Here I am doing Sonnet #21 at today's Shakespeare Sonnet Slam. It was chilly at first, then it became warm, then it got chilly again. I went early when it was still chilly so I wore my coat on stage - along with my bag. My friend David video'd my performance but I hate my voice and I slightly screwed up the last line so I'm not going to post the video. This photo is enough. I saw several former members of NYCPlaywrights which was nice. The whole thing took almost exactly 3 hours from 1 - 4 PM.
I had fairly bad stage fright but I just powered through it. I honestly don't know how actors can get up in front of audiences on a regular basis, I couldn't do it - I'm far too self-conscious and always expect to be disapproved-of in some way.
It looks like there was hardly anybody in the audience but they were all just hanging far back from the bandshell. Eventually people were sitting down closer to the stage.
The Sonnet Slam really confirmed for me how much better the "Dark Lady" sonnets are from the rest of them. And I think it's because Shakespeare was really speaking from the heart, whereas the "Fair Youth" sonnets are more about sucking up to a rich guy. And the first ten or so sonnets are all about how the Fair Youth needs to hurry up and make babies - such a drag.
The sonnets really kick into high gear starting with #127:
"In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name."
That's where the Dark Lady sonnets begin, with the mention of his love's dark complexion, hair and eyes. Except whoever decided to number the sonnets put his early sonnet about Ann Hathaway, #145, right in the middle of the Dark Lady sonnets.
The Dark Lady sonnets reach their apotheosis, in my opinion at #147 - I could have done that one from memory. Its reader for this Sonnet Slam was a wholesome apple-checked young woman who read it only middling-well, with little passion, but even she couldn't screw up the last couplet and it rang out just as clearly as I could hope for: "for I have sworn thee fair and thought the bright who art as black as hell, as dark as night"