Posts Tagged ‘Coleridge’

Today’s post is brought to you by the single quotation mark: ‘’. Useful in making linguistic distinctions and hypothetical comments! Unfortunately, kids, as they are not audible, they are difficult to make a song about.

Sheffield, Massachusetts, October 19-20:

The majority of my memories of our stay in Massachusetts are hazy, as I fell ill on our first full day there. I’d make a joke about ‘homesickness,’ as if being in Massachusetts but on the opposite side of the state from ‘home’ proved too much for my constitution, but I’d actually begun feeling a bit peaky in Maine (perhaps because I was cold). Also, it would be such a bad joke that it might no longer qualify as a ‘joke’ and might simply qualify as a ‘stupid thing to say.’ But it’s not actually that ridiculous to assume that homesickness might get the better of my immune system, because I get sick about 7.5 times a year (probably, indeed, because I am cold). Some kind people have, over the course of my life, called my constitution ‘delicate,’ which makes it sound sort of refined, as if it were the kind of constitution that drinks tea from white china and eats little cakes from doilies and does needlepoint, but I have to be honest and say it’s just poor. Or, as a realist might say, ‘a piece of crap,’ which, one must admit, evokes quite different images.

Our first full day in Massachusetts was a day off, but because I am a nerd, I decided to accompany Mr. Daniel Kennedy to the performing arts high school where he used to work to teach an unofficial ‘Shakespeare on Your Feet’ workshop. It was great fun to get to understand a bit more about Dan’s stories by visiting the school, and the kids in the workshop were absolutely fantastic—perhaps better than any group I’ve seen so far, and we’re usually teaching college students. It was only unfortunate that I passed from ‘a sore throat and slight headache’ to ‘Death’ in the middle of the workshop. The teacher of the class, an extremely nice man, expressed a desire that we show them something from our season, but I was so drained from pretending to be a normal human being by that point that I really felt as if I were going to pass out whilst doing ‘The quality of mercy.’ I am amused in retrospect about how I would have tried to play it off had I actually swooned; both ‘No really, it IS not strained, pay no attention to my delicate constitution’ and ‘See, if you REALLY let Shakespeare affect you, you pass out,’ present themselves as equally awful alternatives. I think the better choice would be, ‘Ah, sirrah! A body would think this was well counterfeited!’ especially since many of them did As You Like It last year with Dan, and they probably would have gotten it.

Our actual venue was the Berkshire School, the first private high school that we’ve visited. I was part of another delirious workshop the following day, but was comforted by the fact that I’d done it before and thus knew I was somehow capable of it. I remember very little about our shows; we had a Taming of the Shrew on Friday that was compulsory for all the students to attend, and a Henry V on Saturday that was optional. And despite the fact that the students packed into the auditorium on Friday clearly enjoyed themselves against all expectation and almost against their will, laughing and whooping and clapping, our audience on Saturday for Henry was small and seemed, for the most part, distinctly bored. I think there may have been some sort of sporting event extravaganza that day, and many of the kids may have been bussed over to another school, but I don’t recall clearly. The only thing I recall really clearly is fantastic tomato soup in the dining hall, but, due to the general haze in which I lived, it feels almost like a Dream Soup. I will be cursed to roam the world, like Shelley’s Alastor, looking for the tomato soup of which I dreamed, until I build a raft and float off on a river of mediocre chicken noodle.

So, I spent most of the time either lying down or wishing that I was lying down. But the narrative of my illness has a miraculous ending, because as I was listening to Chris Johnston make up a song on the spot about Alisa’s upcoming birthday, I somehow reverted back from ‘Death’ to ‘a sore throat and a slight headache.’ The song was just that good: it had about twelve different key/tempo/style changes, each of which seemed increasingly brilliant. Of course, I was dizzy enough that I don’t remember any of the actual lyrics (Alisa has a slightly better recollection of it here), so it seems like a Dream Song, like the ‘damsel with the dulcimer’ in ‘Kubla Khan,’ and I will have to roam the world like Coleridge, only with less opium. But someone took this picture, which I have stolen from Alisa’s blog, and you can witness the expression of unconfined and inexpressible joy on both my face and Alisa’s face. And prior to hearing this song, I felt sub-human!

The Miracle at Sheffield

I’m not sure when, exactly, I was brought into a better state of health, because I was clearly preoccupied with joy; afterwards, I suddenly realised that I felt more like a human being with a few symptoms of illness than a walking, talking cloud of germs. Do not ask how it happened: only know that Chris Johnston can cure the sick. Some might say something as mundane as ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ but I prefer Magic as the explanation. Alisa and I agreed that this would be a better story had I been blind or leprous, but it might not have made very much sense, generous as they are, for the American Shakespeare Center to hire a blind or leprous person for their tour. The resident season, maybe.

Note also, in this picture, how Paul looks becalmed, like the lions laying down with the lambs. In the background, Raffi is bowing his entire upper body, clearly moved into deep contemplation by the power of Alisa’s Birthday Song. Even Scot is transfixed! And look how the iron sits back, quietly, on its haunches, not leaking, not burning anything, not setting off any smoke alarms (more on the last later)!

The only thing Chris’s song did not cure is my posture. History may, however, chalk my horrible posture up to the vestiges of illness in my body. Provided that History does not look at other pictures of me. I can only assume other photographic evidence of my poor posture exists, suggesting that this is not a fluke.


Read Full Post »