Folger Shakespeare Library
Stage and Screen Education and Inspiration The American Identity



Action-Packed Shakespeare and Active Audiences

Action-Packed Shakespeare and Active Audiences
Heather S. Nathans, associate professor of theater, associate chair of theater department, associate director of the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the African Diaspora, University of Maryland

HEATHER NATHANS: If you realize that somebody like Edwin Forrest is stripping away what he considered the excess dialogue in the play, and really just giving you a just-the-facts-ma'am kind of version of it, it's moving along like a blockbuster, from explosion to explosion to explosion. It's like the summer movie hit that just keeps you moving at a relentless pace that's all about how exciting the plot is.

So, you do get an audience that doesn't see why it should sit there passively and consume. These are active consumers who, when they're tired of an actor, they'll boo them off stage. When they want an actor to do a speech again, they'll make him do the speech, however many more times they want. When they want a different play on, they may yell and say, "Bring me a different play." So, this is not an audience that just sits there and takes it.