As early as high school, Rob Vaughan, President of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, has been enchanted by Shakespeare, by the language and metaphors, and by the countless engaging performances. Invited to join the initiative by planning committee member Hank Dobin, Rob believes that the Virginia Shakespeare Initiative offers many opportunities to help make Shakespeare feel more accessible. Recently, he sat down with VSI intern Katie Lebert to discuss the experience that made Shakespeare accessible to him, and his hopes for providing the same for others.
Do you have a most memorable experience with Shakespeare?
Oh absolutely: junior year of high school with Ms. Evans. She was a very popular and well-known English teacher at my school, and probably because she was the best lady Macbeth ever. When we were studying Macbeth, she would come into class reciting Lady Macbeth, and it was just spellbinding.
I think everyone who went through that school and had her as a teacher became at least a minimal fan of Shakespeare, if they did not develop a lifelong passion and devotion to Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s productions.
How do you think that lifelong devotion or passion has shaped your career?
Well, I pursued and completed a PhD in English. I even considered at the time starting with Shakespeare, but I ended up in 20th century American poetry. Nonetheless, Shakespeare has remained a constant passion in my life and continues to fulfill my passions for theatre, literature and poetry. This passion has also led to any number of commitments for further engagement, such as to the Virginia Shakespeare Initiative.
What do you want people to learn from this initiative?
I want everyone in the state to know there is some way for them to get involved. Shakespeare does not have to be as difficult as it first seems, and I think the style and production is a useful measure of how that is for each person. Equally so, I think there is a sonnet out there for everyone.
What do you think you bring to this initiative?
The organization. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities as a whole can help bring together the resources to ensure that this does reach a variety of people across the state.