— From the Fool —

This lady, her name is Hazel, I see walking in the park sometimes. She’s maybe 60, but they say 60 is the new 20 or 20 is the new 60, one of those, so maybe she’s a bony-faced rickety 20. But anyway. . .

She carries her cat. It’s an old, fat, hairy orange thing. I wondered why she carried the cat, so one day I said hi and that got her started.

Her name is Hazel, she said, and she always hated that name because it didn’t mean anything. Names should mean something, she thought, and she looked it up and it just meant what it said. “So what am I? A nut?” She wanted to confront her parents, like they do in a best-seller about how awful your parents were, but they were both dead. She tried a fortuneteller to make contact beyond the grave so she could tell’em off, but all she got was the spirit of a plumber who didn’t make house calls, you had to take your toilet or your faucet to him to fix, and his business never took off.

I wanted to ask about the cat, but she went on about her sister Mabel, who she said was crazier than she was and used to mail her things like dead batteries or oven mitts, before postal rates went up. Then they did emails from library computers abusing each other, sometimes sitting side by side, till Mabel moved to San Diego in case they won the World Series.

And then finally, without my asking, she got around to the cat. “What’s its name?” I asked. “Kitty Litter,” she said. “My ex-husband, he named it, thought that was cute. But then he left and I couldn’t change it, cause they say cats take umbrage. I call it Kitty.” She put it down on the ground, and it walked over to a bed of nasturtiums and settled in for a snooze.

“But it’s old now, and it does doo-doo around the apartment. It won’t use the pan. So I tried to get it to sit on the toilet seat, but it fell in. And then, well, people walk dogs, why not cats? I found that out the hard way. It’d just tangle in the leash and then lay down and sleep. I could kinda drag it along the sidewalk, but then some old biddy said that was cat abuse. So now I carry it. But when I lay it down it never does doo-doo, it just goes to sleep. Sometimes I kinda jiggle it around to get some action going.”

She had a lot more to say, but then the cat got up and seemed like it was ready to move on. So she picked it up and I said, “Have a nice day,” and she gave a little, “Ha!” and that was Hazel.

Lots of big troubles in the world, but the ones that get to you are the little tiny doo-doos.

— From EF —

We didn’t know it was going to be an astonishing heat wave today, we just knew we were getting our first day off in a while, and so the only reasonable thing to do was go to the ocean. It’s good to listen to the Lady when things are about to change. Our Lear cycle began with an itch in November 2013, worked itself up to previews this March, and landed in San Francisco, San Diego, and Occidental this last month. It’s now hit a breathing space before gearing up for a big East Coast tour in the fall. Suddenly, days have options.

It was amazing to spend midday hours at Portuguese Beach in total ignorance of the fact that tar was melting in the parking lots of Sebastopol. The sea breeze was brisk, the sun was benevolent, and it felt really good to just let go. Then we came home and found that we’d just missed being cooked. Even so, at 5 pm it was 85 degrees. I’d planned to do garden work, but changed my mind. The furnace blast is predicted to pass quickly, and I will take advantage of the cool morning hours tomorrow. But then what?

The garden is calling, with a barely-suppressed edge of irritation about my neglect, so that’s up top on the list. I applied for an IRS extension, so that’s jostling for priority. The search for my birth-family is waving flags madly. I have piles of things by the sewing machine saying, “Fix me or give me to Goodwill.” There’s a huge spider-web between my desk and the file cabinets. (This is not a joke.) I look at our closets and the cartons in the garage. imagine what poor Eli and Johanna would face if we perished in a car crash, and think, “Wouldn’t it be a blast to take this all to the dump!”

All these things yelling “Me! Me!” and my mind just freezes. The best I can do is go sit on the front steps and clip my fingernails so my DNA can fall into the yard. Then I think about the Lady. She never takes a rest and she never gets tired. Every damn wave is different, and it doesn’t look as if she takes time to design each one. They just happen.

It might be a good idea to step back from “shoulda” and “oughta” and just listen.

— From CB —

O wow, what a day, yesterday. We loaded into the arts center at noon for a four pm performance of our King Lear in Occidental CA, and it took every minute of a frantic four hours to set up. We’d had a string of cancellations (standard for a donation-only performance), but others turned up to fill the house, about forty altogether, a full house. And then we started, and it was total rock’n’roll.

What often gets people into theatre — and what got me there at age fifteen — is the comradeship. At its best, the cast — whether high school class play or professional — is family. Maybe very temporary, but it’s deeply felt, and you do stay linked to some of those people, like soldiers who’ve been together in combat. That’s no longer true for us, except for a small number of scattered friends we’ll always call family & tribe. Here, we’re not part of a theatre community — we don’t fit anyone’s agenda, and it’s very rare that we get colleagues to our local performances. I grieve at that, sometimes, but it’s given us a backhanded gift.

Our sole tribe, for the moments of the performance, is our audience. There’s a connection — yes, we’ve felt it before, but now it’s profound — in the breath. By the beginning of Act 3, going into the storm scene, I’m exhausted, ready to throw in the towel, and I have that moment of looking ahead to the Donner Pass. At that point I can only trust myself to ride on the energy in that room and let it carry me through. Some of that comes with age; some with the depth of this play. But I think it also has to do with the sense that this work is not for career advancement, not for acclaim among peers, not for the cast party that follows, but solely for the task presented here: to give this story to these forty people as well as we can, and to hear them respond.

We did good. And the post-show donations in The Hat were the best we’ve ever done, thanks to a couple of $100 bills. We drove home and barely staggered out of the car and up the front steps, then ate Elizabeth’s barley/turkey and half a pint of Cherry Garcia, and she said, “I’m glad.” As am I.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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