Last week, my English Professor asked my friend and me to perform a scene from Henry IV. My friend was playing the part of Hal, a young prince, and I...well, I was assigned the part of a fat, low-life, alcoholic. At first I was terrified that I would get boo’d off stage and I told my Professor that if that happened, to please excuse my absences for the rest of the semester, as I would never be able to show my face in his class again.
When it came time to perform, I had hundreds of concerns about this performance. As I walked up to the stage with my friend, all I could think about was how I would mispronounce every word (because let’s be honest, no one speaks Shakespeare’s English anymore), come off as culturally insensitive for faking an English accent, or worse, fail to live up to my Professor’s vision of Shakespeare. I think I just needed to get all these crazy thoughts out of my head so when I was on stage, right before my Professor said action, I instantly said, “By the way, I gained like 50 pounds for this role and you know, had a couple of beers before the performance, so I hope you appreciate my commitment to the performance.” The funny thing is that I didn’t even think about what I was saying, it kind of just came out. Everyone laughed and I think it gave me like 30 seconds to pull myself together and start the performance. I think the most painful part was when we finished the scene and we had to walk back to our seats in silence. NO ONE CLAPPED. Actually, my supportive friend in the audience did that slow clapping thing that usually gets other people clapping, but no. In a way, I wish she hadn’t slow clapped because it just made the walk back to my seat a lot more awkward. But people really liked the performance! They told me after class that they wanted to clap but they weren’t sure if it was okay.
There are two lessons you should take from my humiliating (yet rewarding) experience: Amherst classes offer a variety of ways to learn! Rather than write a response paper to Henry IV for that week, my friend and I acted out a scene that became a theatrical representation of our analysis of that scene and its characters. Furthermore, the students in the audience got to direct the scene. They told us how to react emotionally, what tones to use, and what they thought Shakespeare was trying to do through the interaction between these characters. We had the opportunity to analyze a scene as a class. It was just great to be able to act out a scene and see the many ways people interpreted it.
The second lesson is that at Amherst, you can always be yourself. One of my English Professors once told us that students try so hard to say something smart and meaningful just to impress a Professor that you forget to just be yourself. That absurd remark I made right before the performance is a reflection of all the other ridiculous things I say on a daily basis. And I said it to help me relax. It helped that I was being myself right before the performance. Even though I’m at Amherst, I like to tell myself that I’m still the same old goofball, getting through life one day at a time.
**[Title Reference: I’ll try to tell you what my title means on all of my blogs. This is a play on the Shakespeare version, “No Fear Shakespeare” that makes it easier to read and understand those play by translating it to modern English. But I kept telling my friends that even with that version, I would somehow manage to mispronounce everything, even the author’s name!]