OLI Shakespeare

Escape routine

This OLI workshop is a bit unusual. We hope it will add a pleasant jolt to your life, as well as new words to your English vocabulary. It may heighten your understanding of a key historical moment. If you have a suspicion that you have more drama within you than you (or anyone else) knows, this novel OLI workshop may be for you.

In a hurry? Cut directly to the Balcony of the Green Room.


Most devotees of Shakespeare’s plays agree that there are different layers to each of the plays. There are startling action scenes and plots suitable for an audience of raucous, semi-literate or literate 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 wisely secretive nobility. 

The profit motive was one of the drivers behind the appearance of 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, religious and coercive 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.


(Being assembled)

The Green Room

We are currently writing and rehearsing an adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor.  We have prepared synopses of the original and our adaptation, called The Three Wise Wives of Windsor. View the synopses side by side, here.

Our plays and interviews are designed to be performed on-line as audio shows or podcasts. They are read by a troupe of professional and amateur voice actors who tune in from various locations in Canada and abroad. Will you join us for a reading?  Play a role?  A sample of our recordings is here, on the balcony of our Green Room.


Meg Barker

The founder of OLI-works, Meg Barker, is animating this workshop. Meg’s early, extramural training was in youth acting at the Manitoba School for the Arts, Winnipeg, Canada for four years. A move to British Columbia meant a switch to five years of high school drama instruction by an exceptional teacher, Mr. Ian Midler, and performance of youth plays around the Okanagan Valley. However when choices had to be made for university, Meg pursued a career in the natural sciences, social sciences, public policy and international affairs. More about her usual professional background is here.

In an informal manner, Meg continued with theatre as an interest outside of work. She was part of the Wakefield Players, a community theatre company in La Pêche, Québec at the time of its founding. Meg also launched an on-line theatre and review club in the mid-2000’s called DaphneUnbound, designed for anyone with a love for theatre and film, and who wished to hone their review skills through peer-peer learning.

Meg continues to find startling and clairvoyant insights into the worlds of science, public policy and international intrigue in certain artistic and literary works, but such writers and producers are often not in the mainstream, and the women’s lens is frequently missing.  To help remedy this, she has volunteered as a Board Member and is currently a member of the International Centre of Women Playwrights. She is also a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. She was able to attend one of the conferences of Women Playwrights International (WPI), when it was held in Mumbai, India, in 2009. The next WPI conference takes place in Montreal, at the beginning of summer 2022. 

Jade Debrick

Jade Debrick is from a small town in England, a little more then a stone’s throw away from William Shakespeare’s birthplace. Her interest in the dramatic arts began when she graduated to Queensbury Upper School where she studied drama for five years. In addition to her regular intramural studies, she participated in the after-school drama club at Queensbury. Outside of school she was a member of her town’s youth theatre company named the Little Theatre.

With this comprehensive training and exposure Jade was able to learn a rich variety of dramatic skills, including stage performance as part of a cast, solo performance, directing, improvisation, script writing, basic stage combat and costume and set design.

The works of Shakespeare surrounded Jade in her country of origin. As part of her studies, she had the privilege to visit the famous Globe Theatre in London to watch a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and also went to Stratford upon Avon with the theatre company — this time as a holiday excursion — to see another performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but in this instance it was performed in six different languages. Jade has also had a role in The Tempest for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s schools programme.

When hard choices had to be made for university studies, Jade decided to pursue her interest in psychology. She attended the University of Derby where she took a joint Psychology and Criminology degree. Later Jade attended Buckinghamshire New University to further develop her psychology knowledge. For her subsequent profession, Jade became a support worker for people with epilepsy and learning disabilities.

Drama comprises one of many of Jade’s interests outside of her job. A new resident in Canada, she is trying her hand in different activities. She plans to attend theatre productions as always, and is pleased to explore her skills in voice acting and on-line facilitating with OLI-works.