When most children where 5 or 6 they could recite ring a round the roses as second nature. When I was 6 I knew an abridged version of the To Be Or Not To Be monologue in Hamlet by heart.
It wasn’t weird to me, my mom had told me as a child and I had, initially, memorized it without even trying. I can still sort of do it; if a fact is long, complicated and utterly useless to me I need only read it once and I’ll remember it forever.
Once I was older I asked my mom to teach me more. She didn’t now much but there is a Portuguese saying that goes like this: “In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king”. Why be correct? I could recite the back of a detergent bottle in English and claim it was Virginia Woolfe. It wasn’t like anyone would now.
My abridged/cropped version goes as follows:
“To be or not to be that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to take arms against the sea of trouble by opposing end them. To die, to sleep per chance to dream, ah there’s the rub! For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, and once we have shuffled off our mortal coil, must give us pause!”
It isn’t much now is it? Believe it or not, between sixth grade and freshman year I had an almost celebrity status for my Shakespeare.
I couldn’t perform. I never had any drama lessons. I’m an okay-ish actress but with no blocking or teachers or anything, I mostly improvised my acting. I made it into a physical comedy. I butchered Shakespeare’s beautiful lines and shouted my words, overacted did crazy hand gestures and usually in the end I’d stab myself with an invisible knife and die.
My near celebrity status was further reinforced when I participated in my school’s version of Britain’s Got Talent. It was named -inspired- *Myscholsnamewhichishan’tpost*’s Got Talent. I entered with my standard Hamlet with just the judges. I don’t know why I was nervous. Even today, I could pass off as Miss Popularity – if Miss Popularity’s first name was “Un”.
Despite the fact that I felt like I’d swallowed an entire family of butterflies (including second cousins), I passed to the main round.
I then busied myself with studying Act II, Scene II of Romeo And Juliet, better known as the balcony scene. A month later I was finally ready.
I asked my friends what to do, how to act, and most importantly what was I meant to do with my hands the whole time?? I was dead nervous. One of my friends said, last minute, to change it back to the funny way, the students would like it, it wasn’t a drag and would make everyone laugh.
That’s what I did. Only I didn’t take into account two things. One, I’d never rehearsed the “funny version” of R&J. In fact, I really didn’t know what to do. Second. Well that’s about it.
So I went there and wung it. It was a big hit; everyone was staring and laughing heartily, but halfway through the butterflies must have gone from my stomach to my brain because I forgot the rest and stated so simply by the mike. One minute I was lying on the floor “dying” (and yes I know they don’t die in the balcony scene, but the change was literally last minute).
I got disqualified. The headmisstress said I din’t put enough emotion into it. My friends laughed and said that considering I was dying and flaying on the floor and yelling I could hardly have put more emotion into it.