Theatre Thursdays

Welcome back to Theatre Thursdays, after something of an inadvertent hiatus.  The husband has been out of town and you'd think that would free up my time for all kinds of artsy fartsy pursuits, but in reality? Running a business and remembering to, like, change cat litter on a regular basis is HARD, PEOPLE. IT TAKES UP BRAIN SPACE. Also, I think our corn plant hates me, because I'm watering it exactly the same way the husband does, but lo, it is going toward the light, and I don't mean sunlight.

So today, to honor all the independent, take-charge gals, we're heading back to Shakespeare and excerpting some of the Elysian speech of Rosalind, the sublimely immortalized heroine of As You Like It. "Lord knows all that's going on in the Forest of Arden," as a beloved theatre professor of mine would say. Allow me to wax rhapsodic through the words of Harold Bloom who is an unrepentant misogynist (and "an old wanker," as one friend of mine is known to say), but at least puts his female problems aside where Shakespeare's women are concerned:

"[O]f all Shakespeare's comic heroines, Rosalind is the most gifted, as remarkable in her mode as Falstaff and Hamlet are in theirs. Shakespeare has been so subtle and so careful in writing Rosalind's role that we never quite awaken to her uniqueness among his (or all literature's) heroic wits. A normative consciousness, harmoniously balanced and beautifully sane, she is the indubitable ancestress of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, though she has a social freedom beyond Jane Austen's careful limitations."
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, p. 203

It's an exaggeration to draw an explicit parallel between Rosalind and Orlando and Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, but it's tempting. They're from different strata on the social spectrum; the gentleman is awkward at best in his vocal expressions; and the young lady is witty yet well-grounded. And it's not hard to imagine Elizabeth Bennet giving something like this same speech to Mr. Darcy (in fact she does speak something disputing her suitor's sincerity and ardor, but in a much more fraught setting):


No, faith, die by attorney. The poor world is
almost six thousand years old, and in all this time
there was not any man died in his own person,
videlicit, in a love-cause. Troilus had his brains
dashed out with a Grecian club; yet he did what he
could to die before, and he is one of the patterns
of love. Leander, he would have lived many a fair
year, though Hero had turned nun, if it had not been
for a hot midsummer night; for, good youth, he went
but forth to wash him in the Hellespont and being
taken with the cramp was drowned and the foolish
coroners of that age found it was 'Hero of Sestos.'
But these are all lies: men have died from time to
time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.

I love that line: "[M]en have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love."

Later in the same scene, Rosalind has this slightly better known jewel:


Now tell me how long you would have her after you
have possessed her.


For ever and a day.

Say 'a day,' without the 'ever.' No, no, Orlando;
men are April when they woo, December when they wed:
maids are May when they are maids, but the sky
changes when they are wives...

Given Rosalind's return to ladies' clothes in the form of a wedding dress at the end of the play, that exchange takes on more than a hint of bittersweetness. Everyone is leaving the Forest of Arden and going back to the real world. But at least Shakespeare is canny enough to let Rosalind have the final word:


It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue;
but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord
the prologue. If it be true that good wine needs
no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no
epilogue; yet to good wine they do use good bushes,
and good plays prove the better by the help of good
epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am
neither a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with
you in the behalf of a good play! I am not
furnished like a beggar, therefore to beg will not
become me: my way is to conjure you; and I'll begin
with the women. I charge you, O women, for the love
you bear to men, to like as much of this play as
please you: and I charge you, O men, for the love
you bear to women--as I perceive by your simpering,
none of you hates them--that between you and the
women the play may please. If I were a woman I
would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased
me, complexions that liked me and breaths that I
defied not: and, I am sure, as many as have good
beards or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my
kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.

I suppose it wouldn't do to stay in the Forest of Arden forever. Too many bugs.


Theatre Thursdays

Welcome to Theatre Thursdays! Today's installment functions as sort of a PSA, and here it is: If anyone ever invites you to attend a play written by Jean-Paul Sartre, for the love of Bob, tell them you have to wash your hair that night, or something. Jean-Paul Sartre plays are terrible. They are philosophy (obviously) couched in clunky-ass dialogue. But, occasionally, they offer some fun monologues if you feel like getting your whine on.

Dirty Hands is... well, I sort of forget what it's about, honestly. There are lots of discussions about whether murder is an abstract thing or a true action, and it revolves around Hugo who is tortured by his inability to decide which matters more: theory or reality (seriously). (Existentialism holds that man is nothing but a sum of his actions. So you guess which "murder" ends up being.) Hugo is married to Jessica. Hugo goes to work for Hoederer, who is... like, a gangster or a Communist or something? But Hugo's a double agent? He's supposed to kill Hoederer? Or something? I don't even remember. BUT. Jessica. She's flighty and innocent and whatnot - but only due to many wasted opportunities to mature. She's got as much going on upstairs (surprise) as any of then men around her (the nineteen years she refers to below reference her life with her father; she and Hugo are in their early twenties), but she's never taken it upon herself to use these faculties of hers, because J-PS had some hangups about women, if you ask me. Finally, toward the end of the play, when Hugo is just rolling around in dicketry like a pig in sh*t, Jessica can't take his asshattery anymore. She's trying to give him advice, and he says "Your advice comes from another world..."

JESSICA: Whose fault is that? Why was I never taught anything? Why didn't you explain anything to me? You heard what he said: that I was your luxury. For nineteen years now I've been in your man's world, with signs everywhere saying: "Do not touch," made to believe that everything was going very well, that there was nothing for me to do except to arrange flowers in vases. Why did you lie to me? Why did you leave me in ignorance if it was only to confess to me one fine day that the world is falling to pieces and that you're not up to your responsibilities, forcing me to choose between a suicide and an assassination. I don't want to choose: I don't want you to get yourself killed, and I don't want you to kill him. Why have you thrust the burden on my shoulders? I don't understand this whole business and I wash my hands of it. I am neither an oppressor nor a class traitor nor a revolutionary. I've done nothing. I am innocent of everything. It's too late, Hugo; you've got me into it, and now I have to choose. For both of us: it's my life that I'm choosing with yours and I - Oh my God! I can't. Don't say a word. Don't bother about me. I won't speak to you; I won't disturb your thinking. But I'll be here. It'll be cold in the morning: you'll be glad to have a little of my warmth, since I have nothing else to give you.

Do you see?? Do you see that writing?? Oh my GOD, who let this man write plays? Dear lord. Anyway, that monologue is a nice little intro course to Existentialism, if that's what you're looking for. Then again, if you're looking for Philosophy 101, I'm guessing you don't want to go to Broadway for it?

Oh, then a few scenes later, Jessica and Hoederer fall in love and kiss, and Hugo catches them, and gets the cajones to kill Hoederer, like he was supposed to months ago. Not because of his *ideas* (theory) but because he gets the concrete impetus of apparent infidelity (reality).

Do you see?? Do you see???? Good lord, stick to Being and Nothingness, I beg you. But if you ever need a pissy monologue to showcase your more retiring traits, go for Jessica.


Mercury Retrograde: Communicative Swan-Dive Off The High Board

You're not getting Theatre Thursday today. Instead, you're getting Siamese Thursday. You'll probably like this better, anyway, because you're a lazy a-hole and can't be bothered to learn new things.

The Siamese Prince is looking to the Heavens to find out why the hell I've been so crazy lately.

I mean, I tried to tell him that I'm always crazy. Look at the clusterf#ck I've got going in the air signs there. One pitiful water sign is touched on in my chart, and one lonely earth sign. And I have Leo rising, and then, practically everything else (including my moon) is in Sagittarius. I'm not going to be the most even keel on the lake.

But the prince is specifically wondering about my behavior lately. He's not buying that it's all because Mercury has been in retrograde since January 5th, although he has to admit that that's when the funky behavior started.

I pointed out to him that "funky behavior" in his eyes may be something as simple as getting really, really irritated when he won't. stop. meowing. while I'm trying to do work.

I offered to do his chart and see how this Mercury retrograde thing will affect him. He's a Leo (natch). I mean, Jupiter is in Aquarius all year, so I should be golden, but that doesn't really help him any, as a Leo (unless his rising sign in Aquarius, I guess, but we have no way to determine that, so I'm just gonna guess that his rising sign is some fire or other). Technically, this Mercury retrograde thing should be hitting all y'all harder than it's hitting me, anyway.

For some reason he doesn't believe me. See him there, looking askance at my theory that maybe he's the one who's been so annoying and weird lately? The prince's dad is a Gemini, so he's always a little schitzo, but the Siamese Prince here has really been just batsh!t since earlier this week. Very vocal. Since Mercury is the communication planet, I think that might have something to do with it.

Kitten hates being wrong. He knows I'm right (he's the one being annoying and frenetic and needy, not me). He just now decided he's more interested in Vedic astrology than Western. Thinks maybe my signs are off, or something.

He really could have found a more respectful way to disagree, though.


Appreciate The Little Things (Not So Littul, Akshully)

Concerning the recently mentioned boobs:

My five-foot-three self and I are gathering about three days' worth of mail this morning. (What? We don't leave the apartment here; it's not in vogue.) We have a UPS slip to get a package from the package room (if you can imagine such a thing). The slip corresponds with a truly sizable box sent from Atlanta after Thanksgiving with, like, every single play I've ever owned, ever. (YOU: Oh. Good. More Theatre Thursdays. I'm sooo pumped *eyeroll* ME: SHUT IT.)

So, me and my physics degree over here, we decide to put the slippery mail on top of the heavy, heavy box, and balance/carry it over to the elevator. Then, with the slippery mail on top of the heavy, heavy box, my physics degree and I decide to push the elevator button with one of the outer corners of the box. Of course the slippery mail starts to slip, and the heavy, heavy box starts to tip, and, worst of all, my keys - which are on top of the slippery mail which is on top of the heavy, heavy box - start to slip toward the edge of the box, threatening to plummet into the terrifying abyss that is the 3-inch gap between the elevator and the actual floor. I mean, who knows where that goes? Probably to Hell, or to some mole people's lair under New York City. And I don't want mole people having a key to my apartment. I'm sure they're perfectly nice, but they probably don't smell so good.

So my physics degree informs me that I should prevent imminent disaster and stinky mole visitors by correcting the angle of the box and tilting back away from the elevator, which I do, just in the nick o' time to keep my keys *and* mail from slippery sliding off the box into the aforementioned abyss. The mail stops on a piece of packing tape that's popped up, but the keys on their heavy little purple belay (Do you know what a belay is? If you don't, that means you never did a ropes course at camp, and I feel sad for you.) are threatening to slide toward me, off the inner side of the box, and clatter to the floor causing not only embarrassment in the packed lobby (where no one is offering help, by the way), but also the necessity to put down the box, and the mail, and rearrange, and then try to pick that shit up again, which... no. The keys plummet off the inner side of the box, and I'm waiting for them to hit the floor and signal to me that I need to go back to MIT for some refresher courses, and also that I'm going to have a pulled lower back after trying to get the box back up off the floor once I pick up the keys...

And the keys never hit the floor.

I look down, and there they are: sweetly cradled in the valley of my mammary glands. My boobs: the ultimate shelf. At that moment, I (and my lower back) really appreciated them.



Theatre Thursdays - The NOT New Year's Edition!

Welcome back to Theatre Thursdays! This post has nothing whatsoever to do with the New Year! (You have been warned.)

In what may have been the laziest essay of my college career, I compared the attitudes toward women in Euripides' Hippolytus and Racine's Phèdre, which tell the same story from slightly different points of view. Phaedra/Phèdre brings about family tragedy when she falls in love with Hippolytus/Hippolyte, her step-son by Theseus/Thésée, king of Athens. I don't remember much of the essay, but I do remember that my conclusion was that Racine didn't seem to like women as much as Euripides. (I do remember that I got an A, which says nothing about whether my argument was "correct," but may say something about my suspicions that the professor was a huge pothead.)

That being said, I adore - nay, worship - Jean Racine's Phèdre. It is just. so. beautiful. I've seen two productions in Paris, one modeled on Kabuki and one traditionally performed and starring the French equivalent of Phylicia Rashad. The former was positively transcendental. The latter was just horrendous, but boy, did the text still shine through the ham-handed mess that was the staging and "acting." Sadly, I know you may not speak French, so I have to give you a translation. Translations make me a sad panda. "Poetry is what gets lost in translation," said Robert Frost, and he was spot-on.

Oh well. We'll have at it anyway, with the monologue in which Phèdre confesses her illicit love to Hippolyte while the palace erroneously believes Thésée to have drowned on his way home. This is Margaret Rawlings' translation, which I don't love, but it's what I have on hand. Racine's original follows, in case you speak French and want to wallow in beauty with me. Really, when I read the French original out loud, I feel like a pig in shit. (Isn't that sentence fabulous in its relevance?)

Ah, cruel one! Too well, too well
You understand me. I have said enough
To save you from mistake. Well, look at me!
Know me, then - Phaedra - in my madness, know
I am in love. But do not dare to think
That I - in love with you - believe that I
Am innocent, or of myself approve.
Nor that the mad love now deranging me
Like poison in the blood, is fed at all
By cowardly connivance of my will.
Unlucky object of the spite of Gods,
I am not so detestable to you
As to myself. The Gods will bear me witness,
The same Gods who in my veins have poured
This burning fire, a doom to all my race;
The Gods who take a barbarous delight
In leading a poor mortal's heart astray!
Do you, yourself, recall to mind the past!
I did not only fly, I hounded you;
I wanted you to think me odious,
I sought to appear inhuman in your eyes.
The better to resist your charm I sought
To make you hate me. Oh, what useless care!
You hated more. I loved you none the less.
Misfortunes only lent you added charm.
I have been drowned in tears, and scorched with fire.
Your own eyes might convince you of the truth,
If for one moment you could look at me.
What have I said? Can you believe that this
Confesion I have just made to you - this
So shameful declaration I have made
Is voluntary? Can you think so? Ah!
Trembling in fear for safety of a son
Whom I dare not betray, I came to beg
You not to hate him. What a feeble plan
For any heart so full of what it loves.
I could speak to you only of yourself!
Oh take your vengeance, do, and punish me
For such a hideous and illicit love!
Your father was a hero, be like him,
And rid the world of one more monster now.
Does Theseus' widow dare to love his son?
Believe me you should not let her escape.
Here is my heart. Here, where your hand should strike,
It waits impatient to expiate
Its guilt. It leaps to meet your arm. oh strike!
Or if your hatred envy me a blow
Of such sweet torture, or if blood too vile
You think would therefore drench your hand, then give,
Give me, if not your arm, at least your sword!

And here's the original. Even if you don't speak French, I swear to Blog, you can probably pick out the difference in cadence and poetry.

Ah ! cruel, tu m'as trop entendue.
Je t'en ai dit assez pour te tirer d'erreur.
Hé bien ! connais donc Phèdre et toute sa fureur.
J'aime. Ne pense pas qu'au moment que je t'aime,
Innocente à mes yeux je m'approuve moi-même,
Ni que du fol amour qui trouble ma raison
Ma lâche complaisance ait nourri le poison.
Objet infortuné des vengeances célestes,
Je m'abhorre encor plus que tu ne me détestes.
Les Dieux m'en sont témoins, ces Dieux qui dans mon flanc
Ont allumé le feu fatal à tout mon sang,
Ces Dieux qui se sont fait une gloire; cruelle
De séduire le coeur d'une faible mortelle.
Toi-même en ton esprit rappelle le passé.
C'est peu de t'avoir fui, cruel, je t'ai chassé.
J'ai voulu te paraître odieuse, inhumaine.
Pour mieux te résister, j'ai recherché ta haine.
De quoi m'ont profité mes inutiles soins ?
Tu me haïssais plus, je ne t'aimais pas moins.
Tes malheurs te prêtaient encor de nouveaux charmes.
J'ai langui, j'ai séché, dans les feux, dans les larmes.
Il suffit de tes yeux pour t'en persuader,
Si tes yeux un moment pouvaient me regarder.
Que dis-je ? Cet aveu que je viens de te faire,
Cet aveu si honteux, le crois-tu volontaire ?
Tremblante pour un fils que je n'osais trahir,
Je te venais prier de ne le point haïr.
Faibles projets d'un coeur trop plein de ce qu'il aime !
Hélas ! je ne t'ai pu parler que de toi-même.
Venge-toi, punis-moi d'un odieux amour.
Digne fils du héros qui t'a donné le jour,
Délivre l'univers d'un monstre qui t'irrite.
La veuve de Thésée ose aimer Hippolyte !
Crois-moi, ce monstre affreux ne doit point t'échapper.
Voilà mon coeur. C'est là que ta main doit frapper.
Impatient déjà d'expier son offense,
Au-devant de ton bras je le sens qui s'avance.
Frappe. Ou si tu le crois indigne de tes coups,
Si ta haine m'envie un supplice si doux,
Ou si d'un sang trop vil ta main serait trempée,
Au défaut de ton bras prête-moi ton épée.