He that hath missed the princess is a thing/ Too bad for bad report – CYMBELINE, I i

I called the blog Yellowstocking Tales, so I suppose I should tell one.

Back in April, as part of this big 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death fanciness we’re now in the midst of, my wife and I were thrilled to be sort of the actor portion of the small (five-person, though really we all ended up acting) Kentucky Shakespeare contingent invited over for the festivities by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. We were almost the only non-tourist Americans there, save for a New Orleans brass funeral band. (This is also how, seemingly at random, we ended up here, though I think our popularity with photographers that day had mostly to do with our being nearly the only extravagantly costumed people in the parade on 23 April, as well as the let’s say Visually Shakespearean way my baldness/beardedness played off the resplendent ruff I was given.)

Hereinafter we will call this The Stratford Trip, or, in person, “Oh You See In England”, which is a quite useful preface for any American saying something incredibly precious and pretentious in an American theatre – we started throwing this around before we were even home, this sort of faux I-was-in-Britain-for-four-days-but-somehow-managed-to-absorb-the-terminology-into-my-parlance-sorry-you-may-not-know-all-of-it-actually-basically attitude that I for one still find entertaining. “So when we take the interval – I’m sorry, I mean intermission, You See, In England…”

Another thing about that parade – it was likely to be the closest I’ll ever come to being a Disney Princess. In that I was recognized by multiple paradegoers as the character I was portraying, something I didn’t really expect. We weren’t waving from a float or anything; only carrying banners in pairs (“So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”). But the costume I was wearing had been built for me for a production of Twelfth Night, so I figured I’d wear my yellow stockings and garters with it. We’d be performing at the Birthplace later that day, so I had them along – it wasn’t like I had to run to the Tesco or wherever and grab a pair of extra large men’s tights, bright yellow. Seemed properly festive. I wore Malvolio’s chain of office, too, but that’s more of a footnote detail.

So a little way into the parade, I heard a woman tell what I assume was her granddaughter, “Oh, look, there’s Malvolio. See his yellow stockings?” And yes, we are in Stratford-upon-Avon, where the locals are predisposed to know a touch more about Shakespeare and related lore than your average person on the street and thousands of them are in fact wearing paper Shakespeare masks for a really specific world record attempt (to unsurprisingly creepy effect). Still, I took it as a one-off. By about the fifth person I heard say this, I understood how the college girls playing Belle all summer in Orlando must feel. Except, of course, no autographs; the loving throngs maintained at all times a respectful distance from me, surely out of awe.

Not everyone assumed Malvolio, of course. I was also marching only a few feet behind the couple who has (or, in England, have) been the parade’s Shakespeare for some years. So the true thrill of the odd spectator recognition, if that’s the word I’m after, was “look, dear, it’s Shakespeare and…I guess young Shakespeare.” Very little my hairline and I do is prefaced with “young” so…I’ll take it.

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