I’m a blessed guy, Shakespearean-ly speaking. I had a great introduction to the Bard by my high school freshman teacher, Bill Lindquist at Hueneme High School.
He made Shakespeare seem positively ILLICIT. On the day we started Romeo and Juliet, he had us open our literature texts to the start of the play. We read the first half of the first scene, then he brought us to an abrupt, almost angry stop. He passed out Romeo and Juliet books, paperbacks, and had us look at the same scene.
“What do you notice?”
Hands shot up… “stuff” was missing.
Lindquist wrote the word “unexpurgated” on the board then explained to us that the anthology had been expurgated, had been cleaned up for our young eyes and minds.
Then he went line-by-line over the stuff that was cut. And, man, did he bring the dirty. He ended class with a simple statement: “Leave your anthologies in your lockers. We’re going to read the real play. In all its glorious sex and violence.”
This calls to mind some lines from The Gaslight Anthem‘s “I’da Called You Woody, Joe” (about the late Joe Strummer):
And I never got to tell him, so I just wrote it down.
I wrapped a couple chords around it and I let it come out…
Consider this entry my “chords”.
But unlike Joe Strummer, Bill Lindquist isn’t dead*. I still have a chance to tell him. I’ll need to send him a link to this…
Yeah… Thanks, Bill
I was hooked.
So hooked that when PBS started broadcasting the BBC’s full canon of productions, I bugged my parents until they bought me a Shakespeare collection, one of those cheap “bargain-bin” hardcovers with all the plays but no margins or definitions or footnotes.
So hooked that when I read in the Sunday LA Times Calendar section that a production of The Tempest was coming to the Mark Taper Forum in the summer between my frosh and soph years, I begged Ma and Pa again until they relented and I saw my first professional theatrical production.
Yeah, and then I was REALLY hooked (more on why later).
And when Lindquist offered an elective Shakespeare course in my senior year, I jumped at the chance.
Four years later, I’d be finishing up my Bachelor’s in English at UCLA, focusing on Shakespeare.
Four years after that, I would be teaching English at the crosstown rival Oxnard High School.
Teaching the Shakespeare elective.
Just around the corner from the classroom of the now-transferred Bill Lindquist.
The guy who started it all.
* At least, he wasn’t when I first wrote this. He’s passed since. I was lucky enough to speak to him on his deathbed and tell him all this in person. Lucky indeed in so many ways…