Curtain Speech

This needs a bit of explanation. Last summer I got a call from Ronni Marshak (whose name pops up frequently on this site, as she’s directed more of my plays than anyone else); she was producing The Tempest for the Hovey Players in Waltham, and she and Mike Haddad, the director, wanted to have the curtain speech — the one that tells people to shut off their cell phones, where the emergency exits are, and how they really ought to become subscribers — performed as if it were part of the play. That is, it would be delivered to the audience in Shakespearean style by the actress who played the Boatswain, before the actual story began.

I had to say yes, because how often do you get to write mock Shakespeare? However, I was more that a little daunted. Writing in iambic pentameter is not one of the skills they teach you in playwriting classes these days. Nonetheless, I discovered that, once I started, it was actually fun to write. It was a kind of word game (and I quite enjoy word games, from crossword puzzles to Boggle), figuring out how to find the word that expressed what I needed to say in a pattern that went: da-Dah da-Dah da-Dah da-Dah da-Dah…

When I’d finished, I was quite pleased with the way it turned out. No one would mistake my stab at the Bard’s English for the real thing, but it was a decent approximation, and got a few chuckles out of the audience. It was even mentioned in a review of the show in the Waltham News Tribune.

As there’s little likelihood that the speech will ever be used again, I offer it here, so it can preserved in some way for posterity.

(Oh, and speaking of the Hovey Players, they’ll be producing my play “The Change” as part of their Summer Shorts program this July. Mike is producing the event, and Ronni will be directing my play. See how it all fits together?)

Good passengers, I pray you, listen well:
Our ship, the Hovey, doth on rude seas sail.
This angry storm would rip our craft to bits.
Our gallant crew must work to keep her safe,
And must not be beset with clamor loud.
Therefore, I say, please muffle, if you would,
Those vulgar tools for speaking to your friends.
It is not time to talk, or even text,
‘Til we have reached our tempest’s interval.
And furthermore, for those who do partake
Of sweet tobacco grown in Western lands—
You may not do so ’til you disembark.
Should this fair ship be met with danger foul,
And should the call come to abandon ship,
Two exits here will lead you back to land.
One here behind me, going off the bow,
The other off the stern, the way you came.
For those who must the call of nature heed,
Relief is here, right off the starboard side,
After the ship has docked, or at the break.
If you feel the need to go during the storm,
Please inform a member of the crew.
The good ship Hovey will set sail again
For four more destinations through the year.
We welcome you to join us on each trek.
For cheaper passage on each odyssey,
You may subscribe, and join our happy crew.
The ticket for this current voyage now
May be deducted from the total fare.
For further details, you may go aloft ,
And speak to our good crewman up above.
Now time is short, we must begin our tale,
Of vessel found’ring in a deathly gale.


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