Episode 241: Strange Bedfellows


My kids and I were sopping up all the Shakespeare learning we could take. We visited the UK in the summer of 2001 and saw a production at the new Globe Theatre and another at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford.

Then at the end of the summer I gathered a group of adults who were also jonesing to learn more about Shakespeare and I formed a company of amateur players called The Strange Bedfellows. Hmmmm….

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Hello, hello, my friends. Oh, I’m so happy to be here with you and also to be in the Scottish countryside. I’m on the island of Kerrera, and it is just off the coast of Oban. For any of you who are whisky aficionados, Oban makes some incredible whiskey. And so I got to the town of Oban and I took this teeny little ferry over to Kerrera, which is an island that has no cars on it. I mean, it doesn’t allow other cars, except for the cars that live here, so there’s just a few cars. My host told me that the normal population of the island is 75 people. And that in summer it doubles to a scandalous 150. And I was like, 150 people, huh? That’s like one city block in New York. And I’m talking just the people outside on the sidewalk. Yeah, so it is very different perspective over here, but beautiful. I’m staying in a converted trailer camper that was probably like an Airstream or something, but it’s stationary now. And it’s been converted into a cabin. And it’s adorable. It’s so colorful and fun and really well insulated. So I thought, oh, I want to record an episode here, too. 

So in the summer of 2001, I decided that because I just couldn’t get enough of this Shakespeare business, that my kids and I should also go and experience some more of Shakespeare’s history and Shakespeare’s work in the UK. So I decided that since we were going to be buying plane tickets to go over to Europe anyway, that we should definitely not just confine ourselves to Italy, and to just seeing the family home and spending time with the family. That was not enough to warrant a whole, very expensive plane ticket. So I thought it would be good for the kids to experience a little bit more of Europe each time that we went to visit with the family. So in summer of 2001, it was going to be the UK because the kids were learning so much about Shakespeare. And I felt like okay, they could definitely use a little more. 

So we landed in London, and one of our first stops was Westminster. I was so happy to see that the kids were really interested in history, that they actually knew a lot of the poets in the Poets’ Corner. They really liked seeing Shakespeare in his little spot there, but they knew more of those writers than I thought they would have. We went to the Tower Bridge and got all these wonderful stories from the guards there. They’re so good at telling stories. And we saw the gate where Anne Boleyn came in as a traitor. They knew that whole history, that was so much fun. 

And then we actually went to the Globe Theater, and saw a production of Macbeth, because that was the play that we were going to be working on for the fall. It was a very strange production. It was a modernized production, and I didn’t know what to expect, but the kids were enchanted by walking into the building that they had heard so much about, because it was so beautifully done. I had not seen the new Globe, as constructed by Sam Wanamaker. It was so beautifully done, and such an excellent replica, so we were really transported back in time, along with being there in the modern day and seeing that production. The production was very strange, because the witches, every time somebody died, they took this metal bucket and dropped a rock in it. And we were like, what is that symbolism exactly? What are they trying to say with that? But we weren’t sure. 

And then after London, we went up to Stratford to see Shakespeare’s birthplace, and all of that stuff. So that was really cool, because I just went there a couple of weeks ago, and I hadn’t been there since this time visiting with Savannah and Dakota. We had a very long day in Stratford. We saw all of the houses and all of the buildings in town that were interesting and important. And then that evening, we had some dinner and we went to see a production of Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is right there on the River Avon. I had no idea that it would be an uncut production, and that we would be sitting through four and a half hours of Hamlet. I was a little nervous because Dakota was eight, and Savannah was 11. And I was like, Oh my God, are they gonna make it? They had two intermissions. And each time I was like, how are you guys doing? You like it? They were enthusiastic, and I knew that there was the big fight that would happen at the end, so I was like, okay, they can make it. It’s alright. And we saw it. And I was very proud of them. 

And then we finished our trip by going to Italy, which was absolutely a sanctuary for my kids. And in that first summer of not spending time with their dad, I knew that they needed the surrounding of their family to really get through that time. So that was a good way to spend that. 

We returned home to Palisades. And Dave actually took the kids to Sunset Beach for the first time without me that summer. So the kids were going through a lot, you know, there was a lot that they were getting used to, and seeing how it was to experience things with only one parent in either direction. They were troopers. They were incredible. It was weird for me, of course, you know, a whole week away from them was long time, long time.

 But I had new distractions on the horizon. Because as much as we were having fun with the kids doing Shakespeare, the parents started to get a little jealous, at least some of them did. They were looking at all of the fun that we were having with the kids, and listening to their kids come home from rehearsals and saying what they did and how much they were learning. And with each production that went by parents would say, “My God, I never understood Shakespeare until now,” which was so fantastic to hear. Because the idea that kids speaking Shakespeare could make it more intelligible to the average human was a wonderful thing, and such a validation of everything that we were working on. So the parents started coming up to me individually and saying, “Well, is there any way that I can participate more? Or could I come to rehearsals and help you out? I really want to learn more. And is there any way that maybe you we can do a scene or two, just to experience how it feels to say those words.” And so I started to get some ideas about how this might work. 

In the end of that summer, I proposed to the group of parents who had approached me that we should perform an evening of scenes of Shakespeare, where they could just participate a little bit, one scene at a time. Not get too much responsibility, not have to worry about memorizing too many lines, but still get the fun of rehearsals and participating in the process of putting that production together. So we formed a group called the Strange Bedfellows. It was a fun name that we picked out based on a line from the Tempest. And I had no idea how apt that name was going to get to be. That’s the funny thing – you throw a bunch of people in together, and you have them start speaking the words of love scenes and such, and you don’t know what’s gonna happen. Big emotions get stirred up, and it was a little risky, because nearly all of these people were married. So I was like: Well, you know what, they’re adults, and I’m gonna just stay out of it. I’m not going to judge any of this, whatever’s happening. And I’m also not going to stop doing this because I enjoy it. And I’m having fun. And they’re grownups and they’ll figure out what they’re doing. 

But there was more than one affair that began as a result of the scenes. And I will tell you more about that. Some of it’s comic and some of it’s a little more serious. And I’ll tell you more about that though, as we go on. Wow. Again, what a tease, but you know what, sometimes I gotta draw you along to keep you involved in the story and waiting for the next episode. So that’s coming up soon. All right. I’ll see you then. Thanks for being here. Bye.

Published by dianathebard

Podcasting about growing up in the Hudson Valley in the 60s and 70s, falling in love, raising kids, getting divorced and being a free and creative world traveler!

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