I know I start all of these wrap ups by going ‘how are we already x months into this’ but HOW ARE WE ALREADY FOUR MONTHS INTO THIS?! That is absolutely wild. Well, let’s jump straight in, shall we? Previous wrap ups here.
Romeo & Juliet
my role (first show): Chorus, Lady Montague, Servant, Third Musician, Page
my role (second show): Romeo
I wholeheartedly love this play, and it’s fine if you don’t but honestly I’ve never heard a single criticism of it that I don’t find inane (‘it’s just instalove!’ completely disregards the fact that theatre has different storytelling conventions than novels and that you can’t be sat there for eleven hours while a slow-burn romance unfolds before your eyes; not to mention – the fact that they’re rash young teenagers is one of the play’s significant themes; their romance isn’t narratively treated as Rational). Anyway, to each his own, but Romeo & Juliet is very much my cup of tea – compelling characters, engaging story, beautiful language, and a devastating yet inevitable conclusion that reads like a punch to the gut every time.
This probably sounds silly given that we are not performing these on stage but rather to a group of about 10-15 people (friends) on Zoom, but playing Romeo is literally one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. I was petrified. The thing about Project Shakespeare that makes it so fun and magical is that people actually try; everyone allows themselves to be vulnerable and actually act rather than sitting there and reading the lines with a straight face. As I’ve talked about before, I’m not an actor, this is all new territory for me. So the morning of the second performance, I was just hit by the most crushing self-doubt, because… I asked to play Romeo? Romeo? I actually asked for this? Who the hell do I think I am?! So, it was hard, but it was also one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done. I just adore this character so much and I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life if I had chickened out of doing this. Plus I played Romeo opposite my good friend Will (of Books and Bao)’s Juliet (+ the night before we had a female Romeo and female Juliet), so we kind of just gender-fucked the whole play all weekend and that was a fantastic choice. Just, amazing times all around, this was one of my favorite weekends.
All’s Well That Ends Well
my role: Widow, First Soldier
In contrast, I… do not love this play! In fact, it’s solidly my least favorite of all 19 I’ve now read. I’ve talked about this before, but in general the comedies really do not do it for me; I rarely find them amusing and find that they lack a certain heart, which I feel is the case with All’s Well. It has some great characters, I’ll give it that, but it really doesn’t come to life for me on the page, and reading it was a pretty massive chore. Which is why it surprised me that our performance of this ended up being one of my favorites yet – it was just so damn camp and delightful. Our talented Helena and talented Countess were giving Broadway-worthy performances while the rest of us just acted like complete clowns for a couple of hours, and I just had the best time. I still don’t love the play and I don’t think I’d even enjoy watching it on stage, but getting to be a part of it (in peak melodrama form as the Widow) was a delight.
my roles: Lysimachus, Lychorida, Lord, Escanes
The biggest surprise for me so far as I make my way through the Complete Works – and probably my biggest Unpopular Opinion to date – is that I FUCKING LOVE PERICLES. This is – and I cannot stress this enough – the stupidest, most absurd play I have ever read. It starts with a comically unnecessary riddle about incest; it takes place over twenty years in approximately twelve different countries and it feels like it’s trying to be about eight different genres along the way; at one point a major character is about to be killed and right as the murderer draws his knife she’s kidnapped by pirates who then leave the play about two seconds after they deliver her to a brothel… this play is just a hot mess all around. So, why do I love it? You know the lack of heart that I was just talking about; I find the opposite of Pericles – I think it has heart in abundance. The titular character’s journey is really quite devastating, but it culminates in two beautiful reunions and the final scene is one of my favorite things that Shakespeare wrote (there are plenty of authorship questions surrounding Pericles but it’s generally believed that the first two acts were written by George Wilkins and the final three by Shakespeare). I also just think it’s an unapologetically fun time – I dare anyone to read this and not be entertained.
Measure for Measure
my role: Escalus
Measure for Measure was also a pretty big surprise though, I must say. Only a comedy by technicality, this is genuinely… one of the darkest plays I’ve read so far. I knew nothing about this play going in, but interestingly, though it’s set in Vienna, I could tell within two minutes of reading that the source material it’s based off is Italian (not just the character names – the setting and the themes in particular are undeniably Italian). I have a (useless!) major in Italian Lit and this brought me back to… literally every novel I ever had to read in college, so there was something sort of comfortably familiar about it that I think endeared me to it. It’s not my favorite play and I won’t be in a hurry to read it again any time soon, but I also found it rather interesting and unsettling in a way that stuck with me for days. Performing it was good fun too and it was a rather cathartic choice to do the ultimate ACAB play on the 4th of July.
Up next: King John, which I read for the first time a few weeks ago and which is one of my new favorite plays! I’m really looking forward to this.
Also, before I go, I just want to briefly comment on the fact that I’ve been rather terrible at blogging lately. I had a week off work last week and I thought I mind find my blogging motivation then, but that didn’t happen; but upon reflection I actually think I work blogging into my life more easily when my days have more structure. So, I’m sorry that I haven’t been more active on here – not only on my own blog, but especially everyone else’s – but quarantine has been weird times. I’m optimistic I’ll soon get back on this horse, but, I’m sorry again – I do miss all of you guys.
Anyway, leave a comment to talk about Shakespeare or anything else!