Monday, December 24, 2007

Shakespeare's Memory

Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story called "Shakespeare's Memory," which I read today and fell in love with a little bit. I am not a huge fan of Borges's, despite everyone's telling me I should be.
I like him well enough, but I have never been drawn in the way I was today reading his fictions at Pegasus Downtown today.

I like the way the character starts out as someone who can't wait to know everything "Shakespearean" and then ends up understanding that knowing all of Shakespeare's experiences is useless. Shakespeare's memory is superfluous and mundane because it does not elucidate the plays or sonnets. His use of language is independent of his life experience. The product is what we love, not the man. Dissecting the man yields almost nothing.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Let's say you're the type of person who is so addicted to Shakespeare that you would travel to a small town in Virginia just to see a few plays.

You will definitely end up in Staunton. There, there is a place called Blackfriars. It is the brainchild of Ralph Cohen, who I think is a genius, who wrote a book called Shakesfear, which I like very much so far but haven't finished.

But when you leave Shakespeare's world, you'd think that you'd be stuck in small-town USA, but you'd be wrong. There's a restaurant/bar that brings the urbane to main street America. It's called Zynodoa, and if you eat there, you just might think that you have been transported into the big city. The food is fantastic and the drinks are wonderful. They have a good beer selection, and everything anyone would ever want from a fancy restaurant in NYC, including incredible service, nice bathrooms, and clean chic decor.

The only reason I didn't eat there every day I was in Staunton is because they only have two Vegetarian dishes. On my last day there, they explained to me that they could have substituted something with something else, but I like ordering things on the menu. Plus, I hate asking for no meat and paying as much as someone who ate the animal. I have asked some other vegetarians about an aversion to substitutions, and I am not alone. If the substitution is on the menu, it makes it easier for everyone.

So, go to Staunton, See a play, and eat and drink at Zynodoa. Everyone should feel at home on Main St. USA, and Zynodoa does that for urbanites like me.

Monday, December 10, 2007


If you like Shakespeare underwear, you'll love Nakespeare.
It makes me wish I were a girl who could wear those kinds of things; or a person who were into wearing ladies underpants. But I'm not, and I don't think any of their sizes would fit me anyway.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Love's Labour's and The Winter's Tale in Staunton

Yesterday, I saw Love's Labour's Lost and The Winter's Tale at the Blackfriars.

Love's Labour's Lost did some surprising things. All the scenes with Armado and the two clowns were very funny, and I don't usually think they are. The scene with Costard's broken shin and he rhyming about the goose has not been this funny since the 1630's.

It made the scenes with the lovers kind of a drag. Usually, the parts with all the lovers together are the sweetest, but in this one, the girls and guys didn't really seem like they wanted to be around each other, so when they were around each other, th play turned to molasses. But whenever they were apart, they really wanted to be together. The scene in which all the boys read their love letters aloud was particularly clever and delicious.

Moth and Armado. I liked them.

John Harrel as Holofernes and Tyler Moss as Nathaniel were brilliant. Truly genius.

The Winter's Tale had a wonderful party scene. Made me want to be a shepherd.

Also, the trial of Hermione was frightening and heartbreaking. They had her in a dress that looked like someone had given birth in it for real. Intense.

Also, the bear chasing Antigonus hapened so fast and startlingly, it didn't get a laugh, which is refreshing. I kind of wished the Shepherd's son had been a bit more scared that he had just seen the bear tear the bloke's shoulder, but I was so happy that the bear didn't look lame, it was OK.

Romeo and Juliet in Staunton

On Friday, I saw Romeo and Juliet at the Blackfriars playhouse in Staunton. They pushed the comedy really hard in the beginning of the play so that when the tragic elements start coming forward, they are made that much more tragic in comparison to what has been going on on stage.

I didn't like the friar being humorous so loudly because I think a lot of what he says and does is pretty funny already and should be kind of dead pan type of stuff. The language does enough for the friar that the actor doesn't really need to try so hard.

They "Do it with the lights on" at the American Shakespeare Center. They leave the house lights on so something strange happens. The actors see the audience and the audience sees each other. I wish they didn't explain the situation before the play because it is really surprising what happens. The audience feels like they are part of the show. Indeed, several theatergoers end up on stage sitting on the sides, sometimes becoming very active in the course of the play.

It's kind of a mixed bag, but I think what lacks in the type of experience the Blackfriars provides is made up for by the fact that everyone seems to be enjoying themselves immensely. The actors and audience are in it together to have a good time. And they do.

The actors also play songs at intermission. I love that. It's like a poetry reading that way, and I like poetry readings, and I think that the oral tradition of poetry and theater is never respected without music. And they are good musicians! And because of the way the theater works, the audience claps the beat unabashedly.

They also laugh loudly and gasp audibly and do all of the things that theatergoers do in the movies but not in real life.

And this was a good Romeo and Juliet. Everyone was good in it. I think, though, that the most memorable effort was provided by Benvolio played by Christopher Salazar. I think that Benvolio is a thankless role: hard to play and totally forgettable. Everyone ends up talking about Mercutio when it comes to Romeo's pals, and Benvolio just slips out of the memory as soon as you leave the theater. But the Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio trio really worked out on the Blackfriars stage.

Friday, December 7, 2007


On Tuesday, Professor Kerrigan gave a talk on his book, Archipelagic Macbeth, at UCB. It dealt a lot with titles. I will blog about it for real on Monday.

Last night, the cast of Macbeth got together for the screening of the videotaped play. We had pizza and sentiment. It was really nice. I enjoyed seeing what I looked like up there, what everyone looked like up there.

After that, I flew to Virginia. I'm going to see the plays at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton at the Black Friars. Mostly, I want to see Antony and Cleopatra, but as long as I am here, I am going to see all the plays that they are showing.
They are:
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Winter's Tale
  • Love's Labour's Lost
  • Antony and Cleopatra

A grad student from the college out here picked me up at the airport. His name is Bob Jones, a fellow Shakespearean and a very cool person. It was a long flight, so it was particularly wonderful to see a friendly face. I just got here, so this post is incomplete. I am travel-weary but thoroughly delighted to be here.