In college, I wasn't so big on Shakespeare. I didn't dislike him, but I didn't love him. All acting students spend an entire quarter their junior year doing nothing but Shakespeare. I honestly cannot tell you what scenes I did... I have a vague memory of doing a scene from Hamlet. I think I was Rosencrantz. Or maybe Guildenstern. I don't recall. At the same time I chose to take a class on Shakespeare's plays through the English Department (because I am a geek like that. I also took a class on Greek Tragedies from the Classics Department when we were doing Greek plays in acting class.)
At the time, I didn't love Shakespeare. I wasn't the greatest at acting it, nor was I terribly inspired by it.
But apparently, I learned something.
The second show I was cast in outside of college was Much Ado about Nothing. I played Margaret. I remember being a bit surprised to be cast in a Shakespeare play, because I never thought of it as my strong suit. But I soon realized that few people have training in Shakespeare at all. I really had learned something about scansion and the use of rhyme and understanding the plays in those classes back at school.
When we moved to Los Angeles in 1999 the first show I did there was The Merry Wives of Windsor. Actually, I auditioned for that show before I even moved there... we were out for my husband's interview and I went to a general audition for a summer Shakespeare Rep company at a beautiful outdoor theatre in the hills outside of LA. When we arrived in town a month or so later I sent a postcard with my new local phone number. They called and cast me immediately... they had had someone drop out of a production currently in rehearsal. I began rehearsals the day our moving truck arrived with our stuff (and my car broke down on a winding mountain road as I drove to that first rehearsal). I was a mere servant, lugging around the buskbasket with a very large Falstaff hidden within, but I also had a part in Shaw's St. Joan and played Queen Elizabeth in a living history program for school groups. I have no pictures of ME in this show, but you can see the Falstaff I had to haul around. And yes, Heroes fans, our Falstaff is the same man who played Maury Parkman.
I learned a lot from watching the professionals in that show, and although I never had the chance to work with that company again, I went on to do The Merchant of Venice at a hole in the wall theatre in the valley, and the following summer played Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream with a different summer Shakespeare group... and then all was lost. I was in love with Shakespeare and his language. As an actor there is so much to work with, from his use of rhythm and rhyme to the emotional clues embedded in the sounds of the words.
I'm no Shakespeare expert. But I'm a Shakespeare lover.