"Antony and Cleopatra" and the snake onstage

by Minji Kim

Although the phrase "snake on stage" may initially evoke thoughts of Britney Spears with her infamous, serpentine co-star of 2001, the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s "Antony and Cleopatra" at the Loeb Ex has an equally captivating prop. While many of the costumes and music for the show were adjusted to fit a contemporary time period, the scenes stayed true to script, and the final scene even truer to reality, with the help of the director’s seventh-grade teacher’s snake.

Military camouflage, gold-rimmed aviators, and a sultry soundtrack created a uniquely reworked "Antony and Cleopatra," but the audience’s oohs and aahs dubbed the snake’s appearance the highlight of the play. A sign at the entrance warned the audience of the appearance of a live snake, heightening the anticipation of seeing the animal in action.

The snake, frankly, doesn’t do much in its fifteen minutes of Shakespearean fame. It is by no means an enormous yellow Burmese python that can double as a slithering shawl. In Cleopatra’s suicide scene, the rather tiny brown python is cradled and coaxed into biting—more like kissing, reluctantly—its holders to death. Its dark dappled skin makes it difficult to make out in the dim lighting of the tragic scene, and its miniature size makes its ability to viciously attack and kill someone highly doubtful.

The intrigue, however, lies in the fact that it’s a real live creature on stage, in front of your eyes, separated by neither silver screen nor cage. With no zoos in Cambridge, how often do Harvard students get to see a live, exotic creature, aside from House Masters’ dogs and cats?

Read more about Sadie the Snake.

[Caption: The warning sign on the door to the theater.]

[Caption: Cleopatra (Sara Lytle) uses the snake to commit suicide.]