1st of October. Autumn pitching down on my nearly-dried laundry. The day started so sunnily. What happened? And so, too, I feel my confidence waver and wane.
I am scheduled to give a lecture at The Shakespeare Institute in 3 weeks time. This is not just any lecture for me. This is a "Thursday Seminar" at The Shakespeare Institute. "Thursday Seminars" were a huge part of my life not so long ago, when I was graduate student there. I can't believe I received my Ph.D. 10 years ago this year. Has it really been 10 years? And here I am, back again. Here is the thing, you know those old sayings, like the one Janis Joplin is said to have coined: "You can never go home." And, another in the same vein: "Never return to the scene of the crime." That's how I feel about giving this lecture. I'm not ready. I don't feel "old" enough or "grown up" enough to do it.
I still feel like that hopeful student I once was, longing for acceptance and approval. Wanting to prove my worth, my smarts. When I was a student, Thursday Seminars were a pleasure and a pain. If we were lucky, our director, Stanley Wells, had roped some Shakespeare hot-shot to come and talk to us. I will never forget how on one occasion he'd invited Harriet Hawkins to speak. Harriet Hawkins was--and probably still is--this sassy, American scholar-diva. She was tall, blonde, and gutsy, with what I think was a broad Texan accent. The title of her lecture was "Classics & Trash." Awesome. So American. The kind of woman that makes an Englishmen swoon.
I admired her. And wish I could find that kind of courage now. I mean, I've had it before, I used to teach at NYU, for goodness sake! If that doesn't take balls, I don't know what does! But this is different. Like presenting a lecture before your family--and I have a highly critical family.
I want most of all to make a good showing. To confirm my status and place as a Shakespeare scholar and performance historian. I am torn between talking about my experience seeing an amazing production of Othello in Alaska last April, or pulling together some thoughts that I've had about the final moments of Hamlet, inspired by two recent productions I have seen both here in Stratford (with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart) and at Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. Either would be fine, but I want to be better than fine. I want to be excellent.
So, instead of knuckling down and pinning down exactly what I am going to talk about, I am focussing my energy on worrying about what to wear (Oh, how I miss J. Crew); unpacking the countless boxes that have just arrived from New York; and watching the rain...