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Ian McKellen Came Home with Me

“Welcome to Acting Shakespeare.” -- Ian McKellen

I got so much good out of watching the new documentary McKellen: Playing the Part. It reinvigorated my admiration for Ian McKellen’s acting chops, it comforted me to know he was terrified to make the transition from stage to film and worked very hard to battle those demons, and his passion for Shakespeare is, as always, addictive.

McKellen has been openly gay since 1988. In addition to his acting journey, the documentary highlights how he continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements worldwide.

“People said you couldn’t have Gandalf the Gay. Well, apparently you could!” -- Ian McKellen

In 1982, I had no idea who Ian McKellen was. My high school drama teacher had received, from the local PBS station, a VHS video with a press packet for a film called Acting Shakespeare. It had come to her late in the spring and she wouldn’t have time to incorporate it into her classes. She asked me if I wanted to take it home and watch it. I did. I took home the VHS and the pamphlet, put the VHS into the VCR, and fell in love.

In the film, alone on stage, with no props or costumes, McKellen performs monologues from Shakespeare’s masterpieces. With charm and wit, McKellen discusses his relationship with theatre and offers a stirring homily on some of the greatest plays of all time. I watched the video countless times over that summer and memorized the monologues. I began to understand Shakespeare and became passionate about becoming a classically trained actor thanks to Ian McKellen's teaching and performance on that VHS.

With this new documentary streaming on Amazon, my enthusiasm has been rekindled. I pulled out a Shakespeare monologue that I had considered using for auditions a long time ago but never did. Now it’s become a daily practice to spend time working on the piece, dreaming in Shakespeare’s language.

You can watch the excellent Acting Shakespeare here: ACTING SHAKESPEARE

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