I’ve said this before that Realmgard is intended to have the culture and technology level of basically mid-1600s Europe (plus bits of North America).
That’s not quite contemporary to Shakespeare (he died in 1616), but the Sandford Whitehead character is supposed to be Realmgard’s Shakespeare. Originally, it was a lot more unsubtle, but I ultimately realised that I don’t really have a good enough grasp of Shakespeare to make a direct parody, so I ultimately settled on a parody of the general “Eccentric, Uptight Artistic Genius” type (thereby making him perhaps just a bit of a self-portrait…) who happens to have a few parallels with the real Shakespeare.
Peri Darkstone leads her niece backstage at the University of Porthaven’s Theatre Memorial Auditorium — built to commemorate the University’s previous theatre, which had been unfortunately destroyed by fire during a particularly unruly period of celebration at the end of the academic term some thirty years prior.
Soon, Kat finds herself face-to-face with the man widely acclaimed as the single greatest playwright in Realmgard, the University’s current dramatist-in-residence Sandford Whitehead.
She feels like a side of beef getting sized up the butcher’s counter.
“Why, yes, Madame Peregrina, she’ll be perfect,” he declares.
“Perfect for what?” Kat asks cautiously.
“For my latest play,” Sandford replies, eagerly shoving the script into Kat’s hand.
Kat glances down at the document in her hands.
“The Tragicall Historie of Jacobus and Ricarda. It’s the tale of a dashing pirate captain and a beautiful bosun’s daughter, who strive valiantly against all odds to realise their forbidden love. And then die. Meanwhile, their adversaries turn to all sorts of vile schemes to keep them apart. And then die. All this while the townsfolk go about their own lives. And then die.”
Kat frowns. She has a bad feeling about this.
“And, uh, why you do you need me?” she asks. She turns to her aunt. “Aunt Peri, why did you bring me here?”
“I need you for the lead,” Sandford declares.
“You want me to be Ricarda?”
“No,” Sandford answers. “I need you to be Jacobus.”
Kat stares at the playwright through narrowed eyes. “You want me to be the lead in your play?”
“You want me to be the male lead of your play?”
“Yes. That is the situation. You see, our Jacobus had, shall we say, an unfortunate encounter with some bad oysters. The whole situation is really a tragical history to itself and we don’t need to get into the sordid details of it all.”
“Right. But why me?” Kat asks. “Is this because you think I look like a guy?”
“The actor playing Jacobus is quite tall, Kat,” Peri explains. “None of the other actors can fit into his costumes.”
“Ah,” Kat says.
“You’re the only person I know who could fit into his costumes on such short notice,” Peri says.
Peri would know that. She’s a professional seamstress and often lends to help to the University of Porthaven’s theatre troupe to help with costumes.
“I understand that this is rather awkward, my dear girl,” Sanford says, though somehow Kat doubts that. “But,” he continues, “if it’s any consolation, there’s a long tradition of men playing women and women playing men on stage. And we really do need the help.”
“I’ve never acted before in my life,” Kat notes.
“Perfect,” Sandford says, ushering Kat towards the stage. “That just means you don’t have any bad habits to unlearn.”
Kat groans as the playwright continues to hustle her towards her doom.
“Just let me direct you and you’ll be a glorious Jacobus. By the way, my dear girl, how are you at putting on a Morfilodish accent?”
Morfilod is Wales, by the way.
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