Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August 26, 2008

Gentle rain becomes vast rain, and rain still welcome. The groundhog takes shelter on the porch, climbing the seed can and peeking in through the front window, bewildering the cats and leaving muddy nose and paw prints at the bottom of the glass.

My painting Leda and the Swan is up in the library as part of the "Faculty and Staff" show. They put it in a very good place, where it looks radiant, where you can hardly enter without seeing it. I have fought the urge to go and stare at it.

The latest word on Michael Minor is that he is cancer-free. I have seldom prayed so hard for anything, without being able to explain to myself exactly why. But I rejoice, and thank Him who heard the prayers of all.

Spoke on the radio this morning with SP, I about my show and he about the building which houses the show. It would be difficult to imagine two minds as different in their workings as mine and his, yet I like him, and enjoy being near him.

Phone call from, of all people, Jim Powers. Is he still in prison? In or out, what does he want with me? Curiosity almost leads me to return the call, but not quite yet.

AW commended me via email on my "passive employment," which is what she calls my having dodged committees and senates and offices at the university. It brought me up short. Is this what people think of me? Is it in fact what I have done? I would have said that I kept the extraneous away while concentrating on my teaching, my students, and my art, but the extraneous might well be what people see. Nothing can be done about it now. . . in part because there’s nothing really that I want to change, except the perception.
August 25, 2008

Blessed rain, slow, gray, like a veil everywhere gently descending.

Last night our last at the amphitheater. Tossed my rather under-annotated script into the trash, gently, though, so the gods would know it was housecleaning rather than symbolism. LD walked her dog backstage during the intermission, and said "Way to project! Everyone else looks like they’re screaming, but you just open your mouth and out it comes, straight to the back row." I suppose that was on the list of compliments I wanted, but not right at the top.

I think, finally, I am not a fan of gender-blind casting. If a playwright is any good, his males will be awkward if portrayed by women. Shakespeare should be an exception, but he’s not; he is rather an extension. His women are the tiniest bit off when they’re not being played by boys. Viola and Rosalind are both less fun unless you can think that Orsino and Orlando are falling a little bit in love with boys, saved from themselves only by good luck at the end. I would affirm the opposite, that a good playwright’s females are awkward when played by men, but in this age of superabundant female actors, that almost never happens. Our AYLI’s gynocentrism was among its faults. It made Rosaline’s masquerade pointless, and turned Arden into a singing church camp. The "second son of Sir Rowland de Boys" had the figure of Jayne Mansfield. Plopping a jaunty cap atop all that did not convince.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

August 24, 2008

The forecasts promise rain for tomorrow, but I’m so dispirited and angry with it that all I could respond was "Why not today?" It has been an unconscionable drought, and any delay is the deepening of a crime. I trusted the forecasts enough, though, that I took none of the Sunday afternoon to water the gardens, but slept, heavily, and woke myself in such a thirst that I downed a 750 ml lemon Perrier without pausing to breathe.

This morning, between waking and going to church, I wrote for the first time since dad died. That drought also had become deeply disturbing. I wrote like a fury while he was dying, but when it ended at last, energy and inspiration scattered. I won’t say they died, for they rather went elsewhere, toward learning how to control and husband an estate, which is a far more creative and engaging enterprise than I allowed myself to think when there was no hint that I would ever do so. I was not doing nothing; I was learning new skills and adding something permanent to my intellectual life. But I was not writing. It is good to be back. I restored Four for the Gospel Makers with a revision that replaced several false–and ruinous-- starts from the past. I began a new play sprung from all the discussion of fire in Faustus. I didn’t feel especially electric in the morning, but I must have been ready, for forth it came. At one point I did ask myself what if the writer in me was gone, replaced by another man with other (and more immediately profitable) interests. The answer to the question never came, and now it need not at all. I think I’d almost decided I could endure it. That must have shocked my system back.

Weary unto death of AYLI. Weary of some, but by no means all, of my fellow thespians. I sometimes hesitate to accept supporting roles, not because of pride but because I am a bad backstager. I hate the idleness, the need to find something to do without losing focus while waiting for a cue. It’s like a bad family vacation, boring and frenzied by turns. While I’m performing, I can’t do anything but the play. Can’t read, can’t run lines, can’t chit-chat in the green room. I don’t pick up quickly on the tone and direction of backstage gossip. I don’t understand the subtleties and undercurrents, but still clomp in sometimes like a lummox, leaving bitter silence around me. The life I lead–balanced between the mundane and the empyreal, between livelihood and poetry, with the necessary darkness and solitude of creativity looming huge in the center–is not conducive to any sort of casualness. Twice in two days people invited me to dine THAT DAY. I couldn’t. How do people make room in a day for what is not already there? How do people find the gaps? I need at least a day’s warning to have a convivial cup of tea. Conservation of energy is a huge issue in my life now, and I know it must look like unsociability or snottiness from outside, but I can think of no explanation that does not itself drain energy. I can’t imagine going to a cast party after a show, unless it is right across the street, which, thanks to D, it sometimes is. There are people who have one pursuit and concentrate on that, and I admire them, but way back once upon a time I took another route. I decided not to say no to anything that said yes to me. I’m not sure it was the best idea, but it was what happened, and now I have to do whatever I have to do to keep at it. This is all to say I’m probably an unsatisfying after-the-scene companion, stepping into my own world almost the same instant that I step out of Shakespeare’s. Oh, of course I want everybody to love me. I don’t make it easy, I know, but I want to wear a T-shirt that says, "I’m making it as easy as I can."

Friend groundhog is back in the front yard, grinding down grass and clover in a paradise just his size. I am suddenly joyful.
August 23, 2008

Disturbing dream before waking. My lover had died, and I went through all my files looking for remembrances of him, and each time I opened a file, the memories withing would run in the air like a film.

Forty two years ago tonight I became a poet.

Kevin suggests that he may want to do some cutting in Anna Livia. This is a no-win proposition for a playwright. If you resist it, you’re "difficult" and "married to" your own words. It doesn’t matter whether the suggestions are good; you are meant to take them or you’re not being "collaborative." Editors are worse, though, so perhaps I should count myself lucky on this occasion. Kevin made no specific citations, and I suggested that they wait until sometime after the first read-through to make decisions about the text, as difficult passages have a way of becoming easier, even favorites, after you’re given them three or four go’s. He wants to shorten the play in order to do it without intermission. I point out that one way of solving the length problem (it is by no means a long play, not much over 90 minutes at a reasonable pace) is to restore the intermission, which is deliberately written in, and allows for a time break of a century. He wants to make room for the music he’s writing for the piece. I love original music in my plays, so I didn’t make the next obvious suggestion: less music. What I finally say is, "Do anything you want so long as I don’t notice it opening night." This is quite a liberal allowance, as my memory of my own work is by no means perfect.

Finished the last and biggest painting for my show. Two travelers from Charlotte happened by as I was finishing, and they thought it was weird and glorious. Weird and glorious are exactly what I’m going for.

I pray for deluge if there’s the smallest cloud in the sky before performances of AYLI People think I’m thinking of my garden. Never to be rained out is a cruelty I am not ready for from the universe.
August 22, 2008

Evening, minutes before I have to put on my motley for the play. I think my groundhog is gone. He’s not in his usual place, and hasn’t been for several days. Could be that Carolyn’s being back in her house above him was too much tumult. He was very calm, a little burrowing boddhisatva.

Back in school, I can’t keep up with the watering. My poor little garden must fend for itself until come some hurricane from the south. I have to say that I bear a grudge against the climate these days, holding off rain as a brat holds some bauble all to himself. It is ludicrous. It is unnatural. I have forgotten what it is like to see these grounds in rain.

I must find some center. Everything I do in a day is done quickly, with fury at delays and crosses, to get through to the central, significant thing, but what is that?

Have been wishing that my father was more vivid to me. When I remember him, it is always a long time ago, when I was a kid, or before that, not a memory at all but a fantasy from before I could have known him at all.

I look late at my email and see requests, sent last night, from former students for recommendations that would have been due today. I throw my hands into the air, even though none can appreciate the gesture, wondering what can possibly be done.

Watch the beach volleyball finals of the Olympics, screaming profanities, which I recognized as my method of cheering.

Jameson Currier is the man behind Queer Type, which I suppose I should have known if I paid better attention. Danny Hamm asks me to be his friend on Facebook. I delight to be back in touch. If I understood what he wrote, he’s in China. His photo looks like a punk kid from the 50's. This is a good thing. Michael Minor is still fighting, his wife still building a mountain of faithfulness and desperate eloquence. The postcards for my show, Night, are glossy on both sides so that it is almost impossible to write addresses on them. I recognize how small this is in the scheme of things, but I sit with my head bowed with disappointment for a good two minutes anyway.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

August 20, 2008

Gesualdo on the CD.

First class day came well enough. Bright shining faces, eagerness and expectation which I hope I can in some degree fulfill.

The department stood up for its annual official photograph, which had to be done twice because one of our number comes only when she pleases. Stood beside S, and caught from him the sharp smell of old age. It was a moment of pity and fear.

Faustus rehearsals are going well. When they’re not going well it is not, as with AYLI, because the conception is faulty, but because the actors have not yet realized the conception. Jason is an excellent director. He over-directs for my taste, but that is proof that he has a pageant running in his mind. I am not prepared for tonight. There will have to be forgiveness all around.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August 18, 2008

I knew I was healthy again when I was onstage Friday night, and everything was going like fire and air, and I was happy. I felt the disease long before it came to the surface. I was tired and heavy, and felt 1000 years old. Today I feel about 40, which if still off the mark, is so by not so far.

Meetings before the opening of school. The next decade will be dedicated to my quelling impatience at what seems not only beside the point but actually detrimental to the hard struggle of education. I don’t know whether I’m a true hearted classicist or only an old grump. Our latest curricular innovation, a thing called ILS, is devoutly hated by all students, and, though rich in flourishes and pitfalls and paperwork, seems to add nothing to the educational process but dilution and a sort of grand context-less euphoria which allows one to come out of college thinking that all details and theories and ideas are of exactly the same value and were thought of by somebody in Jamaica and then stolen by Europeans. Most of the concentrations are arbitrary, and the instances in which the program seems to have avoided pedagogical disaster involve those students who are so good anyway they’d learn if you gave them a shovel and a piece of charcoal. And yet, there were are, receiving adjustments to and working ourselves up into enthusiasms for a clanking, doomed machinery. Why? Most of us see the emperor is naked, but none of us wants to cry it out very loudly. This includes me. I don’t think I cry "wolf" unless there is a wolf, but that wears thin almost as quickly as crying wolf when there is no wolf at all.

Innovations in education which do not come from teachers are always wrong. Former teachers who have fallen in love with the image of themselves as administrators or, perhaps, educational theorists, do not count at all.

I am also unclear on the inescapable concept of "diversity." I know what it means when Admissions talks about it: trying to get more black, Asian, Hispanic kids on campus. This is hugely praiseworthy, but I don’t see why anybody thinks it can be forced, or have asked themselves why, after twenty years of trying, no actual progress has been made. Lunch counters and busses became integrated because black people wanted to use them, not because white people suddenly willed for them to come aboard. Our campus publications photoshop black faces onto athletic teams and into campus crowd scenes, to make it look like there is a fair representation of the races. I understand, but I think it is a waste of shame to be very blameful about it. The camel might as well weep itself to sleep because it can’t persuade the heron to come live with it in the desert. Of course you must try, but then you must take no for an answer.

In academic discussions "diversity" is more sinister. Colleague X uses it as an excuse to teach mean, temporary, unrepresentative literature, and then to teach good literature badly, grudging and judgmental because, whatever tests of time and criticism it has sustained, it is not by the right person. She drives men away from her classes and the department with her violently prejudicial behavior, but, so far as I know, it all goes unremarked and un-chastised. I suppose the boys are paying for the sins of their grandfathers. X expresses anger that some of our students could escape our clutches WITHOUT having studied Cambodian Menstrual Journals of the 17th Century, or whatever today’s flavor might be. I try to keep silent, assuming that all nonsense will pass, or, if it does not pass, it was not nonsense, and my retrograde opinions instead will wither into oblivion.

We all have resentment and envy at the greatness of the great. Only recent times have given us a way to transmogrify that into a virtue.

I’m going to try to make this first day of the semester the only one in which I stoop to satire.

I’m going to take the stairs instead of the elevator every day. See which makes me healthier.

August 17, 2008

Full moon night. Watched the Olympics at DJ’s, wondering what it would be like to be Michael Phelps.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

August 16, 2008

Thursday I knew I was getting sicker. Jason W would give direction and I could barely follow it, because I, almost literally, couldn’t move my legs. I sat for an hour after rehearsal with DJ, watching the Olympics, mostly because I was too sick to get up and go to bed. Next morning I went and sat at Mountain Java because I had a date with Jason S, but he had called to cancel the night before and I had been too sick to look at my cell phone. Spent the rest of the day in bed, getting up between bouts of fever and chills to move the sprinkler. By the evening I was better, but I may have put in my worst performance ever, at Montford or anywhere else. I don’t remember enough to judge how bad it was, but I remember the lines coming at me as if from a great distance, sometimes with blots or blears in bright colors, which were words I’d forgot and would have to paraphrase. I remember once "putrid" arriving in the place of "foul." I am still mortally tired, but the actual illness is gone, and I will try to redeem myself tonight. Audrey was sick too, and it was almost a clean sweep of the low folk. The north glowers and rumbles: I am devoutly praying for rain.

J’s rehearsal this after noon was a setback. It exhausted me. I should have begged off, but I knew my lines for the scenes and wanted to show off.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

August 14, 2008

Dark as a rainy morning, though there is no rain. All a tease. Lake Logan is bright and wave-strewn at the deep end, but, drained to supply the towns, most of it is a great mud flat, rather horrible to compare to its usual self. I know this because we hauled out there last night to do As You Like It in the dining hall of the conference center. I don’t know whether to call it a success. It could be that the average-age-about-75 crowd found it exhilarating and life-changing, and if so, it was all well. I had the unusual chance to watch the whole production from the next room, and it is rather inexplicably bad. Jacques is good. Phebe and Silvius are good together. I hope I’m good. But the rest lacks. . . something . . . not competence. . . . I said the exact quality was inexplicable. . . perhaps full understanding of what we are doing, and why. We are a blank verse-spouting automaton. Our energies are focused on ourselves rather than on the play. We are playing players playing Shakespeare. Audiences have seemed to enjoy our production, and that is good enough reason to plunge ahead. The van ride back was exactly as I remember from high school.

It has been the most transformative year for me since I was in grad school. Now the latest: In the past, success as an economic being was linked in my mind with success as an author. I’d write best sellers or Broadway shows, and the money would roll in– or roll in proportion to my rather modest vision of such things. Solvency was directly related to acceptance as a writer. Other than finding gold in the backyard, I saw no other way it was to be achieved. I’d fallen into profound debt waiting for the success I was having to turn from praise and "opportunities" into cash. Father’s money has changed that. My vocation and my wallet are sundered. I know that is making a difference, but what kind of difference it is too early to tell. Will my writing soar because it no longer needs to please anybody, or will it crash and disappear because it no longer needs to please anybody? I haven’t written anything significant–chipped away at the novel some–since the money arrived, though I have taken time to tutor myself in the stock market and investment strategies, and I have been happy doing so, more like a past time than a custodial duty. Actually, I have lost no more time than I would have, say, from a customary summer in Ireland. But something is different. I’ve always been something of an aesthetic purist, assuming that the struggle to stay pure as an artist while making a living is too difficult for most of us. It was probably too difficult for me, for whether it affected my art or not, it made me resentful and despairing. It made me a bitter man when I couldn’t overcome it in the spirit. What will I do now that leaden armor is off? It’s a question like those questions I ask my students during lecture, for which I myself have no answer.
August 13, 2008

The day has strangely vanished, and I don’t know exactly what I did in it. Visited Marty for Thai massage. Marty is the most Nordic person on earth. Wrote a little in the morning. I suppose I’m spending my energy bracing for the drive to Lake Logan tonight to perform AYLI. AYLI at Lake Logan heads the list of things I’m not looking forward to, but John thinks it will put Montford Park on the regional map. The man who started the North Carolina ballet thinks Lake Logan is the place to start a new Chautauqua. Maybe it is. We’re among his first victims.
August 12, 2008

There’s always a ring of honeybees around the water’s edge of the birdbaths. I wondered why they were so thirsty all of a sudden, when I remembered that bees cool their hives by blowing moisture through them with their wings–million year old air conditioning. They’re wetting themselves down to save their homes.

The butterfly bushes flutter with swallowtails.
August 11, 2008

The gang attended As You Like It last night. L’s first words: "It was too long. I couldn’t stay awake." So much for Shakespeare. DJ excuses L by saying he’s "oblivious." I suppose so, but obliviousness achieves the same results as malice, even if, out of courtesy, we allow it to have a different origin.

Our audiences have been incredibly supportive. Steph, who went out and watched the first act, said it was terrible, and I believe her, but the audiences are willing it into a joyful evening. It is a kind of domestic magic. Jolene said we were "magnificent."

Bought my first stocks directly today. Kind of thrilling. Kind of a shot in the dark.

Canton, Youngstown, and Dayton all make Forbes’ list of fastest dying cities.

Dazzling clear summer day, the air like wine. Friend groundhog has just waddled off his porch for his crepuscular foray. Blood red roses in a vase on my mantel.
August 10, 2008

Good painting yesterday morning, good performance at Montford in the evening, I think. Great lacunae opened the night before when one or the other went up on lines, and Audrey and I almost misjudged our entrance. It seemed a much shorter time, and in fact it was. They had dropped half a scene. Still, I believe the crowds have gone away happy.

Kevin sends photos of the Anna Livia cast. So very young! Pretty, all of them.

This has been one of those just-caught-the-attack-of-phlebitis-in-time days. I was quite sick and slept several hours this morning, but it is better now, and I think I’ll get through the performance tonight without incident. I felt this coming on for days, but miss-diagnosed myself as part of my fear of losing the efficacy of the antibiotics. I’ll let it go until almost the last minute, in case it’s something else. As it mostly is.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

August 8, 2008

Searching online, I find Bailiwick’s call for actors and technicians for Anna Livia, Lucky in Her Bridges. The whole thing seems wonderfully well organized.

Lunch with Chall and JF to discuss The Magnetic Field. It too seems well thought out, though foresight is not the infallible indication of success that one wishes it were. Still, it seems to me something that I should support.

Friend woodchuck has predictable habits, and I see him again today at the same time and the same place. I suppose that means I have predictable habits as well.

Amazingly, enduringly rainless. Only constant watering makes my roses think it is a right thing to be blooming now.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

August 7, 2008

The bathroom window looks out on a thicket of mint and rose, the rose mostly thorn now, but the mint in bee-thronged spires of pale lavender bloom. Beyond the thicket the groundhog has his lair, perhaps in Carolyn’s basement, but I think more likely behind the heap of trash she has leaning against her wall. I watched him for a long time. He was perfectly at peace, his brown length draped over a pile of lumber. He’s used to casual household sounds, clearly, and I could shower without disturbing him. What was he thinking? For I know he was thinking something. He’s a little fat bodhisattva battening on my clover, sanctifying Carolyn’s junk pile.

Went to the Asheville Aquarium and bought a "planted fresh water aquarium." I told Shawn that she should take it as a commission for a work of art, and set it up in the way she thinks best. All the fish I liked she thought were "messy" or "aggressive" anyway, so I gave up. I think in general I tend to prefer messy and aggressive.
August 6, 2008

Though it is still dark, I think I detect a stormy sky. Vague sheets of lightning lit the first of morning.

First rehearsal (for me) of Faustus. Far better than AYLI, as a personal experience, because I trust the director. I can see how his ideas are building. J has a vision whereas M made choices–none of them exactly right. Mephistophilis has been double cast, a move that turns out to be a life-saver for me, schedule-wise. The other Mephisto is a twelve year old girl. She is precocious, and the idea may be better than it sounded at first hearing. But I can’t tell you how irritating it is to rehearse a play that is double cast. I keep forgetting that I’ll be alone during the actual performances, and reflexively arrange myself onstage to accommodate her. None of this is anybody’s fault; I just have to learn a new skill. She’s an accomplished actress for her age, and, being twelve, very, very talkative. Her conversation is interesting and adult, but there’s just too much of it. I find myself receding into a sort of shell that responds only enough not to offend, seeking constantly, surreptitiously, for a place of refuge. It must be like being married.
August 4, 2008

Patrick Porter, down from new York to visit his folks in Old Fort, attended AYLI and declared himself to be pleased. He singled Nick out for being perfectly and sweetly suited to the role of Orlando. A shimmering beaker of testosterone, lovely from every angle. Patrick cut his hair short and looks sensational.

Looked out to see a big fat groundhog rooting around in my garden. He too looked to be mainly after the weeds my neglect has allowed in such abundance. I decided, in any case, to let him be. We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship, though it meant the end of travel.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

August 3, 2008

Rough onstage last night. We were subjected to a phenomenon that must exist elsewhere, but which I’ve only witnessed locally. A group–sometimes just one, but last night it was three– of women–infallibly women in my experience–laugh loud, long, inappropriately, so that the evening becomes not the dramatic offering, but the chronicle of disruptive outbursts. Any rhythm is impossible; any nuance is futile. The women last night were hugely overweight and plopped down in the front row, and loud to a degree that I would call unnatural, far louder than anyone on the stage, so that when they rang forth, several lines would be lost. They were known to most long-time Montfordites and clearly thought of their own attendance as an "event," but mistook if they thought it was a welcome one. The sound of shrieking was still painful at the edge of the parking lot behind the amphitheater. It was impossible to "pause for laughs" in anticipation of them, for they never laughed at the lines or at anything one could predict, but always at some bit or nuance only they appreciated. An extra simpering in the back or a goofy walk at an entrance would set them off, and by the time they simmered down, the meaning of the scene would be lost. Their hyenation was not to honor the play, but to avoid it, to conquer it. My "Come apace good Audrey" scene was lost because Audrey is munching on a cucumber during it, a nice bit for a two second laugh, but the ladies howled with renewed and crescendoing hilarity at each bite, and I’m not sure a single thing I said was heard by the audience. Some laughter is infectious; theirs was aggressive. It is designed to obliterate the play and focus attention on self, though whether that is the conscious intention I don’t know. "Look at me! I’m laughing at Shakespeare!" Normally I would have delivered the "A man may, were he of a fearful heart" soliloquy right to the spot where they were sitting. I had to move it stage left, but not to much avail, for they had chosen to scream– I mean this quite literally– at the sight of Audrey just standing there in character. I know this, because I turned and looked for what they could possibly be laughing at (that wasn’t me), and the poor girl was just standing there, cucumber at her side, as perplexed as I. Silvius got a fifteen second banshee-shriek when he said the word "Phoebe." He does, of course, say it very well.

Dream last night– a barren landscape I took for a cemetery. A figure was walking in a white nightgown, which I realized was my mother. She was alone in a vast, dark, rather terrible landscape. This dream is, I bet, a reaction to my father’s decision not to be buried with her. This still horrifies me. Toward the end his cruelty (is that the word I want? Indifference?) did not bother to hide itself. Only the knowledge that this issue is nothing to her, but an issue only in my dreams, enables me to shake it off.

The decision to go to church this morning was by no means inevitable, but I’m glad I did. My summer routine had become limited, comfortable, inward, rather melancholy. I had been marinating in my own acids. It was good to be among others. A mother and father and three explosive boys inhabited the pew in front of us. They were exactly what I needed. Even the pang of loss–the notion that I made a terrible mistake in not fighting harder to have a family– was medicinal in its way. Like the Ancient Mariner, I blessed them in my heart and felt a great carcass of self-involvement fall from my neck. I haven’t been cheerful at the amphitheater. I have been self-dramatizing, though in exactly what role I can’t quite imagine. Tonight I will be cheerful, and see if everything doesn’t come off better.

Bought a green glass hummingbird at the Arts Fair.

An Opening Night

August 2, 2008

Drowsy heat. I have half become a cat, collapsing onto horizontal surfaces every hour or so.
Volunteer great mulleins make great spikes of gold in the sunstruck garden.

Opening night redefined my interior monologue concerning As You Like It. Whatever I might have thought, the big, responsive audience loved it. It laughed. It participated, as the moat of groundlings must have done. It made the best we could do better. It willed an evening finer than we had any reason to expect. I think everyone went home happy. It was exactly what that venue was designed for, and hence, in its own way, brilliant. I was happy to be part of it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August 1, 2008

Glen says that AYLI is his least favorite Shakespeare, and Touchstone is his least favorite character. There is so much to like in AYLI, so many radiant moments, that it is difficult to understand why the whole piece isn’t better than it is, why the needlessly–often unintelligibly-- intricate wit, why the more than ordinarily absurd plot turns, why the pages of yak which, for a contemporary audience, anyway, are almost impossible to present without longueurs. Touchstone is submerged in counter-productive verbal mannerisms. Did Shakespeare’s contemporaries actually "get" Touchstone? The part is difficult to play because he is not a "fool" nor a jester, nor fully the courtier he claims to be. He is, I think, a country boy who made good at court through the application of wit. The court being rather dim, nobody called him on it when the wit flagged or zoomed off into the mist. He is the oxymoron of the analytical lover. Does he love Audrey? Certainly not– but he means to. He thinks it right that he does. He is going to work at his relationship almost in the modern sense, having come to it not smitten but determined. He is iridescent, and iridescent is impossible to play without an influx of the arbitrary, or the wilful. But he is also a kind of scientist, weighing the matter of love to see if the true can be sifted from the feigned. He and Duke Senior are the only fully sane people in the play, and they never meet until the end, where they do acknowledge a mutual affinity. I have settled on the image of the high-spirited, autodidact, somewhat over-observant, over-ingenious teenager as a workable compromise between what is in the lines and the sort of manic velocity our director craves. Mephistophilis, whom I play in the next opus, is a piece of cake beside him. I think maybe Touchstone is a bit of Shakespeare’s acknowledgment of how he himself appeared to his contemporaries– a racing mind, an antic affect, sometimes irritating, sometimes unintelligible, sometimes thunderous profound.

Nick is a hugely attractive young man, but not quite under control as an actor. As, at this point, he need not be. "Corin" notes that acting with him "is like being on the stage with Tigger."

When I dipped minnows out of the Beaver Lake pond for my second water garden, I dipped a dragonfly nymph along with them. This morning on the rim of the barrel is the nymph, head down in the sunshine, gaining strength to break out and take to the air. It is a lovely thing. I saw a dobson fly at the café, fumbling around for a while on the patio before righting itself and taking flight.