My Life In Shakespeare: a Love Letter to my Dead English Boyfriend

Posted: March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

Someone asked why I would do a Shakespeare Burlesque show and I was actually kind of stumped for a minute because, well, why on earth wouldn’t I do a Shakespeare Burlesque show?  The coloration between the two seemed so obvious to me, so perfect, that I forgot that it wouldn’t be so obvious to, well, anyone else.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like Shakespeare.  I grew up in theatre so, to me, the theatre has always been both magical and a part of life.  I thought that theatre was magical in the way that most children think of adulthood as magical.  Someday *I* would wear these beautiful costumes and say these beautiful words and sing these amazing songs.  And I somehow always knew that Shakespeare was especially magical.  My mother told me the plots of Shakespeare plays like they were fairy tales and she told me their meanings and lessons, their emotional resonances.  At the dinner table, my parents would tell stories of rehearsals gone awry and the dress rehearsal of Midsummer where everything went wrong and the play within a play was such a disaster that the whole crew laughed so hard they thought they might die.  When I played with my mother’s makeup, it was my mother’s makeup kit.  I painted my face all the colors of the rainbow and played with puck ears and Fairy Glitter.

The college that my Godmother worked for had a Shakespeare festival every year where high schoolers would compete with scenes and monologues and a bunch of the college students would dress up like Queen Elizabeth’s court and sweep around the school in these fantastic period costumes. And from the time I was 4 or 5 my Godmother would make me a tiny period costume and I would go around with the court.  I’ve always been pretty damn fem so I LOVED it.  I loved wearing corsets and bumrolls and petticoats and giant skirts.  There was something so exciting about wearing clothing that fancy and heavy and swishing down corridors and courtyards. It’s amazing how excited I was, especially considering I was doing pretty much nothing, other than wandering around and watching teenagers perform Shakespeare scenes.  NOT the ideal day for most five year olds but I fucking LOVED it.

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When I was 10 my mother put me in Shakespeare camp, a month long theatrical day camp at the Marin Theater Company.  This was when I really got into studying Shakespeare. My teachers; Maura Vaughn, David Kudler and Don Williams, they were heroes to me and they didn’t shy away from teaching Shakespeare to kids.  They never dumbed it down or changed the language.  When I was 12, I played a courtesan in Comedy of Errors.  Maura was very frank about what a courtesan was and Don taught me how to act more vulgar and how to steal someone’s wallet.  They told us the stories, they explained (some of) the dirty jokes, they made sure that everyone did character work and everyone had lines.  This was no small feat considering Maura had to cram 50 kids, ages 5 through 17, into Much Ado About Nothing.  These people cared about Shakespeare and they cared about us.  They taught us that Shakespeare was vital, that it was living, that it was fun and sexy and scary and funny.  They taught us that Shakespeare was for everyone; smart, dumb, young, old, aristocrats and groundlings.  It was for everyone.  And it still can be.

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That was the spirit that inspired me to do a Shakespeare Burlesque show.  Because burlesque is the same thing.  It’s vital and sexy and scary and funny.  It is for everyone.  It kills me when people do boring Shakespeare and it kills me that people think Shakespeare is boring.  So I think an injection of sexy ladies is just what  Shakespeare needs in order to counteract the bad name that it’s been given by shitty, boring, directors.  When I first met Peter Aguero, he said that he loved that I (and other performers) used the fun sexiness of burlesque to hook people in and then hit ’em with some art.  Art has a bad name in this country.  It’s been made boring and inaccessible.  It’s been made cerebral rather than visceral.  But it doesn’t have to be.  If you ask me, good art is sexy.  Good art is heartbreaking.  Good art is funny.  And maybe if more of the world believed that, artists wouldn’t all be fucking starving.

So, if you’re in the NYC area, please come check out Bardlesque and see how goddamned sexy Shakespeare can be.

Bardlesque Flier

My next post will be about how we put this whole thing together, because this shit was not easy to do.

  1. David Kudler says:

    I did not see this. How in god’s name did I not see this?

    Fills me with love this does. Thank you. (Even the picture of Austin looking smarmy.)

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