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Shakespeare for Sh*t

Local Matters


Published January 26, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but as any Vermont dairy farmer can tell you, cow manure stinks no matter what you call it. Farmers spread the dark brown doo-doo on their fields in the summer, but all winter they store it in pits to keep it from flowing into nearby rivers and streams come spring.

Unfortunately for his neighbors, Robert Compagna has needed a new manure pit for a decade or so. His Old Tavern Farm, the last dairy farm in Worcester, abuts the North Branch of the Winooski River. Each spring, he watches as a stream of waste filled with phosphorous and bacteria pours into the water. A new pit would cost $65,000 to $70,000, and the 64-year-old farmer told his neighbors that, even with the state paying half, he couldn't afford it.

So his neighbors, worried about water pollution, teamed up to lend a hand. Kim Kendall, staff scientist at the Vermont Natural Resource Council, lives nearby and has helped organize the effort. She summed up her motivation in a single sentence: "We swim right down there."

So far, the group has raised more than $15,000 toward Compagna's $30,000 bill by collecting change, holding a cow patty bingo fundraiser, and by sponsoring a $50-a-pop "adopt-a-cow" program. Last Saturday, they hosted a production of Sam Lloyd's The Magic of Shakespeare at Montpelier City Hall.

In addition to serving for eight years in the Vermont legislature and 20 years on Vermont's Environmental Board, Lloyd is also a veteran actor who has appeared both on and off Broadway in more than 150 roles. His one-man show, which excerpts some of Shakespeare's best-known monologues, includes Mark Anthony's eulogy for Julius Caesar, Poloni-ous' advice to Laertes from Hamlet, and the prologue for Romeo and Juliet. He teamed up with the Vermont Natural Resources Council to stage the production after being inspired by a segment about Compagna's plight on VPR.

More than 40 people showed up for this best-of-the-bard benefit, netting $1000- plus for Compagna's new poop pit. Before the show, audience members passed out handmade buttons opposing the war in Iraq, and helped themselves to a few anti-Wal-Mart -- a.k.a. "Sprawl-Mart" -- bumper stickers.

Most in the crowd seemed familiar with Lloyd's repertoire. After the trim, white-haired thespian delivered the prologue from Romeo and Juliet, he declined to identify its source. "If there's someone who doesn't know the name of the play," he announced, "I don't want to know about it." The audience chuckled appreciatively.

Absent from the event, however, was its beneficiary. In a phone interview the following night, Compagna said he appreciates everything his neighbors have done to help, but said he wasn't interested in seeing the show. "Shakespeare and I don't get along too well," he said.

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