Wednesday, April 23, 2008

THE BARD’S BIRTHDAY AND DEATHDAY

THEN

444 years ago today, Bill Shakespeare arrived on planet earth crying incoherently. 52 years later on this same calendar day, he died, having produced the most influential body of literature the English language has ever seen.

(Go ahead, battle away—was it really Shakespeare who wrote all that highfalutin whatnot? Was it Marlow? Queen Elizabeth herself? How did he get all the credit for the sonnets and plays so prolific and before his time? I dunno, but the general consensus seems to be that he wrote it all, and since it’s his birthday, why don’t we give the authorship battles a rest?)

NOW

Little sister Lauren is doing the thespian thing, and though she’s much better than I ever was, I did have a spell of the same starting in seventh grade.

THEN

My induction into said world didn’t begin with musicals or comical modern works, but with Shakespearean plays via my participation in Cedar City’s Shakespearean Festival’s Jr. High/High School Competition. I don’t recall my reason for auditioning for the Shakespeare competition team, but I did. And was cast. Hero in Much Ado. Our trio played out the scene where Beatrice eavesdrops on Hero and her maidservant.

We were awful.

I was undeterred.

I tried out again the following year and was cast as Catherine in Henry V. Because my luck is notoriously bad, the boy cast to play opposite me (Henry) was the creepy one, the boy that I did my best to avoid socially and in school.

And there we were: told to develop something called “chemistry.” I wasn’t sure what that was, aside from a class with beakers and goggles, but I had a feeling it had to do with some kind of lovey dovey. And I was instructed to develop it—with him. In eighth grade. Chemistry.

I remember our coach begging me to pretend to like him. I remember wrinkling my nose at his gnarly breath. I remember dreading after school practice because I was stuck with him.

Apparently, we were successful in developing this thing called chemistry, for one of the judge’s comments in the post-performance critique was, “Great chemistry between these two!”

In spite of all that unpleasantness that was the Henry character, the whole thing was amazingly fun. And to this day, I still remember my lines.

What made this first encounter with Shakespeare’s tough texts not only bearable but memorable and enjoyable had less to do with my triumph at getting through my scenes with stink boy than working with our coach, Pat Buckner.

NOW

Thirteen years after Ms. Buckner helped me through that initial encounter with the Bard’s brilliance, I can’t avoid thinking of her whenever I read or attend a Shakespearean play. I majored in English and wasn’t the least bit intimidated by the prospect of my English 381 class (Shakespearean Lit.). Shakespeare’s lingo? No problemo. And it’s all thanks to her.

That woman made Shakespeare palpable and inspired confidence in a way that still has an effect on me.

She once commented that I had a royal way of carrying myself. Sometimes that observation wends its way into my thoughts and makes me smile (and my already sizable ego gets so large I have to roll down the windows so I can at least breathe).

3 comments:

sue{;-P said...

And it's Pat's fault that I'm slugging' it through 12th Night with my drama class.

whit. ing. said...

Hey! She told me I carried myself in a royal way. Rude.

m. & m. said...

For the both of us, I think she may have meant arrogant.

Too bad.