So, I’ve been hired to perform my Shakespeare Show in this library. Its so very very far away from where I live. And you never know if you are going to get a group of 200 kids or 6 kids. Google maps declares in Siri’s soothing tones.
“You have arrived.”
There is no library to be found anywhere. I turn the car around, go into one of those sidewalk malls and far in a corner is the hidden gem of a library.
I’m wary. The show is in the evening, it’s in the middle of nowhere, Los Angeles, and it’s my Shakespeare show. As is, Shakespeare is in the title. Whilst there are a whole contingent of grown-ups who would love love love their children to be versed in the wonderful language and poetry of Shakespeare – it is very hard to persuade anyone under the age of fifteen that this is anything other than more parental abuse.
I walk in and the library is fairly quiet. The librarian begins by apologizing if there are no children to attend. My heart is sinking. Then a few kids turn up, a couple of moms, a lovely eleven year old in a wheelchair and we persuade the resident homeless guy to attend.
The show begins – I introduce myself as Lady Elizabeth Shakespeare (Shakespeare’s fictional niece) in dulcet Shakespearean tones, then flip to my cockney accent with “my uncle likes to call me Lazy Lizzy – on account of me being very lazy” – and the show is off and running.
A hand goes up!
“Me! Me! Me!”
“Yes?” I ask.
“Guess what?” says a 6 year old breathless with excitement.
“What?” I ask, my fine tale interrupted.
“My name is William, just like your uncle William Shakespeare.”
“Indeed! Perhaps, we’re related.” And Uncle Shakespeare has another life long fan.
The show is rollicking. When I ask the kids if anyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet. Multiple hands go up.
“Its about two gnomes, one red and one blue…”. Ahh… yes, the recent movie. I’ll take it.
The kids act out Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony scene. There are groans from all the Romeos and they get down on one knee and throw flowers up to Juliet on her balcony. The girls giggle. We arrive at the climax of the show – the sword fight in Julius Caesar. Everyone wants to be Brutus. The entire audience is busy reciting “Et tu, Brute!”. The girl in the wheelchair wins the role of Brutus, by almost jumping out of her wheelchair at the opportunity of stabbing multiple Julius Caesars. All the Julius Caesars from ages 4 through 14 act out dramatic mock death scenes.
Then a hand goes up from amongst the grown ups. It’s the homeless guy. Please let him not want to fake stab a kid or act out the mock death scene.
“Yes?” I ask warily.
“I know the speech from Julius Caesar, the one by Antony… May I recite it?” He takes off his worn hat.
And thus emerges one of the most moving renditions of “Friends, Roman’s, Countrymen…” that I have ever heard.
|Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar.
There is awed silence in the library. And then the kids, moms, librarians and I burst into uproarious applause.
The gentleman bows, returns his hat to his head. Walks out of the room to his grocery cart with his belongings and leaves.
And that is how Shakespeare lives on in LA.