Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"a demanding, observant and inspiring teacher"

I had an e-mail from Ruby today letting me know that our British Shakespeare and classics teacher, David Perry, died last month. After reading this elegant obituary by our voice teacher I'm almost hesitant to eulogize him. Almost.

David was a cranky old queen. Despite long stretches of time spent abroad he had hardly a decent word to say about the entire continent of North America. His contempt for New York in particular was sharp and deep seated. You could work in his class for upwards of half an hour and not get past the second line of your sonnet. He might stop you after the first phrase or word, even. I have, in fact, been stopped on more than one occasion before I could get that first word out. Though I am traditionally intolerant of this sort of treatment of my person and my homeland I grew to love him. Somewhere between the first time he grudgingly told me I'd gotten something right and the day I figured out that his unerring ability to call a break exactly halfway through our class was due to blood sugar not omniscience I found the seat of the connection I felt with him and held on to it with all my might. My work with him over the past decade and a half both here and in London have made me a better actor, a better student and a more confident person all around.

In his honor I give you this description of the Globe Theatre as set out in the first prologue from Henry V. I never tired of his first session lesson on the origins and intents of William Shakespeare that began with this piece interwoven with well-practiced academic commentary.

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.


  1. It's the demanding ones, the ones that make you absolutely crazy, that end up giving you the greatest gifts. Godspeed to the "cranky old queen."

  2. Anonymous11:44 PM

    I'm sorry to hear of your loss. One of the great things about being a teacher is that he will continue to live on in you and his other students.

    [Cranky Old Queen exits stage left]

    [Slow fade to black]

  3. Ruby and I were exchanging e-mails the other day and, though we both continue to impart his wisdom to anyone who will listen we concur that we weren't done learning from him yet. Too late to regret that now, though.