Seen from above in its setting by the Thames, Shakespeare’s theater was a large circle that drew into its circumference all sorts of people to experience an astonishing diversity of stories. Shakespeare and his fellow company members called it “The Globe” not just because it was round, but because it was conceived to be a place of radical inclusivity; its purpose was to encompass the whole world.
Empathy, generosity, diversity, imagination, and courage: these are the values that permeate Shakespeare’s plays, and they are the core values that define the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. They are also profoundly American values, and they have been severely tested during this long and divisive election season.
At a time when the social structures that bind us together are increasingly in peril, we at HVSF are more committed than ever before to creating and supporting community through theater. This process requires listening actively and empathetically to everyone’s stories, not just to those who shout the loudest, but also and especially to those whose voices are often ignored or silenced. As people who care about the health of our democracy, this is the great work ahead, and we are ready to embrace it.
Playwright Richard Nelson (The General from America) was recently asked whether this year’s election season has caused him to feel more optimistic or pessimistic about the role of theater in the popular conversation. His response?
“Wildly optimistic. Theater is the only artistic form that uses the entire live human being as its expression. We, the writers, express ourselves… using all of it: voice, body, movement. It’s why, for thousands of years, people have come together for theater in all sorts of ways. It’s live human beings sharing space at the same time, and that’s a very, very important experience.”
I’m with Richard. And with Shakespeare. And I hope you’ll join us in this most urgent and timeless of civic conversations: “Who are we? And who do we aspire to be?”
Davis McCallum, Artistic Director