Fun with “forsooth”—and other Shakespearean shenanigans

I learned long ago that wagging my finger has little effect when I want my children to know I disapprove of something they’ve done. For our family, at least, humor seems so much more effective than hand gestures. Hence my use of the expression “Forsooth!”

My son hears it when he asks me for yet another serving at supper. My daughter hears it when she decides television might be more exciting than homework. My husband never hears it because, come to think of it, he’s pretty much always on his best behavior.

I’ve twisted the meaning a bit, I’ll bet. I use it to mean something akin to “how shocking.” My limited study of Shakespeare, which consists of arm crunches with Lizabeth’s “complete works” volume and a tad bit of time with professor Google, tells me it means something closer to “how true” or “indeed.” But I don’t guess there’s much Shakespeare can do about that now.

I might be better off using one of my favorite Broadway lines: “Shocking, shocking, shocking!” I roared with laughter the first time I heard it—I think it was during a production at Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale—but I’ll be darned if I can remember which show. It appears I’d rather mangle Shakespeare than use a source without proper attribution. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

Fortunately, the Valley is full of people who know a great deal more about Shakespeare than do I. One of them is Robyn McBurney, a theatre arts major at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, who also has a soft spot for humor. In her own words: “I love the classical texts. I adore more subtle humor and, I don’t know, I think some people associate Shakespeare with slapstick-like comedy, but all of his plays are full of little tiny double entendres and puns.”

I dare say that Lizabeth didn’t feel anything of the sort the first time she saw a Shakespeare work performed. She was in elementary school and I had grand visions of a trip to see Shakespeare performed in Sedona. We made the trip, but Lizabeth was less than impressed. The play was recast in a relatively modern-day setting, and I suspect she was expecting something more extravagent. Remember, this is the child who begged me to take her to see the opera Rigoletto at about that same time.

She’s always been a gracious kid. So I didn’t know until just the other day how she really felt about that performance. Here’s what Lizabeth told a fellow cast member from Oliver!: “I hated it!” Thankfully Shakespeare outfoxed me on this one. After seeing Ballet Arizona perform Romeo and Juliet, taking “Shakespeare Collision” workshops with Childsplay and studying Shakespeare in both arts and academic classes at ASA, she’s grown quite fond of him.

Isn’t it nice to know that our kids bounce back even when we blow it? Last year Lizabeth enjoyed attending the Utah Shakespeare Festival with fellow theatre arts students, accompanied by the incomparable (forsooth!) Maren Mascarelli, actress and theatre arts teacher extraordinaire. (You might think I’m biased here, but McBurney shares my opinion, so I’m quite certain it is entirely objective and true.)

Lizabeth missed the trip this year, but celebrated the return of her classmates when she learned several of them had placed well in the festival’s student competition. McBurney was among those who made ASA proud (again). But why on earth would a bunch of high school students take a shine to Shakespeare?

McBurney says it best: “Almost all of Shakespeare’s works look at the human creature, their loves and losses and revenge and happiness.” And frankly (my opinion here), who’s more human than a high school student? (Relax, young readers—it’s a compliment!) I hope to share more of McBurney’s reflections, and those of other Shakespeare fans, in future blogs. But seeing Shakespeare performed may be the only real way to do him justice.

You’ll have a chance this week because the Southwest Shakespeare Company is presenting “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)” through December 19th.

I don’t know everyone in the cast, but the folks I do know are rip-roaring funny. I mean rolling in the aisles, chuckling like a warthog funny. And there’s no reason to believe they’d settle for acting with anyone who didn’t share these credentials.

Performances take place at the Mesa Arts Center, a lovely-sized and beautifully-appointed venue that may indeed have aisles big enough to roll around in. (Of course, they may charge extra for that.)

The last time I saw a show there, the audience was as magnificent as the musicians on stage. This is important, given that theater is a communal experience.

I can’t tell you whether or not to take your kids. I haven’t seen this production, and I clearly missed the mark last time I tried to predict which Shakespeare play my own daughter might enjoy.

The company notes that “this show contains mature language and situations.” They also note that the production sold out the last time they did it, so you’d be wise to get tickets sooner rather than later if this appeals to your senses.

Let me know what you think, and whether anything fun like “forsooth” creeps into your vocabulary after you’ve seen it.

And to all you fellow aisle-rollers: Be careful out there…

–Lynn

Coming soon: The art at the heart of Cardon Children’s Medical Center

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