“Nobody Frolics in 2010!”

That, as Victoria Urquhart explains in this podcast, was the motto of the Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare Collective for a while, after a straphanger exclaimed it during their Shakespeare on the Subway performance series.

Unfortunately, I came to the podcast too late for its intended purpose, which was to publicize the company’s Shakespeare in Hospitals Showcase last December 17 and 18. It’s still required listening. As a come-on, here are some of the highlights:

  • The company’s first project was Shakespeare on the Subway, conceived to bring Shakespeare to young people outside of school and in an unexpected context that would make them more receptive to this material that had been crammed down their throats in high school.
  • It’s not that kids don’t get Shakespeare in school, it’s that they are forced to read it or listen to “that recording” where all that emerges is a bunch of accents.
  • She meant to offer a new experience on the subway, where young people could look at Shakespeare without “analyzing the hell out of it,” which is a big mistake because important though logical argument is, you lose the human perspective without emotion.
  • It’s very interesting that the Jailer’s Daughter was the most successful role in the subway project. The Jailer’s Daughter appears in Shakespeare’s least-known play, The Two Noble Kinsmen, one that we are certain wasn’t even wholly written by him. That Urquhart chose this character from this obscure play attests to her seriousness and scholarship; that it was the biggest success in the subway attests to her and her company’s talent.
  • Finally, since I’m not about to spoil it for you, please listen to the podcast at least to the point where Urquhart explains how a request from her grandmother led her to adopt a new mandate for the collective to do cyclical benefit projects, in addition to providing a resource for young actor to work on Shakespeare.

I’d note that Urquhart’s reasons for creating the subway project are the same as mine in creating this blog: to bring Shakespeare to people who were turned off to Shakespeare by bad school experiences. Urquhart does have one big advantage; as an actor with a company, she can present Shakespeare. I have to rely on the occasional video clip and resort maybe a little too often to “logical analysis,” though I do always try to bring it back to emotion and character. Anyway, we are definitely on the same team and that gladdens me.

Urquhart emerges from this podcast as a remarkably open, generous, warm, passionate, and humourous actor and human being. I can’t remember the last time I came across someone so perfectly suited to be an ambassador for Shakespeare, and I can’t think of a company that is doing more good by and with Shakespeare than the Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare Collective. Listen for yourself.

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