Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Soul food

Going back to one of my friend Johnny Stranger's favorite quotes: "Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. -Stella Adler"... (And seeing where we first performed our Q1H and are rehearsing again now, it's somehow appropriate to invoke her...)

It's that reminder that makes great art great and what keeps our ilk worshipping at its altar, despite the indignities sometimes heaped on us down there on our knees. And great is of course subjective -- whatever it is that sends us, the talismans we hold on to, the recognitions that give us a moment's peace when we know we're not alone... the reminders. For me, they are often music, poetry, songs. Springsteen, Waits, Cohen are my teachers and my standbys. Literature - While I don't pretend to have gotten through the book ever, I love the very end of Ulysses and often do it as a monologue. It's silly really to start listing. Sometimes it's just moments, measures in a song, lines in a play: "That was in the winter of senior year. Then in the spring something happened to me. Yes, I remember. I fell in love with James Tyrone and was happy for a time," comes to mind.

Hamlet has several moments like that. But, to me, the most devastating one is in the nunnery scene: "Where is thy father?" "At home, my lord."

In those two lines, there is an entire world coming to an end. It is where Ofelia begins to go mad. The betrayal, the lie -- the realization that she just threw away everything with that answer. All potential of a Great Love between her and Hamlet is over in that second. And if she realizes that, then Hamlet also knows that, which not only has implications for the rest of the scene. It in turn causes Ofelia to think that Corambis died because of her lie. It is also why dramaturgically Corambis can die, because he unleashed it all by forcing this upon Ofelia and deliberately putting her in harm's way.

Two lines. Eight words. Lives distilled to something that simple.

No comments: