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Small Things

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Apr. 21st, 2014 | 04:28 pm

I don’t bungee jump because God has enough to do looking after me. When I sleep in a room more than two nights I put out a framed Ganesha with a small bronze rat and try to remember each morning to offer the god some clementines. And if you say the name of that play, that Shakespeare play, the one about the kilted guy (kilts are not accurate in that time period but now you know the one I mean), I will make you leave the room, turn around three times, spit, swear, and ask permission to come back in. I used to make student actors run around the building. Once I made my acrobatic partner Kim run around the car—she was pissed. But I wouldn’t drive until she did.

Still I love that play. I twisted it into comedy and flew out for two weeks of development with students. Manuscript in my suitcase (I knew as I packed it, but could not stop myself), the plane sat fogbound on the runway for four hours. I rented a car and dropped my wallet at a gas station. This was before 9/11, so I boarded four more planes with a credit card and a search at every gate. My license came back in the mail, the cards were easy to cancel.

It’s the small things. It did not kill me (knock wood!). It has never killed me. That play merely disrupts my life, inconveniences me, ends friendships.

My comedy version was successful. Years later, one of the first-cast students called me out on YouTube for “stealing” it from him and his classmates. The teacher knew it was nonsense, my publisher cleared it up. “It’s obviously your voice!”

Small things.

Playing Witch #3/Soldier/Gentlewoman at the Nameless-So-I-Can-Be-Mean Shakespeare Festival, the cast first liked and then hated the director. We hated him still more when Banquo left for a wedding and he stepped in. He was the kind of actor who emphasizes all the pronouns. He didn’t know his lines. (Cast consensus, “You’ve been watching the fucking play for how many weeks? We all know your goddamn lines.”) One hot mosquito-ridden night on a late-paycheck week, the director-Banquo stepped forth and pronounced, “To the which!”

There is a second half to that line. Each night he mangled it progressively more. Tonight he stopped as though the Bard had punctuated there, writing an enigma for later scholars, a footnote about the historical significance of a broken exclamation, the Stratfordians claiming it for their side. We waited. It became clear from director-Banquo’s fatuous gaze, that was the end of the line. And Tim, the Scottish King (who shortly after died rapidly of pancreatic cancer) patted him gently on the face and led the exit.

Small things.

Co-directing at a high school in Michigan, we filled the show with masks and aerial hoops and nine witches and an opening battle scene with a 12-foot blind-landing stunt fall executed by an eager kid.

(That’s why the show is bad luck, 1) It happens mostly in the dark, 2) Directors stage it on canted platforms, 3) Lots of stage combat with men in unfamiliar, awkward skirts, 4) The last/biggest/longest fight is between ‘you-just-killed-my-family,’ Macduff who’s had five scenes to rest, and the guy with most of the lines who is now exhausted but still must win. Small things, adding up. It’s just the odds, there’s nothing spooky, it doesn’t matter that the incantation in the cauldron scene might be the real witchy deal.)

Hanging aerial hoops I scraped my back in the catwalks, sharply, suddenly, on the day I’d lost my purse with that week’s pay. I cursed the Lord in a town where they don’t even take His name in vain, and wrote fifty apology letters to parents. Hanging hoops in the next venue, I dropped a 12-pound steel ring from a deadly height, mercifully missing, but damaging my safety rep. The next day a minor character had enough of crawling in a scene and half-crouched, putting his face in line with a bladed backswing. I examined him in the light, tried to push away something in his eye. It was part of his eyeball. We called the parents, sent him to the doctor. Next night Lennox had a rakish patch. Nothing permanent. Nothing bad.

To this day before a flight, my ex-husband and I text “ting!” the sound of our no-longer-worn wedding rings clinking together while linking pinkies. Aerialists don’t say ‘break a leg’ because we might, instead we link pinkies, kiss twice, “In boca de lupo!”—Into the mouth of the wolf. My company’s aerialists add, “Fuck you!” French aerialists say merde like dancers, Germans toi-toi-toi!

Because theatre people—dance people—circus people—are superstitious.

And so when an offer to direct the Scottish Play again came up and my dates did not work, I was relieved there would be no small, non-permanent annoyances in the next few weeks and wished my colleague Kristin luck. It is so small--so trivializing of her tragedy to mark it to the play--but when she lost the baby I thought, Good thing I have no children and will have no children so one day I can do this play again.

Small things.




_______________________________________________
whipchick points out that commenting “you mean M-----h?” will be neither clever nor original.



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Comments {54}

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elledanger

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from: elledanger
date: Apr. 21st, 2014 09:04 pm (UTC)
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Oh god, I had my hand over my mouth from the eye-ball incident onwards.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:51 am (UTC)
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Thanks - that's one of the teaching episodes I'll probably never forget! And I bet the kid won't, either...

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Vince Conaway

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from: vconaway
date: Apr. 21st, 2014 10:42 pm (UTC)
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You kicked me out of a truck stop once but nothing beats kicking Kim out of that car: her expression was priceless.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:52 am (UTC)
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I probably owe her for that one :)

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(no subject)

from: faerie_spark
date: Apr. 21st, 2014 11:40 pm (UTC)
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My only response to all those words is: OY VEY!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:52 am (UTC)
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Seriously!

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Jenn

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from: kickthehobbit
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 05:39 am (UTC)
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I love this (as I love everything you do), and I just wanted to say—the last few lines of it are fantastic.

"Small things", indeed.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:52 am (UTC)
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Thank you! I was hoping for "deceptively light." :)

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i_17bingo

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from: i_17bingo
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 10:06 am (UTC)
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You mean "Mustafah"? No, crap, that's too many letters. "Messiah"? Maybe, but Jesus isn't Scottish. Is he? Dammit! What are we talking about?

Seriously, I've never managed this kind of luck in any of my performances of that play, so I don't share your caution. I did have some shit go down with a Magic 8-ball once (true story) that I'd rather not repeat.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:53 am (UTC)
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Good grief!

Scottish Jesus...there's a sacreligious joke in there somewhere...

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One Phil to Rule Them All

(no subject)

from: dslartoo
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 12:39 pm (UTC)
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When I lived in Atlanta and was performing with the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (http://www.artc.org/, plug-plug!), we had a piece which we just couldn't seem to get recorded. Every time we'd schedule studio time, somebody would get sick, or the studio would get flooded, or someone would get hit by a meteor, or whatever. Eventually we started referring to it as just "The Bookstore Play".

I think it was five years before "Special Order" finally made its way into our catalog. So yeah -- I can get people who have stories about the Scottish Play. :)

cheers,
Phil

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:54 am (UTC)
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Wow! Yeah, I think every theatre group has something to be superstitious about. I'll have to look at the company - I love radio plays!

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Daniel James Heath

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from: cloworora
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 04:43 pm (UTC)
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You mean the Bard's Play?

See?...still...neither clever nor original. You know what, pretend I'm channeling someone unfunny. Like Jamie Kennedy. Or Gary.

It's people like you that pretty much helped me decide that theatre wasn't where I needed to be. I studied theatre in college. But I was never someone who lived, breathed, smoked, ate and drank theatre.

Good job pulling off productions and not getting people killed, though. I know that's an accomplishment.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
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Hahaha :)

Yeah - theatre is such hard work and long hours that it's not worth doing unless you can't imagine doing anything else.

Thanks!

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(no subject)

from: solstice_singer
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 06:13 pm (UTC)
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I never knew there was such superstition surrounding theater. I know the play you speak of here, and there are more than a few things about it that give me the shivers.

As always, this was incredibly well-written.

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drwex

Theater people are ridiculously superstitious

from: drwex
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 07:36 pm (UTC)
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My favorite theater superstition is the ghost light.

I've only been involved in the Scottish play twice and neither time has anything (significant) gone wrong. The superstition, as I learned it, is that you're not supposed to name the play unless you're doing it. I still want to make up theatrical posters that say "Shakespeare's ... The Scottish Play" and feature a faceless cameo portrait of M with the right background.

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Rebecca

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from: beeker121
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
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Astonishingly, I've never worked on a production of that play. Doesn't matter because it still managed to mess up a show of mine.
I was in college, SMing 'Chess', and we had finally settled into the routine of performance. There was silence where a chorus member was supposed to have sung a line; I see him slinking onstage about eight bars later looking sheepish.
Turns out he casually mentioned The Scottish Play while leaving the dressing room. Two other choristers immediately sent him outside to do the whole spiel (maybe running around the building is a distinctly college thing?) and he missed his entrance.
All three were chewed out by various people; for taking superstition too seriously or for having said it in the first place. Me, I told the actor he should have run faster.

This manages to be both silly and horribly dark at the same time which is a nifty balancing act.

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 07:02 pm (UTC)
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Me, I told the actor he should have run faster.

LOL

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 07:00 pm (UTC)
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I cursed the Lord in a town where they don’t even take His name in vain, and wrote fifty apology letters to parents.

I sincerely apologize for laughing at your pain.

I also sincerely apologize for asking, as you were waiting to board a plane, "Did you write your entry about M.....h? (Because I thought it was only bad luck to say it in a theater.

For you I will spin Opie around 3 times and then spit. :)

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drwex

(no subject)

from: drwex
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
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I've also heard that version of the superstition. My ex, who was a card-carrying, degree-majoring professional said it was ridiculous and she happily said it whenever she damned well pleased. Then again, she was a redhead and I rather did not fancy the witches' chances should they decide to go after her.

But she was the one who taught me about the ghost light. Go figure.

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Jemima Pauler

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from: jem0000000
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 08:32 pm (UTC)
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I've always heard it called The Scottish Play, and for all the Shakespeare we did during college, we never touched it.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 02:59 am (UTC)
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Wow!

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C.x

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from: itsjustc
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)
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I'm not superstitious at all but it's just not something you ever say!

We studied this play and The Merchant of Venice for my school exams. I must say that I preferred TMOV.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 03:00 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I think my favorite of all time is Titus, but Merchant's a great one!

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kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre

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from: bleodswean
date: Apr. 22nd, 2014 11:38 pm (UTC)
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I absolutely adore how this piece just CLIPS along with so much revelation of that play and these truly well told tales regarding your experience with it. Nice.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 03:00 am (UTC)
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Thank you! I was playing with voice on this one, so I'm glad that worked for you!

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Teo Says

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from: eternal_ot
date: Apr. 23rd, 2014 11:03 am (UTC)
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You sure have your reasons to be wary of that play...:)..well told...had a few laughs at your expense (opps..couldn't help it written that well)..:)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 03:00 am (UTC)
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Thanks! And I'm glad to make you laugh :)

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mamas_minion

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from: mamas_minion
date: Apr. 23rd, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Nice, was only mildly aware of the bad luck with this play. Feel Bad Kristen would not want anyone to have to have suffer through that pain.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2014 03:01 am (UTC)
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Agreed. It was pretty awful.

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