My Beautiful Wickedness

Midsummer’s Night Dream…
March 8, 2009, 8:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Shakespeare has a very ten-year-old sense of humor, that’s all I’m saying. Kid’s class is putting on a production later this year and she’s trying to get a handle on the characters, why they act as they do, what one she hopes to be (casting happens in the next week or so) and so we’re reading it aloud and I’m talking about what the various passages would have meant to his listeners. We’ve talked about the humeral theory of medicine, the homonculus, early modern England’s ideas about gender (she’s fascinated that boys played girls), British law in the Shakespearean age, recent religious transformations in the British Isles, the nature of the original audiences (whether at the Globe or in the court) and their reactions to the plays and so forth. All that is well and good, but what she really likes is the bawdy bits. Every bit of off-color innuendo sends her rolling on the floor. It’s like a Jerry Lewis routine in a Paris metro. You just don’t remember how good-naturedly coarse he is until you’re reading along and come to the play-within-a-play sequence…whew.

Kid is still in the youngest of the grades in her mixed-grade class and historically, those students have gotten minor parts. Still, she’s hoping that she’ll get to be a fairy and maybe do some dancing.

What a different kind of dramatic education she’s receiving than the one I got. At her age, I lip-synched the part of the wicked witch (typecasting, I tell you…) in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. We had no costumes, no sets, nearly no rehearsals. My big scene called for me to knock a Tupperware jug filled with torn up paper off a table while chasing Hansel around my witchy kitchen with a broom. I gave it such an adrenaline-charged whack that it flew offstage into the wings, where a stage tech picked it up and threw it back on stage. I got a big laugh. I was mortified. The year before I was the “narrator” in Thumbelina because I was the kid who could remember all the lines. I desperately wanted to be the teeny weeny fairy child, but I was the lumpy dumpy brainy child.


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