Humans of PCC, an Interview with Mark Easby
I was brought up thirty miles from Stratford upon Avon. Lived in London for many years where I worked in music and later in marketing. I came to America in 1989 for a three-month road trip following the blue highways through the south, and across the country to the west coast, proving the Frank Lloyd Wright quote that if you “tip the world over on its side everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” It was in southern California I met my partner, and after a few years of moving between the US and Europe we eventually settled in San Francisco where I studied medieval literature at UC Berkeley. We moved to Portland in 2005, and I began teaching at PCC at the Rock Creek campus. I moved to the Cascade campus about six years ago and it is now my home.
Beyond Shakespeare, but what other classes do you teach at PCC?
I teach WR 115, 121, 122, ENG 104 – introduction to literature, film classes, and I also coordinate the Cascade Writing center.
What do you think the function of Shakespeare’s plays are in contemporary educational institutions?
There is a wider question here and that is what is the importance of humanities in contemporary education? In a STEM orientated world, why bother with literature, sociology, linguistics, philosophy, history? For me, the answer is self-evident: to understand ourselves and the world we live in. As for studying Shakespeare specifically, it is for the insights he gives into the human condition and doing so by using profoundly elegant language. He is at the root of the development of modern English and his propensity for inventing and developing words and phrases that four hundred years later are still in everyday use is remarkable. As a schoolboy in England we were introduced to Shakespeare at an early age and the proximity of the school to Stratford Upon Avon gave us the opportunity to see performances at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The first play I saw there was The Taming of the Shrew with Johnathan Price as Petruchio. I remember understanding very little of what was happening but seeing the performance had an impact on me that is clearly still resonating.
Are the modern views of sexuality and race impacting the way people read, or choose to not read, Shakespeare today? Do the Sonnets challenge those notions and should perhaps be taught more broadly?
I am not sure what impacts a person’s choice to read or see Shakespeare. There is a fluidity of thought throughout his plays and poems, and seemingly in the fair youth and dark lady Sonnets a fluidity of sexuality as well. His popularity across the world is not waning, and his plays are performed continually. His universality is astounding, and his work speaks to every culture, so contact at any age with Shakespeare’s work is valuable.
If you could suggest one play for everyone to read, which would it be? If you could suggest one play for everyone to see performed, which one would it be?
I would first say that Shakespeare’s plays should be seen. Reading is valuable, but the plays are meant to be experienced fully fleshed out on a stage. In saying that, my answer would be Macbeth.