The message remains loud and clear, as I work my way through Richard III for the first time, that I should see a performance. Shakespeare was meant to be seen, not read, as the old saying goes.
Let me ask the directors in the audience a question. You’re given a play to direct that you’ve never seen, read, or experienced before. What do you do? Do you immediately go off and find somebody else’s directorial vision of the play, watch that, and then say “Oh, ok, that’s how that’s supposed to go?”
Or would that completely mess with your ability to develop your own vision for the story? Sure, there’s research that can be done – but if you’re a completely empty vessel, isn’t there a very real danger of filling yourself up too much with other people’s ideas and not leaving enough room for your own?
See where I’m going with this?
If all you want to do with a Shakespeare play is to say, “Well, I’ve seen it, I know what it’s about. Check that one off the old bucket list,” then sure, go do that.
Thing is, I wouldn’t really be here doing stuff like this web site if that’s all I wanted. I want to be so intimately familiar with the plays that I have my own movie running in my head. I want my own opinions, that I can answer by quoting the text – not by saying “I like how Richard Burton did it.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – when you see Shakespeare, you’re seeing one interpretation of what it could be. When you read it, you’re opening up the possibility of all of them.