Giving new life to Shakespeare’s words

Retired Okanagan College English professor Les Ellenor will lead two three-hour workshops

Bringing the bard: Retired English professor Les Ellenor.

Let your inner bard out.

Retired Okanagan College English professor Les Ellenor will lead two three-hour workshops at the Salmon Arm campus, with the first one running from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21.

Participants will help bring to life key moments in Shakespeare’s comedies and tragi-comedies this Friday, and his histories and tragedies Nov. 4.

What is the relevance of material that was written four centuries ago?

“He’s important today because he gives us a picture of  human nature,” says Ellenor. “Our existence is still the same as it was 400 years ago, we still have the same difficulties and the same solutions.”

Ellenor describes Shakespeare’s writing as being very lively, and filled with excitement, wisdom and beautiful language.

Today’s human can easily identify themselves inside a Shakespeare play, he says.

“The aim of human beings is to know ourselves and we can do that by participating in a Shakespeare play,” he says. “When we see Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, then we know what human evil is like. What it does, is it allows us to see with new eyes.”

Ellenor says the purpose of Shakespeare’s plays is expressed in his own words “… the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”

“So it helps us to deal with life’s complexities… so we can see ourselves in a new way, we can laugh at ourselves,” he says, noting satire and irony are two mechanisms Shakespeare used in his vast body of work. “We get very emotional in a Shakespeare play, our feelings are touched.”

And the English language is much richer today because of the writer who was dubbed The Bard on Avon.

Shakespeare coined, or was the first to put into print, several hundred words – many of them commonly heard in conversations today.

Among them – accessible, amazement, assassination, barefaced, belongings, eventful, excitement, glow, hostile, jaded, laughable and too many more to print.

A longtime Salmon Arm resident, Ellenor is proud of the city’s cultural ambiance.

“So what is the benefit of having live theatre in a town?” he asks, noting Salmon Arm’s stellar reputation for its arts, crafts, culture, graces and music. “The answer is it’s life enriching, it’s entertainment, it makes people come to town and that means money.”

And when it comes to quality, Ellenor believes Shakespeare is number one. He also believes people need to be introduced to theatre at an early age and applauds School District #83 for including drama in the curriculum.

“With reference to children and young people, theatre is very important for them to get out of themselves, to play a part,” he says.

“It gives them understanding, allows them to grow, and develop self-confidence – and to delight in sheer enjoyment.”

Comedies on the board for this Friday include The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale.

On Friday, Nov. 4, participants will join Ellenor for a look at Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies, including Henry IV, Richard II, Henry V, Hamlet and Macbeth.

Ellenor will pick out the best moments of the plays and participants will perform those parts.

“There’ll be a little team and they’ll study the script and then they’ll perform it in front of the rest of the class,” he says, noting the aim is to delight and so laughing will be encouraged. “It will be a very enjoyable occasion and you don’t have to be a Shakespeare expert to attend.”

Whether they perform as their own or the opposite gender – women did not perform on the stage in Shakespeare’s time, Ellenor reminds us of these lines from Shakespeare’s As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players…”

“We come onto the stage for 70 years and off we go,” he laughs reminding us, that just as in Shakespeare’s time,  our own play ends in death.

Tickets for the workshops, which run from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 and Friday, Nov. 4 are $35 at the door for each session.


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