“Baleful Weeds and Precious-juiced Flowers” A Talk by Louis Fantasia


Speaking on Plants and the Canon

Speaking on Plants and the Canon

If  you’ve been a member of the Roundtable for a while, then you know Louis Fantasia. He’s a widely acclaimed theater director, actor and author; not to mention an engaging lecturer on all aspects of the Canon. Last November, just before the election, he spoke to us on the subject of Rome and Politics in the plays. And on Saturday, March 16, at 10:00 am at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden’s Palm Room, Fantasia will deliver yet another of his juicy musings on the bard; this one entitled “Baleful Weeds and Precious-juiced Flowers” – a discussion of Elizabethans and their relationship with plants and flowers.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2.1.255-60)

Flowers and plants were important to Shakespeare and other Elizabethan and early modern English writers on three levels: plot, symbol, and signifier.  For example, in plays as diverse as A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and ROMEO & JULIET the “juice” of plants form essential plot points, whether it is transforming lovers’ eyes or feigning death.  On the level of signifier, the most obvious examples are the White and Red roses of the History plays, denoting the houses of Lancaster and York.  But, in HENRY V, for example, a leek is used to signify a Welshman.  As symbol, the Elizabethan trope was that “the beauty of the rose was in its passing” – the first bloom of love or buds of youth would inevitably fade, leaving, in the words of Shakespeare Sonnet 73, “bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

Louis Fantasia is currently Chair of the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the New York Film Academy (Hollywood campus), and Director of Shakespeare at the Huntington, the teacher training institute of the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.  He has taught at the Juilliard School and the University of Southern California School of Theatre, the London Theatre School (Head of Acting and Director of Studies) and Schiller College-Europe University (Chair and Artistic Director of Theatre Programs).  From 1988 to 2002, he was Education Director of the Shakespeare Globe Centre’s Western Region and ran the Globe’s actor/director training programs in London.  In 2003, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg named the theatre collection at its library in the European Parliament in honor of Louis Fantasia, who holds both U.S. and European Union passports.  In 2007, he served as President of Deep Springs College. His second book, Tragedy in the Age of Oprah, will be published by Scarecrow Press in 2013.

Who: Southern California Hemerocallis & Amaryllis Society

What: “Baleful Weeds and Precious-juiced Flowers” with Director & Educator, Louis Fantasia.

Where: L.A. County Arboretum & Botanic Garden – Palm Room
301 North Baldwin Ave. Arcadia, CA 91007 
When: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

Admission:  First-time guests are free.

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