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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Transferring the Curse

Many years ago (I had bangs then) I was cast in a small supporting role in a Shakespeare in the Park production. I was in the first scene as a servant to a Duke. The man they cast as the Duke was a really nice guy whom I've seen do good work in a lot of parts, but for some reason Shakespeare just tripped him out. He'd start one of his speeches and suddenly slide into glossolalia: "That strain again! It had a dying fall. Hum, lumlum lum lum, fffm mum gum mmm mmm, sum pum sumthum bum gum gum bum bum." More or less iambic pentameter mumbling whenever he drew a blank on the lines, which was frequently.

He struggled with it, wanting to get it right but never quite nailing it. He'd fix one passage and forget another. I felt a mixture of sympathy and frustration... in later years I've done a bit of study on techniques for learning and speaking Shakespeare, but at the time we were both amateurs and I had no wisdom to pass on. Still, at least I knew my few lines and was able to spit them out whenever the discombobulated Duke came to the end of his Shakespearean scat-singing.

So opening night arrived, and whaddaya know? The Duke got his speeches out letter perfect. I was quite proud of him. And he turned to me for my first cue: "How now! What news from her?"

And I said: "So please my lord, um mum gum mum mum mum bum."

Somehow he had transferred the curse to me. When I hear the phrase "The magic of live theatre," this witchery is what comes to my mind.

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