Mike Stack, Coordinator, Young Shakespeareans
Mike Stack is the coordinator of the Young Shakespeareans program at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia.
IDENTIFYING WITH THE CHARACTERS OF SHAKESPEARE
MIKE STACK: And I’ve grown to love the Shakespeare, you know. And I think it is because he—he—more than any other writer, for the theater, in the English language—that I’m aware of—gets inside and gives little pieces of ourselves, you know. Little pieces of myself; I identify to the characters in his plays.
Each—sometimes—I know that he wrote characters—I mean, we write what we know. You know. That’s what all the people I know who writers or comics, or anything, they say, “Write what you know. Write what you know.” And Shakespeare wrote what he knew.
And you can sure tell when he was being deeply honest with himself, you know, about some deep feelings, because that’s the stuff that we now call the great quotes or the, you know, stuff that you—I mean, all the Hamlet stuff that people so often quote. You know. That’s Shakespeare, I think, exposing a bit of himself. And deep down inside, I mean, instincts and feelings and all that, I mean, they’ve been the same since time immemorial, I think. You know.
Like I like to tell the young people, I mean, craving someone’s sandwich during break time, you know, and figuring out how maybe you’re going to get a piece of that sandwich, comes—is—is the exact same thing as craving someone’s crown and wanting that crown. I think they come from the same basic instinct. You know, the stakes are just different.
THE RHETORIC OF SHAKESPEARE
MIKE STACK: I think once we get into things, for instance, like a Julius Caesar, where you think, “My God, it’s political rhetoric. How are the young people going to relate to this?” Well, I taught it this summer with ages eight through twelve and they were—you know, they started—so to see the discovery of them thinking mob mentality, that’s like that riot that happened in—that’s like that thing I saw on the news, that’s you know, political rhetoric to hear—and I mean, it wasn’t me, it was like a ten-year-old who said, “That’s kind of like what’s going on in the world today,” when Brutus, after the murder of Caesar, stood up in one of his big things and says, “Who will not love his country?”
And this whole discussion ensued about—and these are eight- through twelve-year-olds—talking about what they hear on the news coming from different parts of the world concerning, you know, affairs overseas from us right now, about the whole thing about patriotism and—and you know, the deed as far as loving your country goes.
MIKE STACK: He writes what he knows and he writes beautifully flawed people. You know, I think that’s his greatest strength, is how flawed his characters are. You know. If he—if he were to write perfect characters I don’t think we’d be sitting here right now. He writes people who make grave mistakes.
It’s interesting, you know, the discussions that go around about some of the problem plays. Why would someone do that? Well, because they made a—you know, some people say that about the motives of some of Shakespeare’s characters, you know. Because why would the duke in Measure for Measure do that? It’s a problem play. Well, I think he’s a flawed individual and he makes mistakes, you know. And there’s no resolution at the end. Hmm. Interesting.