Words Words Words...

Shakespeare lived and wrote his powerful works 400 years ago, meaning that for us today, who still adore and honor his corpus, we have almost no clear idea of what Shakespeare experienced in his world. Even though he writes about universal concepts, of love, of anger, of confusion, of vengeance, he coded these themes through symbols that also talked about the politics, prejudices, preoccupations, and policies of his day. 

That means the job of the actor is to help the audience understand what is funny, and why. Or what is poignant, and treacherous, and cathartic. It is to the player to know the words he or she must deliver. And that can be hard to do without some help.


The APPROACH of the RIAL Shakespeare Academy is to work through some of that muddiness so that the actor helps the audience to laugh, to cry, to understand and experience Shakespeare's stories better. We do that through three stages. 

Step 1: Learn about it

The RIAL SA will start the student with three months of Saturday morning classes. In these classes we will dive deeply into the play to find the subtle clues and hints to reveal the pain, the mockery, the joy of love, the folly. That will lead us into four critical areas of study:

  • We will study the cultural and political context of the play, including the massive importance of royalty, the Middle Ages, and the Reformation to understand better what Shakespeare is talking about.
  • We will look at the language of the era, in order to understand the accent, the rhythm, and the meaning of Shakespeare's sometimes difficult to understand lines.
  • We will look at drama in the Renaissance to see how Shakespeare would have expected his plays to be staged, and how that affected how he wrote them. 
  • And finally we will study (and learn!) how to stage the fight choreography of Shakespeare's day. That means every student will learn a little about martial arts (through the combined efforts of the Salle Saint Louis) in order to present a more authentic (and thrilling) display. 

Step 2: Try it out

After the course finishes, we will produce our own production of the work. This production will be hosted in the Lions Park of Lexington, under the stars, with free admission. The production will be as professional as our resources allow, although the production value will focus largely on reproducing an authentic Shakespearean experience, as much as possible. Everybody in the class will be assigned a part, and rehearsals will be held after class on Saturday afternoons. 

Step 3: Step into that world

At the conclusion of the class, students will be offered the chance to travel to England on a guided trip. We will use this trip to see Shakespeare performed by the top actors in England, as well as visit places that Shakespeare used in inventing the world of the play. Each trip will be different, and each will choose locations to visit based on the play under production. 

This voyage into Shakespeare's native world will be hosted by the instructor, so the students will have the opportunity to learn in-depth at each stop.