Cursed by the copydesk

There are many joys to being a writer for a newspaper.  One of the absolute worst aspects of the job, however, is when the copydesk decides to make horrific changes.  Changes which alter your meaning, are inaccurate, or are an interpretation of what you said that is completely wrong.

The copydesk is supposed to double-check with you if they are unclear of your meaning.  Sometimes, it seems, they don’t feel like it.

I recently wrote a column piece–my first.  It finally hit stands today, after I eagerly awaited reading the piece for weeks.  My copy is now covered in red marks denoting what is wrong with the printed edition.

I am not opposed to editing or criticism or any other process that makes an article better.  But this time the copydesk did nothing to make it better.  They added meanings I did not intend.  They created lines that are untruths.  They removed the subtle humor appreciated by Shakespeare and mythology lovers.  They put words in my mouth, to use that age old cliche.

I am not pleased.

I have decided to post the original article as I submitted it on my blog.  It may not be perfect.  Few articles are.  But, it is better than the edition now in print.

Here it is:

Shakespeare rare, but profound

It all began when I was nine years old, just a tiny squirt of a thing, reeling from my parents’ divorce and a transfer to a new school.  

My school put on a play: William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  At the time I was bent on being an actress when I grew up so of course I auditioned.  

I was cast as Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons.  A short queen, I must say.  

The first reading of the play was confusing for a nine year-old.  But something began to stir.  

The cast memorized lines, grew in understanding, rehearsed, performed.  By the end of the first performance, I was sold: Shakespeare would forevermore be a part of my close circle of literary pals.

Little did I know at the time that actually seeing Shakespeare’s plays would be a trifle difficult.  It would be nearly ten years before I would see a stage performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays.  

Throughout the interim, I read and watched movies: “Romeo and Juliet,” “Julius Cesar,” “Macbeth,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and it’s modern film interpretation “10 Things I  Hate About You.”

In eighth grade I went particularly “Romeo and Juliet” crazy, memorizing the prologue and other striking lines, and making a doomed attempt to integrate that sort of language into my everyday speech.

My personal study along with sparse school readings, and movie portrayals sufficed for my Shakespeare fix.  For a time.  But I soon began to feel a desire to see the plays I read.      

And then came senior year of high school and with it “Hamlet.”  

I fell in love with “Hamlet” the play.  The madness, the passion, the mystery, the odd bits of humor, the battle between revenge and love. 

A few weeks after studying the play in class, I had the opportunity to see a stage production at BYU.  

What an experience that was! If you have ever read Ophelia going mad, the chills you felt then are nothing to the shivers of seeing the madness emerge on a stage! 

Hugh Hanson, the director of a recent Salt Lake Shakespeare production of “Henry IV: Part 1” said, “I don’t think you can fully appreciate (Shakespeare) until you see it on stage.” 

Salt Lake Shakespeare is a theatre group committed to making Shakespeare understandable to modern audiences.  

I attended the production of “Henry IV,” shown at the Babcock Theater.  I had read the play my first semester at the U in an Introduction to Shakespeare class.  

In class, I laughed at the antics of the character Falstaff and his friendship with Prince Hal.  And I found myself steeped in contemplation with Falstaff’s questions about the meaning of honor.

But to see Falstaff on stage, to see the banter, to hear the words, “What is honor? A word…. Therefore, I’ll none of it.  Honor is a mere scutcheon….” That was unforgettable. 

While simply reading Shakespeare’s work has great merit, there is nothing compared to seeing it and hearing it the way it was meant to be experienced: on stage with a cast of few players.

Although productions of Shakespeare’s plays are not as common as I would hope, they do exist amidst the musical productions and storybook retellings.

Coming up on September 21, The Babcock Theatre will open “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the play that for me started it all.

Further down the calendar, Pioneer Theatre Company will present “The Tempest” beginning on October 21 and running through November 5. 

And of course, the annual tribute to the Bard, The Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City continues through October 22.  This year’s Shakespeare plays include “Romeo and Juliet,” “Richard III,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “A Winter’s Tale.” 


2 thoughts on “Cursed by the copydesk

  1. Story,
    I am excited to have read these words:

    “I recently wrote a column piece—my first. It finally hit stands today. . .”

    My opinion is that you wrote a swell piece. I can’t imagine it marked apart by the sanguinary nitpickings of a copydesk with all your personality cut out of it. Congratulations on getting a piece in the paper, though I’m sorry to hear the good news subsequently botched.

    Thank you for posting your original. It has inspired the desire to take my knowledge of Shakespeare further than high school and hearsay.

    Good luck in the future.

  2. Blast the copydesk! How frustrating. Writing is Art! I can’t imagine someone taking a red mark to one of my drawings. That would crush me. Plus writing is about voice and that is so personal. Well, keep it up. Write with your heart. Eventually, you’ll be so respected for what you say, no one will dare put a mark on it. You are awesome. I love your piece on Shakespeare.

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