by Sharon Stevens

While going through used paperbacks at our bookstore I came across a copy of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a bookmark I had tucked between one of the pages long ago. My memories instantly took me back. I remembered watching this version, the production by Franco Zeffirelli’s, at the movies on my fifteen birthday. Something stirred in my tender soul that night and it wasn’t just the scene where a naked Leonard Whiting (Romeo) rises from Juliet’s bed and greets the morning sunlight. I was overwhelmed not only with the words of Shakespeare, but the poetry, the settings, the costumes, and the way the dawn filtered through the sheer curtains of the bedchamber. All of it connecting me from that day to this moment, celebrating cinema and live theatre through the centuries. The story is timeless of two families struggling, torn with their beliefs ripping each other apart while destroying the very heart of the youth until all come together in grief.

The notes in this Scholastic book mentioned that Shakespeare borrowed the plot and characters from a long poem by Arthur Brooke called, “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet, but the ancient story came from an Italian tale very much older than that.

Jennifer Yirak Ryen directed “Romeo and Juliet” this past year at Shakespeare in the Park at Palo Duro Canyon. I can’t tell you what this meant for me to hear “A curse on both your houses” echo against the canyon walls, and to see the lights glint off the swords as they battled each other to the death. I think this is truly what Shakespeare envisioned as he read the “historye” and set his images to resound through the centuries. He wrote this play to be performed on a bare stage with minimal distractions from the periphery of our vision. In Palo Duro Canyon Jennifer did just that as Paul Green did over fifty years ago with TEXAS and Dave Yirak continues to this day. The play is the thing and the world is our stage.

Shakespeare never wasted a tragedy and as writers neither do we. We collect every thought, every scent, every memory, every pain, and every joy in between. We don’t celebrate misfortune, but we do rejoice in the friends and families that stood beside us as we struggle…those who brought us to the brink as well as those who held us back.

We can never know what someone may glean from something we had written. An image may come to mind that we weren’t anticipating, tugging at our hearts or gnawing at our soul. So many times I burst with excitement over a phrase and burst into tears with the next one. Who are we to judge what stirs a soul or drains a heart?

We can only write and hope that someday our writings will touch either a passion or a nerve and ignite a flame.

The musical drama TEXAS begins their season on June 2, 2012. Much has changed from year to year, but the passions remain the same. Dave Yirak, the artistic director, will again be guiding the cast and crew to perform for millions from around the world. Paul Green’s message as a writer of man against man, man against nature and man against himself has never gotten lost amid the controversies trying to divide the very foundation of our heritage. Even though the names of the actors, hospitality, front of the house and those behind the scenes may be different, Shakespeare will be front and center with the best seats in the house.

Sometime in the past I had tucked a quote in between the pages of “Romeo and Juliet” to hold my place. Where ever that place was I have forgotten long ago.  I wondered why in the world I had marked that certain spot. What did I notice, what caught my eye, what was in my heart? The quote was from “The Lost Colony”, a symphonic drama and the accompanying article written in the July 1960 Reader’s Digest by Alan Rankin about Paul Green.  Margaret Harper was moved by the words and she and her husband Ples visited with Margaret and William Moore about asking Green to come to Palo Duro Canyon to see if he would write a play to be performed with the spirit of our heritage.

Green asked for a packet of material to be sent to him so he could get a feel of the legacy that surrounds us. The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum gathered material from all his sources and sent it on. The museum will be holding their, “Night At The Museum” on June 1 & 2nd from 9:00-10:30pm. All the lights are turned down and everyone brings a flashlight to explore the museum in all its glory.

I treasure TEXAS and all it stands for. I marvel at the majesty of Palo Duro Canyon. I rejoice in the men, women and children that encompass the cast and crew past and future. I know that each time I walk the grounds leading to the entrance to the amphitheater, as God and John Wayne are my witness I know without a doubt that there will be something that will touch my soul and bring back a memory.

Maybe I will use it in a story or maybe I will store it in my heart, and come across it sometime in the future when I open the page of a book and turn to the placed I marked so long ago.

I truly think Shakespeare will be proud.

Sharon Stevens

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