OLi-works Shakespeare

Escape routine

This OLi-workshop, devoted to comedy, is a bit unusual. We hope it will add a pleasant jolt to your life, cheer you up and add new words to your English vocabulary. It may heighten your curiousity about a key historical moment. It might pique your interest in prose and poetry.  Finally, it might stir the drama within you, that you didn’t know you had.

Timing, price and language level

❖  Wednesdays, 17h00 PT, 20h00 ET or at a time negotiated in the case of small groups. Facilitators are in Kelowna and Ottawa. We can accommodate CET timing if there is demand.

❖  Price and scheme: Drop-in, 1-hour sessions; first session free, then CAD $5/person in a bundle of 5 sessions for CAD $25. No need to come every consecutive week though. You can come when you’re inclined until your five sessions are over. Gift cards are available. See the details or contact us.

❖ Language level: Fluent or advanced.

❖  Take-aways: Attending play rehearsals. Learning how to be a voice actor in English. Networking with OLi-works writers and actors. Having fun. Finally, when and if you wish, a recording of yourself and others as voice actors performing scenes in a play.

No time at the moment for reading the details below?  Cut directly to the Balcony of the Green Room for our “just-in-time” holiday video, and 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 illiterate 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 secretive nobility. 

The profit motive was one of the drivers behind the appearance of English 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 or religious 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 suggest a few resources to infuse our play reading, playwriting and related discussion.

*Massive Online Open Courseware

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 amateur voice actors who tune in from various locations in Canada and abroad.  We merge the sound track created by the play reading with visuals in a slide show.


Information is available here.