SHAKESPEARE’S LOVER is a story within a story. It’s set in l969, and the plot contains a love story that revolves around two rival colleges located outside New Orleans. One of the mc characters is a senior at St. Dymphna College for Men, and he’s writing a play for the annual school production titled “Shakespeare’s Lover.” The other mc is a twenty-one year old freshmen at Southern Memorial College for Men who belongs to the glee club. He loves the theater but isn’t allowed to act because his father thinks the theater is beneath him. So he decides to dress up as a woman and audition for the St. Dymphna play, and when the other mc discovers he’s really a man the love story begins. It sounds more complicated than it is. And though this isn’t a novel about cross dressing or transsexuals (he’s only doing drag so he can act, a “Tootsie” thing), it does get into a few examples about how poorly women are treated by men sometimes.
Below is an excerpt that hasn’t been published anywhere. Above are links to the publisher’s web site, but it will be on all the popular e-book sites, including Amazon.com, soon. And, the paperback will be released in a week or so.
Declan Lucas was the only child of the President of Southern Memorial College. He lived in the president’s grand residence, a white columned antebellum plantation house at the edge of the Southern Memorial campus with his mother and father. And though he was a student at Southern Memorial (a freshman), he wasn’t allowed to act in the school play or participate in any activities that were connected to the theater.
He’d been begging his father since high school to allow him to study acting. From the time he saw his first play at six years old, the only thing he’d ever wanted to do was act on the stage. But his father was an academic; the theater was beneath him and his family. Declan’s father had different plans for his only son, which did not include grease paint, outrageous costumes, and applause. Declan was being groomed to take over his father’s position as president of the college one day, and in order to do this he had to follow all of his father’s rules.
The one activity remotely related to the theater Declan’s father had permitted was glee club. Though he wasn’t fond of his son singing with all the other students, Declan had managed to persuade his father to see this was good for his image on campus. And it was good for his father’s image, too. He told his father that when the other students saw the President’s son getting involved with something as ordinary as glee club, they would develop a certain respect for him for being just like everyone else. Declan’s father agreed, reluctantly, and it turned out to be the best thing in the world for Declan’s self-esteem. Singing in glee club helped build Declan’s self-confidence and it helped him partially satisfy his hunger for the stage.
But it still wasn’t enough to satisfy Declan. Singing in glee club was not the same as acting in plays. No matter how hard he tried to fight the feelings he couldn’t stop thinking about the theater. There were times when he’d lay in bed at night planning his escape from his controlling father. He’d run away from Southern Memorial and everything that had ever been familiar to him. He’d run to New York, change his name, get a menial job somewhere to support himself, and then audition for every play he could until someone gave him a part. But more than that, Declan would have the freedom to love whomever he wanted to love. He’d known he was attracted to men for as long as he’d been attracted to the theater. And he knew his father would despise the fact that he was homosexual even more than he despised the fact that Declan wanted to act on stage.
Then one afternoon he overheard a few Southern Memorial students talking on the promenade. A group of guys had been laughing at rumor going around about St. Dymphna’s spring production. Evidently, St. Dymphna had decided to do a play written by one of their own students, a young writer named Jude Carmichael no one had ever heard of. The Southern Memorial students were laughing because Southern Memorial was doing a famous Tennessee Williams play that year and they thought it was hysterical that poor, pathetic St. Dymphna had to resort to doing an amateur play written by one of their own students. And, even funnier than that, one of the guys laughed and said the amateur play was some kind of makeshift Shakespearean romance titled, Shakespeare’s Lover, and he couldn’t wait to see how an all male school would try to pull that off. Southern Memorial had the money to hire professional actresses to play their female parts. But St. Dymphna didn’t have the money to pay for anything extra so they’d have to use a male student to play the female lead.
Declan didn’t laugh; he didn’t even smile. He sat there eavesdropping on their vicious conversation, with a sense of intrigue building from the deepest part of his body that he’d never experienced before.
The next day he drove to the St. Dymphna student center to see if there was anything posted about auditions for this new play by this amateur playwright. And he found exactly what he needed to know. He wrote down all the information he could find about the play and the auditions, especially the information about the female lead. He stood there in the middle of the student center with his hand over his mouth. It said that on the second day of auditions, St. Dymphna was auditioning young women to play the female lead. And Declan knew in his heart this was his chance to get a part in a school play.
He went back to Southern Memorial that night and persuaded his best friend from glee club to help him dress up as a young woman. His best friend, Conner, was slightly effeminate and Declan knew Conner had always been fascinated with drag shows. Though he kept it quiet, Conner’s dream was to one day sing in drag revues, and Conner had a secret foot locker full of women’s clothes in his dorm to prove it.
For two weeks, Declan told his mother and father he was going to Conner’s dorm to study at night. But he was really going there to prepare for his role as a young woman. If he was going to pass in the audition, he had to practice being a woman and he needed all the help he could get from Conner. Though Declan and Conner were the same size, Declan wasn’t effeminate and he wasn’t sure if he could actually pull this off.