Friday, February 26, 2010

Anywhere...It Can Happen Anywhere

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself,
And falls on th'other...

Act I, Scene VII

January, 2010

By December I'd typed out an adaptation of "Macbeth" and felt relief at ending my procrastination. The satisfaction was great because it appeared that by using a combination of Shakespeare's text and Lois Burdett's version of the play from her series, Shakespeare Can Be Fun!, I'd come up with a doable twenty-one page play.

My equilibrium unraveled when we started to read the play aloud and I realized the magnitude of the undertaking. This was as ambitious as Lord and Lady Macbeth's own dream of royalty. I gulped as the kids struggled to read the unfamiliar.

"Okay, let's stop for just a second. Here's a funny word: Thane. We have just learned that Macbeth is Thane of Glamis and that King Duncan is going to make him Thane of Cawdor. I wonder what a Thane is?"

"King?" offered Oliver.

"Mmmm. Good guess but not exactly....Let's say you were the king, Oliver, and you wanted to make Chloe a Thane. If we were in England a Thane would be a Duke. In Scotland they used the word Thane. So, let's say Chloe is Thane of our school and you decided to give her all the land in Venice. That would make Chloe Thane of Venice."

It would take many, many meetings to remember what a Thane is. Have I asked too much this time around? Are my expectations too high? I have to remind myself that these are little kids. Can we do a play like this? What makes theatre anyway?

Way back in my New York City days I experienced theatre as a gift to an audience. Previous to my moving to the city and for years after leaving, I had great theatre experiences in well-equipped venues where the actors were beautifully costumed but there was this one freebie that sticks out as a special event.

I was friends with a young, Yale-educated director who wanted to stage a one-act, two-hander play, "The Great Nebula in Orion", by Lanford Wilson. The director, another actress and I rehearsed for weeks. The play took place in a New York City apartment and involved the reacquaintance of two former college roommates. We staged our production in the director's Upper West Side apartment. We invited guests and offered pre-show cocktails. The audience sat at one end of the living room and we entered through a real door, into a real home, in need of a real bathroom and using a real kitchen to make our drinks. At the end of the performance we served our audience a dinner of chili, salad, wine and dessert. It was free. It was a gift. It was wondrous.

Down the line in May, these kids will also give a gift and, I hope, have as gratifying an experience as I did in New York City, if I have not raised the bar too high. Because it can happen anytime, anywhere, with the right intentions and a load of effort. A ****load of effort. Oh my.

If I was an Elizabethan girl my life would of been very educated. I would of been a princess. I would study as hard as I can. I'd wear beautiful silk dresses. In the palace I'd eat a salad with many mini "love apples." I'd enjoy being a princess getting an educated very wealthy and healthy. Having many beautiful silk dresses. Of courses I'd go to William Shakespeare's plays hundreds and hundreds of times. My favorite play would be "Romeo and Juliet." Then I'd be Queen . I'd also have my own lovely horse.
—Bettina, 5th grade

"The princess has a day out" painting by John Silver

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