— From CB —

            On our local Web bulletin board, inevitably before every election, the same debate recurs verbatim. Will you vote your conscience (i.e. third-party) or for lesser-of-two-evils? We’re in an ultra-liberal region, but I suspect it’s the same among the reactionaries: when do we get a candidate who gives us a true, total voice?

Well, sorry to say, in terms of Presidential politics, my answer is Never. In my view, we’re voting not for Our Heavenly Father or even Big Daddy, we’re voting for someone we think can accomplish a little tiny bit of what we want, even if the great Ship of State continues its thunderous drift. I have very low expectations of any President finishing the job with pristine hands, but I have monumental faith in the power of money-driven evil, and for me a “symbolic” vote for a third-party candidate is a vigorous declaration of impotence.

I won’t rehash all the arguments. But it occurred to me, as I read the first salvos two years in advance, to make a distinction between the Hero and the Politician.

Heroes are good, politicians are bad, we all know that. But why? I would suggest that those we term heroes have a much simpler job of it. It’s the heroic rescue or the heroic campaign — he’s a one-shot wonder, even if the one-shot takes twenty years. Gandhi’s actions achieved independence, but he didn’t have to run a country. The politician makes decisions every day, and unless he wields Hitlerian power he has vast pressures from every side. However clear-cut the issues are in the minds of ideologues, Reality fuzzes the edges.

Heroes strike the sparks, but the fires are tended by the schleps. We elect the schleppers, and the President is merely the Schlepper-in-Chief. The schleppers do have power, but they’re buffeted by the Deep State, the Military-Industrial Complex, the Bohemian Club, the Illuminati, the Elders of Zion, the Media, greedy geezers, Joe Sixpaks, welfare queens, closet commies, and every other conspiracy, real or imagined, on the face of the planet. They’re entirely subject to the weather, and the weather is getting pretty strange.

            I suppose I’m thinking in these terms because of my work on King Lear. We’ve discarded Monarchy long ago, and yet, psychologically, we still crawl toward it as an infant crawls toward Mama’s nipple. In Lear we see what happens when the monarchy is shaken by division: an earthquake. I fear that unless, in our deepest psyches, we give up the expectation of Politician as Monarch we’ll suffer the same tremors — as we in fact are.

            All this being the inchoate meanderings of a mind very late on a Saturday night.

 — From the Fool —

            Our neighbor got chickens. He’s across the road, Mr. Sturtly, and it looks like he’s digging in for the collapse of civilization, with high fences and such, so he’s gonna need those chickens.

The rooster’s not so bad. He erupts at 5 a.m., but that’s what roosters do, and it doesn’t take long for him to get it out of his system. I never knew why roosters do that. Maybe they think the sun is the barn on fire. Maybe they hate farmers. It’s all the result of evolution, I guess, but you’d think that the ones who crowed the loudest would get killed by the other chickens who wanted to sleep.

The hens are another matter. They start their cackle at any hour. You get the sense that they have something pretty desperate to say, but they’re not sure what.

It might be they’re picking up the vibes of Mr. Sturtly, who feels directly threatened by Sharia law and space invaders. They might be trying to set a world record for laying eggs. They might be watching TV.

And is their cackle a laugh or a scream or a protest or an anthem offered to the chicken god? There’s just no knowing. I guess only a Fool would ask that question. Everyone else would call the police.

I wondered if maybe Mr. Sturtly could quiet them down a bit, but he told me he believes in the First Amendment and if the Constitution gives free-speech rights to corporations then why not to chickens? Mr. Sturtly has a flag out front. Raggedy, but it’s the thought that counts.

— From EF —

            What is “voice”?   In high school, I was in the Drama Club, mostly because it rehearsed at 7:30 am and gave me an excuse to be away from home for an extra hour. When it looked as if I really liked it, my mother let loose (she’d been a professional vaudeville comedienne). “You have no looks, no voice, no heart, and no sense of humor. You’ll never get a man, so get a teaching certificate.” Talk about the ultimate bad review.

Life went on, and her prediction batted zero on all counts — nearly. I’m still ambiguous on the “voice” part. When I went off to the University of Michigan in pre-med, I hooked up with their radio production wing, which was like a junior version of NPR in the late 50’s. They cranked out radio drama for adults and kids and distributed it nationally. I discovered that when I was behind a mic nobody could see me. I became the Mel Blanc of the department and was in demand because I could do a kids’ script with six voiced characters in two takes at most. Two of the hot guys in the studio took a shine to me, too, and that was also a first.

Our years of hard-scrabble touring, sometimes for audiences in a high-school gym at 8 am, taught me how to have a big voice on stage. Later, I did many gigs of teaching folks who thought they couldn’t sing to forget about that and do it anyway, and I prepared many a kick-ass chorus for musicals. But — What? Me sing? Nononono. Sometimes I did it anyway, because it was needed, but I never felt good about the result. So Mom still was in the game.

Now, here comes Lear. CB said he thought the musical score should be entirely voice-produced. A still small voice said, “Are you nuts?” However, there was a gift to explore. Last summer, at our Ko Festival workshop in Amherst, a member of the group gave me the TC Helicon voice-processing unit she’d been using in her cabaret work. I’d never even turned it on, and now it occurs to me that I was afraid to.

But once I got past the very sketchy user’s manual and started exploring sounds, things changed. It got to the point that when I did a draft of the storm scene, CB suggested I should revise it because it sounded too realistic. Now I’m nearly finished with the first draft of the 35 sound cues, and I understand why he made that suggestion. It’s not my voice, or Lear’s voice, it’s the voice of the play. Whispering, keening, sometimes with words, sometimes just sound, but it’s in the air, the way the colors of a dream hang on into the morning. Thank you, Virginia Dare, for your gift. I’m finding my voice again.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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