Elements Theatre Company of Orleans, MA presents an original work, Labyrinth: A Legacy of Language, exploring Shakespeare’s influence on playwrights through the past four and a half centuries, from Sheridan to Ibsen to Stoppard. Following the performance will be a discussion in the ARTS IN CONVERSATION panel series, on How Shakespeare Humanizes Our Culture: The Transforming Power of His Work.
There is a living spirit in the work of William Shakespeare. An energy comes through the language impelled by a vital and timeless understanding of the human condition. I recently read an article in which the author noted how happy the play Othello made him. I marveled that a tragedy of deceit and grave misunderstanding had the power to make him happy. What the writer went on to say was that the experience and expressions of Othello and the other characters in the play were so thoroughly explored and brought to life that the experience was cathartic for him and, thus, made him happy.
Shakespeare was well aware that we are at the mercy of our human nature. T.S. Eliot remarked about Shakepeare’s grasp of this fact: “I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.” When we see a performance of Othello, we watch as Othello listens to Iago and makes ghastly decisions; Iago confides in us that he will bring Othello down; Emilia, Iagos’ wife, agonizes over the loss of her friend Desdemona, whose death at the hand of her husband, Othello, was set in motion by Iago. The scene when Othello strangles Desdemona has the power to leave us breathless and stunned, enduring the stomach-knotting knowledge that it could have been different – there could have been a different end to this story. In the wake of such an experience, the possibility of living our lives differently spins out and mirrors back to us. The torment of Othello and his reckless indulgence in his passions – allowing the green eyed monster to possess him – becomes a sacrificial gift of this character to us as we learn from his tragedy. It is one of the invaluable gifts of great storytelling and brilliant drama.
A spark of the divine is present in Shakespeare’s work and we recognize and honor that gift as we celebrate his 450th birthday. We celebrate work that has been a tool in the healing and transformation of people again and again and again. As his words are made flesh by professional and amateur theatre companies, college professors, high school students, children, and those who read his work for the sheer delight of its magnificence, we are again summoned to a higher level of understanding and living.
We invite you to join us at one or all of our birthday celebrations this year.
Danielle Dwyer, CJ
Artistic Director of Elements Theatre Company