About John McGinnis
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My career spanned forty-eight years in public education. The first twenty were as a high school English teacher and then librarian at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California. The next twenty were as a community college library director and then dean at Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, California. The final eight years were as a member of the board of education for the Long Beach Unified School District in California. Now I spend a good portion my retirement deepening my appreciation of the works of William Shakespeare and Stephen Sondheim.
Shakespeare's works appealed to me in their language, themes and characters – in close order, and inseparably integrated.
William Shakespeare entered my life in the summer of 1953 shortly after my eighth birthday. I rode my bike to the Hawaii movie theater on Hollywood Boulevard and treated myself to a matinee of Julius Caesar. I can only speculate about my reasons for seeing that film. The full-color poster may have misled me into thinking it was a Cecil B. DeMille Technicolor epic. Big-screen color movies were rare then. Or maybe someone told me a gang of Romans wearing togas stabbed an emperor to death. That might have appealed to my eight-year old sensibilities. Or maybe my mother recently took me to see Marlon Brando in Viva Zapata! and James Mason in The Desert Rats, and I was sophisticated enough to want to see them again, as Mark Antony and Brutus. Though I doubt it.
What I know for certain is that this small, black and white movie made an impression. I would like to believe that my eight-year-old mind had been primed for Shakespeare's language by the hours I had already spent listening to my mother's many 78 rpm shellac records, which contained a treasure trove of the great American songbook whose lyrics were written by Berlin, Gershwin, Hammerstein, Hart, Mercer, Porter and so many others. Those songs certainly primed me for my later love of the even more sophisticated songs of Stephen Sondheim, the Shakespeare of the golden age of musical theatre.
But my appreciation of Shakespeare's works required some early schooling, which I received starting with my high school curriculum that included Romeo and Juliet in my freshman year and, in succeeding years, progressed through Julius Caesar, Othello and Macbeth. In time I realized Shakespeare's works appealed to me in their language, themes and characters – in close order, and inseparably integrated. This website brings together what I continue to learn about Shakespeare's works. Enjoy!