Tim Hardy talked for two hours straight at the Shakespeare Workshop for Working Actors held at Butler University Feb. 19. Judging by his audience’s faces, he could have gone on speaking for many more.
He’s just that kind of guy. So please excuse any overpraise, Hardy tends to encourage that in the people he meets, gauging by the reactions that Saturday.
Hardy, on faculty at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), is currently housed at Indy’s very own Butler University for a 10-week residency, teaching a Shakespeare course and directing this weekend’s As You Like It, all a part of the Christel DeHaan Visiting International Theatre Artist program. It will, for four years, bring an international artist to the university, who will teach and direct or design a production at Butler, along with offering workshops for the community.
I had the extreme pleasure, despite not being an actor in any respect, to attend the workshop he hosted, which offered both a talk from Hardy and the ability for any attending actor to perform a monologue for him and hear his critiques.
Based on how Hardy was able—with a bare minimum of direction—to evoke much deeper and more meaningful performances from the actors reading at the workshop than their first attempts, I have the feeling As You Like It will be amazing.
For starters, it’s set in the ‘50s, and, for the most part, Shakespeare always seems to come across better to audiences if put in a time that our generation can relate to a bit better. Hardy admitted during the workshop that he loves seeing people experiment with Shakespeare — even citing Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo & Juliet (back when Leonardo DiCaprio was even prettier than Justin Bieber).
That, above everything, is most likely why Hardy is so good with Shakespeare. Rather than holding him as something sacred and unchangeable, Hardy understands Shakespeare as always up for interpretation and change.
“Reading a Shakespeare play without knowing what it’s about is like pulling teeth,” he said, talking about being cast in A Winter’s Tale without ever having seen it and trying to read it by himself. “I always had my finger on the cast page so I could flip back and forth while reading.”
It’s this kind of banter that frequented his two-hour talk and kept the audience not only listening, but eager to hear more. Break time between the talk and performances was filled with much praise for the director, and intense discussions of how his words could shape their own acting.
“He’s acted all over the world, but you almost feel an instant connection,” Robert Neal, a local actor, said.
An impressive feat, considering he talked about intimate chats with Dame Judi Dench, having Allison Janney in one of his classes in London and about being accepted into RADA all as if they were the most normal, common-place things in the world, cracking jokes and admitting he didn’t even like Shakespeare for a good portion of his life until he saw Ian Holm perform in Hardy’s first years acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Despite all his formal training and experience with some of the top actors in the world and having a play written just for him (Galileo, performed at IUPUI in March, 2009, then at Butler in September, 2009), his intent never seemed to be lecturing the crowd about the right and wrong ways of acting, but instead about the importance of language, and how acting is really just “about the words, not about the fancy scenery or costumes.”
When it comes down it, that’s really what Hardy’s whole lecture was about: words, their importance, how we can use them to our benefit and the necessity of saving them. You don’t have to be an actor to understand that.
Editors note: this updated version adds that Galileo was performed at IUPUI, as well as Butler.