Monday, October 13, 2008

Blithe Spirit

In 1820, Percy Bysshe Shelley began his poem ODE TO A SKYLARK with the words “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert!” A hundred and twenty years later prolific playwright Noel Coward would turn Shelley’s opening verse into a comedy that would be in production – somewhere – constantly, for the next 77 years.

Interestingly, Shelley wrote his poem while on a visit to Italy. He and his wife Mary had returned from an evening walk, where they had been serenaded by an actual skylark. Coward wrote his play while huddling in a tunnel. He was being serenaded by Germans dropping actual bombs over his head.

So what’s my involvement in all this? First of all, I owe it to Noel Coward. I directed a production of BLITHE SPIRIT in 1973, and it was a bad presentation. Bad. Everything that could go wrong with a show, did. It was so bad, it was funny for all the wrong reasons. How bad was it? During the middle of our Act I, Noel Coward died - literally. I have no idea how he knew what we were doing to his play, but for the past 35 years I’ve felt like I’ve owed Sir Noel a good show, and I always pay what I owe.

And next, I owe the theatre where the play is being produced. I had been hired to direct a play there about a dozen years ago, and was forced to back out of my contract because of personal problems. Now I was asked to replace a director who dropped out at the last possible moment.

Pay back. Here I could kill two birds with one stone. Uh … let me rephrase that …

It is now a dozen hours later, and the stage set has been roughed in. It doesn’t look like it here, but it’s going to be a good set. With a good cast. In a good show.

Hey Noel! I want my marker back!
oh. And, uh, this picture? It's an art deco elevator button from a 1932 movie. What does it have to do with Blithe Spirit? Nothing. Nothing at all. I just liked the picture.
And how was your day?



Julie Morrison said...

AH! MANNA!!!! I saw an article about this theatre /theatre group in the dispatch. I looked everywhere for your name. Oddly, Dave had the article underlined. With a history like the one mentioned, how can we not see it? When when when?

Nicki said...

Percy Bysshe is my favourite poet, except he didn't write my favourite poem. But I memorised one of his pieces, so I'll have it with me always:

"Music, when soft voices die
Vibrates in the memory.
Violets, when violets sicken
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead
Are heaped for
the beloved's bed.
And so thy thoughts when thou art gone.
Love itself now shall slumber on."

Oh he's so dreamy...sigh. :)

Jack Bunny said...

Thanks, Nicki.

The nice thing about a post like this is that someone will add a little gem like this.

Again thanks,


Jack Bunny said...

Hi Julie,

I appreciate the idea. The play opens October 31 (I know) and plays thru most of November. I'll post a schedule.



Julie Morrison said...

Still loving to know when... and when you might be back?