Last night I got into an idiotic discussion, and by that I mean I was an idiot trying to have a discussion with what were clearly just pronouncements. I wish there were a -dar for pretentiousness, because I am clearly lacking that particular means of detection. I mistake posturing for an audience for an actual attempt to open a topic far too often.
The topic in question is a perennial resentment for Shakespeare that crops up now and then from people who have this odd idea that there is some sort of parcelling out being done in which Shakespeare takes the lion’s share of resources, leaving all independent work out in the cold. This is such a backwards view of how theater works, honestly, and yet people buy it. Why? Because it’s become second nature for people these days to blame the successful and widely accepted for our own lack of success and acceptance.
Shakespeare doesn’t stifle theater, it revives it.
I grew up in the theater– when I was a child, I played faeries in Shakespeare and the Nutcracker, when I was older I had roles in Noh plays and independent works, and did backstage work for the university. I found I liked backstage far better, though I would still end up filling in roles when needed. Eventually I did some work as assistant to a producer in local theater. Never once in any of those years did I hear anyone say, “Well, we can either do this independent play or put on another Shakespeare.” It simply did not happen. The reason? The success of a well-worn title was WHY we got to put on the independent work.