— From CB —

We’ve been in high deadline mode this past week on our production of Lear. Still about twelve weeks till previews, but our photographer is coming for promo photos, so everything visual is accelerated. The Fool’s staff, cut from a fallen branch, has sprouted two tiny hands at its tip — leftover rejects from the puppets — but still in process are eyebrows on the Fool’s bald wig. Lear’s two crowns are finished: the first, in his kingship, of heavy knotted rope; the second, in his madness, of weeds and ivy. The set fabric has magically come together, all from our remnants shelf: two beautiful draperies against sheets of silvered tarp, graced with rough erosion cloth.

In the action, both good guys, victims, and villains call on the gods: O ye blessed gods … great gods … gods that we adore … ” right up to the blinded Gloucester’s hideous statement, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.” But in all the productions I’ve seen, I’ve never seen the gods or felt they were more than a rhetorical flourish. So a couple of days ago I created the gods — three haggard half-masks, one looking as if he’s just told an unfunny joke, the others frayed at the edges. And in fact it’s a great help to the actor (me) to be able to call on the aid of these inert, impotent beings.

More costuming to finish and focusing the lights and replugging to bypass four dimmers that have suddenly croaked. Ah yes, and then there’s rehearsal.

It’s a minuscule set, only 6 ft. wide, 4.5 ft. deep, 7 ft. high, all supported on square aluminum tubing. The challenges are (a) to provide instant access to 20 puppets and assorted props without moving from our stools; (b) to support 18 tiny lighting instruments without having them glare in people’s eyes; (c) to look like a set for King Lear and not a refrigerator box; (d) to load into a touring gig and set up in less than two hours; and (e) to fit, puppets and all, into the back of our Prius.

And today, an hour and a half shooting, with spectacular results. Now we just have to get to the point where the performance is as good as the visuals.

 — From EF —

We just had a photo shoot for Lear, and it was extraordinary. Preparations were also extraordinary. We don’t have our first preview until March 21, but these photos will define our “look” for San Francisco promotion. We had to get it right, or as close as we could come.

My hands are no longer purple, but Lear is wearing a gorgeous royal hue that took me four successive long sessions of standing at a steaming cauldron, resisting the temptation to start chanting “Double, double” etc. CB created three impressive god-masks from scratch in two days. Mallory, our valiant costume co-creatrix, was up until 2 a.m.

The set is a collage of incongruous fabrics hung from the bars of our little stage-cage. Some of it is remnants of the heavy-duty industrial tarp that kept us from frying at Burning Man. There’s some jute erosion cloth that was part of our Inanna set in Philadelphia. One beautiful swagged drape of velvet is from the curtain we created for Mating Cries in 1998 and dragged all over on tour. We are inhabiting the shards of our personal history, and somehow the combination makes sense and looks beautiful.

And the puppets, ye gods, their faces. CB paints with light, and this is the first time I’ve seen all these characters in their own world, not our flat ugly rehearsal fluorescents. They’re coming alive, seeing with their own eyes, and I feel them starting to take charge.

It’s pretty perverse to take a devastatingly dark play and call it your winter solstice, but that’s what it feels like. Lear is 410 years old, about 12 generations, but it feels absolutely contemporary. The human race is still making the same goddamn mistakes, it’s just that we text about them now. This is a way of turning away from the tiny screen and looking down the vast echoing hallway of humanity, searching for the rising of the light.

 — From the Fool —

Everybody does the Year in Review. It’s the best of stuff or the worst of stuff or the year’s best movies or the cutest cat videos or the most popular massacres. This being the 52nd weekly blurt of the Damned Fool, it’s only right that we revisit the year that was and will never be again, as far as we can tell.

But since this is the Fool and not the deeper souls of network news, what should it be the “best of”? Stupidest? Funniest? Most can-you-believe-this-is-happening? There’s millions of people who’d vie for a best-of list even if it’s from a Fool and no matter what. Being on a list means somebody noticed you. That’s almost the same as Eternal Life, without arthritis.

So I thought just, well, stuff that happened to me. I didn’t get any snapshots because I got a digital camera but whenever I try to snap a photo it turns on the washing machine. I think I’m electronically cross-pollinated. But, so, the notable stuff:

1) I dreamed about some people I didn’t know but they knew me and gave me a bowling trophy, which I didn’t feel I deserved but I took it to make them happy. Now I have to bowl.

2) I ate something that tasted real good but I didn’t know who it was. Maybe that was a dream as well.

3) I tried to learn some constellations besides Orion but then I forgot. One had something to do with goats. And seven sisters. And crabs.

4) In fact I walked past some goats down the road. I thought, What’s all this stuff about goats?

5) Once in April I thought it was May. Same thing happened in May.

6) I saw stuff in the newspapers and then looked it up on the Web. I forgot what it was but it was pretty awful. But I’m getting better at forgetting it.

7) There ought to be ten things but I need to eat dinner. The good part is that even during the bad parts I still eat dinner.

8) And then I remembered the pork roast. That was great.

9) But the news about climate change and Fukishima and people getting shot because they turned around, that kinda made it hard to laugh. I guess that’s why cats curl up in boxes and people take their pictures.

10) But we still have to laugh.

I don’t know if that captures it all, but what can you expect from a Fool?


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© Bishop & Fuller 2014

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