare Festival may be made by going through the MSSU Foundation office.
Looking back at what I’ve written, I’m guessing that between the constant use of “Bill” instead of Shakespeare and the “How I Met Your Mother” reference, my old professor would have given me an “F” on this column.
Wouldn’t be the first time.
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