Three is Company

Right now, I’m living with some really interesting roommates.

You may recall last year at about this time when I announced that my current couch-surfer was RSC director Peter Brook. This is a similar situation. I find that, when you’re truly in the thralls of research, the process takes on a body of its own. It whispers to you in the night, alternately taunting and teasing you, sometimes telling you things you had never thought of before (though for me, it usually waits to do that until I’m in the shower).

Right now, my research doesn’t have a face (it’s so much easier to personify when it does). More, it has a body. I’m living with a few different projects and, consequently, a few different plays.

As you know by now, I’ve been serving as dramaturge for Tufts’ February production of

book piles next to my desk… teetering dangerously on the brink of collapse

Measure for Measure. Over the summer, the director and I put hours into creating a two-hour cut of the script (no small task, especially for a text-purist like yours truly). Now, we’re girding to enter the rehearsal process. This also means that it’s time for me to send my deep thoughts on the play to the theatre manager for inclusion in the program/department newsletter thingy. I’m also preparing to teach what we’ve lovingly dubbed “Shakespeare Boot Camp” this weekend; a three hour text workshop tag-team-taught by myself and the AD in order to ensure that our cast doesn’t go into the rehearsal process without some tactics to deal with Shakespeare’s language. All of these things should be a lot of fun, it just means that dystopian governments and broken chastity vows are constantly at the back of my mind. Not the most pleasant backdrop for your day, let me tell you.

There’s a lot at stake in Measure (and certainly a lot at stake which speaks to us particularly in an election year). We’re dealing with a city built on crumbling foundations. We’re dealing with an aging government that can no longer connect to its people. We’re dealing with extremists; extreme absolutists, extreme libertines, and extreme fundamentalists. We’re dealing with characters who disguise themselves for various reasons and utilize that disguise to trick each other into pursuing courses of action which would otherwise have proved impossible (or at least unpalatable).

We’re also dealing with a comedy that isn’t all that comedic. The ending seems a mere nod at the conventions of comedy (every one of the play’s four marriages are forced/arranged either by law or circumstance). Death is an ever-present force on the stage and at least one character suffers a grisly demise during the play’s action. The play includes a rape or near-rape (depending on how it’s staged). Oh certainly we have a few clowns to lighten the mood, but there is nothing airy or fairy about Measure‘s deeper themes (or even its not-so-deep themes).

The instinct to call Measure a “problem play” and leave things at that is one that I find horribly simplistic. It’s like calling Richard III a history. While I understand the need for short-hand categories, reducing Shakespeare’s more complicated works to one catch-all word does them a disservice. Yup, Measure has its problems, but the play is so much more than those problems. The problems open avenues of exploration through which we can delve into something deeper; what makes a comedy? What does a comedy need to have? If a play has all those things, can it still be something else?

My desk right now with books and sundry stacked work

In addition to this, a second specter has been haunting my footsteps similar to its iconic title character’s father. Hamlet seems to be everywhere I turn (more so this semester than usual). In a little over a week, I will be in Nashville at ASTR speaking about a paper I wrote which involves Garrick, Hamlet, Shakespeare, and the canonization of all three. Hamlet remains the most-referenced play in my studies, there are at least two productions of the show going on in Boston right now, and I’m relatively certain that the other night I dreamed I was performing the “too too solid flesh” speech in front of an audience of extremely intelligent (and extremely receptive!) chimpanzees…

Is Hamlet is in this fall? Is it my personal bias? Or is there just something about Hamlet?

That’s not even to consider the two research projects/seminar papers which are still in their budding stages at the moment. I haven’t yet immersed myself in them completely enough to be having haunting visions or dreams, but it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

Suffice to say that things are getting pretty crowded over here. I’m pretty sure that I could build a fort with the library books on the floor next to my desk, and (as usual) the deeper I plunge into the semester, the more appealing this course of action becomes.

Password is “foul fiend flibbertigibbet”. No boys allowed.

…except my man Will. And maybe a certain Danish Prince.

Three’s a Crowd

So I have a new roommate.

We seem to get along pretty well. He’s into theatre (like… REALLY into theatre), he’s directed a bunch of stuff (even a lot of Shakespeare which is neat because we can talk about it at great length), he’s written a few published items, he’s smart, talented, and really I don’t think I’m over-emphasizing how great he is when I say he’s a visionary and the voice of a generation. He demands a lot of attention though and I’ve found that spending time with him has really cut into my social time (as well as hours I can devote to other projects). He just has a lot to say and I find that, when I think a conversation has finished, it’s only just beginning. He could talk for hours and hours.

Well, I guess he has the prerogative to do so since he is an eighty-seven year old man.

I’m getting to the point now, though, that I really wish he’d just stop talking. I mean, I know a great deal about him (and you can always know more, but sometimes there’s knowing someone and KNOWING someone and you really don’t need to KNOW everybody). His stories are beginning to conflict. I’m starting to develop cross information and mixed signals. It may just be that he’s somewhat forgetful…

To make matters worse, the more I know the more I feel like I’m obligated to tell other people when I go to introduce him. It’s no longer good enough to say “Hey, this is Peter and he’s a director.” Now I have to tell them about the shows he’s directed, the places he’s lived, random bits about his personal life… I mean, most of his accounts are professional so I don’t know too inordinately much about his personal life (not enough to be awkward at least) but I do know a thing or two.

His presence in my apartment is really beginning to put a cramp on my life. I have spent the weekend almost entirely devoted to him. Tonight I’m home alone with him while my roommate goes out gallivanting with her girlfriends. I mean, he’s not possessive or anything, but I’m beginning to wonder if my obsession with him is bordering on “unhealthy”. I feel like he’s watching me every time I sit down at my desk to type. He does tend to hang out on my desk (and sometimes even on my desktop). I’ve pushed Jerry aside in favor of his company multiple times. I even precluded plans with other friends to hang out with Peter. Tonight I started googling childhood images of him and I’m in the process of making a powerpoint about all the things I’ve learned…

He does have a charming accent though, so that helps matters a bit.

….working on a big scary presentation about RSC founding Director Peter Brook. I feel

The B-Man

like that’s all I have to talk about these days. Would love to review Whistler in the Dark’s Dogg’s Hamlet Cahoot’s Macbeth or The Donkey Show (both of which I saw in this past week), but am unable to wrap my brain around anything that doesn’t involve my new English beau.

Oh, and by the way, night-time Pajama-clad trips to the library didn’t go out of style in your undergrad. Or at least I hope they didn’t because if they did, I’m about to commit a gigantic fashion faux-pas. Maybe if I wait long enough, the library will empty of credible witnesses…