Were the World Mine

This weekend: two more viewings of the film Were the World Mine, a gay musical based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and set in a boys’ school. (I got the DVD many months ago, watched it again on Sunday as is, and then once all the way through with the film-makers’ comments.) It’s a teen love story and immensely sweet — very affecting for me.

From the Wikipedia entry:

Were the World Mine is a 2008 American romantic/musical film directed by Tom Gustafson and written by Gustafson and Cory James Krueckeberg.

Were the World Mine is a story of gay empowerment, inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Were the World Mine stars Tanner Cohen [Wikipedia entry here, It Gets Better video here], Wendy Robie [Nadine in Twin Peaks], Judy McLane, Jill Larson, Zelda Williams, Nathaniel David Becker and Ricky Goldman.

Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is an openly gay student at a private boy’s school. Although now in his senior year, he is still persecuted by the aggressive rugby team, on whose captain, Jonathon (Nathaniel David Becker), he has a crush [Jonathon is the only member of the team who doesn’t actively persecute Timothy]. Timothy lives with his mother, Donna (Judy McLane), who is struggling with her son’s sexuality and with getting a job, and his father is not a part of his life.

Timothy is cast as Puck in the senior production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While reviewing his lines, he discovers the recipe for a love potion. Timothy uses the potion to have the homophobic town take a “walk in his shoes”. The entire town is thrown into chaos as previously heterosexual community members fall in love with their same-sex friends, bosses, and co-workers: whomever they first saw after being sprayed by the flower [a pansy, note]. [“The course of true love never did run smooth” is the theme of this comic section of the movie.] The school drama teacher, Ms. Tebbit (Wendy Robie), guides Timothy towards the question of whether his actions have caused more harm than good.

Timothy with the magical pansy:

And Jonathon and Timothy together in a field of pansies:

Some musical numbers available on YouTube: Tanner Cohen and Wendy Robie in “Be as thou wast wont” / “We fairies” (Puck releasing everyone from their enchantment: ‘be as you were accustomed to be’) here, “Were the world mine” / “I am not afraid” here, “All things shall be peace” / reprise of “Be as thou wast wont” here, and “If we shadows have offended” (finale, with Timothy and Jonathan as lovers even after Jonathon has been released from the spell) here.

Comic elements: the absurdly misaligned lovers (especially the two adult pairs, but also Timothy and his best male friend, the straight Mike, who was Timothy’s test case for the potion, and Timothy’s best female friend, Frankie, and two girlfriends of the rugby players); the rugby players dancing balletically.

Timothy’s artistic triumph in the production takes him from despised faggot to high-school star, and he ends up in the arms of his beloved; what Jonathon learned from his experience of enchantment is that he does indeed love Timothy. Yes, impossibly sweet. The young men are just adorable.

[My history with Midsummer Night’s Dream: it was the first Shakespeare I recall seeing — in the Hollywood movie version with Mickey Rooney as Puck. When I was young, my dad passed on his volumes of the collected works of Shakespeare to me, and I conceived the ambitious idea (at 9 or 10) of having the neighborhood kids perform the play, in my own scaled-down version. This of course did not fly, but I took that well.

Thing is, the play was magical for me. And, for me, an entry point into all the rest of Shakespeare. Eventually, we studied Julius Caesar and Macbeth, and maybe Hamlet, though by then I’d read them and seen them performed. (I don’t recall officially studying Romeo and Juliet, though it was a curricular favorite in high schools, because the central characters are teenagers — ok, exceptionally silly teenagers, but we were all young and silly once; these days, maybe I’d recommend starting with West Side Story and working back.) Eventually I got to the deep sadness of King Lear.]

Were the World Mine has Shakespeare all over the place, not just in the performances of the play. Wendy Robie even delivers some of her non-Shakespeare lines in iambic pentameter.

Some of the poetry, just because I still love it, as performed in the play-within-the-movie:

Were the World Mine

I see their knavery.
This is to make an ass of me.
To fright me, if they could.

But I will not stir from this place, do what they can.
I will work, up and down here.

And I will sing, that they shall hear.
That I am not, I am not afraid.
I am not afraid.

I know not by what power I’m made bold.
But still you flout my insufficiency.
The more my prayer, the lesser is my grace.

My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye.
My tongue should catch your tongue’s sweet melody.
My tongue, your tongue, were the world mine.

And I will sing, that they shall hear.
That I am not, I am not afraid.
I am not afraid!

Faeries away!
Fetch me that flower…
Up and down, and up and down,
I will lead them up and down.

We fairies / Be as thou wast want

We fairies
That do run
From the presence
Of the sun
We follow
Like a dream

Be as thou wast wont to be
See as thou wast wont to see

Reprise / All things shall be peace

The will of man is by your reason swayed,
With such force and blessed power,
With all good will,
With all my heart,
All things shall be peace

MS. TEBBIT (echoed by CHORUS):
We fairies
That do run
From the presence
Of the sun
We follow
Like a Dream

Be as thou wast wont to be
See as thou wast wont to see

MS. TEBBIT (spoken):
I have a device to make all well.
Crush this herb into the lover’s eyes,
Whose liquor hath this virtuous property,
To take from thence all error with their might,
And make their eyeballs roll with wonted sight,
When they next wake, all this derision,
Shall seem a dream and fruitless vision,
Don’t haste, get to the play tonight
And with some luck there, all things shall be right

All things shall be peace

There’s a sound track album, with studio recordings of all the songs. (Some of them were recorded on-camera for the film.)

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