My love for William Shakespeare developed during my years in college, as one of those things you never expect to happen but do. I fell in love with the Bard’s wit, his love verses, even his raunchy side, to tell the truth. Over the years I have seen countless Shakespeare plays performed by theater troupes composed by all-females, and all-males, and dressed as cowboys, or soldiers, or hippies; the list goes on and on.
I say the above as a way to explain why my recent trip (this past June) to Stratford-upon-Avon, in England, was such a great deal to me. Stratford is where the Bard was born, raised, educated, where he was married, became a father, successful, and where today he rests in peace. For someone that loves Shakespeare like I do, Stratford is some sort of Mecca. On top of it all, I arrived to Stratford on June 23, which happens to be my birthday. Yes, an emotionally charged tourist I definitely was.
The first absolute must was to attend a play at the gorgeous Royal Shakespeare Theater, right on the banks of the Avon. There has been a theater at that location since 1875, with the current structure standing since 1961. On the night of my birthday I saw “The Merchant of Venice,” which, with an amazing Shylock, was very much an enjoyable performance. And yet, I am glad to report, it was confirmed that we have amazing theater talent in Los Angeles, as companies like A Noise Within in Pasadena and Independent Shakespeare at Griffith Park could in all confidence go head to head with those professionals in Stratford who have the luxury of the spirit of Shakespeare in their midst.
In Stratford I toured the house where Shakespeare was born. Can you believe that they still have an original window (I mean the glass) that faced the street in the days of the Bard?! I saw the room where he slept as a baby, and the addition he made to the house as an adult to turn the place into a hotel (because he was smart for more than just words). I saw also the school that he went to, and the location of the house he purchased once he’d become famous, as well as the splendid home that belonged to his daughter Susannah.
But above it all, I saw him. Well, the place where his body is, inside the Church of the Holy Trinity. He is buried there, next to his wife Anne and to Susannah. He is there under a statue that was created shortly after his death, while his wife and daughters were alive, and therefore is the truest testimony we have to what he looked like in life. Standing in front of his grave was simply amazing.
My trip took me to several wonderful places in England, and for a few days to amazing locations in France, but nothing was able to top my days in Stratford. Those will be tales for posterity. This is a link to my pictures in Stratford-upon-Avon, in case you have enough time and curiosity. You will forgive my face interrupting the view so often, but this is the age of the selfie.
By the way, were you to have $5,000 laying about, the Pasadena Playhouse is organizing a tour to Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, and London October 9 through 19 of this year. I have been to the three locations, albeit my trip was on a shoestring, and I can assure you, it’d be the trip of your life!