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Knitting Onstage: With What Results?

25 April 2011
Mirasol Sulka

Here's another batch of yarn to be given away: Mirasol Sulka. I'll probably divide it into three packages for three winners. Comment on this post for a chance to win!

Friday night’s production of Art at Signature Theatre was wonderful. I saw the play in London back in (I think) 2000, and I must say it was at least as good as that production. Some of that, though, may be that I’m 11 years older. As Mr. Trask said last night, “It’s not a young person’s play.” (Why, yes, play-going does make Mr. Trask and me a little pretentious. How did you guess?)

The one thing the play lacked (that previous Signature productions have not) was any trace of on-stage knitting. At first, I was disappointed at this, but then I realized something:

  • Knitting, as a stress-reducer, is the enemy of drama.

I refer to drama not just in the theatrical sense but also in the everyday one. It’s difficult to work up to any kind of indignation while you’re turning the heel of a sock. “Art” is about three men arguing about a painting and, in the process, evaluating their 15-year friendship. It’s funny and sad and a little claustrophobic. And, much as I hate to admit that there’s a place where knitting shouldn’t occur, it would have ruined the play. Had Serge, Marc, and Yvan been provided with sticks and string, things would have taken a different turn.

Marc: You paid 200,000 francs for that sh*t?
Serge: Sure, but remember when we bought that quivet yarn?
(a pause)
Marc: You’ve got a point there.

Like the obsessive I am, I started thinking about how other plays might have turned out with a little knitting thrown in:

The Glass Menagerie

Amanda: What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?
Laura: What was that, Mother? I was reading this pattern. The yarn guild is knitting the royal wedding, and I have to finish Prince William by Thursday.

Mirasol Sulka on the Edge

Here, the yarn performs an impressive balancing act. This yarn has lived in an airtight container in our one-cat, smoke-free home since I purchased it at fibre space.

Waiting for Godot
There’s no ennui – they’re knitting!

Vladimir: We are waiting for Godot to come—
Estragon: Who cares? Check out these mittens I’ve made.
Pozzo: Help!
Vladimir: Or for night to fall. (Pause.) Mittens, you say?

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
The hapless pair entertain themselves with both the gold coin and knitting, with mixed results.

Rosencrantz is flips a coin over and over, while Guildenstern knits.

Rosencrantz: Heads…
Guildenstern: …Knit…
Rosencrantz: Heads…
Guildenstern: …Knit…
Rosencrantz: Heads…
Guildenstern: It can’t always be heads!
Rosencrantz: Why not?
Guildenstern: This is supposed to be ribbing!

King Lear
Lear is thrown out of Regan and Goneril’s house because his stash is unruly.

Hear me, my lord;
What need you five and twenty skeins, or five,
To knit with in a house where twice so many
Already wait to be knit?
What need one?

Lear, his fool, and the yarn are thrown out into the storm.  Happily, though, they are able to knit themselves socks and mittens to stay warm. Lear presents Cordelia with a nice lace shawl, and they all live happily together in France.

The Importance of Being Earnest
Jack and Algy find solace in knitting while Cecily and Gwendolyn are angry at them.

Jack: Good heavens, I suppose a man may knit with his own yarn in his own garden.
Algy: But you have just said it was perfectly heartless to knit socks!
Jack: I said it was perfectly heartless of you under the circumstances. That is a very different thing.
Algy: That may be, but the yarn is the same!

Mirasol Sulka Hitchhikes

Here, the yarn tries to hitchhike away from our house. Comment on this post before it gets away!

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
What if George were knitting while he argued with Martha?

George: You can sit around with the gin running out of your mouth; you can humiliate me; you can tear me to pieces all night, that’s perfectly okay, that’s all right.
Martha: You can stand it!
George: I cannot stand it! [Stabs Martha with knitting needle.]

Sadly, not even knitting can save everyone.

So – does this work for your favorite play? Let us know in the comments below (and earn a chance to win the Mirasol Sulka (rav lnk) pictured in this post).

[Want to know more about Sulka? Read about my obsession with this yarn.]

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    25 April 2011 3:01 pm

    I’m going to see Gods of Carnage Saturday. I’ll see if Tony Soprano does any knitting and report back.

  2. Kathleen permalink*
    25 April 2011 3:04 pm

    Excellent – we expect a full report.

  3. Sara permalink
    25 April 2011 3:05 pm

    Unfortunately, I’m not up on my plays and do not have a favorite. However, I kept waiting for “Hold on, let me finish this row” to show up somewhere in your post. I’m ashamed of how many times I’ve said that in a wide range of situations – from the mundane to the risque (you can use your imagination for the latter).

  4. Brooke permalink
    25 April 2011 4:04 pm

    I don’t know whether knitting would work in my favorite play since I’m not much of a theater-goer (and an even worse knitter), but I do know that Sara’s comment is the first time I’ve seen (or assume I’ve seen) sex and knitting suggested as commingling (?). Now THAT would be a play to see! The mind boggles at the possibilities…

  5. Patrizia permalink
    25 April 2011 4:53 pm

    I’m thinking about a play where you need to stay calm and the world is upside down all around you (The Mousetrap?) but that’s too obvious.

    • Kathleen permalink*
      25 April 2011 5:37 pm

      Interesting idea – maybe Noises Off! is another in that vein. I can see sticks and string contributing to that farce pretty effectively…

  6. 25 April 2011 9:23 pm

    I’m a big fan of Waiting for Godot and would love to see it with some knitting thrown in!

  7. Kitten With A Whiplash permalink
    25 April 2011 10:24 pm

    I was in Gypsy in high school, and I’ve always loved “You Gotta Get A Gimmick”, the strippers’ song. I’ve created a new character, “Pretty Kitty Knitter”, a bubble dancer whose bubble looks like a huge ball of yarn, which she manuipulates with large knitting needles. Here is her addition to the lyrics:

    Now the uh… and the uh…
    and the uh…uh…uh…
    They ain’t such fancy tricks.

    So I uh… and I uh…
    And I uh…uh…uh…
    But I use my yarn and sticks.

    They all sit up like Rover
    As I’m passin’ my yarn over,
    They’d love to see what’s under the wool;
    So find yourself a gimmick,
    And never be nobody’s fool.

    If you wanna make it,
    Twinkle while you shake it.

    If you wanna grind it,
    Wait till you’ve refined it.

    If you wanna bump it,
    Bump it with a trumpet!

    If you wanna shimmy better
    Then shimmy in a sweater!

    So get yourself a gimmick and you, too,
    Can be a star!

  8. Kae permalink
    25 April 2011 11:24 pm

    My favorite play is “A Flea In Her Ear,” a Belle Epoque French farce, by George Feydeau. The non-stop action and entanglements would get ‘hung up’ if a character knitted during the play, especially if the character had to finish a row of knitting before taking action.

  9. Debbie H permalink
    26 April 2011 2:58 am

    There’s not many plays here in rural Alaska, I’ll have to be content to hear all about your favs. Thanks for the contest. Debbie in Alaska

  10. Dovile permalink
    26 April 2011 10:11 am

    I agree that knitting and dramas are not really compatible, but plays would much more interesting with some knitting. For example, Hamlet: ‘To knit, or not to knit, that is the question’…

    spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

  11. robin permalink
    26 April 2011 11:10 am

    the last play I saw was the Yale production of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying – trying to picture the male lead knitting at business meetings… wonder how far he would go in the business world !?
    thanks for the opportunity to win

  12. 26 April 2011 11:25 am

    Love the twists (ha) knitting in famous plays would bring about. Very creative.

  13. Ivanna permalink
    26 April 2011 11:54 am

    Sometimes knitting on stage is wonderful/heartbreaking – Dancing at Lughnasa where the two sisters try to contribute to family finances by knitting gloves and are gradually made redundant by machines; and then you get the painful “in those days they knit” moments like an Uncle Vanya a couple of seasons ago where the servant painfully and yes I am judging, ineptly, eked out a garter stitch in a heavy wool during a scene that was set as being an incredibly warm out…because evidently Russia did not have cotton? That scene could not end fast enough.

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