—From the Fool—
Luann was getting pretty tired of waiting for me to make a bunch of money so she could get married to me and attain a higher status in life because then we’d have money. She’s not materialistic, in fact she’s very spiritual. It’s just that these days being spiritual costs money.
Which gave her the idea. “Why don’t you become a guru?” she said.
So she explained that you attained enlightenment and then came up with stuff that nobody understood so they had to pay big bucks to take a weekend retreat. “Retreat” not meaning run away but more like retreating from your job or from taking out the garbage and into a cosmic consciousness where you didn’t have to do all that. Like you learn to see the good side of the garbage.
I wasn’t sure how to start out doing enlightenment, being as these retreats cost money, but she said there’s library books about auras and astrals and akashics and harmonics and the four agreements and the seven samurai and that stuff. “Just read it and then get a photo took where you’re smiling like you swallowed the canary.” That seemed pretty simple, but then it got tougher.
“And since you’re a guy, you need to grow a big beard or else shave your head,” she said. “Or both.”
That kinda threw a wrench in the works. I hated shaving every day, and adding more acreage—a whole skull—seemed worse than taking out the garbage. And once when I tried to grow a little beard it was itchy, and I’d get stuff stuck. I didn’t think people would pay big bucks to see some guy drizzling egg yolk. And I slouch down too close to the soup bowl.
So I said to Luann, “Well, couldn’t you find a guru to tell you how to be happy without a lotta money?” “Sure,” she said, “but they charge a lot for that.”
There are advantages to being a puppet. We’re gearing up for taking King Lear to Oregon and Washington, and in the midst of setting up for tomorrow’s runthru, Goneril’s head fell off. Right off, plop. We’ve had minor costume misfortunes and we do regular inspections and needlework, but never before have we had a lady lose her head.
It’s been a year and a half since we built these puppets, and it took me a bit to remember how I put the necks together. Now that they have costumes, a neck repair is both easier and harder. (The costumes don’t come off. The puppets can’t get naked.) But I figured out how to do a hybrid attachment that should be more secure than the original. We’ll see how she feels when the pins come out.
My own head doesn’t feel very stable, either, but glue and stitches are unlikely to help. Election Day looms, and the next day we dismantle the Lear set, put the puppets in bins, and load it all out into the Prius. Whatever the electoral outcome, somehow I don’t think that peace and tranquility will roll in like the fog.
I had a big work-list today and had a helluva time getting started. Finally I made a list of a lot of little things that had been left undone for ages and were bugging me every time I saw them. Mowing briskly through some of them helped, and finally I could start at the top of the major list and keep going. My head didn’t actually fall off. Good thing, because I’m not sure I have the right kind of glue.
Some new-minted friends invited us to dinner and a show in Point Arena, in this case a theatrical telecast of the National Theatre’s staging of Deep Blue Sea. An excellent production & dinner, and a rare pleasure in talking with theatre people about theatre—once a tiresome constant in our lives, now a rare joy.
It’s odd to feel so alien to the art form you’ve been embroiled in since adolescence. Not alien in the sense of abandonment—we’re performing Lear, likely reviving Gifts, and talking about a new solo piece for Elizabeth—but without the driving obsession that’s ruled this duo for 56 years come November 13th. Now, the obsession is writing fiction, which, as I’ve said before, is a very lonely process, even when there are two of us.
The challenge, as in theatre, is to make it work moment by moment while it progressively adds up to something. Sorta like an army squad’s taking a week to capture a hill while the general’s focused on moving his divisions. For the actor & playwright, rehearsal is the preparation, but the performance is the immediate, present encounter with your recipients; and if, as with us, you continue a piece in repertory or on tour, you make those countless little chiropractic adjustments that emerge from that presence. Fiction—pardon the metaphor—is more like pornography. It’s intended to get a response, but it’s shipped out to the customers to use it privately as they will.
In a way, our work in radio was perhaps a partial preparation. We were alone in our little studio, sending out the tapes for broadcast, once in a while getting an indication that someone listened and liked what they heard. But radio was easier, in that we could hear our own voices, speak the way we’d speak in conversation and thereby create the illusion—for ourselves—that we were speaking to our fellow humans. In fiction, likewise, “voice” is vitally important, but the vocal folds are print-embedded, and their vibrations bypass the cochlear hairs of the recipient ear. It’s creating an illusion of voice.
Where we go with it, who can say? Moving into a new art form at ages 75 and 76, one doesn’t expect to make a scratch, much less a dent in the walls erected against recognition. It’s nice to have published five stories, to have finally gotten a check for $100, and to have received some beautiful responses to Realists. But more and more, the reward is in the doing.
And with theatre: well, damn, it keeps raising its shaggy head.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2016