"I guess campers that love it they think ‘Oh, it’s like the settlers, the explorers, the pioneers!’ I don’t think so. I think they did what they had to do. They built a foundation for us to live on, not in tents. If Lewis and Clark saw a Hilton, they wouldn’t have camped." –Comedian John Pinette
Attending a play at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is, without a doubt, a culturally enriching experience. The theatre has been a London landmark for over four centuries: located just south of the Thames, the modern replica was reconstructed in 1997 after the original burned down in 1613. As if staging plays by a great playwright weren’t enough, the theatre prides itself on true authenticity: the modern monument was erected only 200 yards from its original site and was built with materials and techniques similar to those employed in Shakespeare’s day. The materials are so historically accurate, in fact, that the Globe is considered a fire hazard even today.
Yet the authenticity doesn’t end with the theatre’s walls. Visitors who seek the true 1613 experience can see Shakespeare’s plays as "groundlings" and stand immediately below the stage for the entirety of the show, as the poorer class in the sixteenth century would have done. (Those willing to spend more than five pounds for their tickets are seated on wooden benches farther away from the stage and are encouraged to invest in seat cushions, which the theatre sells for one pound.) Determined to score the proper Globe experience, our class opted for the groundling tickets, shuffling into the theatre equipped with thick-soled sneakers and naive eagerness. Little did we know how authentic the experience would be. Standing for two hours straight makes the feet ache, hearing the microphone-less actors every time they turned around or went to the opposite side of the stage was a struggle, intermission left us with no place to sit but on the ground or, in my case, accidentally on a stranger’s foot, oh, and did I mention that the theatre has no roof? It rained-- and, in keeping with Shakespearian times, the Globe does not allow umbrellas. By the time I left, I was wet, tired, and hardly enthusiastic about an afternoon that accurately mirrored one of four centuries ago. I wanted only to get into an insulated, sterile edifice with a roof, and I wanted modern transportation to get me there asap.
While the Globe experience wasn’t without discomfort, it did provide a rewarding theatre experience. Standing immediately in front of the actors allowed us to catch the subtle nuances of the performance that would have been easy to miss from the seats. Moreover, just as being close to the actors enhanced our experience as an audience, the proximity fueled the actors’ energy, as well. “There’s a will that encourages us to communicate and have fun together and understand each other,” said Ellie Piercy, who played Helena, the lead female in All’s Well That Ends Well. “[Interacting with the audience] is so extraordinary,” she added, “It’s a completely unique experience.”
Albeit tough, the experience of the Globe was, no doubt, authentic. People in Shakespeare’s day would have eagerly crowded around the stage ready to experience theatre and put up with whatever tribulations came along the way. As a twenty-first centurion, though, I’m simply not accustomed to undergoing a test in stamina while trying to enjoy a show. The Globe can keep its authenticity; next time, I’m going to a modern show that will let me have my theatre and actually enjoy it, too.