Shakespeare and the Art of Being a Coward

“Humor is the most engaging cowardice”
-Robert Frost

This week I began a 3 month journey into Shakespeare.  With Iam Coulter, former artistic director of the Shakespeare Company in Calgary, at the helm, we will learn how to sililoquize with the best of them, perform scenes that would make Laurence Olivier jealous, and quote sonnets like Cyrano de Bergerac.  As you can see, I’ve already begun making up words.

It is very exciting for me.  For as long as I remember, I’ve been drawn to The Bard; I believe I was 10 or younger when my Grandma gave me an old copy of Romeo & Juliet, and I began casting people in roles – whether they knew about it or not.  Since that time, I’ve decided I hate Romeo & Juliet, but my love for Shakespeare lived on.  I’ve studied Midsummer Nights Dream, Twelfth Night, Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear (twice), Merchant of Venice and Titus Andronicus.  Guys – if you think Shakespeare doesn’t have enough action, you’re not reading/watching the right plays.  In Titus Andronicus, a girl gets assaulted and her tongue cut out, a mother eats her own children in a pie, and I’m barely scratching the surface there.

I’ve studied them; I’ve interpreted them, and I’ve enjoyed them.  But that doesn’t mean I know them.

I never knew an “Oh” in Shakespeare was well-rounded, and deserving of big emotion; who knew when a character mentioned wringing their hands, their hands best be wringing?

I also never knew how vulnerable Shakespeare can make you feel.  My self-chosen monologue is from Midsummer Nights Dream, right after Helena has spoken to Hermia and Lysander and learned of their elopement.  Here’s the messy triangle:  Helena loves Demetrius who use to love her back, but now he loves Hermia, only Hermia loves Lysander and Lysander loves her back.

How many of us can relate?  I can do more than that.  I am Helena.  Four times over.  Will doing this monologue, digging deep into the words of Helena and Shakespeare teach me what I’m doing that causes me to run after these types of men like a beaten dog?  Or will it finally teach me it’s okay to be vulnerable instead of angry.

I'm pretty much the Chandler of any group I'm in.










And here’s where I’ve perfected the art of being a coward.  You want me to play an overweight bad-mouthed bingo player?  Sure, no problem.  You want me to play a character, who, because her life circumstances eerily echo my own, is vulnerable, betrayed, confused, beaten down and yet still in love, I’m going to crack a poop joke and ruin the mood.

I've defiled a bush like this three ways from Sunday.









Anger is easy, comedy is easy, pain of any kind is hard – no pun intended.

But who knows?  Three months from now, perhaps aside from speaking with words like “for sooth”, I’ll make you all weep moments after opening my mouth.


Pictures taken from here and here
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