“the gay love of Shakespeare”
Ah, to be gay in a bar…
…man to man…the expression of love…
…the freedom? How can one celebrate the love of one man to another? Is it with pride and zeal, or is it with a concealed layer of hidden attraction and admiration? Has the freedom been attained? Or are we still working up towards it, towards the unfettered liberation of sexuality that one might celebrate their love in as open a place as a bar? On the street?
In 2016, this is still a question. Though this is part of a drama that goes back at least 400 years, to Shakespeare’s serial lovers: Antonio and Sebastian. Through the course of Twelfth Night, The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice; they have had a torrid, but secretive affair. Hiding in plain sight.
Antonio is a sea captain who picks up a drifting in-peril Sebastian and is overtaken by his beauty, “the gentleness of Sebastian.” Unable to deny his “desire, more sharp than filed steel, did spur me forth,” Antonio is so taken by Sebastian’s charm and good looks he risks his life.
But, come what may, I do adore thee so,
That danger shall seem sport, and I will go.
“They love each other as men, tangibly as men,” says Christine Marie, the project’s director.
She is tasked with imagining their love affair as a single play, The Twelfth Midsummer Night’s Tempest. This is a love affair which cherry-picks the characters’ lines from their cameos in each play. It is an interpretation of Shakespeare, but with completely original lines. An “exquisite corpse” so to speak. A collage.
“Their affair echoes Hippolyta & Theseus in Midsummer,” says Marie. “In the ebb and flow of what it means to be strong, Antonio’s desperation to be conquered by Sebastian denotes the relationship of equally strong players in the game of love. The only way Theseus gets to marry the Queen of Amazons is by defeating her in battle.”
This exploration of gay romance, particularly in the context of a world where the practice was shunned and illegal, resonates as a principle of the freedom of hiding in plain sight.
“What Antonio and Sebastian do throughout Shakespeare’s career is go on,” says Marie. The message of these characters’ will is not about change, but about sustaining life: “We will keep going, acknowledging what there is; and what there is right now are people who love each other.”
In watching rehearsal, Shakespeare can be played much like a sport…attempted by an amateur, but throttled and pushed over the edge by an accomplished professional. Though this is not a reimagining, it is a compilation reconfigured. Belvedere’s will work wonders for the smoky, illicit passion which this set of scenes illustrates. Within the noise and smokiness of the back room, a guy smoking a cigarillo at the pool table; a couple playing darts; a birthday party; and Ariel being coached on her line:
this fellow is wise enough to play the fool…
Shakespeare takes coaching, translation. It’s near half a millennium difference in language, but still can be decrypted at a bar, to:
this mother-fucker right here…
This will be a version of Shakespeare you’ve never seen before. Gayer. Smokier. More wont for an expression of pride under duress. A strained, but passionate love affair in plain sight amidst the pool cues.
At it’s core, expect to see the story simply as, “two people who love each other and are going through a relationship, evolving through the plays,” but also utilizing Belvedere’s as a prop itself; celebrating the subdued lighting and broad open space as a canvas for theatricality.
The play is a fundraiser for the out-of-work staff of Pulse nightclub. Produced by Industrial Gardens all proceeds will go to Orlando’s Pulse Nighclub. To purchase tickets to 12th Midsummer Night’s Tempest click here.
For more information, check out the Facebook event for the show here.