The human mortals want their winter here – MIDSUMMER, II i

It was in the mid-80s Fahrenheit here in Louisville today, and will be again tomorrow. It is All Saint’s Day, the first of November. We broke another heat record, which we’ve done pretty much straight through the summer, which is allegedly over but the year that insists on putting the “ick” in 2016 thinks it can pull a fast one by dragging itself out. Something ain’t right.

There are plenty of people I’ve encountered these last couple of weeks who are just thrilled because they’re, you know, fools. They don’t like sweaters and don’t care about the natural order, which inherently involves sweaters occasionally. Me, I’m with Berowne in Act I, Scene i of Love’s Labours Lost:

          At Christmas I no more desire a Rose,

          Than wish a Snow in Maye’s new fangled showes:

          But like of each thing that in season growes.

 

I can only assume Mom & Dad are arguing again as they were in the first scene of the second act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

          The human mortals want their winter heere,

          No night is now with hymne or caroll blest;

 

People get all kinds of crazy about this line and what it ought to say, though it seems utterly clear to me and only repeats what Titania says again a few lines later:

          …And through this distemperature, we see

          The seasons alter; hoarèd headed frosts

          Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson Rose,

          And on old Hyem’s chinne and Icie crowne,

          An odorous Chaplet of sweet Sommer buds

          Is as in mockry set. The Spring, the Sommer,

          The childing Autumne, angry Winter change

          Their wonted Liveries, and the mazèd world,

          By their increase, now knowes not which is which;

I’ve kind of always wanted to see a production based around this line – people utterly confused about what the hell season it’s even supposed to be and how we’re supposed to dress. Parkas over Hawaiian shirts. Sudden snow or rain in mid-scene (“Unusual weather we’re havin’, ain’t it?”). No one thinks twice about taking these portents seriously in Julius Caesar or Macbeth, but I seldom see them acknowledged in Midsummer. In fairness, I don’t get to travel much.

          And this same progeny of evills,

          Comes from our debate, from our dissention,

          We are their parents and originall.

 

(It’s certainly a lot easier to blame it on the domestic dispute (A 273.5 on the scanner) of Oberon and Titania than on ourselves, at any rate.)

Remuneration!–LOVE’S LABOURS LOST, IIIi

I probably should have brought this up before, but here’s the deal with me and Shakespeare of late. The reason I’m writing all this nonsense.

He’s putting money in my purse.

It’s happened before, but never to this extent. Since about February of 2014, I have, depending on how you count it, been a part of either twelve (12) or fifteen (15) Shakespeare productions. Which, I am led to understand, is not normal. This immersion has been full-bodied and has left my brain simultaneously exhilarated and numbed, or if not simultaneously then toggling rapidly from one to the other. This blog is among other things an attempt to get all this down before I forget it, as the brain space is at a premium these days what with all the verse, etc.

For my own sanity and your clarity, let’s lay them out in briefest possible C.V. here:

Hamlet – An abbreviated (a redundancy when talking of Hamlet, I guess) eight-actor touring version in the spring of 2014 in which I played Polonius, the First Gravedgger, and Osric. I continued as Polonius in the full-cast version that followed as part of Kentucky Shakespeare’s summer mainstage season.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – I finally got around to playing Bottom in my fourth time doing this play (Demetrius in my 20’s, Theseus/Oberon/Wall and Flute/Thisbe in my 30’s). A delight, even with an excessively large, musty, thirty-five-year-old ass head on. This would be the one about which I’d write my Anthony-Sheresque memoir (Bottom’s Up!, obviously). This also marked the stage debut of Oscar, my splendid toupee (named for Oscar Jaffe of Twentieth Century), on which may the iron door never be closed.

Henry V – Fluellen and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Rounding out my 2014 Summer of Yammerers.

As You Like It – a remount of a six-actor cutting I did in 2009 of this one, with commedia masks, an Old West setting, and the opportunity to play Jaques and Touchstone simultaneously thanks to dowel rod lorgnettes and a lack of shame.

Macbeth – another abbreviated touring version leading up to a mainstage remount. I want to count this one as two, though, seeing as I played Duncan/a Murderer/Doctor/Seyton/Probably someone else on tour and the Porter/Lennox on the mainstage, so I had all of about four lines overlap. Felt like a separate production to me, at any rate.

The Tempest – Stefano, with a large sweat-absorbing prosthetic belly and probably more rouge wine blossoms than strictly necessary. 2015 was the Summer of Entering From the House, what with Stefano’s shanties, the Porter’s crowd-climbing/-accosting and…

The Taming of the Shrew – …Petruchio’s big wedding entrance. I had the honor of playing opposite my wife for this one. Saving that for a post of its own. Or the book. (Oscar was in this one, too.)

(I should note here that for the previous three productions I was also company dramaturg/text coach because I suggested that one would be helpful and that it should be me. I seem to have inadvertently pulled some sort of Jedi Mind Trick on the Artistic Director, because it happened. This continued to be true for the following Kentucky Shakespeare shows.)

Twelfth Night – Malvolio, this time opposite my wife’s Olivia. Another pleasure, and, like Bottom, one I had been waiting to sink my teeth into for a long time. I have a much better Yellowstocking Tale from a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, but again, another post. This was on Twelfth Night itself (and the evenings surrounding), blessedly indoors instead of on the magnificent-in-summer-but-uncomfortable-in-January stage in Louisville’s own Olmstead-designed Central Park.

Two Gentlemen of Verona – Another pairing with my wife, who was Speed to my Launce. Maybe pairing is the wrong word because of the lovely Hope (Crab), who stole most of our laughter, applause, attention, and pride, which is the way of this show and I suspect has always been. I also got to write the setting of “Who is Silvia” for this production. (I played Proteus in college in the 90’s, in the days when all my hair stayed attached to me after the show.)

The Winter’s Tale – Polixenes. What a weird role. What a weird play. I love it dearly. But I defy anyone to deny its weirdness. Unlike anything else. Also a thoroughly justified appearance by Oscar in Act I. And another setting, this time for Sonnet 97 (“How like a winter hath my absence been”) as sung by Mamillius.

Romeo and Juliet – Friar Lawrence. July 2016 being the hottest month in recorded history (until August), it was nice to balance out Launce’s 1919-ish three-piece suit with the updrafty Medieval caftan of Polixenes and the monkish robes of the Friar. Such a pure functionary, which is a great thing to get to play. You’re not going to steal any scenes (or you shouldn’t) because the audience really only deeply cares about two people. So join them, I say. (I was also the dramaturg/text coach for the spring tour of this one, as well as being responsible for the cutting, which was a bit of work and makes me want to count this one twice as a bonus, maybe.)

Titus Andronicus – a Kentucky Shakespeare fall rarity. Previously mentioned in gory detail here. Purely behind the scenes on that one. It opens Thursday.

Macbeth Again – So much Macbeth, this time at Actors Theatre of Louisville until near the end of this month, with a small role that provides plenty of knitting time and time to cobble together this Shakespeare workshop I’m teaching soon.

Purely onstage, that makes twelve (12) productions and in the neighborhood of twenty-two (22) speaking roles large and small over the space of two years, eight months. Somewhere in that time I’ve also finished two separate cuttings of Julius Caesar for next spring/summer, a cutting of Antony and Cleopatra that I think conceptually brilliant but have yet to convince anyone else of (or try terribly hard yet, honestly) and a fair heap of preliminary leg work on another yet-to-be-announced play for 2017. And the trip to Stratford!

I’ve done other things in there (three or four plays from the last hundred years and an understudying gig, probably ninety or so audiobooks recorded, a reasonably major intestinal surgery), but none so connected to each other that they made me want to dedicate an entire blog to them just to clarify my thoughts and tangentially drag other people along for the ride.

So when I seem loserishly footstuck in the Jacobean mires of the rules of performing verse and so on, please remember it’s all I’m allowed to think about. If I didn’t keep a blog, I’d just turn my brain off and play Assassin’s Creed some more and what would that accomplish? (Although a Macbeth or Henriad edition would kick ass. Think on it, Ubisoft. “There’s not a one of them but in his house I keep a servant fee’d – this one’s name is MacGregor. He’s an Assassin.”)

And when I mention one or another of these productions (and I think I’ve at least mentioned every Shakespeare I’ve ever done – wait, no: another Twelfth Night, an Othello, a Richard III, and a college Much Ado About Nothing) eventually in this furious jumble of bloggery, I’ll be able to find them here.

Thanks for the indulgence.