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So, the 2016 Shakespeare Sonnet Slam last Friday was really enjoyable! It was a beautiful dry day, no rain at all, despite the weather forecast; and unlike last year when the temperature was really cold, it was warm and sunny. There was great variety in the performances, as always: a lovely sonnet performed in French, a high school group who came to watch and perform, a woman who performed with her young baby in her arms, a singer from the cast of the hit Broadway musical Something Rotten, old men, young women, and people I recognized from past years. The highlight for me was the wonderful actor Dana Ivey, who recited “Shall I compare thee,” just beautifully: still and strong and resonant as an oak tree.
Every year, as I get more familiar with the sonnets, I “hear” more of them, and enjoy them that much more. I also feel a kind of silly identification and solidarity with the people who are performing sonnets which I was assigned to in previous years.
I met my actor friend Eve there—she’s a slam recidivist as well—and we both agreed that it goes by so fast when you’re finally up there, that you have no idea what you’ve done. We both had the sensation that we had skipped multiple lines of the sonnet while we were reciting, but I think (I hope!) that was only a feeling.
When I’m up there, actually performing, I don’t try to think too hard about my analysis or preparation; that was homework, and I just have to trust that I’ve done it well. The one thing I’m focusing on in the moment of performance, the one thing that I’m holding onto for dear life, because otherwise stage fright would sweep me away, is to play my action, which I chose in this case to be, “to double my bonds of love with you.” That’s my lifeline.
We finished all 154 sonnets very quickly—started at one, over by four—so I walked over to Strawberry Fields where, of course, there was a young guy playing John Lennon songs on his guitar. Lots of tourists, and he was very accommodating, playing all of their favorite requests. He sang in a key that I could sing in, so I spent a while croaking out John Lennon songs with him, though I have to say that by the fifth rendition of “Imagine,” it was getting old.
We were spared from the rain the whole afternoon, everything looked green and luscious in Central Park, and I finished the day with a $4.00 Double Caramel ice cream pop from the ice cream vendor.
A very nice way to spend a day.