—From EF —

We’re more than halfway in our Lear tour, heading for Bloomsburg PA and then Portsmouth NH. We just did a performance and a student lecture at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, our old home turf from 1977 to 1992.   Our dear friends Mary and Michele opened their home to us, as they always do. After our performance, we went home and opened a bottle of wine and swapped stories. The four of us are definitely of the same tribe, makers and travelers, prying out stories and finding how to tell them.

They live amid the rolling low hills of the rich farmland that gentles down to the Susquehanna River, and the air is sweet and smooth. They’re far from traffic and town lights, and when I woke briefly in the middle of the night, what I saw through the big upstairs bedroom window was a perfectly-framed portrait of the constellation Orion. (When I was a kid I wondered how the Irish had promoted O’Brien to celestial fame.)

It was so startlingly clear that I could almost see the lines connecting the stars, like a star chart. As I drifted back to sleep, I began to imagine the constellation of our friends, our tribe, seeing the lines we scribe with our Prius. This is our fourth long-haul cross-country trip in this decade, and the bright stars are burning brighter than ever.

Our home in Sebastopol is our anchor, our haven, and when we return I will have to resist jumping out of the car and digging my hands into my garlic bed. But our tribal constellation, spread wide over two continents, is equally real and immensely important to us. I rejoice that the work we create is also our ticket to that highway.

— From the Fool —

The walls in my place are pretty thin, and I was hearing the news through the walls. Man shoots dog, dog shoots man, all the usual stuff. Then I heard something big, or thought I heard it even though my neighbors were screaming at their cat.

The scientists discovered traces of laughter on Mars.

They’ve got this little go-cart they run all over the place that takes snapshots and poops out data to fling back to Houston. So they can tell from the squiggles in the landscape that once there was laughter in the valleys.

They couldn’t tell if it was big gushes or little trickles, or if it was mean or jolly, or who was doing it. More study required, they said. I imagined little green men pointing at Earth and howling.

And I wondered how many comedy clubs there might be on other planets in the universe. Or kids making faces behind the teacher’s back. Or old guys in barber shops telling dirty jokes. Or silly pictures of cats. Or stuff that was really funny.

Some day there might be a rock squiggle on Planet Earth that said, “Here the Fool got a laugh.”

But next day I saw in the news that what they found on Mars were traces of water. I’d heard it wrong. That’s okay. I get thirsty when I think.

— From CB —

A writer from a student newspaper asked me why I like theatre. I answered something like this:

Like isn’t the right word for me. Compelled to do it comes closer.

Certainly it’s been a huge part of my life and the formation of my friendships. This tour is special in reconnecting us with people around the country who’ve been, at some time in 40+ years, part of our tribe. Few dressing-room friendships formed over a two-month work span hold — those are more like a quick solder job than a firm weld. It’s the people with whom you’ve shared long struggles, or whose paths have paralleled your own, or those with whom you’ve wrought something that’s survived more than three or four weeks. Or, in some cases, the person you knew casually decades ago and suddenly looms in recognition that you and he or she are still alive, older and more deeply textured. But of course that likely happens among bankers, dentists, or Afghan rug wholesalers. It’s not special to theatre.

Obviously, it was a means of self-expression for a very shy kid who became a very shy man and then a very shy geezer. But self-expression too is a slippery term. Frankly, I feel that my inner life, my dreams, my thoughts are very scant and boring — about as worthy of expression as chat about a pet cat’s liver disease. If my plays depended on self-expression, they’d all consist of a guy sitting at the edge of the stage drinking coffee, staring into space, and checking his watch.

But I’m compelled to explore. I need to see what’s in other people’s houses, other people’s histories, other people’s heads. The incongruities, rationalizations, absurdities of behavior. The small worlds and alternate realities we create. Our little murders and our tiny ecstasies. And when I’m launched — often by whim or accident —into one of these dark safaris, I discover that, in wandering through those alien hallways, I find particles of myself. Not so much self-expression as creating a self to express.

No question but that there’s a character somewhere behind the face that I recognize as mine, but as far as I can tell, that’s a very hesitant, cautious being, pretty nice in general but not remotely a risk-taker or creator. The creator in there is a virus that’s been there so long I begin to think it’s part of me — is Hyde the shadow of Jekyll or are they creatures apart? Fortunately, the parts of myself get along better with one another than those guys did, and what sparks or emerges from that duality is theatre.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2015





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