Around the year 1600 an atomic bomb goes off in England that irradiates everything for miles and miles, mutating it — and those radioactive mutants carry that radiation to others until just about everything has traces of it, even today. Shakespeare is that bomb. By reading his work, we can measure how much of the world we live in was mutated by him and understand better why the world we live in, and the stories we tell, look the way they do. Comparing Shakespeare to a weapon may seem strange but Shakespeare himself did it — his Iago compares conceits, ideas, to strong working poison. Iago’s idea that words have raw power is Shakespeare grappling with his own power.
James Bond is great at hand-to-hand combat, various weapons, getaway driving, going undercover, jumping out of airplanes, going underwater, and computer hacking. Anyone can do any one of those things; what makes Bond unrealistic is the idea that anyone can do all that at the same time. This is exactly what Shakespeare does: only in Shakespeare do you get, all in the same work, the most powerful, entertaining personalities, combined with the most subtle poetry, and the smartest kind of philosophy. Plus so much sex and death!
I feel like when you imagine yourself going to prison or trapped on a desert island or whatever you imagine THEN you would have the time to read The Complete Works of Shakespeare. What you need, and what is hard to get in NYC, is time and silence for sustained concentration, and discussion with other people who read the same thing you did, which makes the ideas stick in your mind. This is what OlioHouse provides.
Join me for the inaugural weekend of the OlioHouse Shakespeare Series — weekends devoted to single plays. First up, Shakespeare’s darkest, most intense play: Macbeth. We start out Saturday at noon with an overview lecture followed by a screening of the extraordinary 2015 Michael Fassbender / Marion Cotillard movie. At that point, everyone, even people who showed up to OlioHouse having not read it, has a handle on the basics and can participate. Then everyone gets a copy of the play, and we start a deep dive into the text — exploring mental illness and the imagination, masculine sexuality and mass killing, the Gnostic God of cruelty and violence, powerful women, ambition, time travel, and the only happy marriage in all of Shakespeare. I am also bringing a bucket-load of clips from other versions of Macbeth so we can also discuss what different actors and directors bring to individual scenes. Just like college we will stay up late discussing this stuff at a party with attractive people while listening to music, and also just like college we will get up early the next morning and KEEP GOING.
Don’t wait until you get to sent to prison or end up in a shipwreck to spend time with the most famous author ever. (Also if there are any hardcore Shakespeare nerds in out there there is some kind of joke to be made around “FolioHouse” but I don’t quite have it come help me).