Spotlight: Sarah Ruhl’s 100 essays I don’t have time to write

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.

A conversation about vocal technique in which a 14 year old choir boy takes on his mother’s idols

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.