Yes, the beginning of my career as an actor! Not that this ever went far… It was fifty years ago, which happened to be the centenary of the birth of W B Yeats.
At Sydney Teachers College Dr Corinne Adams decided to direct us in some Yeats plays, including The Words Upon the Window Pane.
A dramatic exploration of the occult, a subject in which Yeats took a lifelong interest. The play features a seance in which Jonathan Swift’s voice is projected though a medium, along with those of his two lovers, Stella and Vanessa. Witnessing these forces at work, those attending the seance are forced to confront some uncomfortable truths in their own lives.
I played the head of the Dublin Spiritualist Association, while my classmate Dick Stratford (a name that recurred through my teaching career) played a clergyman. My Irish accent was no doubt atrocious. (By the way in 1965 I still had no idea that my paternal ancestors had in fact come from Ireland!) I see in the 1994 film version that Geraldine Chapman played the medium. Of all of us in 1965 I must say that our Miss McKenna was actually very good. (Can’t remember the girl’s name!)
This is a view from the stage in the old Teachers College hall. We too had a drafted audience, I suspect, but our fellow Dip Ed students, not schoolchildren.
By the way, did you happen to see the ABC Book Club on Gulliver’s Travels? Yeats would not have been happy. I found it rather sad myself.
ADAM LIAW: This was 12-year-old me. Let me point that out. But, erm… I enjoyed sort of finding out about the world as other people saw it. Here was this person writing satire about the way the world is, uh, from hundreds of years ago, which is not all that different to the way the world is today.
JENNIFER BYRNE: This admiration is all very past tense, Adam.
ADAM LIAW: It is. It is.
JENNIFER BYRNE: Very past tense.
ADAM LIAW: Reading it again, which I forced myself to do as penance for forcing all of you to read it as well, it was all but unreadable, you know. I…
JENNIFER BYRNE: You noticed….
JENNIFER BYRNE: It’s quite a long book, though. Like… What do you think?
MARIEKE HARDY: It bored the pants off me.
MARIEKE HARDY: I Like, me absolute pants. He was big, he was small, he talked to a horse, humans are garbage, the end. That was… that’s the book. It was just… I can’t remember the last time I was so deeply bored reading a book. Oh, why end a sentence when you can just put another comma in there?
JASON STEGER: And he loves it, loves it…
MARIEKE HARDY: Let’s keep adding some more words! More words! Let’s put more words in!