To the great Variety of Readers

Hello my dear friend,The final Act of 2023 is upon us: the Holiday season. We hope you are surrounded by love and joy and delicious treats. We hope this time of the year gifts you the opportunity and space to reflect and to recharge, and to rekindle with passions and pleasures, big and small. We hope your 2023 was filled with discoveries and adventures, and good health!SIR turned 30 this year, and – with your support and enthusiasm – we had a gloriously busy year for such a tiny outfit. Not many people know this, but we have only TWO full-time staff members at SIR (myself, your Artistic Director; and Sara Malabar, our dynamic General Manager). And between the two of us (with the help of freelancers and seasonal staff and the Board), we try and accomplish all of the things without losing our minds! We truly are fueled by passion.As I sit here and take stock of this year, I find myself reliving the transformative experience I had when I took part in a lovely Shakespeare conference in Vancouver last month, sharing a panel with none other than Greg Doran, the Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK. I have been a huge admirer of Doran’s work since my college days, and in fact, I happened to be reading his most recent book (My Shakespeare: a director’s journey through the Folio) precisely when I received the call from UBC to represent SIR at this special conference in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio (the first publication of his Complete Works).BUT, what was even more exciting than working alongside Greg Doran was the fact that I got to work WITH and FROM the First Folio itself: UBC now owns its own First Folio, one of only 250 surviving copies of the first edition of Bill’s Complete Works. It cost the university 7 million dollars to acquire. And it is beautiful.As part of our research for the conference, SIR Board member and theatre director Dr Katrina Dunn and I spent almost two hours playing with the Folio at the UBC archives. And guess what: because archivists no longer require people to use gloves when touching artifacts (interestingly, gloves remove sensitivity and can end up causing damage to thin paper), we got to TOUCH the bloody thing and flip through it and read from it.It was a deeply moving experience. It felt as though we were working with Shakespeare himself. However, what moved me the most was not reading Shakespeare’s own words on the page, but the introduction, written by his two actor friends who assembled the Folio: John Heminge and Henrie Condell, entitled “To the great Variety of Readers”.That word caught my attention: “variety”.We have been deeply engaged in conversations about ‘diversity’ and representation in the Classics for several years now (conversations that have been intensified since the Summer of 2020), and so the word struck me immediately. And upon reading the first sentences, while touching the very page, I was moved to tears by the sheer beauty of the invitation from those two brave friends: “From the most able, to him that can but spell. There you are numbered…it is now public…”It confirmed to me what I’ve always believed to be the fundamental Truth about Shakespeare: he is for everyone. These plays are yours. They belong to all of humankind. To all cultures. They are made of what connects us to each other in ways that are elemental and granular and essential. They are elastic and paradoxical and wonderfully inexhaustible.Shakespeare is for all.To the great variety of us.As a boy from South American who learned English aged 18, I never had any claim to the world of English Classical Theatre…and yet. Here I am. The Artistic Director of Shakespeare in the Ruins.Bill pays my bills.And that is what I am most thankful for as we enjoy the joys of the Holidays. I’m grateful for having opened my heart to Shakespeare. And I am grateful for the opportunity to help others open their hearts to Shakespeare too. It is a gift and a responsibility I do not take lightly. I relish the challenge. I love this stuff. I hope you do too!I cannot wait to share with you what we have planned for 2024.I cannot wait to see you there again, under the skies at the Ruins, opening your hearts up to the absolute beauty that is Shakespeare in live performance.Happy Holidays! Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your support.Yours wholeheartedly,Rodrigo (& Sara & everyone at SIR)