Monday, January 17, 2005

"THE PLAY'S THE THING"...Shakespeare

"Players and painted stage took all my love..." Yeats.

PART I: Bitten by the theatre bug.

I don't know when I was first bitten by the theatre bug. I started writing plays before I can remember writing anything else. Perhaps living in a town named "Stratford" where all the streets and schools were named after Shakespeare and the River Avon that ran through the town. I didn't really know much about the famous playwright's work at that time.

We write what we know, and at that time I was a child still. But I knew about the War. I was only 10 and my father, like so many of my playmate's fathers, was overseas. Daily the stories of prison camps, bombings and death were part of our lives. Not one family, it seemed, was untouched by this tragedy. My Dad was a chaplain in an army field hospital in Belgium and Holland. Every night I'd sit at the kitchen table with my Mom and Grandparents and we'd put the coloured pins in the map, marking where he was stationed and where the fighting was located. There was no TV. We listened to the B.B.C. news nightly, and sometimes went to the movies on Saturdays where they's show news reels of the action. I started writing little plays about the war for my class at school.

Sometimes I organized campaigns to collect funds for the Red Cross. We'd dress up in costumes (nurses, soldiers) and parade the neighbourhood with our collection boxes. War was very real to all of us. The best costume parade of all was the one held on VE Day in which all of us participated.

For lighter entertainment, I created fairy-tale plays to entertain friends. But I much preferred action! adventure! and intrigue!

"The world's a stage on which all the parts are played..." Middleton ("A Game of Chess")

When the War ended, my family moved to the West Coast. My first experience attending a big theatre production was in Grade 7 when my class went to see "Richard III" It was my first introduction to Shakespeare and the tragedies. I remember that day so clearly, how enthralled I was by the acting, the stage sets and costumes, the intriguing story! Years later, on my very first trip to England, I went to the Tower of London and saw the place where the little Princes were murdered. I have always loved that play. It got me hooked on Shakespeare.

Soon I began to write plays for Sunday School. One play I wrote and performed at camp was about David and Absolem, in particular the dramatic events leading to Absolem's hanging himself by his hair in an olive tree. For an Easter production, I penned "Pilate's Wife" Another tragedy.

While I was in junior high, I went to a production at my cousin's school of an operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan. That got me interested in musicals. On summer at camp I got the part of "KoKo" in "The Mikado". Now the stage bug had readlly bitten me and I was hooked on the theatre.

I not only loved to watch plays, I wanted to act in them too. In high school I joined the drama club and tried out for a part in another operetta, "The Pirates of Penzance".
I was in the chorous. I also got parts in other drama club productions. And I began to attend as many theatre events as I could. Every Christmas, for sure, my mother made sure the whole family went to a pantomime. When I was 13 I heard they were casting for one of these Christmas productions, and it happened to be my favorite story, by J.M. Barrie, "Peter Pan".
I longed to have a leading role but was accepted for the chorus as a dancing lilac. The play was presented in a large downtown theatre. I don't actually remember seeing it right through because we were in the back dressing rooms waiting for our cues to come on stage. But it was the thrill of my lifetime and my big debut on the stage! I had stage fever in my blood then. There was no stopping me!

PART II: Writing Tragedy.

"This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theatre where the dreamer is at once scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience and critic." Carl Gustav Jung

1 comment:

Kether said...

You find so few Shakespeare fans these days. I was born to a Shakespeare professor--so I spent my childhood going from play to play.
Writing plays is quite something. I've never really been able to pull it off because you have to use dialog to do all the work and I just can't write dialog that sounds natural. I'm impressed.
Peter Pan is also one of my absolute favorites!