Bryan’s love for all things Shakespeare was introduced and continues to be nurtured by his aunt and uncle. Thirty years ago they created the Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company in Johnstown, PA. Bryan has attended many of the summer productions in the park. Twice he has traveled with them to England along with other members of the B.O.B. This Shakespeare immersion has colored who he is to this day. Favorite memories of times spent with the Bard can be readily retrieved from that mind of his which retains surprising details of experiences from the past.
His first trip to the Land of William occurred in August immediately following the three terrorist subway bombing attacks In July of 2005 in London. Despite heightened security , the merry band continued undeterred to tour the English capitol, beginning the day hours after landing in Heathrow Airport as groundlings at the Globe Theater production of “The Tempest”. Bryan gamely stood close to the stage for the whole almost-three-hour performance.
The following day, he was able to attend an acting workshop inside the rebuilt Globe with Nick Hutchinson, a director at the Globe and other theaters around the world. What he gleaned from the sessions, I will never know. But it seemed to ignite a spark inside of him and a love for Shakespeare and his immortal words. Following the workshop, Bryan enjoyed shopping for books and other materials in the bookstore attached to the venue. Does he really comprehend the import of the words on the pages he purchased? Again, I do not know. But the volumes have been well-thumbed over the years and remain coveted books on his bedroom shelf.
Following our London tour, the Band traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon where Bryan and we investigated the village, Willy’s birthplace, school, Anne Hathaway’s cottage and gardens, and Holy Trinity church where he is buried. After walking along the river Avon and communing with the swans, Bryan enjoyed a good night’s sleep after a yummy meal of herbed chicken, steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes, and mango cheesecake with chocolate sauce. He loves his food! The next evening the theater troupe and Bryan enjoyed a fabulous production of “As You Like It” by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the theater where his aunt had studied Shakespeare’s’ works a few years prior to the trip. During our journey, she was always quick to explain and question Bryan after each Shakespeare experience, ensuring his retention of so many interesting and fun facts.
Bryan and the Bard continue to reignite their relationship at each summer’s performance in the park. One special memory came to mind at this past week’s Richard III performance. As we went to take our seats for the evening performance, Bryan, in his Band of Brothers t-shirt and kilt, spied the actor in the audience who had played the character of King Lear in 2018. He immediately went over to see the king, who recognized Bryan and, with his booming voice addressed Bryan in kingly fashion. In response, Bryan dropped to one knee in front of the man, head bowed in reverence. “Rise, Sir Bryan, Knight of the Realm” he exclaimed. Bryan, in character, rose slowly and bowed deeply as he rose.
You see, three years ago, his aunt and uncle arranged that Bryan would have a cameo appearance in the opening processional to King Lear. He donned his white robe with red St. George’s cross on the front, walked in stately bearing across the wooden bridge separating actors from audience and took his place with the Band. King Lear knighted him in front of the crowd after which Bryan crossed back over into his place as an audience member, with the memory of being a part of the Band still lingering to this day. “We few. We happy few. We band of brothers.” (Henry V)
Such a gift from Aunt and Uncle who treat their nephew as the willing learner he is, inspiring him and all those who view their creatively-ingenious and approachable woodland productions year after year!