— From EF —
On Saturday, we had an exuberant, joyful house concert performance of Gifts in Pinole, a portmanteau celebration —a 50th anniversary and a belated birthday. Semion and Mira are both artists, Russian-born, and their house is a festival of their colorful work. There were about 50 guests crammed in, mostly Russian-speaking, and the food, drink, and conversation were soon at warp speed. We enunciated with extra care, and the response was hearty.
Several folks there had seen Gifts before, and they were sure that it had changed. Nope. Same lines, same staging, but it’s true, it had changed.
Every performance is unique. The physical setting, the social occasion, the mix of people, the weather, the time of day — no two are alike. The audience is our dance partner, and once the first step is taken, it’s an improvisation. Same lines, same action, but newborn.
Today, Sunday, we took our ceremonial picnic to the ocean and watched a fabulous performance by our majestic Mama. The swells were deep and wide, and when they hit the rocks the white steeds that galloped from their peaks were beautiful indeed.
Every one was different. Had the swell already reached its peak or was it still building? How much energy still swirled from the last one? How long since the last kaboom? I love watching what’s coming in, trying to guess how its release will look.
The same is true of performance. Yes, here comes a laugh line, but how long ago was the last laugh, and was it a roar or a gurgle? The dog just walked in: are people worried it might bark? If something in our recent experience makes a certain line hit us deeper than usual, can the listeners feel the surge? You betcha.
We bring our Gifts to the table, but so do all those who come. Many thanks.
— From the Fool —
The other night the moon was big, and then the shadow came. It all got swallowed, and what was left was all red.
So it just made me think, which I do when nature calls. All kinds of questions, like flea bites, creep from the ankles up:
* Who decided the moon?
* Can you make money off stars?
* Even big fish are little in the ocean.
* If gorillas know words, are they happier?
* What’s so funny?
* If you swallow your gum, will it glue your guts together?
* What did your mommy tell you that turned out true?
* Money isn’t everything, but it buys a lot of stuff.
* Which cells grow up to be a cancer?
* Does the caterpillar know what the hell is happening when the wings kinda seep out?
* Some people like dogs, others like cats, but they never ask how the dogs and cats feel about it.
There are a million questions, or to be specific, 1,274,673, more or less. I think we’re placed on Earth to fumble around trying to answer at least two or three. If we’d sorta divide up the task we might get ahead of the game.
— From CB —
I’m thinking about those moments of impulse when a sudden notion whams the brain, we go with it without thinking, and then we reap the reverberations. I’ve had a few of those, and they’re not things I’d include on my curriculum vitae. Okay if they’re gateways to significant growth experiences; not so okay if they’ve hurt other people.
For me, the action of King Lear flows from one of those. He has already determined the division of the kingdom, and those in the know have been informed. Whence comes then his pretense that the rewards will flow to the daughter most loquacious in her professions of love? For me it’s most meaningful if it’s an impulse that comes to him in an instant. Certainly out of great need, but he hasn’t preplanned it. Maybe it springs from the previous line: “…while we unburthen’d crawl toward death.” How can he not take sudden advantage of the chance to hear himself praised? He’s like the naive college kid who feels it’s the one chance in his lifetime to get laid, and so he rapes. And then he discovers he’s walked into the swamp and is sinking fast.
The nation-searing moment, as trivial as it is, is only the cigarette butt that ignites the powder magazine. As he reacts to Cordelia’s “betrayal,” he reveals his folly in seeking “to manage those authorities that he hath given away.” He’s addicted to absolute power, and though he believes he’s ceding it, he’s sadly mistaken in his capacity to do so. What he’s sown, he reaps.
Shakespeare, certainly, would have felt that Lear’s decision to divide the state was already the height of folly. His histories and tragedies trumpet the need for stability, order, authority. This autocrat exercises what he regards as rational foresight to avoid dissension and disorder. Given the temperamental differences between Albany and Cornwall, and the inbred rivalry of the sisters, might it have succeeded? Possibly, with Cordelia’s marriage to a strong foreign power as a balancing force. But in an instant he subverts a carefully crafted plan.
I don’t suggest this as demonstrable scholarship, but simply as a producer’s instinct, clarifying the story as it appears to me. I wonder how many political decisions are made the same way a person pulls the trigger on a spouse, in the flash of a synapse? We assume, of course, that major economic or military decisions come through layers of secret intelligence, major lobbying efforts, etc. — a process that, however corrupt, at least has some twisted logic to it. The system is set up for slow, deliberate decision-making, not the quick instinct of the Action Hero. And yet we laud the vaunted Action Hero, not the egghead who “waffles” on the issues. We often vote him into office.
Here’s to the king who thinks twice about his sudden bright idea.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014