Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: August 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Twelfth Night

This past week my parents and I went down to Ashland, Oregon, to the Shakespeare Festival. My birthday was at the beginning of the month, and seeing as I'm leaving shortly to start a master's programme in Shakespeare Studies, my parents thought it would be nice if part of my birthday present included a live Shakespeare performance. So we went to see Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night, though not my favourite of the comedies (Much Ado holds that distinction, though Midsummer probably comes close), holds a special spot in my heart because of Feste. My sophomore year of uni I wrote a paper on Feste; it won the Lorraine Smith Prize in English (awarded to the sophomore writing the best essay in an English course), and was subsequently published in Knox College's online literary magazine The Common Room (it may be found here). Consequently, I have a soft spot for Feste. I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, as it turns out; the performance of Twelfth Night that we saw this past Tuesday was quite good, but I felt that the Fool was exceptional, and not only so, but that he might have been simply plucked from the world for which he had been written and dropped to the stage. There are characters in this play who move amongst the social classes - Viola as Cesario, for one, for though of noble birth, she plays page, servant, and messenger to Orsino and therefore to Olivia - but it is Feste above all others who moves fluidly amongst the characters. He is welcomed everywhere; that is the gift of the Fool. His licence is the licence to speak freely and truthfully, without fear of giving offence; his curse is to never truly belong. They chose to costume Feste in a traditional multi-coloured jester's outfit (though they forwent the cap), and, interestingly, they painted his face white, drawing on his eyebrows and giving him what appeared to be a beauty spot. Given that they set the play in the midst of the lush late 18th century, when powdered hair, painted faces, and patches were popular, it is curious to note that Feste is the only one with a painted face. Olivia and Orsino, though they affect the clothing and the hairstyles of the wealthy, have not been given the other affectations of high society - and yet it stares them in the face any time Feste is in the room, as though they stare in a mirror. Feste, too, is a performer, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the songs he sings. I was pleased to see that they kept his songs; they incorporated a violinist and another instrumentalist (who appeared to move between several different instruments, primarily woodwinds, I believe) as part of the court, who accompanied Feste as he sang. He had a beautiful voice, and after his first song I looked forward to hearing his others.

I found that the minor characters - Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Maria, and of course Feste - were much more believable in their roles than the principals. Though Viola was, for the most part, quite good in her role (particularly when she was behaving as a man, though I'm not entirely certain what that indicates), there were moments when she succumbed to overacting, and that drew away from the impact that she might have had. Olivia, in particular, was especially guilty of overacting. There are some roles (Sir Toby, for instance), which are meant to be overacted and overplayed; the character lends itself to such acting. But I don't feel that Olivia is one of these, and the way in which she was played turned her into a caricature. Though it is true that in some ways the character is already a caricature (she falls in love with a servant after meeting him once, and a servant who is in fact a girl ), I'm not convinced that Olivia is a fool, and I think the way in which they played her portrayed her as too much the buffoon. Aspects of her character were very well done, but I think they put too much of her into the extreme. Sir Andrew Aguecheek, on the other hand, was extremely well done. He minced, pranced, clapped, huffed, and ran about like a complete ninny, entirely clueless as to what was going on, and they dressed him in a vile, bilious green vertically striped coat and horizontally striped stockings that clashed terribly with the grassy green backdrop that occupied most of the stage. He was so pitifully awful that it was difficult not to feel sorry for him, but in such a way that you were very thankful that you were not acquainted with him yourself! It was also pleasing to note that they managed to cast two actors in the roles of Viola and Sebastian who actually largely resembled each other; it's always somewhat disappointing when the two siblings look very little alike, considering that Viola as a boy is meant to be so much like her brother that people confuse them for each other! But Brooke Parks and Christian Barillas looked sufficiently similar to each other that upon the latter's first appearance on the scene, someone behind me actually whispered to their neighbour, 'No, that's a different person' - proof, I think, that they looked enough alike to cause at least a bit of confusion at first! Interestingly enough, Parks and Barillas also played siblings the next day at the matinee performance of Pride and Prejudice, which we also attended; they played Miss Bingley and Mr. Bingley, respectively (the latter was a perfect Mr. Bingley).

I really did enjoy the performance, in any case (and Pride and Prejudice, the next day), and would have loved to have been able to stay for several days and seen the performances of Merchant and Henry IV Part 1 that were also taking place that week, but since I work during the week we had to head back north. Perhaps another summer we'll be able to head south again (I think we seem to go about this backwards...doesn't one normally head south for the winter?) and see a few more plays. In the meantime, I shall have to content myself with reading them in preparation for my programme. :)

And now for something completely different...

I started this piece my sophomore year in a fiction workshop. Over the years I've revised it a number of times (at some point during the revision process I ended up with gay angels), and though I'm fond of it, I've never quite been able to decide what I really think of it. I think there's probably a lot more I could do with it, but I think doing so would really change what I have...and I'm not quite certain I'm willing to do that.

Feathers and Ashes

A feather drifted downward, scorched from downy afterfeather to emerald barbs. The translucent shaft curved slightly and tapered to a blackened tip that disintegrated into dusty particles as it touched the ground, leaving behind nothing but ash.

* * *

Aurelia stood with her arms folded tightly across her chest and watched Fidelis. He sat with his back to her, shoulders hunched. His wings draped limply around his body. She worried about him; Fidelis had spent most of his time alone since Lucifer fell. It was natural to grieve, she knew, but she wished that he would laugh again.

A breeze brushed by her cheek and ruffled Fidelis's wings. One of his shoulders jerked, as though twitching away the feel of the air. Aurelia admired his ruby-tipped wings, the way the red faded to cream, and a sad smile touched her lips.

She perched on a cloud beside him and put her hand on his shoulder, her fingers white against the deep bronze of his skin. He turned his head, just enough so that she could see the tears in his eyes, and reached his hand up to cover hers. It was cold.

Pulling her hand away, Aurelia wrapped her arms around her knees. One wing drooped and touched Fidelis's, sapphire and ruby tips just kissing. The breeze returned, teasing Aurelia's curls across her face and into her eyes. She pushed her hair back and whistled a sharp command; the breeze lingered for a moment, resisting, and then was gone.


Fidelis did not respond. It was not uncommon these days for him to ignore her, so Aurelia was not surprised. She followed his gaze across the fields of white to the Meadow, where several of God's pet angels sat, watching Terra below.

Aurelia saw that in the Garden, God was walking with His children. They were pretty creatures. Once, they had been simple as well, but that was before. Beside her, Fidelis stared down at Him; she sensed the bitterness in his heart.

Fidelis. Aurelia tried again, and Fidelis lifted his head. A blond curl drooped over his forehead. She reached out to push it aside. He permitted it, toying with an emerald-tipped feather that Lucifer had left behind. As her fingers brushed across his skin, Aurelia felt fear and anger, and drew away again.

We do not understand the workings of the universe, Aurelia.

With this, the most Fidelis had said since Lucifer fell, came an image: Lucifer, a crooked smile on his handsome face. He had been shy; he hated confrontation, but when he had been passionate about something, Aurelia remembered, Lucifer had let nothing stop him. She looked at Fidelis and smiled; God's children had not been the only ones about whom Lucifer had been passionate.

We do not, it is true, Aurelia replied. But it is not for us to understand everything.

The corners of Fidelis's mouth quirked slightly, and he turned bright eyes on her.
Perhaps not, he conceded. It is for God, and He alone. Why is He alone permitted to understand everything?

Aurelia was startled by the question.
God is the Creator, she said. We cannot hope to equal him.

Do you think - Fidelis said, and then stopped. Aurelia waited. Do you think that that was what Lucifer tried to do?

What, strive to equal God? Aurelia smiled. Of course not.

But you will agree that he was angry. That they were both angry.

Aurelia looked away.


Lucifer stood with his wings wrapped around his body, trembling as he faced God. His green eyes glinted with anger and pain, and tears glimmered on his pale cheeks.

You cannot do that!

God folded his arms across his chest. Man is my creation, Lucifer. They are mine to do with as I please.

You gave them life, but what else have you given them? What else? What good is giving them life if you will not give them anything else?

I have created a Garden, in which my children may live and play. Why give them what they do not need? It will only lead to sorrow.

How can you refuse to understand?
Lucifer demanded. You have put them in a state of stagnancy. They simply exist. They cannot understand anything; they cannot love each other. Without love, what else is there? Why will they care for each other, for what happens to the others in the Garden, if they cannot love and choose to love?

They will do so because it is my will,
God said. That is the end of it.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bright lights and signs in the sky

My birthday was yesterday, and (*excited squee*) Alison Mutton made me a new blog banner as a present. It's so beautiful that I cannot even express how amazing I think she is - I can only say that she is one of the most talented people I know, and I encourage everyone to explore not only her blog, but also her fantastic website.

For my birthday, my parents and I went to an outdoor performance of Macbeth in Priest Point Park - appropriate, considering that in less than two months I will be situated in St Andrews and will have begun my studies of Shakespeare. This particular performance was done by a group called AnimalFire, and it was certainly an interesting interpretation. I enjoyed it, though I wish they had begun about a half an hour earlier, because by the time they reached the end, it was almost too dark to see. I'm looking forward to later this month, in any case, because for the rest of my birthday present we're going down to Ashland to see Twelfth Night and, because we couldn't get tickets to another Shakespeare play during the time in which we planned to be there, to see Pride and Prejudice. I wasn't aware they did Pride and Prejudice as a play; as it's one of my favourite books of all time (I read it for the first time in the fifth grade and love it far too much), I'm curious to see how it translates to the stage.

In other news, I recently began a new story, a 'Cinderella' story in which Cinderella - El - is male, and the Prince - Rebecca - is female. This isn't a particularly new idea; I think it first popped into my head a number of years ago, but since then it's been crowded out by any number of other things, so I'm glad it's found its way back to the surface. What I've written so far is much too rough for me to want to post it, but I hope to eventually put up at least some of it.