With his performance …Or Not to Be, actor, playwright, and scholar, Simon Fortin, animates Shakespeare’s death speeches and distills from them the possible foundations for an art of dying befitting our times. Shakespeare creates remarkable swan songs for his actors, to better expose for both our pleasure and enlightenment the various shades of experience, the pain, the pathos, the terror and the humor that attend the task of dying. In the theatre, dying is always an action.
While all over Europe, the early moderns observed the emergence of devotional manuals on how to die, known as the Ars Moriendi or Craft of Dying tradition – a rather dogmatic attempt at uniformizing the “good death” – Shakespeare chooses to acculturate the adventures of dying, leading us to fresh “literacies of the liminal” that become alternatives to the fetters of the ars moriendi protocols.
In this compelling, thought-provoking and often very funny performance, Simon blends scholarship, personal stories, film documents, songs, and death speeches, with the intuition that, regarding our ambivalent feelings for our finite existence, “Poetry may very well be the way to go; literally.” (80 minutes, with optional talkback).