'Shakespeare On Demand' In Kabul

Dec 3, 2011
Originally published on December 3, 2011 2:31 pm
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American Tyrus Lemerande has just ended his one-man show. "Shakespeare on Demand" is a kind of theatrical mash-up, featuring speeches from "The Tempest", "King Henry the 5th" and "As You Like It." "Shakespeare on Demand" has played to packed houses, and won rave international reviews.

Haven't heard of it? Well, no need to check The New Yorker's theater listings. Tyrus Lemerande is a U.S. Naval reservist who has spent the six months deployed in Afghanistan. And those packed houses were filled with coalition troops, international diplomats and others working on the base. And his tour, both deployment and performance, has come to an end. He joins us now from Kuwait, one of the stops he makes on his way home.

Tyrus Lemerande, thanks very much for being with us.

TYRUS LEMERANDE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Tell us about the Shakespeare show you do on base. I mean, I have a memory that most of these base entertainments are, you know, comics and pop stars and leggy women.

LEMERANDE: That's true. The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are very popular. And you don't get Shakespeare forward deployed very often. And so I went and found the gentleman who was in charge of the Morale Welfare Association. And I said, I have this one-man version of "Hamlet" and I'd like to do it for the troops. And he thought it was a great idea.

Now, he was a little concerned that we weren't going to have an audience. And I said, don't worry about that. I'll take care of the audience. And so what I did was I made a poster up for the show and I went all around the base and pasted these posters all over every single bathroom that I could find. Because I figured that the one place that everybody has to go eventually.

SIMON: Do you think there's something about Shakespeare, a number of Shakespeare's plays - "Hamlet" and "Henry V" and for that matter, "Julius Caesar," "Titus Andronicus " - that speak to a military crowd?

LEMERANDE: Oh, "Henry V" is - well, it spoke to me when I was at the Naval Academy. But when you are surrounded by men and women in uniform who have guns on their hips and rifles under their chairs and are in the middle of a war zone and you're talking about, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he, today, that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. Those words, they won that day, not because they were fighting for God or king or country. It was because Henry got them to fight for each other.

SIMON: Yeah. We mentioned, Ty, that you're on your way home. And you're going to be reunited with your wife, Amy, and your, I guess, 2-and-a-half-year-old son Declan. Amy is going to join us on the line now.


SIMON: Hi, there. Thanks very much for being with us.

LEMERANDE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: You're also an actor.

LEMERANDE: I am. Yeah.

SIMON: I just wonder if there's a speech that's been running through your mind as you prepare to see your husband again.

LEMERANDE: Waiting for Ty to come home is, it's agonizing. You know, it's like the last two weeks of pregnancy. You just want it to get here. You just want to meet this baby. I just want him to get home. And the days cannot turn fast enough for me. And so when Juliet says, Gallop apace, you-fiery footed steed, towards Phoebus' lodging: such a wagoner. As Phaeton would whip you to the west and bring in cloudy night immediately.

And at the very end of that speech, Juliet says, so tedious is this day as is the night before some festival to an impatient child that has new robes and may not wear them. And that's how I feel. He just can't get home fast enough.

SIMON: Ty Lemerande and Amy Lemerande, thanks so much.

LEMERANDE: Thank you.

LEMERANDE: Thank you very much for having us.

SIMON: Ty's one-man show "Shakespeare on Demand" may no longer play in Kabul, but he and his wife also run the Knighthorse Theater Company in Scituate, Massachusetts, and they bring Shakespeare to schools across the country.


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