Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, September 3, 2007

King Lear of the Insect World

Howl, howl, howl, howl!
When I was in high school, I fell in love with William Shakespeare's plays. I got to see James Earl Jones perform as Othello in 1967 when I was a sophomore--he had me sobbing at the end, and I so treasured the experience that I kept the Playbill, which I still have. When Star Wars came out, something about Darth Vader was driving me nuts, and finally it came to me and I blurted out, "It's Othello!!" Russ elbowed me and shushed me, but I waited through the credits just to make sure. The credits said Darth Vader had been played by David Prowse, and so the moment we got back to our apartment I pulled out my program to PROVE that David Prowse played Othello. But he didn't!!! I was so bummed out, so certain that I'd recognized that voice, but months later Parade magazine had an article about James Earl Jones and how he'd done the voice work for Darth Vader--David Prowse had been the actor under the famous suit and mask. James Earl Jones didn't ask for a screen credit on the first theatrical release, but the situation was corrected later. Anyway, I was vindicated!

What has to be one of the greatest Shakespeare productions for the theater EVER is happening right now. Ian McKellen, one of my favorite actors in the universe, is playing King Lear, in what is my absolute favorite play of all. The play will be in New York at the end of the month, and in Minneapolis from October 5-14. If I weren't unemployed, I really would have figured out how to get to London to see it, or New York. In Minneapolis, all the tickets were sold out before they even went on sale to the general public, since the Guthrie gave first crack to their members. My sweet husband tried getting me a ticket on eBay for our anniversary, but when he looked they were charging a thousand dollars for two tickets. That might be in someone's ballpark, but not in mine.

So I'm obviously not going to get to see this play--I'll have to imagine it all. But I have a pretty good imagination. When I saw the above photo of that little bee, shaking his tiny fist at the universe like Lear raging on the heath, I felt encouraged. Sure, he's no Ian McKellen. But he's as naked as Lear on the heath, that bare, forked creature who doesn't even need words to carry a sting. I may not see the play, but I'd be a fool to ignore the real life dramas all around me in the natural world.

But speaking of the natural world, my favorite lines in King Lear pretty much sum up why I'm happy to spend my life working to protect little birds:
That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly:
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The fool, no knave, perdy.

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