Monday, November 2, 2009

Spring Break, Part Two

April, 2009

Mottled spring sun splintered through magnolia branches and spread across the cement patio of Cafe Du Monde in the Quarter. I sipped chicory coffee, gobbled sugary warm beignets and read the local Times-Picayune.

Clicking my tongue, I absorbed the ongoing sagas of the Katrina disaster. The New York Times had pulled their reporter from the region, concluding the story was no longer hot or relevant. I sighed, sipped and licked powdery sugar from my fingertips.

Back home, twenty-one kids waited to continue our rehearsals of "Twelfth Night." We were a little over a month away from production but I thought we were in good shape. For all the rough stuff those children wrestle with, I couldn't help wondering about the youth of New Orleans and its environs. I turned a page of the newspaper and froze.

There it was in print. Terror of the first order: SWINE FLU.

Words sprung off the page and hit me like rocks:

    killer Bug
    mystery disease
    global alert

Instantly, I zeroed in microscopically on my own little corner of the planet. How many in The Shakespeare Club had gone to Mexico for spring break? It would only take one and our production would collapse under the pressure of a: quarantine.

These are the leaps the dramatic brain makes. And let's face it, I wasn't alone in my panic. Daily, the news reports grew more intense as the number of flu victims added up.

Every so many years deathly illnesses create worldwide havoc.

In 1848, a German ship brought a boatload of cholera into the New Orleans ports and the disease spread north up the great Mississippi, into its tributaries and across the entire country. No "Twelfth Night" for those audiences either.

For William Shakespeare, the tide of his career turned in favorable fashion when London theatres were closed for an entire year, from 1592 to 1593, due to an outburst of bubonic plague. Sheltered in a garret, Shakespeare wrote poems. By April of 1593, he had a patron and made his formal debut as a poet.

By 1594, he returned to the theatre as a leading actor and a confident writer. Out popped "Romeo & Juliet," "King John," "Love's Labour's Lost" and the they say....

As it turned out, no one in our school contracted the dread H1N1 and our cast stayed healthy despite trips to Mexico.

However, as I write this, I shudder. "Swine flu" once again has hit newsprint in hyperbolic rhetoric and the curse of "Macbeth" hangs over our 2010 production.

More sugar...bring on the beignets!

Dear Anne,

Well, I got a job as a waterboy in the big theater. Its got lot of props and is big. There are also people who have rotten food in their pockets to throw at horrible actors. Sadly, the black pleauge came across so I may not have enough money to provide but, I’ll try with writing poems. Anyway, say hi to the kids for me. I love you and miss you dearly!

All of my love,
William Shakespear
—Polly, 5th grade


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