You may remember my friend Lisa the actor. You may not remember my friend Lisa the actor. In either case, I am about to tell you of her further adventures. Adventures wildly beyond.
Lisa, as you may or may not remember, spent the summer after her freshman year working in a psych hospital. She came away from the strait-jacketed revelations with a 3-act stage play.
Perhaps an unintended consequence. Or perhaps, she, brave, deliberately entered the extremes of the human mind to pick the dramatic fruits, the over-ripe, rotten dates that fall from the twisted back of the horse cart traveling along the twisted, steep… never mind.
Her new chapter is even better…even stranger…even truer.
In the fall of her sophomore year, Lisa was cast as Viola in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” That’s okay, don’t bother to run off to Google to remind yourself of the story. I summarize it here for you.
Viola disguised herself as Cesario, a young man, and thus found the freedom to live in the city on her own, get a job, move about as she pleased. All the bindings of a young woman’s life were cut, changing her place in the social structure.
Viola/Cesario went to work for a Big Shot Dude (a Duke, I think, but that was just Willy’s snobbery and not important to the play or the message.) Big Shot Dude sent Cesario/Viola to deliver gifts and flowers and candy to the Big Shot Dude’s girlfriend. Cesario/Viola was supposed to ask Girlfriend to marry the Big Shot Dude; but Girlfriend was charmed by Cesario/Viola (“Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”) and wanted to date him/her instead of Big Shot Dude.
And so forth with various gender confusion and falling in love with the wrong people because you like them, not because of what equipment they have. And all comes out okay in the end.
Some critics call Viola Will’s most powerful female heroine because she takes it into her own hands to improve her situation in life–she isn’t tricked into disguising herself as a man, as some other Shakespeare women are; but, rather, chooses to disguise herself.
Yes, Viola is a powerful role. Grief & loss are always right under Cesario/Viola’s epidermis. Hope, love, intelligence are in every twist of the page. Relief and redemption come at the end when her thought-dead twin brother re-appears.
Viola and all the players are filled with confusion and sex change. Viola expresses this: “O time, thou must untangle this, not I. / It is too hard a knot for me t’ untie.”
After the run of “Twelfth Night,” Lisa called me and said, “I have discovered that I am a boy in a girl’s body. I have always felt uncomfortable playing love scenes and I never knew why till just now. I’m going to have a gender re-assignment. My new name is Nick.”
…talk about the transformative power of drama.