Back To Theatre Hell:
Reflections on Dancing Awkwardly With An Old Love
In about a week, I have to walk around in front of strangers with only a toga for protection. In Chicago, in January.
Not one of the more brilliant ideas I've had in my life.
Why I got involved with theatre again, I don't know. Perhaps it was vanity, perhaps it was stupidity. Perhaps it's that part of being human that makes us seemingly unable to ever learn to keep our hands out of the fire. Who knows? But my work on this version of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, enjoyable as it's been at times, has convinced me that it might not have been the best step.
Why should that be? I should be thrilled. I'm playing one of the central characters in the play and it's therefore my first starring role. This, after over 12 years of not doing any theatre at all, and originally playing rather meaningless supporting roles--usually crusty old men, like Dussell in Diary of Anne Frank, for instance. This time I get what I wanted out of it to begin with, back when I was a frustrated teen. This was to be able to shout in public, to purge my bad emotions, my bottled anger and frustration that all teens have, in a way nobody would fault me for--or at least not fault me personally. Not at all a noble ambition, but not a harmful one either. But indeed, despite any other statements to the contrary my friends might recall my having made, that was all I ever really wanted .
Is it an issue of ego? Never was I interested in going onstage to be loved. Quite the opposite. If anything I wanted to be disliked, and right out in the open too, but without anyone being able to make me shut up or to ignore me.
But I've spent a number of years trying my best to quell my anger. Not entirely successfully, but I've managed. And one way this has been accomplished is by remaining as much to myself as I can. I'm not a social person(for that matter, neither is my wife) and never have been. I don't work well with others, at least not in person. I work best when the struggle to create is largely unseen, out of the eyes of those who might misunderstand the temperamental chaos in the process.
And I simply don't much like being around others for any great length of time. Glenn Gould's statement regarding needing, for every hour spent around others, six times as many hours alone to compensate, is something I can easily relate to, though I'm not nearly so much a recluse as Gould. But I simply like having control of my time and, for that to be possible, I have to be alone--or around only my wife--a lot.
Others inspire stress in me, sometimes even rage. It may not even be because of any fault of theirs. It may be that in some psychological way I have an allergy to most human contact. It might also be that I don't like being told what to do or having others' opinions interfering with my own. But mainly it's the silly shit others often come up with, which I don't want to even have to argue with them about, that's the problem. I no longer have any desire to fight about something that was not my creation. I also don't want to be involved with something that was not my creation.I don't want to bother. Life's too short. Better I should create what I want and give it to the public on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
I hate writing about my personal feelings, because they always come off as totally negative and whiny, but I'm very disappointed in the way this play has been going. Not in the cast--they're all doing their very best and some are doing exemplary jobs indeed. But on the technical end it's not even as good as a high school play, and since that was the last time I was even in a play I know whereof I speak. No planning seems to have gone into this end of it. The costumes are cheap and tacky, and instead of blood we have red ribbons, and we can't even seem to get chairs. And then at this late stage in the game the director has added extratextual material of his own writing like (a) a song Titus sings merrily concerning his making a pie, and (b) my most loathed of all the aspects of this play, the "angel of death," whose purpose appears to be to bring the action in scenes to a dead halt, if the useless classical references Shakespeare fills the play with haven't already. She appears in a prologue & an epilogue, and throughout the play. She'll pop in between lines(including one of my more important scenes), we all freeze, and for reasons best known to the director she "feels our auras."
Am I the only one who thinks this couldn't sound more pretentious and flaky? No, I'm not. The entire cast hates this. But not a single one, including me, will dare tell him he's ruining what could be a good performance with this new-age gobbledegook. There's not a single person outside the play to whom I've mentioned this that didn't burst into giggles. Worse, he interrupts sequences that should not be interrupted with these things, killing the rhythm of the scene stone dead. Why? What lunatic notion entered his head that this would be a good thing to add? But is anyone going to tell him? No, because he's the director. It's not our place. If he drives this play over a cliff we simply have to live with it.
Fortunately for me, I don't really have to care. This for me is(ha) just for fun. Which it hasn't been--it's been a pain in the ass, and it'll be some time before I want to act again. I want time and solitude. I want to read and write and draw, and most of all I want my weekends back, and my evenings, to do what I damn well please with them. I don't want DB to have control over my time. I want to be left alone.
Soon it will be over. But in the meantime, the show must go on...