It boils down to caring. It bothers her to think she is caring less about certain things she used to care more about. Yes, she is certain, there are things she is moving away from, and other things she is moving towards, in terms of caring, although the exact perimeters of those things she is unclear of. It strikes her that there are many things in life which she once cared an awful lot about, but now hardly considers outside of times like this, when a feeling of regret makes her contemplate her lack of caring and a caring is reborn in her. At other times a random thought or news item can infuse her with a new caring. At such moments she sees the ease in it; the minutiae of her caring are like waves in an ocean conveying her. Still she worries about the particulars of her caring, and whether or not she is caring or not caring and in the optimal proportions.
I think I’ve got the address wrong; I don’t know anyone at this party. I look at my invitation, it’s clearly stated that this party is my birthright.
The hostess is not present so I wander about. Each room houses a starling showcase of masculinity. Theatrical moves rule in the ballroom. At the top of the stairs a man, Houdini-like, attempts to escape a padded box, while in an adjacent chamber a muscle man rips off his clothing to reveal a beating heart. In the corridors, there are exquisite pas de deus where the partners keep shifting who is strong and who is weak, who is led and who is the initiator. The pantry has been transformed into a photography studio. In the garden, games of geometric tag are interrupted by flashes of lightening. And then, a masked troupe of commedia dell arte players approach amid heckler’s cries, graceful, and mesmerizing.
In the courtyard a young man builds himself from the ground up, showing us his shaky legs, his tremulous nerves, his arms outstretched to cradle the world. He perfects his craft until, in his words, it isn’t about how it looks, but how it feels. His transcendent form reminds me of a dancer from another century.
I leave sensing my place within this spectacle and how disparate elements – set, costumes, lighting, music, choreography – can come together perfectly in the service of human expression.
It was just what she found herself going for, a nebulous sort of thing, more of a feeling than anything. Yet she slipped into it, a kind of mood, a melancholia, even, yes; only it felt like finding herself, or falling into a familiar room. Like a tune she plucked out on the piano, a simple melody, 3 or 4 chords tops, just playing them over and over again. It certainly wasn’t brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t brilliance she was after, no, more of an itch she felt like scratching by means of those 4 chords. An itch was a sadness. It wasn’t the stack of paperwork she brought home for the evening, no, that was just ghastly, she’d rather die then resign herself to cracking that pile of crap when she had a burning itch there reminding her of her longing. That’s where her loyalties lay, why she didn’t show the troubled parts of herself the door; she found comfort in her state of uncertainty.
I’m up before dawn, on a Sunday! The milk for my tea is hovering just this side of sour & it’s starting to clot before my bleary eyes. Nonetheless, I have to run to my desk, now, to write a review of Sarah Ruhl’s 100 essays I don’t have time to write on umbrellas and sword fights, parades and dogs, fire alarms, children and theater. Because I love this book! It contains so much that is of value! Sarah Ruhl reminds us that art comes from life – messy, imperfect life- and that we humans screw things up with our uber-seriousness. “Where are the jugglers? The fire-eaters?” she asks. Refusing to idealize or disparage motherhood, she aligns it with the primary urge to make theater, and claims that both require the DIY ability of turning junk into treasure.
Sarah Ruhl packs so much hilarity and profundity in her prose. In essay #35, just 25 words in to it she has restored our creative potential; stating what comes naturally to 5 year olds, and Shakespeare – “By speaking it [a palace, the woods, an evil tower], we make it so.”
Notwithstanding her playful tone, Sarah Ruhl touches upon various isms.
Sexism – “A male artist following his whims is daring, manly, and original. A woman artist following her whims is womanly, capricious, and trivial.” #61
Racism – “Color-blind casting; or, why are there so many white people on stage?” #41
Elitism – “Do we all need a master’s degree to put up a play? Whatever happened to the garage, to the basement?” #38
Ageism – “Botox has become our new version of the Greek mask.” #29
Celebrity worship – “Everyone is famous in a parade.” #36
Technology fixation – “If waiting is lost, then will all the unconscious processes that take place during waiting get lost? And then might we see the death of the unconscious, and the death of culture?” #72
Her nuggets are the sort of pearls one scribbles on the back of a napkin (or, in my case, index cards); not precious, scooped from the chaos of life. For me, the message I treasure is to plunge more madly into the mess. “More failure! More demand for failure! More bad plays! Less perfection! More ugliness! More grace!” she belts in essay #56, as if she is competing with a jackhammer and a wired toddler (or both).
I still have 22 essays to go in the book, but I had to pen this review without delay! It couldn’t wait! I want to savor the remaining essays, and, besides, when I do finish, I’ll probably start it over at the beginning.
It occurs to her, how solitude is like setting off for a jaunt on a craft, not anticipating the fathomlessness of the sea until in the middle of it. How one then cocks one’s ear into the air, bent on this idea of someone on shore signaling a pressing need, delivering one from the unknowable. When nothing comes of this, one’s mind turns to food. It’s like one pictures a desert isle where jerusalem artichoke pickles will make all the difference.
The quince is the electric yellow of a tennis ball one whacks.
The quince is the ugly child that comes later than expected.
The quince is a freak of nature, the bumper crop no one knows what to do with. One senses that they are nonetheless in possession of a goldmine.
The quince’s homeliness moves me to hold beauty pageants. This year’s winner is the one just out of reach I stretched for and found fetching.
It sometimes felt like this. Like some document was signed some impossibly long time ago which dictated these present and sometimes unbearable terms.
It sometimes seemed like the husbands had signed too, or at least been given access to the document so that they could, if desired, keep with its dictates concerning her.
Having played for her son Bird on a Wire and The Sailing Song by Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave respectively.
Margo: How low are they singing?
Kepler: It’s not that they are singing low, it’s just that they aren’t good singers so they use mixed voice which gives them a nice tone. It’s hard to say if they are a tenor or a baritone b/c they’re just singing where their voices sound good. I’m sure if they wanted to get trained they could and we could find out what their range is but they don’t want to b/c they are singing in a place that is easy to find a good tone in.
Margo: Leonard Cohen is quite old, you know.
Kepler: Yeah, your voice will never tire in mixed voice. Since they aren’t really singing in any range they are able to get that super easy tone and not strain themselves. They can sing that way on their deathbed, since that range where they’re comfortable is never going to change.
Margo: I’m sure they’d be relieved to know that.
Kepler: They don’t have to worry b/c they sound as good as any singer in that voice tone, and they probably sing their songs better than anyone else anyways. As far as pitch goes, in their kind of songs, pitch doesn’t really matter.
Margo: I never thought of that before.
I do not trust my mind to remember anything. Thus I incessantly scribble ideas down on whatever I have on hand. A passport. A handbill. A ticket stub even.
They took a very small boy and put him on top of a high high ladder in the old Eagles Auditorium. That was my son. And he sung a song from up there. It was a very long time ago so I can’t remember exactly what song it was, although it was a song from the musical Suessical.
A brush with the divine
I was trying on a dress in the vintage shop Mike’s Old Clothes, in a version of Seattle no one remembers anymore. The dress had a peculiar sash which I found myself frankly at odds with. I emerged from the dressing room with the two ends akimbo. A man leapt out from the shadows and tied it with a flourish. I recognized him as the dancer Mark Morris. I was too timid to tell him it was I!-the girl-child he had dedicated his solo Jealousy to at Bagley Wright some 5 years earlier. I was aware of the irony of needing more time to pull myself together when it was my inchoate state he had found so refreshing in the first place.
Diminutive yet stong men
I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov not in Moscow but here, on this very stage, dancing to Ivor Cutler. From the front row where I gratefully sat, having procured a ticket from a stranger, he appeared quite small in stature though wonderfully expressive. His face above all was a superbly malleable instrument which crowned his divine proportions.
Waistcoat and angel wings
Outside of Seattle’s new opera house, I shot Kepler and Charlie in a candid pose before a performance of the ballet A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The balancing act, with children, is not being too strident in passing on one’s own predilections or occupations. Thus, the pitter patter of my heart when my son choose the donning of a costume free of my suggestion.
The dancers filing out of Cornish gathered around to watch my boy-child nimbly mold a snowman. The way their giggles rushed out of them, only to be squelched by the frosty air, reminded me that though young, they had little knowledge of, or time for, the pursuits of childhood.
Nothing but regrets dept.
I am remorseful that I failed to see the production of Three Sisters when it came recently despite reading glowing reviews. I am contrite.
More of the same
I would also like to express regret for failing to see Ezra’s site specific dance piece exploring mental health and mother – son relations. I sensed the value of his work with every pore and yet failed to get my sorry ass to the street where it unfolded. I am ashamed and unabashedly penitent.
In case anything should happen. . . . .
We ought to have the manuals for every obsolete technology we’ve ever used to articulate our ideas uploaded into a chip and inserted into our skull cavity, to be removed upon our demise.
One day my son came home and said that they had learned something extraordinary at school. They had been taught they could remember anything if they hid it away in a crevice born of imagination.
Silence. Foot steps. A scuffle. The world is created sound bite by bite, each stab or slap or stomp or shuffle or shove another layer of scaffolding, the culmination of which is the tinkling of a grand piano and a man in a hat saying enjoy the show.
The train is pulling into the station. My son boards the train. From the viewing platform I see him moving about the dining car where as a minor he is required to exist. I am a voyeur, drinking in his autonomous form as it readies itself for the exhilaration of travel. I am also gazing into a time capsule, reliving my own rail adventures from my stationary post. “All aboard!” the lady cries deafeningly as time rattles on for us both.
My heart is like an expensive piano
Two words overlapping inscribe something new. Two distinct time frames interposed jolt the audience into accepting the murkiness of the time-space continuum. Sitting in Room #608 and watching the high jinxes of silent film unfold as the clatter of feet – at first faint – grows in volume until, at last! the characters from the film are made flesh and burst into the room with the audacity of time bandits!
Concluding comments by two Vladimirs
“Memory is repetition.” Those words were spoken by my character Vladimir in A Warehouse Dream. Beckett’s Vladimir said, “Habit is a great deadener.”
I apologize for having seemingly used the space here to write about my life, instead of reporting on the show as expected. In some sense, the performance was a blank canvas which I utilized for my own memories, some of which had much to do with the show, while others had less.
My son and I traveled the long route up Denny (unhampered by snow). Our fellow bus passengers (including a man carrying a dustpan and a pickaxe with bike locks hanging from his pockets) enhanced our understanding of our fellow man while the revolving floor tested my sense of gravity. We arrived home safe, greeted by the smell of apples, with the work through the night before us.
“No one in [a] parade is a famous actor, but they are all famous in the moment because they happen to be moving and the other people happen to be standing still.”
Sarah Ruhl, essay #36. Everyone is famous in a parade from 100 essays I don’t have time to write