February 08, 2006

Shakespeare in a Day

So Hublet and I spent this past Saturday down at Davidson with 10 teenagers from Sampson County, an Activity Bus that was possessed by Satan, a bunch of snooty high schoolers from Mecklenburg County, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Let me preface this by saying that I love theatre--I loved it even when my acting professor senior year wanted me to be Blanche DuBois because he felt that I needed to "explore my sexuality;" I loved it when I stage managed for a tiny start up theatre troupe in Winston-Salem where my "booth" was a choir loft in an old church, my cues involved poking the sound and light guys (who sat right next to me in the pew) with my elbows and pointing at my book, and my house lights were cued by tugging on a string which was attached to the finger of a guy named Bob who sat in the back of the church next to the light switch--and this weekend really made me miss all that.

Well, maybe not the part with Bob and the string, because that church had bad wiring and the lights would always short out halfway through the show and I'd be tugging the string and the lighting guy would be running to the basement to hit the breaker box and Bob would be snoozing and the actors would still be gamely plugging along onstage--I could have done without that drama, really. That and the fact that our opening night audiences were always mostly comprised of prisoners out on a good behavior field trip. But all the other stuff? Yeah.

Anyway, we were there to do "Shakespeare in a Day." The idea was to have 8 different schools perform one or two short scenes from either Romeo and Juliet or Midsummer Night's Dream. They would string the scenes together and end up with 25 minute versions of each play which would be staged in front of a live audience at the end of the day. Hublet's kids had gotten their lines down the week previously and done some rudimentary blocking, but he teaches English, not Drama, so we're talking bare bones here.

Hublet arose at 3:00 a.m., got to his school by 4:45 a.m. and they left for a 4 1/2 hour ride at 5. I met them at Davidson at 9:30, and at 10 we did a tour of the new performance hall at Davidson (which I would have killed to have performed on, by the way--holy cow!--you can do any show there with the exception of Phantom, because they can't fit the crane inside the building. But anything else is a go--they did Angels in America last year, complete with giant cracking wall and floating angel.). Then the RSC led the kids through dance and fighting workshops, did run-throughs of the scenes, then took them to the stage to do a tech run-through, then back upstairs to work on fine tuning, then back for a full rehearsal, then the curtain rose at 5.

The RSC staff were amazing! Imagine taking a year's worth of acting classes in two hours. They pulled great stuff out of the kids, and watching a bunch of sarcastic, "yeah whatever" kids transform into excited performers of Shakespeare was just beyond words. The staging was bare bones--we set Midsummer in a mall, and scene changes were marked by folks "walking" around the mall and striking "mall poses" every so often to the beat of the mall muzak. It worked really well--you could follow the change of actors and actions easily.

Most of the other schools were there with drama teachers. Most of the other schools had vibrant drama programs, and the kids knew their way around a stage. We had travelled the farthest of anyone else, and we were probably the only group there with a real honest-to-God pageant princess (Miss Teen something-or-other) among our number. We kind of stuck out, in other words, and consequently got taken under the wing of one of the program's directors, which was awesome, and had nothing at all to do with the fact that he found Hublet's "Randy Quaid quality" fascinating or that we bribed him with homemade Snickerdoodles. (NOTE: Hublet doesn't really look like Randy Quaid, but he reminds everyone--including random british people--of Randy Quaid. It is a mystery for the ages.)

None of the other kids sounded quite like ours did, either: listening to Antonio deliver Demetrius' line to Helena like this, "Ah luv thee knot thay-er fore pursoo mee kno-ut!" was jarring, but also hilarious and refreshing, and the kids just ate up the audience feedback.

The best part was seeing these kids from Sampson County get over their whole "red-headed stepchild" complex and realize that they belonged onstage just as much as anyone else. And our Rude Mechanicals doing Pyramus and Thisbe at the end just kicked all kinds of humor ass, even when our little Wall flubbed a line--she recovered and kept on, just like my fellow Winston-Salem actors used to when the lights would blow out in the church.

God, I love theatre.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at February 8, 2006 09:50 PM | TrackBack

Wow, sounds like you guys had a blast. Did I ever tell you that a mutual friend of ours said I sounded like Foghorn Leghorn when I recited that Shakespeare sonnet at your wedding? Critics!

Hublet and Randy--I can sorta see that.

Posted by: Brad K. at February 9, 2006 06:39 PM

Uh, that would be Miss Teen Sampson County. At least her talent is piano, and not some horrid tap-dance routine. And the poor girl woke up Saturday morning expecting to have a non-speaking role, but then was pressed into service when one of the others called in sick (or got the jitters?).

O.k., there was the wedding day thing, the day the Boy was born, his baptism, and a few more family-oriented events. Aside from those, let me mildly suggest that THIS WAS THE BEST DAY EVER!

Posted by: Husband of BAW at February 10, 2006 10:49 AM

H. of BAW,

"The wedding day thing"? *THING*?

Far be it for me to intrude in personal matters, but, I think that one's going to cost you some undefined amount of chocolate or movie tickets...

Posted by: Naomi at February 10, 2006 03:48 PM

Yes, dear. Would you care to explain the wedding day "Thing" in a bit more detail?

Spousal brownie points, like all things, are easy come, easy go...

Posted by: BAW at February 10, 2006 04:40 PM

I was just trying to communicate within the bounds of BAW patois, which is structured around a certain distancing irony towards almost everything.

Of course, part of what made last Saturday ONE OF THE BEST DAYS EVER was that BAW was there to share the experience and lend needed support.

Swish! - brownie points restored.

Posted by: Husband of BAW at February 11, 2006 06:19 PM