As depressing articles about the upcoming Summer of COVID-19 begin to proliferate, our hopes for beach days, concert series, and summer camp begin to dim.
Here in New York City, the Public Theater’s announcement that it is cancelling the upcoming season of its famed Shakespeare in the Park was met with understandable sadness.
You don’t have to like Shakespeare to enjoy the ritual of entering Central Park shortly after dawn, prepared to sit online for several hours awaiting noon’s free ticket distribution, then returning to the Delacorte later that night with snacks and sweater and wine.
Performing a quick Internet search to brush up on the plot can enhance the experience, but—and I saw this as someone whose degree included a metric heinieload of The Bard—it can be equally satisfying to spend the final acts enjoying an impromptu, al fresco nap.
Bonus points if a raccoon runs across the stage at some point.
Alas all this must be denied us in the summer of 2020, but it's still within our power to replicate that summer feeling in advance of the equinox, using the past productions that London’s Globe Theatre is screening on its YouTube channel as our starting place.
First up is Romeo & Juliet from 2009, starring Ellie Kendrick and Adetomiwa Edun, though according to the Independent’s Michael Coveney, the show belongs to Penny Layden as the Nurse:
Far removed from the fussing tradition of comic garrulity and the Patricia Routledge factor, Layden plays her as a scrubbed, middle-aged, sensible woman carrying a history of sadness. The bawdy assault on her by Philip Cumbus's melancholy Mercutio is both shocking and plausible, and she retains her quiet dignity while at the same time mourning its sacrifice.
Back to New York City...
Prior to starting your screening, you'll want to approximate a seat at the Delacorte (which, like the Globe, is authentically circular in shape). I recommend a metal folding chair.
Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of water onto the seat if you want to pretend it rained all afternoon leading up to the performance.
Definitely have some wine to pour into a plastic cup.
Slather yourself in insect repellent.
Silence your cell phone.
If your housemate’s cell phone goes off mid-performance, feel free to tsk and sssh and roll your eyes. Honestly, how hard is it to comply with the familiar instructions of the house manager’s speech?
At intermission, stand outside your own bathroom door for at least 15 minutes before letting yourself into a “stall” to use the facilities.
Doze all you want to…. arrange for your housemate to tsk and sssh at you from an appropriate distance, should your snoring become audible.
You have until Sunday, May 3 to stumble sleepily away from the screen, and pretend you’re wandering to the subway with 1799 other New Yorkers.
Then make plans to wake up at 5:30 and sit on the floor with a thermos of coffee for several hours, hoping that they won’t run out of tickets for The Two Noble Kinsmen before you make it to the top of the line.
(Spoiler alert: they won’t.)
Others in the Globe’s free series:
MacBeth, May 11 until UK schools reopen
The Winter’s Tale (2018), May 18 - May 31
The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019), June 1 - June 14
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013), June 15 - 28
Clicking the red “discover more” lozenge beneath each show’s photo on the Globe Watch's landing page will lead you to a wealth of supporting materials, from pre-show chats with the Globe’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Will Tosh to photos, articles, and a student challenge specifically tailored to the times we find ourselves living through now.
Subscribe to the Globe’s YouTube channel to receive reminders.
Donate to the Globe here.
Americans can make a tax-deductible donation to The Public Theater here.
via My Modern Met
Take a Virtual Tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London
A 68 Hour Playlist of Shakespeare’s Plays Being Performed by Great Actors: Gielgud, McKellen & More
A Free Shakespeare Coloring Book: While Away the Hours Coloring in Illustrations of 35 Classic Plays
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Depending on how long this thing goes on, she may look into giving Penny Layden a run for the money by live-streaming her solo show, NURSE. Follow her @AyunHalliday.