Subdued City Shakespeare
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
I have an important announcement about a major literary event. I have written my first play. Well, sort of. I haven’t actually written it yet, but I do have some notes. I’m not as far along as I’d intended because I ran into a problem: I couldn’t come up with my own idea for a plot. So I did what a lot of people have done, I borrowed a story from William Shakespeare. I figured that if Leonard Bernstein could rip off Romeo and Juliet for West Side Story there’s no reason why I couldn’t do the same.
In my play I’ve moved the action from Verona, Italy to Whatcom County. My star-crossed lovers are named Tyler and Brenda. The Tragedy of Tyler and Brenda. Nice. Good title. It’s got dignity and epic power. I haven’t come up with their last names yet, so for the moment they’re just called Tyler Montague and Brenda Capulet.
Just like in Shakespeare’s play, these two families really hate each other. Both families are active in local politics. They turn up to speak during the public comments period at every Whatcom County Council meeting and they’re always on the opposite side of every issue. Over the years they’ve come to despise each other. Everything about the families is different.
The Montagues, Tyler’s family, live in Fairhaven and are Southside liberals who voted for Hillary Clinton but only reluctantly after Bernie Sanders lost the primary. Brenda’s family, the Capulets, live near Deming and are rural county conservatives who voted for Donald Trump but only because Ted Cruz dropped out of the race.
Mr. Montague runs a company that is a not-for-profit, local, sustainable, worker-owned cooperative that manufactures solar panels for birdhouses. Mr. Capulet owns a logging company that specializes in clear-cutting hillsides, watersheds and wetlands.
Mrs. Montague teaches in a Montessori school. She is active in the American Civil Liberties Union and volunteers at Planned Parenthood. Mrs. Capulet homeschools her 11 children, using only McGuffey Readers and the Bible for textbooks. She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and pickets Planned Parenthood on a weekly basis.
The Montagues go to the Unitarian Church and are involved in a social action project that’s writing a bill of rights for transgendered people. The Capulets attend an evangelical church that’s roughly the size of Costco and is called the First Church of Christ the Republican. They are currently drafting a voter initiative that would ban transgendered people from all bathrooms, including hotels, bars, restaurants, public buildings, porta-potties and private homes.
The Montagues are in favor of renaming the Pickett Bridge and would like it named after either Harriet Tubman or Pete Seeger. The Capulets don’t want the bridge renamed, but if it’s done, they prefer it be named after Sean Hannity or Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
It’s obvious there’s no way these two sets of parents are going to reconcile, and they sure aren’t going to let Tyler and Brenda get together.
Even though I haven’t actually written the play yet, I’ve pretty much got the ending of it worked out in my head. I’ll tell you one thing I’m definitely not going to do. I’m not going to kill off these two sweet kids the way Shakespeare does. I mean, is that a downer or what? I’m trying to write a much happier tragedy. Do we need more misery in our lives right now? No! Things are bad enough as it is. We’ve got climate change, D.C. gridlock, natural disasters and a president who’s having a nuclear dick-measuring contest with Kim Jong Un. We need cheering up.
In Shakespeare’s play, Juliet goes to Friar Lawrence for help. Yeah, you might remember how that worked out: double suicide. Great plan, padre. In my play, Tyler goes to see a woman named Rainbow, the Montague family’s trusted life coach, aromatherapist and feng shui consultant. Rainbow listens, then says, “Get a clue, Tyler. Wake up and smell the espresso. How hard can this be? Just run away. Both of you, go someplace where nobody knows you. And pick a place where no one ever goes.”
“Brilliant!” Tyler says. “We’ll move to Sedro Woolley.”
So the next night Tyler and Brenda slip quietly into his used Subaru and drive off to a beautiful new life together. And for a few minutes we’ll all feel good.