• StevenF

Taxes and Shakespeare

Updated: Apr 12

I was able to finish preparing our taxes just a few minutes before writing this post. We have a great accountant, but he is also in high demand, so he asked if we could get our statements and forms to him a bit earlier this year. I always tend to procrastinate getting our tax stuff ready because it's kind of a pain. Plus with Isaias' art business, Bootiful Things, getting stuff organized can be a bit complicated.

Bootiful Things took a hiatus this year because of the pandemic, and we didn't have much to write off this year, so what normally takes me a few days to get organized took me an afternoon, and all our stuff has been sent to our accountant. It's kind of a relief.

I also have tax stuff to send to my family's trust's accountant because I am the trustee over that account. However, that one is always much easier to send off (although I'm sure more complicated to prepare the return for), but we haven't received all the paperwork yet, so I am as ready as I can be at this point. Still, it's always a great feeling when I'm finally done my part.

Nothing to do with taxes, but I'm on a real Shakespeare kick lately. I've enjoyed Shakespeare for many years, but lately I've been reading and watching different scenes, plays, monologues, etc., and I have been memorizing different monologues just for fun.

I thought it would be fun to memorize "To be or not to be" from Hamlet and "Now is the winter of our discontent" from Richard III, but I've also memorized Mark Anthony's "O mighty Caesar" speech from Julius Caesar, the "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" speech from Macbeth, and I'm currently working on a very long one by Friar Laurence from Romeo and Juliet—I'm about halfway through on that one. I also thought I might start looking at parts I might actually be appropriate for and memorize some of those. It never hurts an actor to have a bunch of Shakespearean monologues at his disposal.

I love Shakespeare's language so much. He truly was a genius. I marvel at how apt his words are and how beautiful the poetry is. He says such universally profound things in the most poetic of ways. It's truly amazing.

I actually don't generally have a difficult time memorizing Shakespeare as long as I understand what is being said. The language and the rhythm of his poetry actually make memorizing easier...for me at least.

I'm trying to remember when I was first truly introduced to Shakespeare. I'm sure I must have seen some performances when I was younger, but I do especially remember reading Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream in junior high. I know I read Macbeth and Julius Caesar in high school, and I know I performed a scene from Macbeth in high school, which I'm fairly certain if I could go back in time and view it, I would see a kid who probably had little idea what he was doing. I also remember A Comedy of Errors was one of the earlier shows I saw on stage.

Because I was raised on the King James version of the Bible, whose language is very much the style Shakespeare uses, it always felt accessible to me. I'm not saying I understood (or even always understand) every word, but I usually am pretty good at figuring out what is being said on a first read, and then I use other sources to help me specify things.

Of course, the more I have read and seen various versions of Shakespeare's plays, the more comfortable I am with them. For example, I have little difficulty understanding what is going on in Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, or Richard III, to name a few, because I am very familiar with those plays. I am not as well versed in some of Shakespeare's history plays or the historical context of them as I would like to be, so those ones are sometimes harder,

I also find a lot of Shakespeare's jokes that feel very germane to his time are harder for me to figure out without a lot of aid, although his wit is terrific.

Although in acting classes I have been in scenes from many, many of his plays, I have to date only been in five actual fully-realized productions: The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Twelfth Night. But I have done scenes and monologues from Othello, Hamlet, Richard III, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Measure for Measure, and The Merchant of Venice. Those are ones I recall; I'm sure I have done more. But I would like to do more Shakespeare if the opportunity presents itself.

Although I enjoyed reading Shakespeare, I don't think I really became comfortable performing Shakespeare until my undergrad. I took an excellent class from a professor named Roger Held, who really helped me a lot.

Taking the class scared me, but it turned out to be a wonderful and fun class. We would watch John Barton's Playing Shakespeare series, which was terrific, and used Robert Cohen's Acting In Shakespeare text book, which I loved and still have and use. The class was populated with friends, and so it was very comfortable and really helped me break out of my Shakespeare fears.

Of course, actually performing in his plays and doing very intensive study in both my undergrad and grad programs as well as seeing many different performances of his plays has made me much more comfortable with my work. I've seen some excellent productions and some not so great ones. The ones that really bring his words to life in what feels to be a modern and easy-to-understand way have been my favorites.

Most of the characters I have played in full-scale productions have been prose speakers rather than verse speakers, so I would like more experience with verse. But some of the prose stuff I have done, particularly Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost, has been challenging in its own way, although I am proud to say I felt I succeeded.

I think the reason I am on such a kick lately is because I just recently read Antony Sher's excellent books, The Year of The King and The Year of The Mad King, which detail, respectively, his work playing Richard III and King Lear.

I recently watched the excellent production of Macbeth that Ian McKellen and Judi Dench did in 1979. I had never seen it before, I'm embarrassed to say, but I loved it. Right now I am watching David Tennant's Hamlet. I've also been watching different famous Hamlets perform the "To be or not to be" and "O what a rogue and peasant slave am I" speeches just to see what each actor does with it. That, of course, has led me down a rabbit hole of other videos about Shakespeare or performances of Shakespeare. Isn't YouTube great?

When I'm at work at Meow Wolf during less busy times when there aren't guests around, I practice my various speeches. It's been fun.

Anyway, this is what I wanted to write about tonight.

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