Dawn Reader

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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Bathroom Photographs, 5

In the summer of 1986 I went to Europe for the first time--well, to England only--with my older brother, Richard. The main reason? I had begun teaching Shakespeare to my 8th graders at the Harmon Middle School (Aurora, Ohio), and I was eagerly learning all I could about the Bard (as I still am).

I've written here before about my rather slowly developing affection for the Bard (it began with High School Disdain, has evolved to Old Man Wonder), so I'll not repeat all those grim stories here. (You can Google "Shakespeare" and "Dawnreader" to see the earlier posts, if you're interested.)

Anyway, the 1985-1986 school year was my first with the Bard, and one of the reasons I began? My son was in my class. (I've written about this elsewhere, too, so I'll skip along here.) The play I used with the kids was The Taming of the Shrew, a play I picked for a variety of reasons.

  • I'd already read it. (And had not read many of the others.)
  • It was a comedy. (Didn't think I'd start with Lear or Othello.)
  • There was a good (1967) movie available--Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli. I knew the kids would love it. (And they did.)
  • It dealt with the Battle of the Sexes, a battle that can rage in middle school.
But I had some problems, too: I knew little about the Elizabethans; I'd never seen any of the Shakespeare sites in England, principally because I'd never been to England. Other than that, I was well prepared.

My older brother, Richard, was, in 1986, the classical music critic for the Boston Globe, and he had been abroad many times. So ... going with him, I knew, would be a Wise Move. Also, he'd told me that there was going to be a production of Shrew that summer, one that featured one of my favorite actresses, Vanessa Redgrave. Playing opposite her was an actor I'd barely heard of--Timothy Dalton. (At the time, he and Redgrave were ... together.) Not long after Shrew the whole world would hear of him: Dalton became the new James Bond, though only for two films: The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989). There was supposed to be a third, but ... contracts, Hollywood, etc. ended it all.

As you can see from the Shrew poster, Redgrave-Dalton were also doing Antony and Cleopatra in the same run, alternating days. We went to see that one first but were shocked to learn that Redgrave was ill (or something); her understudy was less than convincing, so we bought tickets for yet another evening at the Theatre Royal Haymarket--and this time we saw her in a luminous performance. They were also very good together in Shrew, though I was somewhat spoiled by the film (which I loved). I've had the same experience, by the way, with Much Ado About Nothing: That 1994 Branagh film, which I love, surpasses every stage production I've seen--and I've seen a lot of them.

Anyway, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket they had stacks of the little flyers advertising the two shows; I grabbed a few, had one framed when we returned. And it now hangs on my bathroom wall.

Years later ... doing research on Mary Shelley, I learned she'd been to the Theatre Royal Haymarket numerous times. And on August 10, 1824, she had one of her "dates" with Washington Irving, whom she was rather vigorously pursuing. (She'd been widowed for two years.) I'm going to be writing about their relationship in a subsequent blog, but for now? Just imagine: The authors of Frankenstein and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," sitting together in the candlelight, watching a play ...*

*The theatre they attended in 1824 had recently reopened in a new building (1821). And that is the building still standing--still offering wonderful productions--in London's West End. As I type these words, Bradley Cooper is starring there in Elephant Man.

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