North Shore Professor's Summer Shakespeare
Tom Bishop
Performing Arts

North Shore Professor's Summer Shakespeare
Channel People: I Love What I Do, Tom Bishop

Northcote resident Tom Bishop is currently helping to direct the Auckland’s 52nd Summer Shakespeare A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM with esteemed name in theatre, Michael Hurst. In his day job, Tom is an English Professor at Auckland University, and he’s so passionate about Shakespeare that he’s writing a book about his work. Tom answered a few of Channel’s questions, just as the play was opening. 

Courtney Bennett: You’re an English Professor by day and dramaturg by night, what do you enjoy about both roles?

Tom Bishop: The chance to explore with others how we all, in life and in art, make our worlds and come to know ourselves and each other, for good and ill.

CB: How did you get involved in Summer Shakespeare?

TB: When I moved to Auckland, I was asked to join the committee running the Summer Shakespeare. I haven't looked back.

CB: Why are you passionate about your job?

TB: It constantly teaches me new things about people and how they live their lives. 

CB: Who are the people you look up to and why?

TB: Painters, poets, composers. They see the world more richly than I do.

CB: What’s your favourite Shakespeare play and why?

TB: I don't have only one. I keep returning especially to Hamlet because it has so much in it. But that variety also has to forgo certain kinds of intensity other plays have. I think Twelfth Night may bring together most perfectly the things Shakespeare saw and hoped and regretted about human being. 

CB: Can you tell readers what they can expect from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM?

TB: In the play, the Fairy King speaks of a dreaming place deep in the Athenian forest as "a bank where the wild thyme blows". In early scripts this appeared as "the wild time". I think Shakespeare pictured dreaming and art - and love -  as growing out of "wild time". So audiences should expect that - "a wild time"!

CB: You’re working on a book called Shakespeare’s Theatre Games. Are you able to give readers an overview?

TB: It's about how Shakespeare took the ordinary routines and procedures of actors on stage playing with one another, which he knew well as a fellow actor, and turned them into instruments for exploring human flourishing and human damage. The energies of performance become a sort of laboratory for asking deeper questions about who we are. 

CB: What do you like about living on the Shore?

TB: The parks.

CB: What do you do in your spare time?

TB: I work on my garden, as Voltaire advised. But I am not much good at it.

CB: If you could do any other job for a day, what would it be and why?

TB: A clown. They flop - but they rebound.

Tom is dramaturg for Auckland’s 52nd Summer Shakespeare A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM which runs 13th Feb – 7th March at the Old Arts Plaza. For ticket information, see 

By Courtney Bennett

Channel Magazine: Issuu 52 March 2015

Shore People articles by Courtney Bennett