Tom Stoppard

In high school I had the terrifying experience of doing Humorous Interpretation – wherein you stand alone in front of a dozen competitors and three judges, performing from memory a selection from a play.

I chose a scene from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. A bit esoteric perhaps.

Okay, extremely esoteric. The title characters are taken from Hamlet, a play in which they wind up dead. According to my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, in Shakespeare the two only appear together and are alternately referred to by the queen as “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” or “Guildenstern and Rosencrantz” and Stoppard cleverly interpreted this to mean the queen couldn’t tell them apart. So Stoppard’s play is a weird and smart (and esoterically humorous) exploration of questions of identity and fate.

If you want something less esoteric, Stoppard co-wrote the absolutely brilliant screenplay for Shakespeare in Love. (And also the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil, but that’s arguably esoteric as well.)

Anyway I’ve known of Stoppard for decades, but here’s one last bit of esoterica I didn’t know ’til recently: he was born Tomas Straussler in the now-splintered nation of Czechoslavakia, and moved to Singapore in 1939 to dodge the Nazi invasion.

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3 thoughts on “Tom Stoppard

  1. tom stoppard is the greatest thing to happen to theater ever!
    not only is “r&g are dead” awesome, but arcadia is just as good, if not even better. travesties and the real inspector hound are also good.

    i heart the tom stoppard. and all this time i thought he was english. go figure.

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