How did you first encounter Shakespeare? Was it in a classroom or a theater? How old were you? Was it love at first sight, or did it take you some time to warm up to the Bard? Did any particular lines or characters really stick with you?
As part of The Wonder of Will in 2016, a new digital project from the Folger focuses on capturing and sharing stories of personal experiences with Shakespeare and his work.
We invite you to participate by recording a short video and sharing it on social media using the hashtag #MySHX400. On the Folger website, you’ll find prompts as well as colorful artwork that can be printed and used as props.
Some of the first “Share Your Shakespeare Story” videos included a student’s recitation of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech in Spanish, a rendition of “double, double toil and trouble” from Macbeth, and a tale about an actor losing his voice during a high school production of Romeo and Juliet. Acclaimed author Jane Smiley explains why The Winter’s Tale is her favorite play, and actor Wayne T. Carr (whom Folger audiences may remember from Pericles) confesses falling asleep at some of his first Shakespeare plays in London before falling head over heels with a production of The Tempest featuring Vanessa Redgrave as Prospera.
Watch all these Shakespeare stories and learn how to share your own at www.folger.edu/myshx400
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I spent third grade in the hospital, and for Christmas, my parents gave me a set of children’s classics, including Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. I fell in love in 1965 and its outlasted mortal loves.
Debbie Alves — January 24, 2016
Shakespeare has been a part of my life since I was very young. I began quoting him when I was two years old. That sounds unbelievable I know but it’s where my story begins. When I found out he has not alive I cried real tears. Shakespeare is what did and still inspires me to be an actress. His stories transcend time and they are for everyone of all ages. He is the greatest writer of all time and I will love him till the day I die.
Varland Owens — January 25, 2016
I was about 10, with an interest in theater, and two things put Shakespeare on my personal radar: my mother took me to an outdoor performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream at Pastorious Park, in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. It was a theater-in-the-round experience, with actors crossing bridges over a stagnant moat in the center. I remember finding a double-translation version (Shakespeare on the left, modern English on the right) in the library the next week, and I was hooked. At around the same time, a show I wasn’t usually allowed to watch, Moonlighting, did a parody episode based on Taming of the Shrew. I begged my mom to record it on the VCR for me, as it was just around my bedtime, and because it was Shakespeare, she did. The use of modern music and plays on words attracted me, and I wore that tape OUT.
Between those two, and then finally reading Hamlet in school the following year, I was confident enough to start reading plays on my own, although initially I was more comfortable if I was reading the play in school as well for the interpretation/explanation. Eventually I found print versions with commentary and cultural explanations, which helped fill in the gaps, and I could concentrate less on the language and more on the meaning. It was a combination of having supportive parents and teachers, and the right amount of exposure at the right time that gave me the confidence to go outside my comfort zone, and I am always thankful for that.
Lyonside — January 25, 2016
When I was in high school in Littleton, Colorado, I took several English Lit and Shakespeare courses from a teacher named Jim Armstrong, an Anglophile who had converted his classroom into a mini-replica of the Globe Theatre. Desks sat on tiers around the room with two rows on the floor for the “groundlings.” Above his door was a model of the Tower Bridge and Big Ben, which played the Westminster chimes faithfully every quarter hour. His desk stood on the stage. His passion for Shakespeare elicited a passion in his students. When he died in 2001, hundreds of former students attended his funeral. He was the model for what a truly great teacher should be. (He also drove a 1951 Oxford taxi with a horn that played “God Save the Queen.”)
Jay Jarrett — January 26, 2016