Shakespeare scholar explains value of Bard’s first folios

[Story and photo by Mike Foley: Published originally in the BYU-Hawaii online “Newsroom,” February 13, 2009]

Prof. Neil Freeman

A prominent Shakespeare scholar who is on campus co-directing the Brigham Young University Hawaii Fine Arts production of Twelth Night, detailed to students in the February 12 Honors Program colloquium in McKay 101 how 18th century-through-modern editors of Shakespeare’s plays have removed or altered many intrinsic directions found in the Bard’s first folio printings.

Professor Neil Freeman [pictured at left] — originally from Southport, England, and a weekly stock actor, author, lecturer, director, John Gielgud Scholar at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, current professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and Shakespeare consultant at numerous other universities, theaters and festivals — is an authority on using Shakespeare’s original scripts. He has also been associated with BYU Provo and BYU-Hawaii for 20-plus years.

The white-bearded Freeman, whose presentation was filled with dramatic flair and interaction, recalled when he first started looking at “what we call the old scripts, the stuff that was given to the first actors, it was like a light bulb going off in my head… I promise you, if you gave a modern edition of Shakespeare into the original actors’ hands, they wouldn’t understand a thing, because of the way things have been set down on paper and totally revamped. They’re totally different now than what they were before.”

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