I would like to take this post in Bad Shakespeare would like to wish a most excellent Happy Birthday to one of my personal heroes and owner of the best voice in the world, Patrick Stewart.
You all remember Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame. (Don’t pretend you don’t. Most of you instinctively said, “make it so” as soon as you saw his name.) I won’t pretend that I wasn’t introduced to Mr. Stewart (Can I all him Patrick? I’m going to call him Patrick.) through the world of Star Trek, but it was Patrick Stewart who also helped introduce me to the world of Shakespeare.
My favorite story of Shakespeare and Patrick Stewart actually comes through a story of impossibility. One role that Patrick wanted to play was that of Othello. You all know Othello, one of the most famous parts ever written... for a black actor. Normally I’m all for colorblind casting (what does it matter if someone can act) but part of the story actually involves the racist reaction to the Moor of Venice. (Or not. You can interpret it in a few different ways, but... you know, this is a Patrick Stewart tribute, so I’m going to move on and analyze Othello another day.) Anyway, Patrick was told repeatedly he couldn’t do the part because he was white. One day he went to Michael Kahn (NOT the guy who killed Kirk’s son, but the famous director) and told him what he wanted to do. Michael’s response was simple, “Great. Let’s reverse the cast!” And thus Patrick Stewart’s white Othello was born.
I like this story, because it, along with another one (I’ll share later) is a great reminder that if you want to do something, you should just do it.
I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick Stewart at a celebration of Michael Kahn’s 25 years at the Shakespeare Theatre last fall. I also had the pleasure of hearing him perform the famous speech from Othello, just before he kills Desdemona, which was a personal dream of mine since I didn't get to see him perform as Othello. (As you can guess, it’s not the most uplifting play.) He couldn’t have been nicer. I’m still not sure what I said, but I’ve been assured by those around me that I didn’t make a fool of myself.
So, Happy Birthday, Patrick Stewart. Thanks for the gateway to Shakespeare, thanks for the kind words when we met, and thanks for reminding me that no matter how crazy something is, I should just go for it.