King Lear Misadventures

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Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Friday, May 4, 2007

I have to say it: I love Shakespeare. Not a terribly original statement, I'll admit, but true nonetheless. I love his sonnets, I love his plays, I love the earring he so jauntily sported on his shiny, bald head. I even love Titus Andronicus. Just... love. You get the point. So when I found out in my Junior year of high school that the Advanced Placement English class got to take a trip to Stratford, Canada for the Shakespeare Festival, I was ridiculously excited. I bided my time and when senior year and AP English came, I practically tore the permission slip for the trip out of my poor teacher's hands.

I feel the need to add here that very few of the students in AP English ended up going on the trip. Their reason? The trip was the day before our senior prom. To which my response was... "" Apparently one needs two days preparing their prom hair? (But, then, given how my hair looks in these pics, I really have no right to criticize). Anyway, only about 8 or 9 of our classmates decided to go. Luckily the 11th Grade Advanced Lit class was invited as well to fill up the bus, ensuring that the trip would not be cancelled and that the AP students who had refused to sign up would not be forever placed on my shit list. Honestly... for shame, AP students! For shame!

Within our group of friends, those who ended up coming were: my best friend, Katelyn; Leah; Rachel (who took all the photos); Nick (my prom date and not-yet-boyfriend); and myself.

We started out very early in the morning on our charter bus. Our teacher, Nika Schulte, handed out little goody bags with snacks inside. I don't care how old you get, snacktime will always be awesome. There were also little programs about the festival and jellypens inside. Why there were jellypens, I'm not sure, but I wasn't going to complain as mine was a very interesting shade of magenta (the pen remains, over two years later, tucked away in my pen cup). Katelyn and I sat together on the bus with Nick in the aisle across from us. That's the other aspect of this trip that needs mentioning. Nick and I were at that desperately awkward stage in high school relationships... the I-like-you-and-I'm-fairly-certain-you-like-me-so-let's-exchange-many-glances-and-stand-inordinately-close-to-each-other-shall-we? stage. All of my friends were aware that I fancied Nick, with the exception of Nick himself, who didn't know when to take a hint.

Anyway, we played many, many hands of cards on the bus (I soundly beat both Katelyn and Nick at BlackJack several times) both before and after we reached the border. All we needed at the time was a photo I.D. and a birth certificate, a policy that's certainly changed since.

Finally, we reached Stratford (travel time on the bus was approx. 3 hours, 51 min.). Our first stop was at a sad little shopping mall so we could all get something to eat (fine Canadian cuisine, to be certain). Inside, Katelyn, Leah, and Rachel sat together at one table, forcing Nick and I to sit alone together (they were all conspiring against us at this point). Rachel stealthily snapped a few photos (this was to be a continuing theme throughout the day).

We scrabbled back onto the bus and headed to the Shakespeare Festival Grounds, inspecting the Canadian currency that had been given to us by the mall cashiers. It had been a fairly grey morning, but the weather had turned beautiful by the time we arrived at the theatre. The grounds are meticulously kept and the theatre itself is terribly cool.
We had an hour and a half of free time, during which I studiously avoided the giftshop (as I knew I simply did not have enough pocket money to not leave grievously pained. Bear in mind, I had $50 on me... but all bets are off when there is Shakespeare/books involved.)

Instead we all decided to take a leisurely stroll around the place. First around the gardens in front of the theatre, where we encountered the creepiest Shakespeare statue we had ever seen (he will haunt your dreams). Then, we stumbled upon a playground and, because I'm obviously 6 years old, I ran for the swings.

My Natural Habitat...Whee!
You don't want to know how long I stayed on those things.

After that, we strolled around the lake for about an hour, which was lovely. Here we found ducks, grumpy geese, ducks, physics-defying trees, more ducks, and... ducks.

Again, the girls took it upon themselves to snap photos of Nick and I without our knowing. Sneaky.

Finally, we headed into the theatre for the play (King Lear). Of course, there's no cameras allowed inside the theatre, but you can see shots of the stage here:

The play was excellent, as King Lear is always excellent. The show was stolen, I think, by Dion Johnstone, who played Edmund. Considering when the play was set (the early 1600s, in this case), casting Edmund with a black actor added a whole new, upsetting layer to Edmund's anger over his illegitimacy and he completely dominated the stage. Brian Bedford as King Lear (he was also the director) was marvelous, of course (he's well-known among Shakespearean theatre circles... but I think my generation knows him best for voicing Robin Hood in the Disney cartoon. Still the best Robin Hood as far as I'm concerned.). The entire production was very stunning from the blocking to the costumes and I want very much to go again.

After the play, it was time to get back on the bus. Katelyn maneuvered it so Nick and I ended up sitting together (subtle). We pulled out his iPod and the little speakers he had with him and we listened to Brad Neely's parody of Harry Potter, Wizard People, Dear Reader, for the umpteenth time. It sounded like gravelly gobbeldygook to Leah and Rachel, making them crack up and begin to imitate Brad Neely's voice, telling a story about "a very brown girl and a very brown boy who were very awkward..." I ignored them, silently swearing to beat them both later. We both became very sleepy and I ended up with my head on his shoulder, half-napping/half-talking. It was very nice. Rachel ended up getting an awesome picture of a car beside us. The glare on the window made it look like it was flaming. It's The DeLorean! Gun it to 88!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. We were back by 11 and so we weren't at all tired for prom the next day (again, shame on you, AP'ers! Shame!). Prom was a great success, though it still took Nick another week to realize I liked him. Honestly.

I want to go back up to Stratford very badly (I wouldn't mind going this season as they're showing Macbeth and Julius Caesar). Unfortunately, ticket prices and eight hours total travel time is a bit too much to handle right for everyone. Perhaps next year.
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ms.wanderlust on

I Love* this! U are an A-mazing writer Jax! I Love* and miss U B*yond___________XO

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