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Shaking Up Shakespeare: New Podcast Examines Shakespeare's Role in Canadian Theatre

Shaking Up Shakespeare: New Podcast Examines Shakespeare's Role in Canadian Theatre

In a new initiative set to launch on Monday, January 15, 2024, a ten-episode podcast series titled "Shaking Up Shakespeare" promises to redefine the conversation around William Shakespeare's influence on Canadian theatre. The series, part of the Resetting the Stage project, funded by a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Theatre and Performance, explores the legacy of Shakespeare's work within the context of Canadian society, shedding light on issues of diversity, colonialism, and accessibility.

Hosted by Professor Marlis Schweitzer, and two recent graduates of the Theatre and Performance Department, Hope Van Der Merweand Liam Lockhart-Rush, featuring over 30 interviews, the series presents a critical examination of Shakespeare's impact, challenging traditional narratives and questioning the colonial structures that have perpetuated his cultural dominance in Canada.

From January 15 to January 29, the podcast will release three episodes on January 15, three more on January 22, and the final four on January 29. Each episode tackles a specific aspect of Shakespeare's influence on Canadian theatre, including issues of gender discrimination, racism, and ableism, both in Shakespeare's plays and in productions of his plays.

The series idea originated from the two-day event "Resetting the Stage: The Past, Present, and Future of Casting Practices in Canada," which occurred in Spring 2021. The event featured panels of artists discussing casting practices in contemporary Canadian theatre. While Shakespeare wasn't the primary focus, his pervasive presence in the discussions prompted the team to delve deeper into the Bard's impact on Canadian stages. A second impetus for the project arose from conversations with Toronto-based company,
Why Not Theatre, as they prepared for a North American tour of their acclaimed production of Prince Hamlet.

“Whether you love him or hate him, Shakespeare is inevitable. He endures on Canadian stages, in classrooms, parks, beaches, screens, homes – online, offline, he’s everywhere," says Schweitzer, "Most people have some knowledge of Shakespeare because it’s part of the fabric of Canadian life. His ghostly presence reminds us that the British colonial project has deep roots that we continue to contend with today. At the same time, his sheer ubiquity invites us to shake things up a bit. What excited us most in developing this series was learning about the diverse ways that artists, scholars, teachers, and students are grappling with Shakespeare, reworking his texts to investigate colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, ableism, and so much more.”

"Shaking Up Shakespeare" features insights from over 30 individuals, including actors, directors, playwrights, dramaturges, intimacy professionals, theatre students, scholars, critics, arts administrators, and educators from across the country, as well as excerpts from speakers at the “(Re)casting Shakespeare in Canada” symposium held at York in spring 2023. These diverse perspectives offer a comprehensive look at the multifaceted influence of Shakespeare in the Canadian theatrical landscape.

For more information on the project and to listen to the podcast, visit castingcanadiantheatre.ca.