What was your first introduction to William Shakespeare? Was it love or hate?
I watched the Zefirelli film of Romeo and Juliet and the Prokofiev ballet pretty early in my childhood and really enjoyed them. I believe the first full play that I had to read for school was either Macbeth or Julius Casesar. I think the first play I saw live was Twelfth Night. I remember having a fairly hard time with the language but feeling like understanding them was like being a member of a secret society. It was neither love nor hate. I could see how much the plays meant to the adult's in my life and I wanted to be a member of the club. I also remember Francie, the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, being read a page of the bible or of Shakespeare each night, and as I admired her I remember thinking that that was a good idea to do myself.
Which Shakespeare plays have you been required to read?
I think in the course of my schooling I have had to read them all, and many of the sonnets besides. There was a certain point where I switched from needing to have them assigned for a literary or acting class to actually wanting to read them. I now frequently re-read the plays, especially Hamlet and Winter's Tale.
Do you think Shakespeare is important? Do you feel you are a “better” person for having read the bard?
The scope of human experience that he writes of in his plays and the broadness of his appeal - the reach his work has few parallels. I don't think reading any text, great or small, secular or religious, makes you a better person. Your deeds do that. But the range of humanity one is exposed to in Shakespeare and the beauty of many of his works can certainly help broaden one's mind and help give one more insight into oneself and others. When my father died, it was Hamlet that I turned to
Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?
Hamlet, A Winter's Tale, and Measure for Measure. Lear is pretty wonderful too.
How do you feel about contemporary takes on Shakespeare? Adaptations of Shakespeare’s works with a more modern feel? (For example, the new line of Manga Shakespeare graphic novels, or novels like Something Rotten, Something Wicked, Enter Three Witches, Ophelia, etc.) Do you have a favorite you’d recommend?
I love adaptations, they don't replace the plays, but over time for anyone who is going to read them, I think they will only increase the notion that the plays have something to do with our lives. I saw a great adaption by my favorite clown troop - 500 Clowns - of Macbeth that knocked the socks off the play. It was molto fun. There are lots of good operatic versions of the plays - Verdi's Otello is pretty terrific.
What’s your favorite movie version of a Shakespeare play?
Kenneth Branaugh's Much Ado with the most lovely Emma Thompson.