WORLD’S A STAGE

Rob Pen­salfini first fell in love with Shake­speare when do­ing his PhD and has been Bard to the bone ever since

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - HOT SEAT -

The son of Ital­ian im­mi­grants, Pen­salfini grew up in Perth, where he com­pleted his un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies be­fore do­ing his PhD at Bos­ton’s Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy based on field­work in in­dige­nous lan­guages in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory. He then worked at the Univer­sity of Chicago be­fore tak­ing up a post as a lin­guis­tics lec­turer at Bris­bane’s Univer­sity of Queens­land in 1999. Pen­salfini also is artis­tic di­rec­tor of the 15-year-old Queens­land Shake­speare En­sem­ble, which runs a Shake­speare Prison Project that is also the sub­ject of Pen­salfini’s new book. When I was young I thought my ca­reer would be … Peo­ple said I should do law as I liked to ar­gue and be­cause I did well at school. I stud­ied it for a year but I hated it. A trip to Europe ig­nited my love of lan­guage then I went back to uni where I dis­cov­ered lan­guage and lin­guis­tics and then got in­ter­ested in Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guages. I started study­ing drama be­cause … When I was 12 I played Willy Wonka in the school play ( Char­lie and the Cho­co­late

Fac­tory) and since then I have been do­ing the­atre. I hated Shake­speare though but when I went to the US and was do­ing my PhD I fell in with a se­ri­ous crowd who were into it. My first role was in Ti­tus An­dron­i­cus in Bos­ton. My first job was … I was a staffer for (for­mer La­bor) sen­a­tor Michael Bea­han in Perth. I used to be re­ally in­volved in pol­i­tics. I lasted a cou­ple of months (but) I didn’t like nine to five and I didn’t feel chal­lenged.

My gui­tar. most I’ve trea­sured­had it for pos­ses­sion17 years. I is have… my three Ma­ton gui­tars 12-stringand a ukulele but it’s my favourite. The word that best de­scribes me is … pas­sion­ate. My favourite smell is … san­dal­wood. A book I re­ally en­joyed is … any­thing by Stephen King. A song that I can’t help singing along to on the ra­dio is … re­cently, Hoops by The Rubens. The ques­tions I’m most of­ten asked are … how long have you had long hair (since I was about 20); How many lan­guages do you speak? (about eight but I’m a bit rusty) and why Shake­speare? My favourite Shake­spearean play is … which­ever one I’m work­ing on. Luck­ily one of my ab­so­lute favourites is Twelfth Night, which we (the en­sem­ble) are do­ing this year. A great Shake­spearean in­sult is … “Thou whore­son beetle­headed flap-eared knave” (from Tam­ing of the Shrew).

Shake­speare’s plays are still pop­u­lar be­cause … They are more pop­u­lar now than ever. I think it’s be­cause he doesn’t tell you what to think … he leaves it up to us. You could study him for life and not know what he thinks be­cause he re­fus­esputs it in­toto say. words. He takes us in­side our­selves and some­how I re­lax by … play­ing mu­sic and cook­ing. My worst habit is … tak­ing things per­son­ally. My next chal­lenge is … direct­ing Twelfth Night (which will play in Au­gust in Roma Street Park­land). My great­est fear is … be­ing mis­un­der­stood. My great­est achieve­ment is … my daugh­ter, Sa­man­tha. She’s eight and three quar­ters. My last meal would be … lasagne Verdi – thin sheets of pasta that in­cor­po­rate spinach, with lay­ers of red sauce with meat, béchamel sauce, ri­cotta and parme­san. The point of life is … I think that es­sen­tially there is no mean­ing or point in­her­ently, the point is to cre­ate your own mean­ing and values and pur­sue them with in­tegrity. To mark to­day’s 400th an­niver­sary of Shake­speare’s death, Pen­salfini takes part in a fo­rum at GOMA at 1pm to­day; qagoma.qld. gov.au. The Queens­land Shake­speare En­sem­ble also per­forms at the Davies Park Mar­ket, West End, to­day at 9.30am and 11am and at The Gap Farm­ers’ Mar­ket to­mor­row at 9.30am; qld­shake­speare.org

ALI­SON WALSH

ROB PEN­SALFINI ACA­DEMIC AND AC­TOR

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