I saw my first theatrical production when I was 12. It was a free production of The Tempest in Golden Gate Park. At twelve years old I was barely able to comprehend the plot, but was taken with the spectacle of people whose breath I could hear, playing pirates, fairies, and princesses. In theater there is a part for everyone. In Elizabethan times theater was a part of everyone’s life, and not something that only the wealthy got to partake in (as I often feel it is now). I saw the production with my parents, their friends and colleagues, and strangers. All of us regardless of where we had come had access to something magical and moving.
More and more classical work is becoming something that anyone regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, class, or even language can participate in. I’ve seen productions of Shakespeare set in 1960s Latin America, at grunge rock shows, in the audience, with gender bent and diverse casts, even with actors performing in other languages. In Shakespeare’s times writers wrote not just for the aristocracy, but for everyone attending their show. Everyone could find someone like themselves in the play being presented. Someone who had made a mistake, or someone struggling with a question of morality and it wasn’t just princesses, kings, and queens, it was also teachers, servants, merchants, and fools who appeared in the stories that were presented.
I think stories change minds more than any speech, photo, or article. By presenting real people in situations that may be outrageous but ultimately human we are forced to sympathize with the characters whoever they may be. I have more compassion for those seeking revenge because of Prospero, more love for liars because of Blanche Dubois, and understanding for those who take their own lives because of Willy Loman. And if the work is more accessible, then everyone, not just a select few have the chance to see the struggle of another and identify with that struggle. Art survives no matter the situation of the community, it is the cornerstone of society rather than a reflection of it's privilege.