Today is Shakespeare’s birthday (and deathday). Friction Arts’ Placement Student Mia Walters talks about Shakespeare, her area of expertise Applied Arts, and why the two are more closely interlinked than you might think…
Applied Theatre is an umbrella term used to describe theatrical practice and creativity that pushes its audience and participants to interrogate the script, what they are seeing performed, and ultimately, to ask why. The work often relates to real people and their stories and is normally performed outside of the theatre, such as schools, prisons, streets and non-traditional educational settings, like at conferences. We might think that Shakespeare and Applied Theatre are worlds apart, but they’re actually the perfect combination for thinking through important social issues.
Shakespeare greatly influenced modern English and without him, pop culture would more than likely look very different today. Shakespeare’s work is not only relevant to his time but continues to be relevant today: plays such as The Merchant of Venice and Othello discuss the ideas of class privilege and racism. Shakespeare wrote many strong female characters, for example Lady Macbeth (Macbeth), Portia (The Merchant of Venice), and Desdemona (Othello). We could use these characters to discuss the issues of women in the Elizabethan times and how their issues still relate to women today. By exploring universal political themes, Applied Theatre can act as a bridge between Shakespeare and today’s world. In Applied Theatre, we get into the heads of the characters and understand them through their habits, words, and contradictions. Exploring Shakespeare in this embodied way means that it’s possible, say, for white people to put themselves in the shoes of Othello and begin to understand the experience of racism.
After the development of psychoanalysis in the 20th century, plays such as Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and Hamlet can be re-understood as exploring themes of psychology, psychosis, and mental health. Not only is this another relevant theme for Applied Theatre today, but the fact also that we are finding new subjects to explore emphasizes how elusive Shakespeare’s work is: it helps us to understand ourselves, interrogate our ideas, and maybe most importantly, remind us of what we don’t know.
Blog post by Applied Theatre Placement Student Mia Walters