A few months ago I wrote about one of my all time favourite movies, Dead Poets Society. I have the poster on the wall of my ‘tech room’ along with one from King Lear and another from Stratford’s 1979 season, Henry IV, and one of Amelia Earhart. Pretty heady company. This movie touched me as a teacher. The story centers around a young professor (O Captain, my Captain) at a prep school who inspires his students to reach out, reach up, and find what in the world has worth and meaning to them, to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” (Thoreau). Their theme is ‘carpe diem‘ — seize the day! It is a sad and poignant story because the one young man who reached the hardest and found the most finds himself thwarted and, faced with losing everything he has found, he chooses the most desperate and tragic of endings, he commits suicide.
The teacher, of course, was played by Robin Williams. People magazine, along with many others, has proclaimed him a “comic genius” and yet many of his best roles have shown his dramatic side in an extremely profound way: Good Will Hunting, for which he received an Academy Award; The Fisher King; Awakenings. Even in his comedic roles, there were moments of pathos: in Mrs. Doubtfire; Good Morning, Vietnam. He was indeed a comic genius, but he was so much more. He had many roles: actor, comedian, father, husband, friend. How many lives did he touch with tender moments or side-splitting laughter? How many fellow actors, directors, crew members, in addition to viewers, stood in awe of his genius? His gift was immense; his talent incomparable. He was truly one of a kind. His presence has gone but the glow from his movies, his humour, will continue to bathe people in its warmth for decades to come. Thank you, Robin Williams.