Karin Carr, left, and Allison Learned star in “The Taming of the Shrew” at The Bug Theatre. (Christine Fisk, provided by Lost and Found Productions)
Mikelle and Shakespeare—I never thought these two words would be uttered in a single sentence. To my surprise, I found there was a connection.
How better to discover an alternative to Mikelle’s routine than a trip to the theater.
Our trip to the Bug Theater, which resides across the street in an old Denver neighborhood from Patsy’s restaurant is the place of legends and myth which helped set the stage for the evening. Patsy’s is the rumored hangout of Denver’s one-time Mafioso who gathered over spaghetti, ravioli, sweet stuffed cannoli and round full bodied wine, served on white linen. One can imagine the smell of fresh baked bread and basil mingled with cigarette smoke. Since then, a new generation has discovered the old Italian hangout.
Located near the corner of 38th and Navajo, the Bug Theater has a low profile made more so by the dark gray colored exterior. Built over a century ago, The Bug has ample seating with rusty red seats recently acquired from another old theater. The metal scrolled legs take us back in time preparing us for Shakespeare.
Once in the theater, we are seated in the reserved section in the middle of the auditorium. One seat is deliberately missing providing a space sufficient to house Mikelle’s wheelchair. We shared the row with Shannon, Mikelle’s personal assistant for the night and recent transplant from Georgia. Next to Shannon is Michelle, our roommate who is a young college student and originates from Africa. The contrast between Shannon’s relaxed style, short hair and bold, black glasses and Michelle’s fashionable mix of dress, purse and knee high boots add to the sense of theater in the making.
Shannon holds the backup plan in her slacks, the keys to the van, should Mikelle decide the Bard is boring. Michelle leans toward Mikelle, sharing giggles as they wait in anticipation for the opening night of The Taming of the Shrew, starring our very own Allison Taft Learned, Kasey’s wife, and Jack’s mother.
There is a twist to this centuries-old play. Roles are reversed as the script moves away from the domination of feminine spirit, to the celebration of it—Allison is perfect for the lead part.
Lost and Found Productions’ inaugural event places Shakespeare in the groovy revolutionary 1960’s, a hallmark time for the women’s movement. Roles in this version are reversed as Kate is replaced by Nate and the lead, Petruchio, now known as Petruchia is played by Allison.
It took time for my ear to adjust to Shakespeare’s lingo. I wondered how Mikelle would hear the words, but found out, it didn’t matter. The colorful 1960’s vintage costumes were eye-catching. When Allison bounded onto the stage, we all heard Mikelle squeal with deep pride. The comedy of women lusting after men resonated with Mikelle and her laughter echoed in the darkness for the next two hours. There was no need for a bathroom break, no wiggling in her seat, no furtive look at Shannon saying let’s get out of here.
Shakespeare and Allison romanced Mikelle with the power of the feminine spirit. She reveled in the idea of woman in control for that is how she sees herself.
Afterward, the cast mingled with theater patrons. Allison, now dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, ambled up the aisle and headed straight for Mikelle.
“Hey, Mikelle. I heard your laughter all the way up on stage. I knew I hit the mark when you laughed. After all, you are my toughest critic.” She said, hugging Mikelle.
As we exited the theater with Jack in tow, it was 11pm—the latest Mikelle had been out for quite some time. Her smile refused to leave her face. Chortles of pearly laughter leapt around the cavernous van interior. Jack kept us amused, perhaps inspired by his mother’s performance, as he detailed his desire to have a BIG Adam’s apple when he became a man. Apparently, he sees some advantage I had not noticed before.
“Hey, Nana. Can we stop by Taco Bell? I am starving. Can I have a five layered burrito?” Jack asked.
And, there we were—munching on Taco Bell, savoring Shakespeare and laughing all the way down East Colfax Avenue among street people and bar patrons.
I looked in the rearview mirror at the diversity of our passengers, Michelle with her beautiful ebony skin, Mikelle’s lovely Asian features, Shannon’s prideful delight. I thought of the 1970’s Coca Cola commercial singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”