OLI-works Shakespeare

Escape routine

This OLI workshop is a bit unusual. We hope it will add a pleasant jolt to your life, as well as new words to your English vocabulary. It may heighten your understanding of a key historical moment. If you have a suspicion that you have more drama within you than you (or anyone else) knows, this novel OLI workshop may be for you.

Timing and price:

❖  Wednesdays, 9:00pm ET, rehearsal style. To determine what time the workshops are held in your own time zone, check the World Clock Meeting Planner.

❖  Price and scheme: Drop-in, 1 hour sessions, $10/person, discounts (and gift cards) available for groups.

❖  Take-away: A recording of yourself and others performing scenes in a play.

❖  To sign up, obtain more information, or to negotiate discounts for groups, contact us.

No time at the moment for reading the details below?  Cut directly to the Balcony of the Green Room for audio interviews.


Most devotees of Shakespeare’s plays agree that there are different layers to each of them.  There are startling action scenes and plots suitable for an audience of raucous, semi-literate or literate attendees. There is clever dialogue for the literate and powerful members of society that conveys a deeper and sometimes double meaning. Current events, and insights as to what goes on in court, are subtly delivered by actors to an inquiring but wisely secretive nobility. 

The profit motive was one of the drivers behind the appearance of theatre as a novel mass good. Theatre of the time also gained permission to operate due to the English schism from the Catholic Church, with its heavily scripted mystery plays. The embrace of protestantism was an equivocating and often bloody transition to a new socio-cultural order.  Yet there is not much evidence of a doctrinal, religious and coercive ideology in Shakespeare’s plays. Instead there is a shift, a focus on characters and their dilemmas in often brutal scenarios. Some suggest that the Shakespeare corpus of plays, in particular the history plays, helped to develop a “national sentiment” as an early prelude to a nation state. 

It is in its contributions to the development of the English language that the Shakespeare collection inspires awe among all lovers of spoken and written words. Early modern English had already been undergoing a transformation due to encounters with other peoples through exploration, trade, diplomacy, war and colonization. Knowledge of the physical and social sciences was expanding, but the vocabulary and structure needed to convey ideas was lacking. The contribution of the Shakespearean creative genius was to find ways to invent and adopt words and phrases from other languages, while also conveying these new concepts in prose and verse to achieve different effects, and communicate with distinct audiences simultaneously.

Three Themes

Science and Technology

The first theme is to develop a grasp of the level of scientific and technical achievement of the age and place. The innovations of the time operated in concert with regimes of contingent power which could quickly turn murderous. Brilliant theorists and inventors circulated within court circles, but displaying too much cockiness in regimes dedicated to warfare and the deposition of demurring internal parties could cost both the intellectuals and the reign.

Authorship Debate

The second theme is to conduct an investigation of the poets and writers of the day who may, or may not, have contributed to the Shakespeare corpus. It is the case that in the early 21st C, the authorship question brews on with toil and trouble. A simple search will demonstrate the vociferousness of this debate, and that it is far from being settled. If the author(s) was/were not Shakespeare, why have their identities been hidden for more than 400 years?


The third theme will explore how the evolution from Latin to vernacular languages, combined with an outburst of global literary exchange and creation found a new home in England. Diplomacy and “soft power” has always been helped with systems of “coding” that the theatre was admirably suited for.


We are currently reviewing a fair bit of material and making decisions on what to include here.

We suggest one link to get started: Introduction to Who Wrote Shakespeare, taught by Ros Barber of the University of London, a free, on-line course on Coursera.

The Green Room

We have written and are rehearsing an adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor.  We have prepared synopses of the original comedy and our adaptation, called The Three Wise Wives of Windsor. View the synopses side by side, here.

Interviews that provide some insight on our concept are on the balcony of the Green Room.

The audio portion of our plays are read by a troupe of professional and amateur voice actors who tune in from various locations in Canada and abroad.  The idea of rules for the slide shows that overlay these plays are inspired by the Dogme 65 movement launched by Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. But the similarity ends there. Our goal is to aid and recruit amateurs or anyone wishing to develop their speaking or voice acting skills within the context of a simple framework. We merge the sound track created by the play reading with visuals in a slide show.

By the way, if you are fond of one or more versions of  The Merry Wives of Windsor on-line, such as on YouTube, and wish us to consider providing a link to it under the Bibliography, contact us and send the web address.


Information is available here.