A Letter to William Shakespeare

Tuesday, September 8, 2014

Dear William,

My name is Nick McKenzie and I am the teacher of Class 8B at Collingwood College, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – a country you would not have heard of, from a time you cannot comprehend, as you passed away some 398 years ago!

I write because we have just done a series of performances of your brilliant play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream! It is an experience I will never, ever forget and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

We started rehearsal in earnest on Monday 4 August, which would give us only 2 weeks and 4 days before our first performance! It was an interesting journey. William, how did you go about your rehearsals? Were you a ‘benevolent dictator’ or did the actors get lots of say in the production? My wonderful students did virtually all the costumes and choreography and one student, Titian, who was not acting, did all the stage management. We also had a fantastic student teacher, Ivana, who was our ‘prompter’. This was all a great load off my mind.

Anyway, our first performance date was looming and I always had in my mind that we would perform it outside, even though August here is towards the end of our winter! I really had to hold my nerve…… however….Friday 23rd was a fine and sunny day – the gods really were on our side! In beautiful sunshine we performed, late morning, in a courtyard garden, for the school and it was a brilliant rendition. I was as ‘proud as punch’ and the students and teachers really love it.

That night we performed at outside for the parents and friends and it was truly magical, and these students, for the most part, are only 14 years old! What was really impressive was that these teenage actors ‘told’ the story – and as you well know, it is not an easy one to convey.

But, as they say, ‘the show must go on’, or in our case, another 3 performances left, for then we were ‘on tour’. I shall not give too much detail except to say our Thornbury Primary (inside) one on the Monday was a bit ‘flat’ (it was, after all, Monday morning!), the Briar Hill Primary one (in blazing sunshine) was excellent, and a week later, our trip to Castlemaine culminated in a stunning performance – possibly the best of the lot!

What more can I add, William? I know that I will look back on this year and forever remember A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You have made such a deep, widespread and meaningful contribution to English literature that it is hard to imagine anywhere in the world that you are now not known. You have touched the hearts and minds of millions and millions of people. From me and my students, and Shakespeare admirers everywhere, we stand and applaud you!

Yours sincerely,

Nick McKenzie

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