SHAKESPEARE ALOUD

Romeo & Juliet Act I, Scene 2 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Holy wow. I feel kind of like a bastard after doing this, but I’m sure some good will come of it. So I’ve just been told several times to stop filming in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here in Cleveland and so I’ve gone outside to pick up an earlier scene in the play I had neglected to read – Act I, Scene 2. It’s a beautiful day and there are some cool Motown tunes playing from the circular garden here on the patio.

This scene is Peter’s introduction to the play, and I have maintained for many years now that Peter is the best character, line for line, in all of Shakespeare. He says so little, and yet is so funny, and has such opportunity in this play to shift its balance toward its neglected comic roots, that he remains for me one of the most exciting opportunities for the actor in any of his plays.

In this scene Peter meets the Montagues and asks them to help him read the letter of banquet invitees to the Capulet ball. Sadly Peter is saddled with this task he cannot perform because he can’t read.

Before getting to this scene, I found Peter. He was standing outside the Hall of Fame, spangled in flare supported his many rock and roll causes, and trying to plant a pair of sunglasses in the flowerless garden in honor of a fallen rocker. I spotted him and knew it was Peter, so as you can see I went over and eventually tried to have him read the list that Peter can’t read.

He couldn’t read it.

Now, whether he couldn’t read it or felt embarrassed or didn’t want to stumble over it in front of the camera I don’t know. I actually think he just didn’t recognize some of the names (Signore Placentio being my favorite) and just didn’t want to look stupid. But the irony of spotting him, having him actually look like the Peter I hold in my imagination so dearly, and his so visible vulnerability in not being able to read the text felt increasingly shattering to me as the day wore on.

As I drove away toward my final destination that night (Chicago), it occurred to me that I had stumbled upon some measure of truth here. A condition of one of Shakespeare’s characters manifested in the real world. As Peter is one of my absolute favorites, I think I will cherish this video more and more, and hold this gem of a man in my heart each and every time I encounter this play.

 

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