Tag Archives: theater

In Dedication to the Love of my Life

Oh calm down all those who know that I’m single and are suddenly severely worried you’ve missed something. No need for panicking. This love has been around for quite some time, and I’m not quite sure why I haven’t chosen to write about him before….or well not in great depth. Sure I’ve had a post or two where I’ve throw in his name, but it’s time he earned his own post. I’m talking about none other than my wonderful amazing and utterly lovable William Shakespeare.

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10 Things I Hate About You fits a little too well in this respect

I have a literature professor who often refers to Emily Dickinson as solely Emily because he adores her work so much, so don’t take it as too much of an offense if I do the same for my darling Will.

Will and I were first formally introduced when I was in second grade. I had no idea how much I’d come to adore him, although I remember being interested at the time by the comical spectacle of Much Ado About Nothing. We met again in fifth grade when my school gifted and talented section put on Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But nothing could prepare me for the lifelong romance that would ensue after my first encounter with an actual text.

At fourteen I was able to travel to London for the second time in my short life. I remembered before liking it, but it was December and something about Christmas magic in the air made it all the more enchanting. And after visiting the Tower of London, some interest caught hold of me and refused to let go. And between the beauty and the history and the enchantment I found myself surrounded in, I became determined to learn more of the mysterious stories which governed this mystical land. Thus, I began reading on Richard III.

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Now, besides Sir Thomas More, the most well-known account of what happened to this enigmatic king falls into the hands of my brilliant Will himself. With my obsession in mind and free-time on my hands during Christmas break, I decided to pursue the play itself to discover more. And though William makes a poor historian, he’s a genius playwright.

Many might scoff at the thought of a fourteen year old choosing to read a history play as her first Shakespeare, on her break no less. But the moment I began I knew I couldn’t stop. “Now is the winter of our discontent–” the words drew me in, created images of monstrous kings, and murderers, and innocent princes, and ghosts, and battles, and the little traditionally romantic (literary term, not in the general sense…trust me, it’s not a super romantic play), found herself engulfed in something she had trouble understanding, but nonetheless enjoyed.

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Richard III was my first. And it remains a long standing favorite in the way I believe many first encounters do. It has something nostalgic about it, a little hint of the future years of joy and tears and marvel to come. I checked out movie versions, watched them multiple times, even with commentary on a few times. It wasn’t altogether surprising I wrote my senior high school thesis on the play, exploring the propaganda affects it had on historical readers and the assumptions it still causes today.

Shakespeare plays started becoming my main Christmas gift. Our festival in my local hometown does two a year during the summer, and my parents consistently would promise we could go. I began watching as many different productions as I could, and soon had set one of my first bucket-list goals of seeing all of the Shakespeare plays on a stage before my death. Thus far, I believe I’m about a quarter of the way through. And each summer I’d sit beneath the stars and greedily watch yet another of my beloved Will’s plays, and dream, and imagine the way any young person in love will.

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College welcomed me to a class featuring my idol, devouring more than ten plays in the course of a semester, watching our theater company put on the witty and adored Twelfth Night. And I continued to realize that I had thoroughly and completely besworn myself to my Will, that each day he offered further enchantment, more and more material to adore and swoon over.

My final paper played an imitation game with his style, attempted to mimic the well loved hyperboles and phrases, earned a lovely comment from my professor on my talents at sounding Elizabethan. But that was no surprise considering how much I spent time with my Will, that my words might begin to sound a bit like his.

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I was sorrowful as I ended the course, even more so on realizing I had to return my now much revered textbook to the renter. But to be sure my romance does not end even as this small part of life has. That is the joy of loving a man on a page, that he never leaves you, that the love is undying. Isn’t that indeed what he writes in his most famous sonnet 18:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

And so as his sonnet lives, the love of this great man lives on with it, bits of affection and kindness and genius all tucked within the lines for me to discover each and every time I delve into the sonnets or the plays or any bit of this man’s beautiful work.

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But in all seriousness I will say this, I admire greatly the genius of Shakespeare. Though I hope I don’t come off quite as obsessed as I may have jokingly suggested above, he is probably one of the greatest founders of my writing inspiration. My last finished book picked little bits of sonnet, and suggestions of King Lear, and a touch of thought on justice from Merchant of Venice, and my latest gathers a sense of destiny and fate from Macbeth. And though I may not really love the man romantically (yes let out that sigh of relief any who thought they had a crazy woman on their hands), I do love what he does on a page and hope desperately I can emulate the same laughter, tears, and thought from my own works. It’s good to have mentors in works…maybe even to an extent of feeling some sense of love.

Who do you greatly admire? Any obsession confessions anyone feels led to give? What were some early works that inspired you in writing, in life, etc? For any fellow lovers of the bard, do you have a favorite play or sonnet?

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What is Love?

Please tell me you sung my title. Because if you didn’t I’m extremely disappointed. However, no, this won’t actually be a post about love. This is an English Major blog, and therefore it’s going to be more focused on A Midsummer Night’s Dream because I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on that play, and even more so on one of the central themes: what is the nature of love?

For any who haven’t seen/read the play, I’ll cue you in to the basic plot. But hey, there will be spoilers. So we start with Theseus who’s getting married. Like any Shakespeare play there are going to be a lot of characters, so hold onto your hats. Theseus, ruler of Athens, is helping Egeus settle a conflict with his daughter. Egeus wants his daughter, Hermia, to marry Demetrius, but Hermia wants to marry Lysander instead. Even worse, Demetrius has already courted another girl named Helena, who is madly in love with him in spite of him not returning her affections anymore. Hermia is told she can marry Demetrius, die, or be a nun. Her choice. She and Lysander plan to run away that night, telling Helena of their plan, who in turn tells Demetrius hoping he’ll love her. Lysander and Hermia flee pursued by Demetrius who is pursued by Hermia. In the meantime, players try to create a play for Theseus’ wedding based on the Greek tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe. The lead actor Bottom is ridiculous (he comes into play later). In the meantime, the fairy king and queen (Oberon and Titania) are fighting. To get revenge Oberon anoints her eyes with a love potion and she falls for the actor Bottom who is mischievously transformed to have the head of a donkey, thus making him all the more repulsive. Seeing Helena’s plight, Oberon also instructs his servant to anoint Demetrius’ eyes to fall for Helen, but the servant instead anoints Lysander’s. At one point both men are spelled in love with Helena rather than Hermia. The couples end up fighting wildly and finally all is set right again. They marry, Bottom is transformed back and performs his terrible play. Happy endings all around.

But not quite. I suppose what troubled me most in my reading of this play was questioning what love really means, particularly in the context of Helena and Demetrius. And perhaps Shakespeare intended his audience to question such. Lysander tries to make love sound rational, and yet others describe Cupid as being blind, and Titania’s love at first sight for the hideous donkey-man is appalling.

However, it is in Helena and Demetrius that we perhaps most question the idea of love. While Lysander and Hermia are happy, Titania and Oberon reconcile their lover’s quarrels, and Theseus and Hippolyta seem to marry quite contentedly, Demetrius only does so under the effects of a spell in the same way that Titania fell for the awful and hideous Bottom.

Someone in my class today asked if we’re supposed to feel sorry for Demetrius. And I would answer yes. But perhaps that’s personal experience coming into the mix. I had a friend (who shall remain anonymous but nonetheless agreed to let me post this) who recently was in a bad relationship. Looking back she realized that she’d been emotionally abused, and that it hadn’t been healthy overall. And she still continues to struggle with that. When she attempted to leave the relationship she was threatened, though not in the means you might think. Rather she was told she was responsible for a potential suicide in the making and that was a shocking and horrifying thing for her. And yet there continued to be this idea of “love” that the relationship she’d been in was beautiful and close, in spite of how much damage it had done. Having to try to drop all contact and later finding herself stalked was scary. Talking with her I was reminded of Helena’s obsessive pursuit of Demetrius. Though he once claimed to love her, he’s moved on. And yet she can’t seem to take no for an answer, even when he seems to be positively vile to her. He threatens what we could take as rape, threatens to leave her in the wilds to death. And yet she still follows him acting as moonstruck as can be.

Is either of their behaviors love? Demetrius must be spelled to love her. And Helena refuses to leave no matter how much Demetrius pushes her away. Is it love to not give someone space? To threaten either to gain freedom or to keep a relationship going? To not respect someone’s wishes to be left alone? Helena verges on stalker status, Demetrius on vile spousal abuser. And I look at my friend who’s being stalked in the name of love and think, this isn’t love. This isn’t right.

I come from a Christian background, and you can think what you want about that, but it always brings me back to what 1st Corinthians says about love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Before anyone gets onto me about being preachy, I’ll quickly say I have no quarrels with anyone having their own beliefs. But I suppose I’m just highlighting these are mine. And I want love to be something beautiful and freeing rather than the unnatural feeling of obsession.

I think in the end Shakespeare is just creating the real fact, that love is a mystery. He who married a woman far older than him, perhaps he questioned why that was, what had happened. Did he feel like Demetrius trapped because of his initial pursuit of her, a possible pregnancy in the making? Did he fall irrationally like Titania for bottom? Or did he come to love her gradually and reasonably like Lysander? It is hard to say. But these various contrasting couples, all concluded as Thisbe and Pyramus murder each other in the name of love, continues to call to question this strange force we claim to know so much about.

All I know is this, I will never consider the disgusting way Helena pursues an abusive man like Demetrius to be love. Stalking and refusing to leave someone alone is not love. Threatening someone is not love. Killing oneself over someone else, is not love. What is love? I can’t tell you. But I definitely know that as I read Shakespeare I have a very good idea of what it’s not.

Helena:

And even for that do I love you the more.
I am your spaniel. And, Demetrius,
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.
Use me but as your spaniel—spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me. Only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
What worser place can I beg in your love—
And yet a place of high respect with me—
Than to be usèd as you use your dog?

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A Marvelous Night of Theatre and the Reflection it Brings

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Credit: Joel Rurik

 

Going to a play is something entirely magical. Because of my love of literature, plays included, going to the theater has always been something very special to me. The feelings of anticipation and eagerness fill me as I sit in a seat and stare out towards a distant curtain, not yet lifted to show the already set stage. My pulse starts racing. My breath catches. I feel a smile spring to my face. And then the lights dim, music begins (if the play includes that) and as the curtain rises a whole new world is revealed where I can learn and grow and reflect on elements of life.

From Shakespeare to Wicked, I have never been one to turn down a chance to see a stage performance. I have of course spoken a bit excessively of my love of musicals, but beyond catchy tunes I can always appreciate a work of well done theatre.

Tonight, I had the privilege of seeing my college’s production of Enchanted April, a story about two wives who decide to rent a castle in Italy for a month to get away from their dreary London lives. They team up with two other young women, an older widow stuck in her ways, and a popular young woman caught up in drinking and partying. The four encounter enchantment in their visit, something to change them once and for all.

The play was lovely. It was set in a round theater (I suppose square is actually more accurate), and complete with a lovely set, handsome costumes, and hilarious drama. My roommate and I had to double over laughing at some of the particularly funny parts. Alongside those moments of humor, we also enjoyed the elements that were simply magical. For all college peers, I strongly recommend going in the next week of production. It is, simply put, marvelous!

All compliments aside there was one troubling matter for me when the stage finally was emptied, and the crowds were exiting the theater. This matter was something that has brought me much reflection, and, in many ways, has caused me to love the play even more. The problem was this: a part of the play had been left unresolved.

While I don’t wish to spoil anything for potential viewers (either at my college or elsewhere), this plot element was troubling for me and I had a hard time moving past it as I exited out of the theater. This conflict between a young man and a young woman was hinted at, given some significance in the second act and then totally abandoned at the end. While it made for an interesting dilemma, I felt disappointed that somehow this issue never got brought to the forefront of the plot. I am a person who likes conclusion, where either things work out or they don’t, but at least the problem is somehow addressed.

I suppose this is just a matter of personal taste. In my own writing I have difficulty leaving a story behind if I feel there is some matter that never was resolved. I drive my writing friends mad with my constant need to write “extra” scenes just to make myself feel at peace about an issue. My last book in fact ended with a young woman never discovering who her attacker was, moving on with her life. While it seemed fine and dandy for the protagonist, it was particularly difficult for me and I may yet write something to cut off my sense of it being incomplete.

Why? Why is there this need within me, and possibly within others? What makes the human population desire and crave some sort of resolution? After all, that is the basic essence of a story: a setting to start, a problem introduced, rising action, a climax, and a conclusion. The very nature of plot is defined by this.

And so I have no true answer to why this is really a problem. Some things are simply left unfinished. It’s a part of life. And yet a part inside of me yearns to see characters eliminating difficulties.

Let me know your thoughts and if you have any good play recommendations for me. I can always add to my list. Also, I have added a rating feature (along with a few other features such as my goodreads reading list). Please feel free to rate this blog and possibly previous posts. I would appreciate it! I always like to know what my readers are enjoying.

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