I came to "Slings and Arrows" as a theater lover, but not as a huge Shakespeare enthusiast. Not that I didn't like Shakespeare, only that I hadn't read many of his plays, and I was eager to learn more through the show. I just hoped that it wouldn't go over my head, or that it wouldn't dismiss me as someone whose first theater love wasn't Shakespeare.
The most obvious example of this is Jack. Jack is the pretty boy actor who everyone expects nothing of, and lives down to their expectations at first. But as soon as Jack gets over his nervousness and intimidation, he soon gets the hang of it.
Claire is also in Jack's situation. Expect she can't act, doesn't care to find out about more about the play and doesn't seem to have what it takes even if she was interested putting forth a real effort. She seems to realize this towards the end of the season, when we see her crying watching Kate on stage, but who knows? Maybe her ankle just really hurts. *g*
Henry Breedlove in introduced as THE actor to go to if you want someone to play Macbeth, but we soon find out he's kind of an ass. That, however doesn't change the fact that he's talented, even if he has turned into a lazy, boring hack. (This reflects Ellen back in season 1 - Claire complains that Ellen is always harping about something, but Kate points out that Ellen is right about her position on stage. Being a diva doesn't mean you don't have a talent to go with that ego.)
Then there's Jeremy, a very nice guy. Not an untalented actor. It would be nice to see Henry tossed out on his butt and see Jerry triumph and have Henry come crawling back. But unfortunately, Henry is still better, and he knows it and Henry knows it and Geoffrey knows it, which is how you know Geoffrey really loves the play, because he asks Henry to come back. One of Geoffrey's finest moments, I think. but I digress.
Here we have Charles, who Geoffrey thinks is so fantastic that he's willing to risk everything, all so that Charles can play Lear. It's understandable, but Charles is a horrific, mean, bully. The cast pretty much hates him but none of them say he's not right for Lear. Sophie, Ellen, and Barbara and the rest of the cast are great actors, but to Charles, they're not as good as he is. Like Geoffrey says, they don't have the experience Charles has with the play. He needs to let them catch up with him.
Then we have Megan and Ellen, who are in musicals and sci-fi shows respectively.* Like Jack, they are a bit looked down upon for their acting backgrounds, but Barbara acquits herself nicely in the end, even if she did piss Geoffrey off and had some unusual readings of the text. (But, as calikali points out here, the show privileges Shakespeare above everything else. Not that that's to be unexpected on a show about a Shakespearean festival, but who knows if Barbara's show isn't awesome? I like how the show says any actor can play Shakespeare whatever their experience, but there's a sense sometimes that the actors can be in the festival despite being in sci-fi or action movies or musicals*, instead of just coming equal, if different, spheres of acting.)
Then there's Megan. Is she untalented? We don't see her acting much, as we only really see Paul, Sophie and Richard comment on her, and they're not unbiased. East Hastings is a ridiculous play, but that doesn't mean the actors in it are ridiculous as well. Also, the other question that doesn't really get answered is, "can a talented actor be stupid?" I tend to think no, but I think I'm a bit biased. :) I really don't think, however, that you can do Shakespeare without knowing what the hell you're talking about.
So in conclusion, I like the way that Slings and Arrows says that the most important qualification for playing Shakespeare is the acting, whatever the actor's temperament or experience.
So, I hope whoever made it through this enjoyed it, and questions and comments are always welcome.
*I mean come on, who doesn't think Mamma Mia is a great work of art?! No? Maybe? :) Also, true confession: I would absolutely buy the soundtrack to East Hastings.