Around a year ago I was preparing for my visit to London. And by preparing, I mean neglecting to find a hotel until a week before arriving. More on how to celebrate (and how not to celebrate) New Years in London soon, but first, a little story about my “first time” – a first time every literary lover must experience: seeing a production at the Globe Theatre.
I spent most of my youth secretly referring to William Shakespeare as The Fairy Guy.
It all began at age six. A movie production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream played on our home TV, and I sat there for hours, utterly transfixed. I didn’t understand much but something held me. So I sat and I listened.
Even as a child, I emotionally understood what intellectually eclipsed me. The melodic wonder of Shakespeare’s words mesmerized me; it was unlike anything I had ever heard, and I quickly fell in love.
And also, I was six. So fairies.
Since then, I’ve never been able to let go, and when I’d look up shooting stars on hot summer nights, I’d wish to write like William Shakespeare.
Well. That will never happen. And I’m okay with that. But I do find it curious how a writerly love affair can captivate you for so many years – how certain stories become so integrated into your daily life that you can no longer detach yourself from the emotional, intellectual experience of a particular book.
My Shakespearean love affair resurface at the 5th grade Renaissance Fair. When I was 10 I “borrowed” my mom’s lipstick and smothered my face with a chlorine-infused glitter stick. It took two seconds for me to transform into a very glittery Macbeth witch, and I stunned my parents by memorizing over half the play in less than a day. My friends and I also inadvertently stunned our teachers by “concocting” a “potion” for the fair, with which we inadvertently clogged the girls bathroom sink. I’ve avoided concocting anything from potions to simple soups since then but that one little fair determined the course of my life for the next ten years.
I started to pursue theater. And The Fairy Guy suddenly became much more important.
My teenage years consisted of memorizing lines, caking my face in stage makeup, squeezing into dresses, and becoming other people under hot, bright stage lights. I loved it. I did my best to embody Viola, Witch 1 in Mabeth (this time in a proper production – and my own lipstick), Helena, Hermia, Juliet, and, in my most beloved – and last – Shakespearean performance, Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. While nothing will ever quite compare to Emma Thompson’s beautiful rendition, I enjoyed growing into this witty, bright, emotional, inspiring woman.
Beatrice has been one of my favorite characters ever since, so when I had the opportunity to see the live production of Much Ado at the Globe Theatre, I honestly couldn’t contain myself.
My friend may or may not have been (as in he absolutely was) a tad embarrassed to be seen with me. Of course, we had groundling tickets. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Using my height to an unfair advantage, I shimmied my way right up to the stage itself. And waited. We had our drinks, we had our food, and I – well, okay, I had the entire script. I clutched it in my sweaty palms, dizzy and nervous for no good reason. Perhaps it was simply because I hadn’t seen another rendition of “my Beatrice” since playing her myself, and I felt unjustifiably possessive of my beloved character.
Every word of the script had been marked, either with the rhythmic verse, little blurbs analyzing the play’s themes, or just simple reminders of what some of the more bizarre jokes even meant. There I was, in my own little heaven, with a well-trodden stage before me, and a dazzling ceiling above me, a ceiling that marks the astrological signs in exquisite detail. The theater hummed with an energy only an uncommonly dry London summer’s day could bring. And I had my nose in a script.
Well, I may have been oblivious, but one of the actors wasn’t.
TO BE FAIR, the play had not yet started.
“You afraid I’ll forget my lines?” the actor asked me. I looked up in horror at the man standing at the edge of the stage.
“What? No! No, sorry, I just-” as I fumbled through an apology, he bent over, picked up the play, and began flipping through it.
“Oh Dogberry,” he chuckled. He glanced down at me again with the look of mocked scolding, “Now were you going to watch us or read the entire time?”
He smiled….but then he tossed my fucking script.
The script I had carried with me for years, thrown carelessly to the surrounding groundlings. Humiliated and furious, I abandoned my post in front of the stage and began hunting for the play. I bothered nearly everyone in the vicinity (sorry about that) and crawled around the filthy, grimy floor.
Let it be known that not only did I find it with only one footprint and minor water damage, I did so before the first line of dialogue. And then I hid my script in my purse until safely back in my flat four hours later.
An evening well spent at the Globe, don’t you think?
London has no shortage of literary attractions. From Harry Potter tours to the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, literary lovers will never find London boring. Irritating, yes. Frustrating and dismal, yes. Boring? Never.
If you do nothing else in London though, visit the Globe Theatre. Tour St. Paul’s Cathedral on your way, admire the turbulent Thames, and stop at one of the many nearby pubs after the show.
You won’t regret it – just don’t bring your script.