Monday, October 31, 2011

October 30, 2011

Two days of low-grade headache.

Lunch downtown yesterday with Donna Cowan and her husband Jeff, down from DC. Donna had been mentored by TG at V Tech, and has just come out with her first book of poetry, for which she’d asked me to write a blurb. It is an excellent book, lively and individual, so the writing of a blurb was a pleasure. TG had given her a copy of A Sense of the Morning long ago, and she says she had adopted it as a kind of bible-- the sort of flattery which abashes and justifies in the same moment. They were good to be with, and the bitterly cold afternoon lifted the unpromising day completely. TG had confided in her about our friendship. I smiled hearing about it from a third party.

Our Town ended last night with a moderate bang. It was our biggest house– the theater approached half full–and most of the actors were “on.” B delivered his lines as George with the enthusiasm he should have, and could have, from the start, had he and all of us not been held back by one of the “concepts” governing the production. Directors and costumers and the like adore concepts by which they put their mark on a production, but when a production fails, it is often due to those concepts. Few are the “concepts” which are not burden which must, somehow, be borne up by extra energy from the text and the cast, by a conspiracy of acceptance on the part of an audience. I’m going to found a troupe called, “Just Say the Words Theater Company.” The house was lit for Our Town, and the actors warned not to make too strong a character, lest the audience fail to identify with the figures on stage The lit audience had the unexpected effect of confusing new audiences–of which we had an unusual number–by making what was incidental and what was theater hard to distinguish. Our audiences were sometimes badly behaved, but I think we set them up to be. Our presentation was sometimes bland, in the service of a not-quite-thought-through concept. Distancing and alienation were ideas that had their moment, only, and were bad ideas even then. Did I have a good time? Yes. I enjoyed being with the cast and grieve already at the inevitable diminishment of contact when the show is closed. Jake and I will probably work together. I’m churning the waters even now to allow that to happen.

“The Future of the Theater” getting good reviews from people who saw it. Seeing it myself of Thursday. What a difficult audience I can be . . . .

Overtures from L. I’d turned them down before I asked myself what I really wanted.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 29, 2011

The dogwood holds its red branch like a torch in my bedroom window. The golden angel’s trumpet is frostbitten at the top, but still blooming below, like a great palace whose top floors have burned.

MA quoting my poems at me last night over drinks. It was confusing. That someone should actually know one’s work–

Why can Keats say “My heart aches” and no one else?

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28, 2011

Friday morning, when I can take a deep breath, even if it requires some artificial clearing of the calendar. What do they call it? A mental health day? Very dark outside. I have been leaving early in the morning for the gym, when the keen stars are twinkling, sharp and compact, as are the stars of winter.

Second weekend of Our Town. RB had to go out into the quad and into a lecture hall giving away free tickets, else our house would have been sparser than it was. Somehow our theater has not entered into, or has been exiled from, the consciousness of the campus. It’s convenient and cheap and, this time, watch-able, the young actors well-prepared and personable, and students always have obligatory cultural events, so it’s difficult to understand the disconnect. Whenever I want wholeheartedly to boost the organization, though, I’m confronted with events such as last night’s pre-curtain lecture, wherein the morale of the actors and the possible success of the performance were sacrificed so that our stage manager could be made to feel good about herself. It was shocking, actually, for that fit of self-regard to be presented to the students as something that might go on, ever, in legitimate theater. Much of our energy has been drawn off so that our stage manager (NOT the one on stage in this particular play) could preserve illusions about the extent of her authority. She has teachers, mentors; somebody should have told her that the people backstage, as well as on stage, are there to enhance the performance rather than to draw its energy away to themselves.

However sweet the bud, there must be a weevil in it. I guess.

MA arrived an hour in, but says it was his best theater experience in Asheville, that it was moving and dignified. Wasn’t expecting to hear that, but glad to have done so. He’s coming back tonight to see Act I. Drinks with him at the Vault, where we discussed his joblessness, and the sense of joyful anticipation he harbors during the job-hunt. It was good to see him. He is always full of ideas and appreciations. He joined us last night at Avenue M for drinks after the show, which was merry, and I dragged home drunk and happy.

My own “The Future of the Theater” premiered at Magnetic Field last night, though of course I missed it, and will continue missing it until next Thursday. Two of my students want to come with me that night. That will be festive.

Shocking what energy it takes just getting through the week. The soul of art hibernates, and one lies down on any horizontal surface, begging for forty winks, resenting so much as a trip to the store for cat food.

Speaking of cats: A few days back I’m fed up with interruptions, and bellow at Maud to get out. She retreats cringing a few paces before my onslaught, but stops, hovering in the doorway. She thinks, “I will not let it end this way,” and boldly trots back, braving my wrath to take up her place on my lap. I should take this example of love and courage.

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 23, 2011

The house is too cold if I set the thermostat at 67, too hot if I set it at 68. Perils of autumn . . . .

Tiny houses continue for Our Town. I don’t wonder why going to our own theater is not part of university culture, but I do wonder what can be done about it now. Faculty and administration have not been in evidence at all. Backstage culture here is fascinating. There are clear currents, clear processes of exclusion and inclusion, but my immersion has been too brief to have much of a handle on it. It is to some degree a meritocracy. Jake’s maturity and advanced skills are respected, and there are no divas, or if there are they are not shrill enough for me to have sensed them. The atmosphere is unprofessional, though not in a charmless way. Certain customs are presented as theater etiquette which a professional theater would find risible. I suppose that has come from the faculty, but perhaps not; perhaps it is sui generis. One group or another (among the crew) is always reminding us to show respect to them. I have not witnessed disrespectful behavior, so I don’t know exactly what that’s about. Usually reminding people to show respect indicates that respect has not been earned, but perhaps there is a history to this I have not understood. I remember this respect anxiety from my tenure there a generation ago, though from no other theater where I have worked. Some kind of local sensitivity– The kids are cheerful and clearly having a good time. A good time for cast and crew does not always translate into a good time for the audience, but a bad time backstage would surely affect an audience’s pleasure, so we’re ahead there, if slightly. I will miss the kids if we don’t meet again after the run is ended.

B remarked that his father and his girlfriend’s father were sitting together in the house. “It’s so cute. It’s like a dad date.”

Jake reveals some things about the production of Vance which I did not know, namely that the director dropped out for the most part and the show was directed essentially by cast and crew. This means I have to end my resentment of the quality of direction and turn it to gratitude that it came out as well as it did.

Evening. Our Town matinee again sparse, but a good performance, I think. I felt more into the atmosphere than I have before. I had friends in the audience, and as things were set up, I didn’t even have to try not to look at them. The girls in their makeup look like movie stars.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 22, 2011

White Christmas cactus in bloom, pink in bud.

Two of my Vance actors came to see Our Town last night. (Jesus, JJ is a handsome man!) I was touched to see them. House still small, but friendly and responsive. I have no particular laugh lines, but I could hear them out there in the dark trying to find something to titter at, and I was grateful. The time backstage seems about four times longer than, by the clock, it is. Especially weird review of Montford’s Romeo and Juliet makes me ambivalent about whether I want us to be reviewed or not.

The dates for I Should Tell You I Have a Gun in My Purse are November 11 and 12. I was told last night that it was “very funny.” “The Future of the Theater” opens Thursday at MF.

Coughing like I'd smoked for thirty years,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 21, 2011

Banshee-like whistling of steam in the radiators. Winter approaches.

Planted the moneywort I gathered from the Lucy Cavendish garden.

Noticed that lemon balm was taking over the garden, carried out on all-out assault. Planted the moneywort in part of the space thus cleared. Orange bachelor button in bloom, seeded from last year. The pink terrace roses bloom, and the golden angel’s trumpets, and the pink hollyhock-ish things that I keep forgetting the name of, that grow all over Rome.

Bought seed and suet and hung the winter feeders.

Wrote in the café until the coffee started making me sick.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 20, 2011

Gaddafi’s death sparked a debate in my Honors class, one student saying that it is wrong to rejoice over the death of anyone, others saying that destructive people should expect a sigh of relief, if not of joy, at their demise. I was with the latter group, wishing I could feel that all human life is sacred– I guess I do on an abstract level– but actually thinking that for some, good riddance is good enough. I used to wish, half-seriously, that Dick Cheney’s wicked heart would give out on him, or that John Ashcroft would melt when somebody threw water on him.

Opening night of Our Town. Tiny house, but the veterans seemed to think that was to be expected. I can’t tell by listening-- as I do from the ambulatory practically all three hours-- how well we are doing. I can count my own bobbles, which last night was one.

The more I think about the play the more I think it is a bitter satire, and the fact that it is “beloved” high school fare is deeply ironic. Emily’s life is wasted. She is the smartest girl in town and should have gone to college; instead she hunkers down with the local rube– because, I guess, she is supposed to–and dies young, in childbirth, and even in death can only talk about a stupid watering machine purchased in lieu of a trip to Paris. Grover’s Corners is proud of having no aesthetic or spiritual life, and hounds its one artist into drunken suicide. Not only does it have no such life, buts warily shrugs off all such aspirations to it. Only Rebecca is allowed a momentary foray into wonder, and that rhapsodizing on a fanciful address on an envelope. Thornton Wilder, a gay man, writes at least three times in the play that most everybody gets married and goes through life two by two, which is either sad, sad self-loathing, or irony so scalding nobody (in the commentaries, anyway) dares quite to get it. The Stage Manager misquotes carelessly and dismisses Poles and Canucks on the wrong side of the tracks. He –or in our case, she-- focuses on the mundane in a way that is occasionally poetic, but most often reductive and insular. The implication is that the narrow minds of Grover’s Corners are exactly the way true American should be, without aspiration, without compassion, without enterprise, without vision, without love that goes beyond a recognition of proximity. I like the play better than I did. I like everyone in it less. I like Simon and Emily; both are annihilated. I like my “son” George,” but only, I realize now, because I like the actor who is playing him. In the abstract, he’s despicable.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 19, 2011

Boys kiss backstage. Things are not yet so advanced that they can admit it’s because they want to rather than pretending it’s on a dare. But things are far enough advanced that they do.

The hummingbirds are gone. One feeder was emptied by them before they left, but one hangs still, half full. I’ll keep it there for a while, remembering a solitary hummer at it in a snowstorm on Thanksgiving day.

Saw JF’s moment on One Tree Hill. It lasts about five seconds, but, sure enough, there he is, in momentary glory. I think I started watching the DVDs to see him, imagining something a little more substantial.

We are to have in our minds, on stage, the conceit that we are only partially our characters, partially actors playing those characters, so that if we have a band-aid or a cough we must decide if that band-aid or the cough belongs to the actor or to the character. Most of the cast has realized by now that this is unplayable. So far during production week I have received one note: that I was carrying the imaginary casket wrong. I don’t contest this. If you didn’t have context to guide you, but only our appearance on stage, you’d probably think we were wrestling not with a casket but a giant Slinky.

Quite late. Final dress was before an audience of urban kids, very young and predominantly black, and very much different from our usual crowd. They had no idea of the conventions of the theater, and laughed not at what they were meant to laugh at, but at what they really thought was funny. It was instructive and refreshing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 17, 2011

Pale stars still present, but gleaming subtly in the gray silk lightening all around them. When I set out it was still night, with moon and stars as bright as I’ve ever seen them in town, two curving ribbons of cloud, one on either side of the moon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 16, 2011

TT sends a link to an article in an Ohio paper about Virginia Goson, my art teacher at Hyre Junior High. The article spotlights a mural she and her students painted in a Kenmore school in 1947. Her students are 77; she doesn’t look much older. I suppose after a certain point additional years have no more damage to do. I recognized her because the article told me who she was, but I did see the woman I knew. Back at Hyre she was dramatic, Cleopatra-like, with raven-black hair and excessive eye make up, and sweeping garments, every inch the Artist. She took an interest in me which I never particularly understood, for it was clear she didn’t think much of me as an artist. She’d corner me in homeroom in 8th grade and ask me questions, one of which was to guess her middle name, which I did in one try after she gave me the initial. The initial was “D” and I said “Dare” in two seconds. Maybe she thought I was some kind of oracle. She was one of the two deliberately discouraging teachers I ever had. She said, giving me a C on a design for a new kind of car, “It’s good you’re in college prep, for you have nothing of the artist in you.” What a victory for her that it still stings after 48 years.

Late in his life my father observed how grateful he was that he had happy memories to think on now that the active part of his life was over. I was jealous of that even as he said it. I don’t want to go so far as to say I have no happy memories, but I might in fact mean that. Whenever I’m thinking undirected thoughts–whenever monkey-mind prevails–my thoughts light on sad, tumultuous things, occasions when I was cruel or gauche or thoughtless, moments when I was excluded, wounded or rejected. Other, neutral moments might have a gleam about them, but they turn eventually toward some darkness, some regret that seems to be attached, in retrospect, to every moment of my life. Even if I tell myself to think of something purely happy, it is difficult to do without my mind’s pointing eventually to the way in which that joy ended in catastrophe or disappointment–or to nothing at all. Some pure moments are available from my experiences in the natural world– moonrise on that road in Clare, the yellowhammer perched for a moment on my boot, the skunk singing to me in the silver woods–but among persons there is always irony, mortification, regret, heartbreak, confusion about the fact that I have never seemed able to rouse very deep emotions–except for anger–in other people. I wonder if my mind lights on sad things as a sort of punishment, though I don’t know for what, and what good is the punishment if there is no understanding of the sin? Maybe no one else can think of a happy moment unalloyed with grief, either, and I simply need to consider it part of the human condition. It is as if I’m fighting a long war, a war as long as my life, and all thoughts, all emotions must be geared to combat until that struggle comes to some sort of end. Repose is nowhere to be found, whether because I cannot or because I must not. I have an excellent memory, one which responds to my needs, and I do not think it is blocking the joy. I think there has been none, no joy that lasted longer than the hour of its birth, or that I didn’t make myself out of pure will. If that is the case, then the war, whatever it is about, is just.

Amazing sky as dawn comes– silver and turquoise and gold all at once.

Realized (during church) that the exception to the lamentation above, those memories which are in fact sweet & without a bitter aftertaste, are the random sexual encounters (I don’t want to use the word “random”– perhaps “unanticipated” would be better) which began in Syracuse and were almost always good, and offered no expectations of quality or endurance to be disappointed by. And, to be fair, there were a considerable number. Not the same as a life, but– almost enough midnight snacks to make up for never having a meal.

Worn out by my own emotions on what may have been the most beautiful day of autumn. An orange monarch settles on a pale lilac aster against a cobalt sky. Only October can get away with that. I worry about my frog, what will become of him in winter. I think, “the blessed spirits who will not look after you will, however, look after him,” and, oddly, the thought is comforting.

My mind has gone twenty times today to the upstairs bar of the Abbey Theater in Dublin. Does somebody there think of me?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 15, 2011

Stood on the porch after waking and watched the moonlight gush onto the yard.

For some reason I was thinking of J, missing him. “Oh, we will be friends forever.”

At practically the last moment when such a thing can be accomplished, the front terrace is drowned in a wash of deep purple morning glory.

Afternoon of tech for Our Town. I think it went well. It’s impossible for me to tell how this production will strike an audience, or how it will look when we open on Thursday. I enjoy being with the kids. I enjoy comparing them to how we were back at Hiram when their parents– who could have been us– were young. Good God, their grandparents, even. Not that much different, except that we were not so giggly, far more focused and efficient with our time, with both more seriousness and more intellectual pretension. I think I like these kids better than I did us. Both our worlds were dangerous, but in different ways. Our enemies were more recognizable, more “them” at whom rocks and epithets could be hurled. Wall Street, in comparison with Viet Nam or Richard Nixon, is diaphanous, elusive, interwoven, impenetrable.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 14, 2011

When I rose to go to the Y, there was just enough light to invoke a soft gleam from the many colors of the trees, above which the round moon slid down the west, which it made blue-silver with its passage.

My honors students have begun their class reports on various geniuses in their estimation, and I’ve never been prouder of any group. I should have just shut my mouth long ago and let them have their say. Charlotte introduced us to Theo Jansen, of whom I had never heard before, but who instantly revolutionized, with his almost living beasts, my concept of what art and imagination are for. The actions of the demiurge have always seemed dark and blasphemous to me, Doctor Frankensteins of various ranks and abilities, but here the demiurgical labor is sweet and playful as a child with a box of toys, as an infant God with his new playthings strewn about a white-hot universe. Everyone was eloquent and engaged, a teacher’s dream.

Planted a few things, but otherwise gave over most of the day to recovering from the week. Need to see half a dozen plays full of my friends playing about the city, but, trapped by my own role, will probably see none. Tomorrow promises to be swallowed up by “wet tech.”

Maud manages to get herself locked in a closet all night. How she latched the door behind herself I don’t know. When she was banging to get out I thought it was someone trying to break in the front door. I thought, "You idiot! All the lights are on!"

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 13, 2011

Back to class after the brief break, flattened, as my students must be, by the demands of the semester. I am always amazed–as they might not be–by how easy it is to catch up, given a little application. What in the past sometimes has been a diversion– choir, for instance-- is, for this time, a further tribulation. Bad stars in an off sky. Production week for Our Town is upon us without my having paid enough attention. There were too many wine bottles in my recycling bin this week.

Learned to use my I-pad, lounging around watching old episodes of Numbers.

I want to check my mail, but it is still pitch dark, and a rather formidable wolf spider has taken up residence in the mailbox. We don’t mind each other too much, but I want to be able to see him when I visit, for his safety and my peace of mind.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 12, 2011

Remembering Matthew Shepherd.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 11, 2011

Autumn rain. I ran onto the porch after a ringing bang on the picture window, and saw that a ovenbird lay there stunned. I picked him up in my hands, and held in for a long time. He was very beautiful, his markings as if laid on by a painter, his back a curious dark green/russet, however, that paint could not hope to duplicate. He was very warm, and his heart beat furiously against my palms. When I opened my hands, he could stand well enough, but showed no desire to fly. After holding him for about an hour, a worried that I was somehow impeding his recovery, so I set him on top of the desk, so he’d be out of reach of anything else that might invade the porch tonight. He was standing, his eyes wide open, his wings intact so far as I could tell. I made maybe too much of him, hanging my hope for the future on the possibility that he might launch into the air recovered while I was watching. This did not happen, so I eased the hope over on his being gone in the morning, and my being able to imagine, anyway, that everything was all right. If only this one thing can happen, if I can have this one miracle, everything will be all right. I caught myself thinking, “if anybody but me had picked you up, you might have a chance.” Whatever spirits still have mercy in this world, I put my ovenbird in your hands. The night is dark and cold.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10, 2011

Stood in the mesh green house at Reems Creek Nursery. A huge monarch fluttered against the wall, trying to get out. I caught it in my hand, where it was not diaphanous at all, but sturdy, indignant, its legs palpably gripping the palm of my hand. When I let it go outside it shot like a bullet almost due south, high up in the blue air. Later saw another butterfly, high, high up, and quite alone.

Dream last night, wherein a group of us from high school were told to follow certain signs to places where important things would be revealed to us. Angie Parrotta was first. She had to dive down into a cement pool in Ellet. What she found there made her laugh, but she wouldn’t say what it was. The signs told me to go to the Amos Englebeck Lodge–my father’s masonic Lodge in Akron–though the place in the dream was a huge camp in the forest, with a pavilion in the center. What I was told there was so inconsequential that I figured I’d best keep it to myself lest it discourage the others, so inconsequential that I have forgotten what it was.

Vivid late roses, forget-me-nots, blue geraniums, tradescantia, a carpet of pink cyclamen.

New singer–sort of sexy–at rehearsal last night. Though he had his own music, we had to share because, he said, he couldn’t tell where we were unless I was pointing at the notes. And, evidently, unless his body was pressing pretty hard against mine. Not a complaint. He was clueless about the printed music, but could match pitch and learned fast. We wanted to grow as a group, but all the growth seems to be among the basses, of which there were too many already. I liked it when I was the only one and could sing as lustily as I wished.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 8, 2011

Tired end of a lovely Saturday. I finally made it to the studio and did some painting, and left a box full of small paintings I was sick of out on the street for anyone who wanted them. I was sort of sick of everything I had done, but the impulse was to go back in and revise, rather than to abandon, as it sometimes is. Came back here and gardened, transplanting a volunteer sycamore to where it might be allowed to thrive, planting wind flowers and daffodils. Some time back I bought a bag with about a billion daffodil bulbs, and now the task of getting them all into the ground lies before me. My frog still swirls about in his water garden.

KS took DJ and me property hunting yesterday. There was one perfect house, but it rests in an urban environment almost exactly like what I have now. I actually know the owners, slightly, and there is a photo on the wall of them getting married in All Souls. There was an almost perfect lot of 3 acres or so off Reems Creek. I still think about that one. There was an awful place set within the immense Claxton farm which, nevertheless, had vultures feeding on the ground nearby, and I would almost consider it just for that. There was a bungalow that had burned and was, therefore, cheap. The shower curtain had melted off its pole. Varnish had blistered off the bedroom doors. The family had left all its sad possessions behind, including a couple of singed bibles which had got as far as the porch before also being abandoned. Karen quizzed me on what I was looking for and why I was looking for it, and, frankly, I didn’t know. I told her my dream of planting my own forest, but she didn’t think I was being serious, and afterwards I wondered if I was. I want SOMETHING. Maybe if I knew what, I could have had it already.

Maybe I just need to get out. I’ve been home for three months, and perhaps that is enough. Did buy my ticket for New York for Jonathan and my premiere. Investigated other hotels, but ended up staying at the Paramount again. I so long for tradition.

Stared at the moon through my binoculars until my arms were tired. It is every bit as remarkable as one expects, which makes it, somehow, more remarkable still. How many things do not disappoint?

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 6, 2011

Friends of the Library Board at Warren Wilson. Sebastian rolled in in his wheelchair, but for all that he looked well and on the mend after his calamitous accident. He was cheerful, helpful, engaged. You could see the bones and muscles knitting under his skin. Relief came to hearts which had been led to expect worse.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 5, 2011

Received a royalty check for “Cyclamen,” my first as a librettist.

Got a shingles vaccination. TG’s tale of his suffering with the condition put me over the edge.

Drank delicious riesling out of a blue bottle at Avenue M.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October 4, 2011

Brought the Christmas cacti in at the threat of a freeze. The threat was vain, but I’m glad they’re in anyway. The flamingo/tangerine roses that I begged to endure have endured.

Met Mickey in her sweep through town last night, at Magnetic Field. As ever, she is full of plans. Her beloved boyfriend has an affect not unlike mine, which I found intriguing. Jayson tried to comfort me for my disappointment with Lear.

Casey asked me to play Friar Lawrence in R&J, which I couldn’t do because of Our Town.

I move from one task to another in a daze. I am in a phase of fending off.

My Lit students are the worst I’ve had in years, grudging and uncommunicative; my beginning creative writers are the best I’ve had in years, one or two of them presently publishable.

Proustian moment: I bought some lard to make pie crust. Of course I have not made the pies, but I decided to use the lard to fry some vegetables. The minute I tasted them I remembered my grandmother, my father’s mother. Taste memories flooded back. Her cooking always tasted spoiled to me, tainted, and the loathing and anxiety that caused was part of the reason trips to her house were a trial. The spoiled meat taste was in fact lard– which is, I suppose, in a way, spoiled meat. I wish I could go back and apologize, for in my direct way I must have said something about it sometime.

Case said, “I thought you were a wonderful professor, and thought it wonderful that you had no filters on what you said or did. But then I realized you DO in fact have filters, and then it became a little terrifying.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 2, 2011

Blue Ridge Pride was more fun than one anticipated. We sang not well, but well enough for the occasion. The occasion itself was light-hearted and beset with bitterly cold winds, so one came away with the tingle on one’s skin remembered from autumn afternoons long ago, when one played outside until it was too cold and too dark, but that didn’t matter. There are about a hundred photos of us, now on the web, and I am not in a single one.

When I was asked to read Lear for the Bardathon my heart leapt up, but that didn’t turn out as I imagined. Some of the best young actors in the city were assembled, and I was happy to be among them, but the spirit of inanity settled on the room almost at the outset, after the first actor committed the first blooper and tried to joke it off as of no account. The laughing-it-off-never stopped after that. The performance spiraled down until, had I been watching, I would have left the room, and even as I was acting it was difficult not to throw down the script and creep defeated out into the starless night. Giggling, cat-calls, ad-libs, unwritten mocking asides, almost page-by-page descent into helpless hilarity, indeed anything and everything that could take away from the majesty of the English language’s supreme achievement. I had to begin “Howl, Howl. Howl. Howl. Howl” with the dead sisters writhing on the floor–just having died– laughing as though there had just been a good one at the Comedy Club. I don't think anyone would accuse me of over-seriousness, or even meet seriousness, but I think some things must be beyond mockery, and if anything is, it’s Lear– letting alone simple courtesy to actors who are still trying to speak tragic lines in a monkey house. Cornwall and the Fool and my Cordelia tried to play it straight with me, but the tide could not be turned. A long run in a bad production is, I suppose, worse, but for three and a half hours, this was the worst theatrical experience of my life. I tried to figure out what happened. My best guess is that many did not prepare, and tried to disguise ineptitude as nonchalance, with nonchalance sliding gradually into the deliberate effort to sabotage. If I am not good, nothing shall be. It was far too forced and enforced to be simple silliness, which might have been attractive in a way, or even a kind of homage to the unapproachability of the text. I did the best I could even amid the monkey house, and probably came off looking like a fool who was not in on the joke.
October 1, 2011

Went to bed early, rose late, when there was a glimmer of silver already in the sky. During that time I had the most amazing dreams. One took place in my recurrent dream factory, the maze-y City of Night inspired by my job at Goodyear in high school. I was part of some kind of superior scavenger hunt. Every now and then an Important Person would appear and give me a new task or a new thing to find in the labyrinth, and I would set out to do it. It was adventure rather than drudgery. Then I was in the old neighborhood on Foxboro. The house next to us was huge, square, made of white marble, and very mysterious. But the young man who lived there beckoned to me, and I went into the house and found a palace. The walls were vast aquaria filled with exotic fish and salamanders and beautiful thing harder to classify. Fountains chattered forth from walls shaped like shells or pearly groves of trees. He led me from room to room, making clear that I was part of his circle now, and all these wonders were available to me whenever I wanted. In the writing, it occurs to me that both these dreams involve a guide or mentor opening new worlds. My life has been singularly mentor-less, so I hope this signals some new era. And all this at the end of a week when I have had a peculiar sense of physical well-being.

And all allowed me better to cope with the cat vomit on the bed.

Kristen’s wedding went off without a hitch on easily the most splendid afternoon of this early autumn. The bride was radiant, the groom was nervous, the bridesmaids were catty and giggly, the groomsmen were affectionate and funny. At the reception I watched and blessed in my heart, thinking that however fumbling humankind is, however retrograde our intentions, there is something in happy, innocent, generous hearted moments such as that which acts as a kind of ratchet, to keep the whole enterprise from falling into night.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September 30, 2011

Students in the UNCA drama department have chosen to do my “I Suppose I Should Tell You I Have a Gun in My Purse” as part of a one-act festival in November. Makes me happy. However overdue . . .

Sonora Review appears with my prize-winning story. You could make a living at this if you kept bagging $1000 contest prizes. And if at least some of them paid you after you’d won . . .

Rehearsal for Kristin and Van’s wedding yesterday out at Forge Valley, on the way to Brevard. Pretty area. One pond full of ducks and one of koi. A gazebo made of gray twisty wood. Kristin’s ceremony is dignified and everyone was having a good time at the rehearsal. Their actual wedding happens in four hours, after Tom Posey’s funeral, for which I am about to sing, having sung at his first wife’s funeral and at his wedding to his second wife.

Glorious day pretty much gobbled up by running from one appointment to another, marking milestone’s in lives other than mine. Tomorrow Cantaria sings for NC Pride; then I read Lear at the NC Stage Bardathon. Casey invited me to play Lear, and I was joyful. Bureaucracy tried to pry me from the project, but I fought back with far more sternness than was necessary.