Dawn Reader

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Journey to Richard II: Part 21 (The End!)

Richard II
Shakespeare & Co.; Lenox, MA
July 2013
"Our revels now our ended," says Prospero in The Tempest near the end of Act IV as his plots are about to hatch. And so last summer, in a way, when Joyce and I saw Richard II, our own revels were arriving at an end. When Richard II ended, we would have seen--live, onstage--all of Shakespeare's plays. Joyce, I think, was a little less excited than I--perhaps even a bit reluctant to see the play. She didn't want our revels to end. I understood.

It is an odd feeling, isn't it, finishing everything? Many youngsters, I know, felt a sweet sorrow when they turned the last page of the final Harry Potter novel. And TV viewers grieve at the final episode of a beloved series. Recently, Breaking Bad's terminal (!) episode drew myriads of viewers and pages of commentary in print, lots of coverage in online media. And some will remember the outcry at the end of The Sopranos ... there seemed to be no resolution. 'Zup with that?!

I've had this experience many times with "finishing" writers. As followers of these posts know, I'm an obsessive reader and once I start some writer's books, I almost always read them all. The biggest end-of-the-series "downer" I've felt in recent years came after finishing the forty-seven novels of Anthony Trollope. It took me ten years to read them all, and when I finished the last line of his last (unfinished) novel, The Landleaguers, I wept. No more Trollope ... now what? Well, I went on to Thackeray--finished him. And I'm now working through Tobias Smollett.

But Shakespeare ...

As I posted her some time ago, we saw Richard II at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, not far from where my mom lives, not far from where my brothers own an old farmhouse that they use for summers and weekends (both live in the Boston area). Brother Dave and his wife, Janice, came out to see Richard II, also. Dave, in fact, had known of my quest and had alerted me to the production. (Here's a link to Shakespeare & Co.'s website--they do wonderful productions out in the Berkshires, all year round.)

Joyce and I left Hudson on Thursday, 11 July, for the ten-hour trip to the Lenox area. And on Friday night, 12 July 2013, we saw Richard II, a wonderful production with an amazing performance by Rocco Sisto as the king--one of the best I've ever seen. He humanized the king so powerfully--spoke to the audience as if we were confidantes. At the end, as I noted here last July, Joyce and I stood in the aisle, embracing, weeping. It was over ...

But, of course, it wasn't. We have season tickets to the Great Lakes Theater (they do two Bard plays a year), and we still go to Stratford, Ont., each year for an August orgy of plays at the Stratford Festival (eleven plays in six days--four or five of them by the Bard).

With Shakespeare--with all great writers--it's never really over. I taught Hamlet for ten straight years, and every time, I heard a student say something I hadn't thought of--I noticed something I'd never noticed before. And every director of a Shakespeare play has an opportunity to reinvent the production--there is no "standard way" to mount the plays. Every new production shows me something I hadn't thought of--or even imagined. It's just the damnedest thing ...

It's the same with great books. You should see my teaching copy of The Great Gatsby, so heavily annotated that I could hardly read Fitzgerald's words! Every year I taught it (again, ten years in a row) something new occurred to me--or some perceptive, sensitive student noticed something that I'd missed.

So, no, our revels have not ended. As long as there are great books to read, films and works of art to see, music to hear ... our revels will not end--not until my body says "It's time," or my mind dissolves, then disappears.

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