Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Jacqueline Athanasatos: Hands Off Our Bard!

Is nothing sacrosanct from the insidious creep of The Cancel Culture? Apparently not.

The distressing, un-glad tidings that Creative New Zealand has withdrawn its modest $30,000 per annum funding for the Shakespeare in Schools programme, has come as a body blow to those who value the enduring literary power and drama of the late great William Shakespeare.

This decision was apparently justified by its “advisory panel” opining that “Shakespeare was locked within a canon of imperialism and missed the opportunity to create a living curriculum and show relevance to the contemporary art context of Aotearoa.”

For Creative NZ to thus politicize the dedication of so many theatrical devotees who bring Shakespeare’s works into our schools is, by implication, to cancel English literature as we know it and replace it with…what? Something homegrown, perchance?

Is this not another case of racism by stealth, designed to “deny access to the English culture” and promote the agenda of the Left?  What’s next for the chopping block? Rhododendrons? Bagpipes? Cheese?

We recently attended a Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand National Shakespearean Schools Production held at the Logan Park School in Dunedin. This entailed 46 High School students of diverse cultures and high schools, participating in three plays, namely Henry IV, Othello and Twelfth Night. With few props, these talented young actors transported the audience to The Globe Theatre of old.

Speaking of which, half of these student actors were chosen to be members of SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company to travel to The Globe Theatre, London, in July 2023, for an intensive two-week theatre course, culminating in a performance on The Globe stage. They then travel to Stratford-Upon Avon for three more days of Shakespearean experiences. Life-changing.

What a golden opportunity to promote The Arts and open doors for the next generation to live their best life! The Pop-Up Globe in New Zealand has always been a resounding success with sell-out crowds, demonstrating a deep and abiding thirst for Shakespeare.

Let’s take a look at the man who was, and is, William Shakespeare. It is astonishing how 406 years since his death on St George’s Day 1616, the words of the world’s greatest playwright still reach out to us as a reflection of ourselves and the world in which we live. Yes, Panel, they are still relevant.

Shakespeare’s insights into the human condition, through the eternal truths of comedies, tragedies and histories, reveal the universal themes of love, jealousy, ambition, betrayal, and greed, resonate as loudly today as ever they did.

To the extent that most of us use Shakespearean phrases, perhaps subconsciously, is rich testament to the intrinsic value of this brilliant man’s writings to people of diverse culture and seats of learning.

“High time” “The milk of human kindness” “Brevity is the soul of wit” The be-all and end-all” “Method in your madness” “Into thin air” “heart’s content” “short shrift” “for ever and a day” “what the dickens” “as white as the driven snow” “a sea-change” ”fancy-free” …to mention but a few Shakespearean gems.

P.M. Jacinda Ardern waded into the debate, stating gleefully that she once participated in a Shakespearean play (as “Bottom” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But she could never interfere in the independent decision of Creative NZ. Oh, cry me a river!

I am no scholar, but thank you Miss Stapleton of Kaikorai Valley High School in the 1960’s, for introducing me to the English language through the poems and prose of Shakespeare. For setting the bar high. Long may such continue!! Do not deny our youth their rightful place on the world stage!


The Ministry of Education has since agreed to assist with funding - in the face of the public outcry!

Jacqueline Athanasatos is a former Journalist, television scriptwriter and freelance writer.


Doug Longmire said...

Well said, Jacqueline,
This is just another cancel culture action from the socialist emporium.
You are quite right - Shakespeare is very much an identity of the English speaking world. His plays reflect very real human emotions that are timeless.
The cancelation of funding can only be interpreted as a direct assault on our once proud nation, by the racist elite.

Robert Arthur said...

Creative NZ must have been challenged in their attitude to production in very recent times of Skakespeare in te reo. (I certatnly was, for different reason)

Robert Arthur said...

From the names involved seems a now typical example of applied co governance.

Richard C said...

Shakespeare was 16th / 17th century. His writings did not promote a canon of imperialism, in fact I doubt that phrase would have been recognised in that era.

However, Maori had by then imposed their own form of imperialism on the Moriori inhabitants of NZ. This ocuured over something like 5 or 6 centuries (or 7 or 8) and another 2 centuries on were still relying on oral history.

Thanks for the article Jacqueline.

*** said...

Thanks Jacqueline.
You ask: What’s next for the chopping block? Rhododendrons? Bagpipes? Cheese?

Perhaps schools, the written word, the wheel, metal production, garments?

Haime said...

Pop up Globe was a huge success and introduced thousands of people of all ages to the richness of the English language. And many of the productions featured talented Maori actors.

Murray Reid said...

We in Leamington, the part of Cambridge south of the river, consider ourselves lucky to live in the "literary Capital of NZ" as every single street is named after a poet, writer or playwright. The main street is Shakespeare St, running the length of the suburb.
I suspect our woke council has plans afoot for an expensive competition to rename it.
I will vote for "Mahuta Way"
Murray Reid