This blog is a wayward verbal companion to a tapestry journal, or tapestry diary. While my hands work on the tapestry day by day, my mind sometimes insists on words to go with the images. This is where they will live.
So why “met by moonlight?” When I was eight, A Midsummer Night’s Dream became my first favorite Shakespeare play, and the meeting of Titania and Oberon in Act II Scene I, which begins “Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania,” became the first scene of Shakespeare I ever learned by heart.
Which begs the question, what’s an eight year old doing memorizing Shakespeare?
I think about this often, about the gifts of childhood we take so much for granted that we never bother to thank our parents for them. This is one.
My Mom, among the many things she did with her life, was once a high school drama coach. Every spring, she picked out a cast and produced a play by Shakespeare with them.
Months before, she’d start thinking, remembering who’d graduated and who was coming up, playing with casting, eventually picking her play. And then the recordings came out. She had a shelf of them – from the Old Vic, maybe? – a whole shelf of records of Shakespeare. One case would come off the shelf, one stack go on the spindle (if that was unintelligible, imagine a physical version of a playlist), and the voices would start.
She’d listen, just listen, a few times first, a few nights over a few weeks. Then out came the book: always a Penguin edition, one of the ones with the cream and grey-green cover. The voices would start again, the pencil would twitch in her fingers, and a few lines were cut, followed by a few more. Always in pencil, so she could go back and check later, to be sure nothing critical was gone.
After the cuts, the weeks of stop-and-go began (what she might have given for a pause button…) as she closed her eyes and listened, then opened them and madly scribbled blocking. Then, book splayed, spine broken, margins filled, the last tech cues were crammed in, in red this time, I think.
Over in the far dark corner, under the long cool windows, I’m lying flat on the floor. My eyes are closed, and there are voices in the darkness. From the time I was an infant, I heard Shakespeare. Beautiful, trained stage voices, and the most enchanted language in the world.
They’d stop too soon, of course, when Mom abandoned the record player for the actual cast, damn them. But, you see, there are never enough baby sitters in the world, and the plays were performed on the terrace of the school which was also, as it happens, my grandmother’s terrace, so I can’t even remember the first performance I saw. I do remember, though, how it felt. I was sitting in my grandmother’s yard, a place I played all the time, a place I knew well. I knew the students around me. I was sitting by my father. It was comfortably familiar, a spring evening, iris and peonies blooming along the edges of the audience.
And then, suddenly, all different, the step sideways into Faerie. The hush, the dark, the moment the familiar became rich and lush and magic. I suppose those were not the best performances, or the best productions, I’ve ever seen, but they’re among my favorite evenings in the theatre, the spring nights I was initiated into The Audience.
Thanks, Mom, for the voices in the dark.
And so this place where I speak into the darkness is Met by Moonlight.