Bards, we asked thee: To flee, or not to flee …

“Calling all theater nerds!!” wrote our arts writer Pam Harbaugh on her Facebook page, the Friday before Hurricane Irma staged its own tempest Sunday night. “Finish this: TO EVACUATE OR NOT TO EVACUATE, THAT IS THE QUESTION …”

Harbaugh, a playwright and director herself, has curated a particularly literate and witty chorus of friends on the social media site. Her challenge struck a nerve among those in the path of Irma, who no doubt had been wrestling with the very question of whether to leave their homes.

What issued from them were arguments pro and con, far more fun to listen to than the loop in so many people’s minds.

Margaret Cross, an actress and cabaret singer who directs the choir at Melbourne’s Palmdale Presbyterian Church, swapped Hamlet’s voice for Henry V’s, then changed a word or two to turned the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech into a relevant, winking jab.

 

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that boards his house with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in Georgia now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That hunkered with us upon Saint Irma’s day.

 

Georgia, of course, is where tens of thousands of Floridians had fled, only to find themselves smack in the center of the weakening Irma’s cone.

Cross, who spent seven years acting in New York, grew up in Florida, so Irma was hardly her first hurricane. It may have been the hardest to predict, though; even her alma mater, Florida State University, where she studied music, was rescheduling football games.

Another well-known actress and newspaper columnist, Christina LaFortune, produced this Shakespeare knock-off by the next morning, as a Cat 5 Irma was smashing across Cuba’s northern coast.

 

Whether ’tis wiser in the end to suffer

The wind and shrapnel of the raging cyclone

Or to take refuge from the furious tempest,

By crossing o’er the causeway. We know we’ll sleep

No more, ’til Nature’s tantrum has passed.

But through the passionate sturm und drang we’ll find

Welcome shelter in the company of friends, and fine

Distilled spirits. For when my heart is o’ercome

At the height of Irma’s blustering rampage,

In hushed tones I’ll whisper, “Happily would I give

All my fame for a pot of ale and safety.”

 

LaFortune understands the subtleties of parody: She played Sonia in the Chekhov send-up “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Melbourne Civic Theatre last year.

Costume designer Jennifer Frandsen was a natural for the contest – she performs regularly at the Brevard Renaissance fair, most recently as Peter Quince in the Bard Lite staging of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

This year, well before Irma hung that fateful right turn, Frandsen got the disappointing news that she would not be debuting her latest costume creation at the third annual Space Coast Comic Con, which was to have taken place Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Instead, she’ll be donning the steampunk witch doctor costume for Orlando’s Imaginarium this Saturday.

Frandsen, who moved to Palm Bay in the mid-1990s, endured hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, and lost half her roof in Matthew last year. That experience, and the battle with her insurance company in particular, served as inspiration when she checked Facebook last weekend and saw Harbaugh’s prompt.

“I thought about last year, and said, oh, I got this one!” she says.

An avid fan of Shakespeare, Frandsen says her own poetry tends to be in sonnet form. With phrases like “Must resubmit anew,” she quaintly nailed the 21st century lose-lose proposition of evacuating a storm that, when you return, turns out to be only the beginning of the trauma.

 

To Flee or not to flee, that is the question:

Whether it is wiser in the mind to endure

The trials and tensions of unmoving traffic

Or to take up wood against a storm of the ages

And by enduring it: To thrive, to keep

Our homes, and by to thrive, to say we win

the struggle, and the pounding meteoric storms

that Florida is heir to? Tis a destiny

despised and accepted. To Thrive, to keep

To keep, perhaps to improve, aye, there’s the rub

For in that file of claim, what deductibles may come,

When we have submitted all the paperwork,

Must resubmit anew. Where’s the patience

That sees us through the appraiser’s report:

For who would bear the cost of home repairs,

To replace only half of a roof storm torn?

The pain of depreciated value, the long delays

The insolence of office, and the quotes

which in themselves add insult to damage

inflicted by the winds?

 

This time Frandsen faced the storm with a much stronger house: a new roof and impact windows, installed in increments as she could afford it. “The insurance company would only pay for half the roof, so I paid for the rest with my income tax refund.”

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