The habit probably started in Act 2. Maybe he got tempted by those “herbs” meant for Hermia, figuring one little toke couldn’t hurt. Centuries later, Puck’s hit rock bottom: His skin is pasty, his hair is filthy, and his armpits drip black dirt. So far gone is the mischievous sprite from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that worried staffers of the Folger Shakespeare Library are putting him in rehab.
But he won’t be going to Betty Ford. Rather, this Thursday, the marble Puck statue that’s graced the Folger’s west lawn since 1932 will be shuttled up to the Cambridge, Mass., studio of restorer Clifford Craine. Craine’s detox regimen includes a power shower to clear nearly 70 years of acid-rain-clogged pores, as well as transplants of the right hand and digits on the left lost in his years as the Folger’s signature sprite.
The restored Puck will be cast in aluminum for a replica that will take his outside spot; the marble sculpture will assume a protected spot inside the Folger. And it’ll be almost two years until even the replica of the matchmaking imp returns to his perch above a carving of his cutting line from Act 3: “Lord, what fooles these mortals be!”
Puck knows from fooles. A while back, a teen skateboarder using the Folger’s driveway as a ramp high-fived Puck and took the statue’s right hand with him.
“Ever since the whole hand situation,” Folger PR head Kristi Berg says, “people have been watching out for him.” Just over a week ago, Library of Congress Police put in a worried call to Folger security after sighting folks clambering over the beloved statue.
Turns out it was just Folger staff getting Puck ready for his close-up. Already mourning his imminent departure, employees did a “Puck for All Seasons” photo shoot that’ll go up on the library’s intranet and may be used in a benefit wall calendar to help raise the almost $16,000 still needed for the restoration effort. With costumes from the Folger Theatre’s props department, staffers dressed Puck as the usual Shakespearean suspects—add a sword, and he’s Titus; with a hat and skull at his side, he’s Hamlet; a girly hair net makes him Juliet.
Lest the little guy with the Vulcan ears miss out on the 20th century, the staff also assembled an Elton John Puck, sporting gaudy plastic glasses, and a Batman Puck, complete with cape and mask. Can a swimsuit issue be far behind? —Jessica Dawson