“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscious of a king.”
Well, today is Shakespeare’s birthday. Or at least, we think today is Shakespeare’s birthday. Apparently, no one is really sure when he was born, only that he was baptized on the 26th, and at some point someone just randomly decided to celebrate it on the 23rd. Go figure. It also happens to be the day he died, which makes the 23rd a handy all around life-and-death-of-Shakespeare celebration. Convenient, no?
Shakespeare was born in 1564…probably. Which would make him around 445, and would cost a fortune in birthday candles. I have a feeling I’d be pretty tired if I was 445, tired and a bit grouchy, so if you haven’t seen him around lately, you’re probably not missing much. After all, “Crabbed age and youth cannot live together,” according to my Shakespeare quotations book, so if you ever happen to see him, give him some space.
Last year I spent the day at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, which was more awesome than words can really describe. Seeing shows, watching swordfights, checking out an authentic first folio, reading a monologue onstage, MEETING DEREK JACOBI, it was a good day. If you want to hear about, scroll through my entries from last April, I believe it’s called “ZOMG TEH YANA MASTER!!!”
This year, I’m celebrating by driving around southern New Hampshire. I have a show at Newfields Elementary at around one, followed almost directly after by a show at the River Run Bookstore in downtown Portsmouth at three. This was after I met two of my friends for an utterly random “lets-make-pancakes-and-talk-about-prom” moment, and before I have to somehow make it to the Senior “Movie-and-Free-Chinese-Food” Night at my school. I know the latter two don’t really have much to do with Shakespeare, but you know, its not my fault the world doesn’t seem to realize what day it is.
I’m really excited for the two shows. The first one’s being done for elementary school students (I think, like Kindergarten – 5th Grade, maybe?) so it’s focusing mainly on Shakespeare’s comedies. I’m playing Antipholus of Syracuse in a scene from Comedy of Errors (“Why, but there’s many a man hath more hair than wit!”) and Robin Starveling AKA Moonshine in a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (“All I have to say is, the lanthorn is the moon, I the man’o’the moon, the thorn bush is the thorn bush, and the dog is the dog!”) I was supposed to do Lady Macbeth as well (“Unsex me here, and fill me from crown to toe, top full of direst cruelty!”) but the principle vetoed it. It would have been alright if I didn’t start evoking the powers of darkness to “come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall” about halfway through. But you know, whatever.
The second show, oddly the more lighthearted of the two, has a much broader focus and touches on drama just as much as comedy. It’s also a series of scenes, but it’s more…rehearsed? We have a full script with individual parts separate from our scenes, which is basically just witty banter to keep the energy up. It starts with this professor coming in to read a ridiculously boring paper on Shakespeare to the audience at the store, only to be interrupted by a group of rowdy, hyper, young actors who decide to show her how Shakespeare should be presented, through performance. It’s fun; I get to do a lot of jumping around and making loud noises with a horn. And I get to be Lady Macbeth, which is pretty awesome.
So basically, I’m celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday by running around and performing his works. It’s appropriate, I think, and a hell of a lot more fun than sitting in school and writing a paper on him. Which is what I did yesterday. But we won’t go there.
I’ll leave you with this:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”
- As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
Go see some Shakespeare, people. If not, read it aloud. Just do something.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends,