"For forth he goes and visits all his host."
Henry V, III.7
Those of you (if any exist) who have been paying close attention will know that I am currently engaged in a province-wide tour of the Norm Foster play The Melville Boys, at the behest of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. Though I remain a significant distance from the feverish goings-on at the SIR office (I am presently, pleasantly ensconced in a beautiful bed & breakfast castle in the heart of picturesque Minnedosa), my thoughts refuse to stray for long.
Having said that, it has clearly proven to be a challenge for me to find the time, the wherewithal, and relevant subject matter with which to post a regular blog. I can only hope that the recent infrequency of these postings has resulted in an increase in demand and a sharpened sense of anticipation among my loyal readers (if any exist).
However, inspiration and opportunity have conveniently collided with one another this (ominously) warm and sunny Super Bowl weekend, and so here I am.
We had the great pleasure last Thursday of staying and performing in the town of Gladstone and, while there, paid an afternoon visit to a book fair at the Gladstone Elementary School which (as well as providing a chance to meet some very nice people and to receive a hug from a young student whom I assisted with the purchase of a book about kittens) brought to mind what is possibly my all-time favourite and most meaningful memory of performing Shakespeare.
It was the 2008 tour of Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet, and I was playing Juliet/Mercutio (along with Andrew, Matt TenBruggencate and Glen Thompson). We had set up in the Gladstone Elementary school gymnasium, and managed to squeeze in (as far as I know) every student in Gladstone, starting with the Kindergarteners in the front row, all the way to the grade 12 graduating class in the back. We elected to spare the sensibilities of the younger students by smoothing down the edges of the bawdiest bits, and were having a great time performing for such a range of ages, when a most heartbreakingly beautiful thing occurred.
I didn't actually witness it myself, having been "dead" at the time, but I'm certainly willing to take the word of the other actors who did. Apparently, as Romeo approached the "sleeping" Juliet in the tomb (having handily dispatched poor Paris), a handful of wee ones sitting up front quietly began to chant in unison: "Kiss-Her! Kiss-Her! Kiss-Her!".
The implication of this is, I hope, as breathtakingly wonderful to you as it was to me. A clear and irrefutable proof that these youngsters, who couldn't have been older than five, had not only been able to follow the story (delivered in the original Shakespearean text) and knew exactly what was happening on stage, but had been affected by what they were seeing to the extent that they couldn't help but try to affect the outcome, resorting to a strategy to which they had been conditioned to believe in by thousands of years of folklore and fairy tales: a kiss to wake up the sleeping beauty.
Now, as then, I can't help but wonder how it made those youngsters feel when their time-honoured strategy failed, and the lovers' doomed romance reached its denouement with a double-suicide instead of a "happily ever after".
And I can't help but wonder what full grown adults are really thinking when they claim that nobody actually gets Shakespeare, they just pretend to understand it so that other people will think they're smart or sophisticated.
Five year old children.
Whom do you suppose they were trying to impress?
Shakespeare is for EVERYONE!!!