I met someone today who has not read (or seen) King Lear. I know, I know. Lots of people haven't. It's just I don't know them. I wish I did. I remember when my oldest daughter was about seven, I took her to the dress rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. As the story unfolded and the letter from the Friar to Romeo went awry and the audience realizes that he won't know that Juliet is alive and that all sorts of terrible things will happen, Liz clutched my arm and said in anguish: "You mean....?" I was thrilled, too, so fortunate to share her discovery.
Years later, we (the Stratford company) took a production of Hamlet to Chicago and opened the dress rehearsal to university students. In the fencing scene near the end, when Queen Gertrude lifts the goblet with the poisoned wine to toast Prince Hamlet, the young audience gasped in collective apprehension. The Queen is going to die! I was thrilled to share their discovery.
Yeah, Shakespeare. You know the story of the businessman who took his young secretary to see a production of Hamlet (what was he thinking?). After it was over, he asked how she liked it. "Okay, " she said, "but it was full of cliches."
Here's to fresh audiences and fresh discoveries.