Tom Wells arrived at SF Shakes this August to step in as our new Education Director. Since then, he’s been on an SF Shakes crash course, learning the ins and outs of running our major educational offerings. He brings an impressive resume with him: he spent years managing education programs at Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, founded his own theatre company in Chicago (Two Pence Theatre Company), and boasts actor training with the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Moscow Art Theatre. We’ve loved getting to know Tom over the past weeks, and we asked him to answer a couple of questions to help you get to know him, too.
1) What are your initial impressions of SF Shakes, after your initial months here?
This company is a tightly-knit community of people who all adore William Shakespeare. But though we’re tightly-knit, we’re not insular–in fact, quite the opposite. This is one of the most welcoming communities in which I’ve had the pleasure of participating. I look forward to serving each and every member of the SF Shakes family.
2) What do you love most about teaching Shakespeare to K-12 students?
I love being granted the opportunity to see the transformational, alchemical process inside a child’s early, ever-expanding consciousness. I love being able to see, literally see, their entire selves illuminated when they find a personal connection to this “400+ old white dude” (as Shakespeare’s often presented to students in the classroom), and see them wake up to the “wide and universal theatre” that is their life. And watching when they begin to perceive that their life is a work of Art…that’s the most priceless gift I could receive. I know that my job title requires me to wax eloquently about our work, but this also happens to be completely true. Which gives it that extra oomph of authenticity!
3) What’s your favorite Shakespeare title to teach, and why?
I don’t have a favorite title/play to teach, because each play contains its own genius. I think the general perception is that there are four or five plays and only one playwright of the period (Shakespeare) that are the most brilliant. This view reduces Shakespeare to the only genius of the time. And I use the term genius with the Classical definition of the word in mind, which is from the late 14th century, meaning a “tutelary or moral spirit” who guides and governs an individual through life.
I think the idea that certain Shakespeare plays are more worth exploration than other plays is only partly true, especially when you look at the entire theatrical scene that was happening in the Early Modern Period. I think a play is the just the vehicle through which the deeper values of a period are communicated. And Shakespeare was one of the humans who has best communicated the values that I think are important for the liberty of most humans on the earth: Compassion, Empathy, Curiosity, and Truth, just to name a few!
Thank you, Tom. We’re so glad to have you at the helm of our Education programs, and we can’t wait to watch you share your Shakespeare enthusiasm and inspire thousands more young people in the years ahead!