That is where the Globe Theatre comes in.
Now, let me set for you my stage, on the third day of my London visit. It was wet. You’re going to think I’m stupid—despite the inescapable reputation of London’s rain, the fact that I KNEW it is a rainy place, and could figure out it would probably be rainy… I only packed shorts and a light jacket. In my defense, when most of your travels have been limited to Colorado, Nebraska, and Spain, you tend to expect the same weather.
As my powers of forethought failed me on this particular occasion, I was therefore dealing with the cold. Fortunately, I’m not a wimp, so I didn’t make a big deal of it. If I’d been wearing pants, I would have actually enjoyed myself.
Of course, I say that now. Beyond the cold I was also dealing with my umbrella-less grandfather. Unlike me, he did not invest in zippered pockets, and thereby lost his umbrella on the bus the day before. He’s also a lung cancer survivor, and so while we are grateful that he is alive, his lungs do not get him anywhere fast anymore. Walking with Papa was a slow, cold business.
There was line-standing, ticket-getting, more stairs than Papa expected, and a Shakespeare statue to fill our next few minutes before the tour started. After meeting Jeremy, our tour guide, there were even more stairs that would take us to an open-roofed theatre.
In retrospect I really wish I could have asked about using the elevator. Too late now.
Thankfully, the first place Jeremy led us was to our seats. Papa didn’t expect such an intensive walking tour, and since his life’s philosophy is, “I may never come this way again,” he tried to keep up with everyone else. (And he did. But I felt better when we sat. He will run himself into the ground with that philosophy.)
Then… Jeremy, well, he performed a history of the Globe, and how its replica came to be. He wasn’t an actor, of course, but an orator. He seemed to feel the pulse of the theatre’s lifeblood, and helped us hear its beating heart. After all, as he said, an auditorium has never been about what you see, but what you hear.
We heard that the Globe isn’t an exact replica, in architecture or action. They didn’t keep detailed blueprint records in Shakespeare’s time, and safety precautions are better than historical accuracy. They also take more liberties with performances, but it’s still a working theater, and still gleans groundlings and gentry alike.
My favorite part of the theatre is that it is ALIVE. Plays are still performed there between spring and fall, and there is now an indoor auditorium that can be used in winter. If memory serves, Shakespeare has been performed in over 40 languages—there was to be a performance in Mandarin later that afternoon. Casting is colorblind. They experiment. During the theatre’s off-season there are workshops for students; it’s another way to pass on the cultural torch.
But it wouldn’t be enough for there to be a Shakespeare monopoly. There are also new plays written specifically to be performed in the Globe. The cycle continues! It’s pretty sweet.
I hope I get to see a performance there one day. While there, I felt like I was in a hub of culture, fusing old and new, sharing stories we have loved for hundreds of years, and hopefully for hundreds of years more.
Plays, after all, are not meant to sit dusty on a shelf. They are meant to breathe!
And, even though Papa could not breathe, and made me contemplate his immediate and alarming death, we survived. I guess all’s well that ends well.