— From EF —

A friend of a dear friend is doing studies in creativity for the use of young artists just entering their life-path. The previous one was about achieving creative longevity; the new one considers the process of decision-makings. She gets responses to a list of questions from a wide range of artists who’ve been at it for a while.

It does make you think. I wish we’d been participants in the first study, if only for the pleasure of summing it all up: “Don’t quit. Don’t die.” This smart-ass response would probably not be very helpful.

The current study asks some edgy questions, such as “How does your creativity manifest itself in your life differently today compared to 5 or 20 years ago?” That’s hard, because my first response is that I’m not creative, I just Do Stuff. I realize that response is a crock when I look at my resume.

But there’s an element of truth in the crock. I have never felt it was me who did those things. There’s a classic element of dissociation going on there, and it still exists. Recently I was trying to shovel myself out from a landfill of jumbled paper on my desk in order to pay the bills. As I sat there on autopilot, I watched somebody entering stuff in Accounts Payable and writing checks and logging the payments on the invoices and updating the cash flow. I honestly wondered who the hell was doing all this.

My creativity, as far as I can tell, invites dissociation. In the olden times, my flow of music composition wouldn’t kick in big-time until after midnight. Sleep deprivation and red wine were my allies, and for years that worked. Creating text through improvisation also meant letting stuff come through on its own. Once I looked at CB’s project log for Medea/Sacrament and saw some long incantatory passages that blew me away. I asked where that came from. “You said it. I transcribed it.”

Our current process is really hard for me. I can’t just act: I have to know where to find my next puppet and where to put the last one, when to toot the kazoo (yes, it’s Lear, but there’s a kazoo), when the next cue needs to be taken and whether it’s with the space bar or the foot pedal. When a scene really starts to cook, Cordelia can’t be thinking about the light cue.

Then there’s the score, which is just getting underway. I’m doing it all with voice, some native and some processed, but putting the synths off limits. This is new and shaky territory. I think it’s right, but it freaks me. I have many creative ways to avoid sitting down to the console.

Artists are shape-shifters. Quality Comics had a character in the 40’s and 50’s called Plastic Man. He could take the shape of anything from a fire hydrant to a peeing dog. I’m with you, Plastic Man.

— From the Fool —

My friend Cherylissa made a New Year’s resolution. She’s going to change her name. She does it every year, sometimes with better results than others. I guess no matter what she changes it to, she still thinks it’s Janice.

I guess for some people changing names is a good idea. You should be able to do better than your parents did, at least if you went to college. Then too, now you’re grown up and have some idea who you turned out to be, and you want to repair the damage. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but nobody might ever try smelling it. Would the Rolling Stones have been so hot if they’d called themselves the Bumtones?

But my friend, soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-Cherylissa, never quite hits it, I think. She’s been through Honeybee, Kali, Syd, Moonwalker, Lyonna, Chuckie Cheese, Sabryotta, Ladybug, Cheyenne, Gazella, and a number of others before I met her. Her mother still calls her Janice. Her father’s dead. He called her Jan.

I don’t know if she wants to be called who she truly is or what she badly wants to be. Her nametag at her Walmart job says Janice, but with the right name she might be wafted out of Walmart on a feathered carpet to one of those parties with wine and tunafish crackers and a string quartet in the corner and people who never have to pay bills. Magic.

Magic. She might go for that. Plus, she could spell it different ways.

— From CB —

It’s no unique insight to assert that we’re all multiples. The clinical diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder, in its varying degrees of manifestation, tends to exempt the rest of us from that label, but in my view it’s hard to look in the mirror without seeing any number of faces there. We might do better if we acknowledged the fact.

An actor learns to “stay in character,” but what does that mean exactly? Most of the great characters of literature are deeply self-conflicted: their incongruities are far more interesting than their sword fights. When they come face to face with their multiple identities — Oedipus the crime investigator discovering himself as the criminal — it can be devastating.

We had a friend who was probably dissociative, perhaps aware, perhaps not. He was accused of despicable acts, while we knew only the funny, gentle man. I saw him, on the wings of acid, flip through personae from the demonic to the beatific, from archetypal Moses to sniveling adolescent. He’s dead now, of a gunshot.

We had another friend, a writer & poet, therapist, deeply devoted to erotic role-playing. A man of many personae, fully accepted and enacted with partners in pleasure and trust. He too is dead, of cancer.

Neither, in my view, was a “unified” person, yet one was deeply tortured, the other as joyous and giving as a man can be, whose personae lived at ease with one another. Still, do I know all that for a fact? I knew neither man well. Am I only seeing, with my multiple eyes, what my own creatures want to see? That’s the way stories are born, and their truth lives not in the facts but in the hearts of the hearers. So we come to KING LEAR, as I always do these days.

Edmund has ambitions to be an successful sociopath — the ultimate “integrated personality.” His monologs are masterpieces of self-deception, and it’s only on the point of death that he reveals the child with a desperate need for love.

Lear too sees himself as a unified being. He is king. The essence of kingship is power. In his abdication he seeks to retain this power while abandoning all responsibility. He never loses his illusions, but he only becomes humanized as this identity dissolves.

Gloucester is the ultimate toady, the compromiser, and yet there’s a decent, honorable man pressing to be born. That identity comes only in blurts, and finally his blindness is literalized.

Cordelia is the poster child of love and loyalty, yet knowing her father as she surely must, she can’t bring herself to say the version of “I love you” that the old man needs. In a public ceremony, she humiliates him. Pride is in her genes. She’s no Cinderella.

Kent is perhaps the one totally “integrated” person in this menagerie. As nobleman he offers absolute loyalty; as disguised exile, he offers the same. When Lear dies, he will follow. He has no existence apart from the King. His life ends when his service ends. Admirable perhaps, though not an example I’d wish anyone’s child to follow.

Edgar undergoes the most radical shifts. Heir to the earldom. Fugitive. Madman. Guide. Reluctant killer. Fratricide. King. If there’s any hope at the end of the bloodbath, it’s that at least one man has navigated his own many faces.

And the play. The drama itself is a dissociative entity, constructed of these personae. For me, it induces us to explore the drama within ourselves — its conflicts, its absurdities, its richness, and its fleeting moments of unity.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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