AISHK Shakespeare Festival: Shakespeare and Me with Tonya Ward

Shakespeare & Me…

Throughout the first ever AISHK Shakespeare Festival, members of the AISHK community are exploring their own relationships with William Shakespeare, considering what ‘the Bard’ really means to them. This week, we hear from Mrs Tonya Ward who represents the AISHK parent community. Tonya is the mother of Ethan ( Year 12), Owen (Year 10) and Vincent (Year 7) who joined us from the Northern Beaches of Sydney at the beginning of 2020.  

What does Shakespeare have to do with my life, apart from the fact I am constantly wringing my hands like Lady Macbeth as I apply my hand sanitiser?

It is true, I ripped off Shakespeare professionally, alluding to his saying Love is Blind on the cover of my second novel. (I wrote the subheading love is not blind, love is being seen and it worked because my protagonist was invisible.) But apart from benefiting from the guy’s IP, what else is there between me and the bard?


Yes, Shakespeare for me signifies good times. This can seem strange these days when he’s considered high-brow and literary because of the difficulty of his language, but it’s important to remember in his time, Shakespeare was a man of the people, entertaining them with murder, romance, mystery and comedy. If he were alive today, he could be writing reality TV scripts.

Shakespeare is fun if you don’t take him so seriously. Like, my mother, who would recite the witches’ scene from Macbethdouble, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble – over the campfire fire at night, stirring the billy, so sinister shadows would fall over her face, cackling with glee to scare us all.

She also took us to an outdoor performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Sydney Botanical Gardens, where we picnicked around the gardens watching the delights of Puck, Titania and the other fairies scamper about the grounds. Summer in Sydney is perfect outdoor festival weather and watching the play at twilight, ending with candle-lit scenes, will always stay with me.

I took my eldest two sons to see Midsummer Night’s Dream when they set up a full-scale replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at Moore Park in 2018. Like back in the 17th century, the audience at this Globe had to stand for the entire 3-hour performance. I was kind of dreading it, as were my sons, but the performance was lively and interactive. A lot of it played out in drag, with over the top bawdy humour, and we were constantly jostled about by performers moving between us and throwing things at us. In the end, it was hilarious and we all loved it. You could totally see how the set up worked for engaging community theatre.

And then, of course, there is Romeo and Juliet. Do you remember the Baz Luhrmann movie with Leonardo DiCaprio? The film has the best 90’s soundtrack. One of my all-time favourite 21st birthday parties was in a huge tent in a paddock with the theme of Romeo and Juliet. Everyone dressed as Montagues and Capulets, and with that super-atmospheric soundtrack being pumped out – think One Inch Punch’s ‘Pretty Piece of Flesh’ – it created a debauched scene. I reckon Baz and Billy Shakespeare would have been proud. Because, at the end of the day, Shakespeare was an entertainer who just wanted his audience to have a good time.

Next week, Shakespeare & Me will be back with a contribution from Year 11 student, Jasmine Ingram.