Of King Lear—
Here’s our video trailer, still 7 weeks away from previews but starting to shape up. Only 3 minutes viewing: take a break. Still photos by Steven Jacobson. Click photo to link:
I’m never much satisfied with novels or plays or movies about artists. My BS detector goes on high alert, yes, but beyond that, there’s a special demand. Either it’s about an interesting, problematic life, in which case “artistry” is special-pleading: if the story could stand as well for a plumber as for a painter, it’s a good story; if not, not. Or it’s about that instant of creation when sperm meets ovum and life explodes.
That moment, I think, is inexpressible, ungraspable. Mike Leigh’s film Mr. Turner — JMS Turner is one of those few artists, like Rembrandt, who will hold me for long, long, long, long minutes and walk me away with changed eyes — confines itself to the guy’s daily life and jowly demeanor and casual glances that, if you know his work, suggest the moment of inspiration. Otherwise, a few daubs are there to suggest, oh yeh, the guy’s a painter.
Part of the problem, perhaps, is that most creation doesn’t look like ecstasy, though that’s what we expect. Porn films are in the business of expressing something like that, and yeh, it comes across as a business. But I don’t look any different at the computer when I’m writing a play than when I’m updating our mailing list. I don’t make faces or collapse over the edge of the office chair. There’s nothing photogenic.
So much of the process is just plain frustrating. You lose two hours from a computer glitch. You find the stitches coming out from the velcro on your robe. You spend days casting 36 tiny papier-mache hands and then find, as soon as a pair are attached, that they make an impossible clack whenever they touch, so you start carving another 36 from foam rubber. You keep saying “Edmund” when your line says “Edgar.” You start on the music tonight but then you have to submit the sales tax report. How often did Michelangelo, up on the scaffold, get a blob of paint in his eye? How often did Shakespeare run out of ink?
But strangely, that’s all part of the “magic” of creation. I don’t mean that only as irony: there’s something in the tension that ups the ante. Ceremonial magic relies on strange substances (eye of newt and toe of frog) or elaborate memorized chants, and you need not believe they carry intrinsic power to see that a frantic hunt for “wool of bat” will focus your will to the burning point, as will carving 36 foam-rubber hands.
With luck you’ll avoid some of that frustration. Or you have money enough to hire folks to deal with it — but be careful of hiring folks who aren’t as driven as you. What you’re really aiming to do is to clear your time sufficiently to face the truly gnarly questions that make you bang your head on the wall and, at last, induce a pregnancy.
Continued printing challenges have delayed Rash Acts, a collection of our short dramatic sketches from more than 45 years of touring. But despite all technological advances, we’ll have copies shortly.
To Liora Jacob, who’s been our rehearsal stage manager for a couple of crucial months. To Fay Mallory, who’s costumed our creatures. To Erica Lewis, who’s undertaking the tough job, as publicist, of moving people to see our San Francisco showing of Lear. To Robert Fischer and S.N. Jacobson for their impressions, through photographers’ eyes, of this strange vision. And to the Bard for his words.