Posts Tagged "merrie haskell"

Zebulon Vance Sings the Alphabet Songs of Love

by on Feb 5, 2013 in Short Fiction | 1 comment

by Merrie Haskell   I am Robot!Ophelia. I will not die for love tonight. **** The noon show is the three-hour 1858 Booth production. The most fashionable historical war remains the First American Civil. Whenever FACfans discover that Lincoln’s assassin played Horatio, they simply must come and gawk at this titillating replica of their favorite villain playing no one’s favorite character. FACfans love authenticity. To the delight of Robot!Hamlet, today’s clients insist that Edwin Booth stride the stage beside his more famous brother. Most performances, Robot!Hamlet remains unused in the charging closet, for the first law in our business is Everybody Wants to Play the Dane. Today, Robot!Hamlet is afire with Edwin Booth’s mad vigor, and runs his improv algorithms at full throttle; he kisses me dreamily, and rips my bodice in a way that would never have been allowed in Victorian America. The FACfans don’t look hyperpleased about this; it tarnishes their precious authenticity. Robot!Horatio also loves the 1858 Booth. It’s the only time anyone comes to a performance for him alone. But what about the rest of us, the remainder of the AutoGlobe’s incantation of robots? We bear with it, as we bear with all the other iterations of our native play. The FACfans barely notice me when either Booth is on stage. I clutch my ripped bodice; exit Robot!Ophelia. I get me to a nunnery. **** Act 4, Scene 4. I wait for my cue and check the callsheet for the six o’clock show. My next casting is for an Ophelia in the style of a vapid pop princess who died three hundred years ago. She was a terrible actress without a legacy, whose performance has been the low-water mark for Ophelias since first the play was the thing, and I can’t even imagine what nostalgic hawk or handsaw has gotten up this customer’s nose and made him choose that performance out of all the options on the menu. I’ve wondered, but never asked, why that performance is even in my repertoire. I see no merit in a plastic recitation of the lines I’ve spoken one thousand, one hundred and sixty-eight times in the last year alone; no merit in wearing my hair perfectly combed during my madness; no merit in keeping my face expressionless in the way that was fashionable in twenty-first century New York, when even the youngest of women injected botulinum toxin into their facial muscles. Why recreate something that no one really missed in the end? Scene 5 is here. My cue is coming. I sway onto center stage to deliver my rosemary and my remembrance. When I return to the wings, I lie down to die. This is the indignity of Ophelia; I die for love, and yet my death is an after-thought, recited by the queen, and rarely staged. Your sister’s drown’d, Laertes. I cross my hands over my heart, waiting to be carried on-stage for the showing. No one needs me except in body; my thoughts are my own, and I am dreading six o’clock. The next show is no act of avant-garde genius. It’s a straightforward reenactment of something dull and sad. It’s an indulgence in some artless cretin’s obsessive fantasy with a woman who paid for her fame by dying young after living tackily. And that is when I know. I will not die for love tonight. I uncross my decorously folded hands. I get up. The play goes on in the background, the words slinking over my interlink from the AutoGlobe’s other robots. I walk down to Wardrobe and head for Hamlet’s closet. Ophelia’s clothes are always too young, too innocent, too girly, even in the most stylistic iterations; I have no Valkyrie!Ophelia on file. I search through Hamlet’s melancholy colors for a modern ensemble, and find a reasonable approximation of current street wear. Waspwaisted schleather jacket, skintight schilk T-shirt, sleek pantaloons of bamboo, shining boots…. All in black and white, of course; no one dresses Hamlet in pink or green. Not more than once a century, anyway. For my aspect, I adjust the metal and...

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