Greetings, readers, and welcome back after our brief post-Stratford hiatus, which we used to once more adjust to the sweltering maw that is South Florida weather (and get over our vacation-is-over blues). Today was supposed to go back to normal. I even prepared a book (my go-to Young Adult staple, Sabriel). But when I sat down today to write up a review, I found I just couldn’t. I guess it was a mistake to go back and re-read our blogs from Stratford. I’m not sure whether it’s because they triggered the almost overwhelming urge to book a ticket and see Hamlet again or because my inner editor was screaming at me to go back and re-write them with something resembling coherence, but, either way, those posts left me with too many feels to delve back into our regularly scheduled programming, so…guess what?
Shakespeare-a-palooza is extended! If only for today (though, if I know A at all, she’ll be doing something similar tomorrow).
(The view from Tom Patterson Island. See…we weren’t lying about the swans.)
Guys…I miss Stratford. I miss walking everywhere (even if those hills killed me–I’m a Floridian, guys) and drinking tea at Balzacs out of their adorable little teapots. I miss the cute little shops and the delicious food (served in portion sizes that aren’t gargantuan and almost always locally sourced), and the fact that there are pianos set up all over the downtown area for anyone to play. I miss the grass, which isn’t the crab stuff we get here, and trees that aren’t palm, and the ridiculous gardens that I feel like are the pride of their owner. I miss the fact that everyone says hello, the swans on the Avon, and the weather. Oh, by all the gods, do I miss the weather. Imagine wearing a sweater in summer, guys. OK, so maybe some of you are from places where that happens…but I barely wear a sweater in the winter, so the thought of wearing one in the 100 degree (F) sauna I face each day is just…*dead*. Seriously, Florida is overrated. Stay away. Come here in the winter. It’ll still be warm enough for the beach, believe me.
(The back patio at Balzacs, aka the most perfect place to write ever.)
But I think what I miss the most is the feeling that the town itself was alive. Stratford has a character and is a character. Let me explain. Have any of you been to Disney World? They pride themselves on their ability to immerse their visitors into their world, so you almost forget that you’re actually not that far from a pretty major metropolitan area. Stratford does it almost effortlessly, and with an authenticity that the Mouse could never hope to match. Granted, it’s not nearly as close to Toronto as Disney is to Orlando, but leaving Stratford was like getting jolted awake after spending some time in Brigadoon. I felt some magic leave me as A and I drove out into the countryside on Sunday, and nothing since coming home has brought it back. Stratford knows itself. This is not to say that everyone there is as gung-ho about the festival as those who participate in it at any stage, but everyone is proud of the town, nonetheless. A lot of places would have given in to the kitsch and turned into a Shakespeare tourist trap, but not Stratford. They’re a town with a renowned theater festival, not a festival surrounded by a town. And I miss that. Especially since I live in a part of SoFla that is basically a beach with some houses attached.
(Y’all thought I was lying about the pianos, didn’t you?)
It’s hard to put the feelings into words. They’re too strong, too pure to be crammed into a mere reflection. No matter how powerful the language I could use, I could not make you feel the way I felt while I was there. It’s something I’ve really only experienced while performing in an orchestra. It’s the beauty of the ephemeral moment; a Buddhist’s dream of complete presence and mindfulness, which can only be experienced as it’s happening. It lives and then it is no more, sublimity of an instant. No matter how much I write, I don’t think I can explain how it felt to be in a place where I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was surrounded by kindred spirits, people of, as the Reduced Shakespeare Company says, “above average cultural and literary awareness”. There was something so creatively invigorating; if I hadn’t been so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted each night, I feel like I could have churned out a novella. Of course, I haven’t written anything since getting home; the depression seems to have sucked all the words out of me, and I can’t get into a creative space. Talk about a downside.
(Play this. When you get to 12:50, listen carefully, because that part has the magic. That’s when I felt my body singing, even if the cello part isn’t terribly exciting.)
The one upside to coming home is that Shakespeare seems to have followed me. I am continually referencing the Bard. My tendency to speak in verse (or, at least, heightened language) has faded, much to the relief of my other half, but I’m sure it’ll come back because I am also reading/watching Shakespeare at ridiculous rates. I still find Shakespeare in Love a bit melodramatic, but I’m even considering watching it in preparation for next year (they’re staging a version of it). I’ve watched the BBC Taming of the Shrew at least three times this week in an attempt to overcome my disappointment in the Stratford director’s choices, which I cannot seem to shake. I learned that the cluttered and frenetic staging is rather a signature of this particular director, which has me fretting for As You Like It next year. It’s one of my favorites…and I worry. It’s not a play that can handle clutter very well. I also seem to be drinking tea a lot more. My coffee consumption is way down. I feel so English, guys.
Perhaps the most nostalgic I get is when I look at the clock and it’s either 2 or 8pm, and I find myself wondering which production is going on. I’ve stopped looking it up, but I still find myself longing to see Hamlet again. And I’m quite literally putting big X’s on a calendar until next year, when I am damn sure seeing Macbeth. I cannot wait. But I do have a new goal: to go up and down those hills without dying. So I suppose something good has come out of this. Also, another goal: get Mercutio published so I can see it in the Festival Shop. If a zombie version of The Sound of Music can be sold there, an awesome retelling of R&J surely belongs!
(God I miss this play. The DVD cannot come out fast enough. Please hurry, guys…)
OK, I suppose I’ve written enough. There’s only one thing left to say, and that’s about our host, Laura. Stratford would not have been the same without her warmth, humor, and wealth of knowledge. She grew up with the festival, and it felt like staying with the ultimate insider. Laura knows everyone and everything about Stratford, the Festival, and everything in between. And her food! I had a mini break down Monday morning because I was going to have to face the day without her granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit. And how does anyone get by without stories over breakfast?! Even without the plays, I’d go back next year just to hear the saga of Bill the Duck, which she has promised to tell us. Between her and the wonderful, wonderful people with whom we shared our B&B experience…I feel like I have a Canada family. In fact, I’ve already started calling Laura my Canada Grandma, and I don’t plan on stopping.
(Canada Grandma’s House)
That really is enough, I think. Any more and I’d be worried I wasn’t particularly healthy. I fear I’ve become obsessed. But I think that’s OK because I’m 100% convinced A feels exactly the same way, which makes it fine.
Until next time!