People Watching: I Went To Shakespeare In The Park

Central Park in Louisville does this Shakespeare festival every year.

There’s an amphitheatre in the park that they use throughout the season. The park is near the University of Louisville campus. I’ve walked by it many times while I was a student there. I never really went to a performance, though. It’s on a local event list over on Louisville Magazine, spanning from August 9th-August 13th. I figured it was time to actually go see one. If nothing else, it will help me do some people watching because I’m a writer and like to do people watching. Usually, the being-a-writer part is just the excuse to be nosy, but since I’m working on some fiction for my blog, I thought an actual people-watching exercise while I was out somewhere would be good. And if it didn’t work, there was always the performance.

The dance, Lady Lear, is a gender-bent version of Shakespeare’s King Lear. She wants to know which of her sons loves her the most, and blah blah blah, the plot of King Lear, but it’s called Lady Lear.

It’s really a nice ampitheatre. The set up for Lady Lear doesn’t really do it visual justice.

People watching is an exercise that many creative writing students do in their first creative writing class.

The idea is to go somewhere and spend 10-20 minutes or so watching people and taking notes. It helps you with the little details in your writing. I did it a few times for an assignment years ago and then I started doing it passively every now and then.

People watching is a tool. As we get more comfortable with using tools, we tend to not notice them as much. Not having to think about it as much is good for being productive in my writing, not so good when I need to focus on particular problems. Not having a pen and paper in my hand and trying to remember details for so long has more than likely caused me to overlook some things that would’ve been helpful: that slight slide of hand, scratch of the elbow, roll of the hand, or rub of the ear could’ve served some of my fiction well.

People watching, passive or otherwise, worked to get me going for the deadlines of my creative writing classes. I figure there’s no reason it can’t at least help a little with my fiction for this blog. And help with my fiction that I submit outside of this blog. And help with my blog posts in general.

I actually noticed more things while people watching on the way to the park than I did at the park.

I guess that makes sense. The bus is boring. I wasn’t really bored at the park. I was too busy being critical of the dance itself. More specifically, how it set me back nearly an entire Gender and Sexuality class. I’m not pretending to be an expert on the subject, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of rewriting a Shakespeare piece and flip gender roles and call it Lady Lear (a title that immediately demotes Lear by not even giving her the dignity of getting the title and status of a Queen) then why would you make the women dance around with a broom for 15 minutes and then go and get chairs for the sons to sit in when they arrive? Not that women in Shakespeare’s time had much say in the matter anyway. Unless that’s the point.

But anyway, here are my people watching notes.

Not great, but not bad. It’s something. I’ll do it again eventually. Maybe.

To be honest, I’m more worried now about Lady Lear. Did I overlook something significant? Has anyone seen a performance of it? Did I just miss something completely from King Lear that would help justify the stereotypes? Maybe I should give King Lear a quick look again. Leave me comments below. I need ideas. I’m struggling.

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