MARY JANE ON HOW SHAKESPEARE IS MORE HELPFUL TO ACTORS THAN BRECHT AND BECKETT ARE. Mary Jane writes: Ian McKellen says that “Shakespeare is very, very helpful to his actors,” in specific opposition to Brecht and Beckett. The latter two were giants in the “modernization” of the stage. Plays were to be contrivances, vehicles for ideas and, more importantly, ideologies. The new plays and the new playwrights created this challenge for actors: how to connect with each other and their audiences, when the construct that the actors appeared in stressed the impossibility of a true connection and the absurdity of a search for true meaning. Though the playwrights were heralded as geniuses, they presented a miserable task for their actors: to infuse blood into characters built without such frivolous things as blood vessels.
Shakespeare on the other hand, good old Shakespeare, creates characters with several dimensions, places then in recognizable social situations, and structures plots for them through which they search for meaning and satisfaction in what is an accurate representation of a very chancy world. On top of this, Shakespeare gives actors such wonderful language to use, they are very far along in giving a decent performance if they merely say his lines correctly and loudly enough.