Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Journey to RICHARD II, Part 5

On July 12, 2013, Joyce and I saw a production of Richard II, at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts.  It was the last of the Bard's plays we had not seen in live performance.  I've been writing about earlier experiences with Shakespeare--and how all of them, more or less, propelled me to Lenox that night.

In the late 1960s I gradually began my courtship dance with Shakespeare.  As I noted yesterday, I read Hamlet in the summer of 1967 while trailer-sitting for some friends who were away.  I don't think I read any others that summer: There were TV programs to watch, contemporary American novels to read, and women (not--oh, was I alone!).

That same spring--1967--I'd seen Franco Zeffirelli's film of The Taming of the Shrew with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as Petruchio and Katherine.  The young Michael York played Lucentio.  I'm pretty sure--at the time--that I was far more interested in seeing Liz Taylor than I was seeing a film of a play by Shakespeare.  But I loved the film--even though I could tell that the entire thing had been filmed on a sound stage.  But Zeffirelli's costumes, the settings, and the over-the-top performances by the leads just drew me into that world.  And I was shocked--shocked--to discover that I understood almost all of it--again, not because of my genius (hah!) but because of performers who knew what they were saying--and how to say it.

Some years drifted by.  I was married in 1969, and Joyce and I went to Shakespeare plays now and then--including a Hamlet at Kent State University in the mid-1970s that starred two of my former seventh grade Aurora students--John Mlinek and David Prittie--as, respectively, Hamlet and Laertes.  Can I tell you what a thrill it was to watch those two in the fencing match at the end?  And, at home, I was reading my way through the plays ... slowly, slowly.

But because I was still teaching seventh graders, I never thought I would have any reason to teach the Bard and his plays.  My reading and play-going were just for my own background.  That's all.

In 1978, Joyce and I, having completed our Ph.D.'s at KSU, headed to Lake Forest College in Illinois, to a job I hated (and Joyce loved).  We stayed only a year, then returned to Ohio, where we both took positions at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson.  I stayed two years (1979-81); Joyce stayed until 1990, the year our son graduated from the school.  Then she began her Hiram College career (now winding down).

And at WRA the English curriculum included (and still includes) a Shakespeare play every year (except the senior year when students take electives).  I taught English I and III (freshmen and juniors).  I could pick any play I wanted for the freshmen, so I went with The Taming of the Shrew (wonder why?).  But the juniors all had to read Hamlet.  And that terrified me.  Yes, I had read the play back in that trailer in Silo, Ohio, in the summer of 1967--but I'd not, uh, understood lots of it.  And I'd seen only that KSU production.  I'd never "studied" the play.  And now I had to teach it to bright, college-bound juniors, many of whom, I was certain, had read/seen more Shakespeare than I?!  They would discover on Day One that I was a fake.  And my reputation?  Well, if I'd known anything about Othello (I had neither read nor seen it at that point), I could have wailed along with Michael Cassio ...

Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost
my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of
myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation,
Iago, my reputation!
And so--that summer of 1979, before the new year at WRA began, I decided it was time for some transformation.  From Bard Dolt into Bard Authority ...  It's a transformation, I would discover--very very soon--that would require the rest of my life.  And then some ...

No comments:

Post a Comment