— From CB —

Last week, I spent the day at a Bay Area theatre conference. Some good things said here and there, and I know how hard the understaffed staff worked on it, and Elizabeth fixed me a nice salad to take along for lunch.

But it occurred to me that if I’d recorded the very first theatre conference I’d attended, 35 years ago, then just played back the recording every year — same problems, same talk — I’d have saved so much time. Oh, except for Social Media being the Answer — as way back when, it was going to be Cable TV that would save live theatre, or subscription campaigns, or hip hop stagings of Shakespeare, or a billion-dollar budget for the NEA, or Captain America. Everything except the simple-minded notion of telling more interesting stories better.

After 50 years in theatre, I feel so alien to all the mainstreams, be they conventional or so-called progressive. Why? Envy that I’m so marginal to it? Boredom with plots about dysfunctional families revealing dark secrets? The deadness of the ritual: buy ticket, sit, applaud, stretch, sit, applaud, get out?

In my younger days, I felt that Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty manifesto for artists to be “like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames” was a bit over the top. I still distrust extremists, but I’d welcome a bit more signaling through the flames — not only by publicists.

Drove home late, and Elizabeth was out to our monthly moon circle, but she left a big bowl of soup. I love both theatre and soup, but I never get pissed off at soup. The only thing that brings back my faith in theatre is when we’re actually right there with an audience — thank heaven we’ll be performing next week. Then it’s like living inside lightning.

 — From EF —

Sebastopol, where we live, is a small town. There aren’t even any parking meters here. There’s a town square, with a farmers’ market every Sunday, and a center-of-town intersection where things get lively every Friday at noon.

On one corner, a silent vigil for peace. Across the street, a support-the-troops group with the Stars and Stripes. People on other corners wave an Earth flag, a big peace symbol, and a banner: “No Enemies.” A “Call the President” sign is held by an 89-year-old sprite with fuchsia hair.

It’s noisy. Pro-troops drivers blow their horns, anything from a cheerful toot to a mind-bending blare, and get a hollered “Thank you” in response. Drivers of other persuasions smile, wave, or flash a peace sign.

Women in Black vigils started in Israel in response to the first Intifada. Global proliferation of armed conflict engendered multiple pro-peace groups, now more than 150 in at least 24 countries. Sebastopol’s started in 1988.

After 9/11, the pro-troops group appeared, and at first there was mutual respect. When the second Iraq war began, the men became more belligerent — shouting of slurs, occasional shoving. Although it finally settled down again, there were no more greetings or handshakes. With Obama’s election, the Tea Party came on big time.

In 2011 I made my own banner, ONE WORLD ALL LIFE, and started standing on the peace corner. I’d marched in the streets in Milwaukee in the 70’s and had attended Quaker vigils after we moved East, but I’d never made this kind of stand before. It has become vital to me, an important part of my life, even though nowadays I only stand for the latter part of the hour.

The emotional temperature of the drivers is fascinating. Sometimes it’s mellow, while other times it’s like a hostile aftermath of a frat party. There’s a definite correlation, even here in our Sebastopol haven, with what the popular media are headlining.

I’ve never faced actual violence. I’ve had flashes of someone shoving me into oncoming traffic, but that’s just paranoid fantasy. We’re not yet a culture where somebody throws acid in your face. But I can’t help wondering what courage I might need down the road, if the time comes.

 — From the Fool —

My sister wants to hook up with a billionaire. I don’t blame her. If big shots still had Court Fools, I’d standing in line. Now I guess they just have lawyers.

But my sister’s always been the one with ambition. “It’s all in the mind,” she says. She doesn’t think of herself as a hooker: she’s a small-business entrepreneur, with a business manager named Sluggo. She got all A’s in school and went through college to get educated. Mostly she learned how much it cost. So she answered some ads. “Another six years,” she says, “I’ll be out from under my student loans, and then I’ll hit it big.”

Sex for money is okay with her, but she hates to be called working-class. “It’s unpatriotic,” she says. Her idea is find some guy who’ll rent her a penthouse and let her sleep late and credit cards and charge accounts and cruises, and that’ll fuel the Economy and keep America great. That’s better than just supporting Sluggo and whoever makes the bucks from her student loans. “I’ll fuel the ass off the Economy,” she says.

I tell her it’s wishful thinking. She needs a business plan. She needs a wardrobe besides just hotpants and fishnet hose and pink vinyl boots. She needs capital to worm her way up the social scale. Maybe a nose job.

Course I don’t know what billionaires go in for. Or where they hang out. Not in bars in the Tenderloin, I don’t think. But I admire her optimism. She’s one hundred percent American. Reading all those books in college didn’t faze her, even the depressing ones. Even the ones with facts.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2014


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