Ever since I fell in love with Hamlet at 16 (and then shortly after with Berowne and Rosalind and Henry V – my tastes are catholic), I have sought out people to talk to about Shakespeare. I married one of them and bred two, and each year I gather murmurations of students to dip and veer together through his poems and plays, hoping to a completely unprofessional degree they will come to love what I love. The conversations I’ve had with my two Wyrd Sisters have been among the most exciting and challenging of my life, and that’s what makes me so happy about this page, these podcasts, and this blog (and so grateful for the heroic work Lisa and Cecilia did in launching us). This is all an extended conversation -- sometimes trivial, sometimes profound, as often as possible funny and hopeful and provoking -- about our very favourite playwright and conversation partner.
My guess is that if you’ve found your way into Wyrd House, you are already basically one of us: someone who will happily watch yet another production of Hamlet just to see how Horatio was played or whose ethical framework consists of asking “What would Kent or Cordelia do?” or “How can I be more like Paulina when I grow up?” We can’t wait to see how this collaboration with all of you will go. So “A hundred thousand welcomes. I could weep /And I could laugh, I am light and heavy. Welcome.”
When I met my two Wyrdos, Shannon and Jessica, I was at a low point in my vocation, feeling cynical and worn out. Then, in an audacious leap of faith for three people who really didn’t know each other that well, we locked ourselves into a cottage on the ocean in Nova Scotia for four days with no wifi and asked aloud, “Why Shakespeare?” and “Why Teaching?” After talking intensely to each other for 18 hours of each of those days and digging around in our hearts and minds, we began to unearth the foundations of what we love about Shakespeare, about teaching and learning, and as the years have gone on, about each other: empathy and hope.
Over the span of my career, finding people to talk to, who would challenge me, wave pom poms, and drag me into big plans, changed my life at critical junctures and gave me a renewed sense of purpose when I needed it most. We would like The Wyrd House to be a cottage on the ocean where people can come to listen and to talk and to dig around in their hearts and minds and maybe find something helpful or irritating enough to make a pearl of some value. We hope you will come in, poke around in the cupboards, leave notes and prompts and help us to build a hopeful community. Welcome to The Wyrd House.
The process of deep collaborative thinking, writing, working, and dreaming about critical hope and Shakespeare has transformed my thinking not just as an academic and professor but as a human navigating the complexities of the world in all its gore and glory. When we met in 2015 we bonded over our shared love of Shakespeare, our individual despair that scholarly publications leave very little room for delight, and our emerging hope that maybe if we worked together we could create spaces where we “sounded like ourselves.” This idea that has turned into a book, podcast series, keynote talks, conference presentations, peer-reviewed articles, and public scholarship engagements. On this journey we’ve grappled with challenges and triumphs in both our personal and professional lives. The thread that runs through the past five years is that we’ve increasingly leaned on one another and Shakespeare to navigate a world that has, at times, been beautiful and heartbreaking, profound and disorienting.
The Wyrd House is a website but it also a philosophy: we want to create spaces (I’ve been using the word “collaboratory”, which may or may not catch on!) for creatives and makers, hope seekers and hope givers, to connect. As Parker Palmer and Arthur Zajonc write, in The Heart of Higher Education (2011), “sometimes good conversations are ends in themselves, good simply because they are enjoyable and edifying. At other times, something stirs in the participants, and larger forms of dialogue and action begin to take shape”.
What I hope takes shape through The Wyrd House is the co-design of a world that values learning as a generous and generative act, that explores the importance of story-telling as a key part of what makes us human, and that gives us space to think through our messy journeys in critically hopeful ways.