Letters to Holly

Monday, February 2

The Magnetism of the Stage

Your Sis met me in Asheville on Friday, and we attended the first of a two-night stint by the Aquila Theatre. This night, they performed The Iliad. That's what the brochures, posters, and tickets said anyway. The Iliad. So I expected the entire Trojan war, obviously distilled into one night. Paris and the Golden Apple leading to the bribe of Helen and Cassandra the prophet and the Trojan Horse and Achilles dying from an arrow to the ankle. All the stuff that makes the Trojan War a fun story.

We find out right before the curtain goes up that this is The Iliad: Book One. That's Book One out of 24 books that make up the Greek classic. What we see, instead of all the fun stuff, is a stand-off between Achilles and King Agamemnon over the rights to seized booty. The whole play is less than 80 minutes long. We do get some Greek Gods, but mostly this is a series of conversations about why war is a bummer. This is not what I expected. It was OK, and I appreciated elements that suggested a style of theatre from the days of Homer. It was black-box theatre with multipurpose props and creative lighting and sound. But I wanted a horsey.

The following night, they performed Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and knocked it out of the park. I can't imagine how they could wring one more drop of entertainment from the script. Six people performed all the parts, and they all did the heavy lifting. Brilliant theatre. I can never keep Shakespeare's comedies straight, and I thought I perhaps had seen this before. it wasn't until the play was half and hour from the ending that I remembered seeing the Montford Park Players do the same show and how mild their version was in comparison.

This night's comedy made me remember why I love performing comedy and how I could maybe possibly perhaps do the sex comedy after all. I got a call Friday night from another actor asking me to audition, and again I explained I couldn't. I told him about the comic, and, frankly, I suspect he didn't believe me. Watching Saturday's play got me itching to do the show, but I couldn't forget the pitfalls of the last show. By coincidence -- maybe -- I ran into the theatre president Sunday, and he made the sales pitch for me to audition. Turns out the Saturday audition garnered no male actors. None. Again I considered doing the show by juggling my comic schedule. They were desperate. I could write my own check here. They could work around me this time. I was torn for a good hour until I looked again at the performance dates and my penciled pages.

I chose the comic. And that's my final decision. I've had four -- FOUR -- appeals for me to do the play, and I'm tired of trying to shoehorn it in. Unless the dates of the play change, I can't do it. And let us keep in mind that this theatre can't find three other men to do a comedy. Even if I jumped aboard, who would play the other roles? What did they do before I moved here?

The comic continues to bubble along. I had an epiphany yesterday that lead me to the kind of thematic detail that my high-school student brain never believed was accidental. But this one was utterly unconscious. It appeared before my eyes, without my manipulation, and I'm shocked by the workings of the subterranean mindwaves. I can't claim credit for it in any way.

In other news, my Steelers won a close game.

As I look out the window, it's pouring snow.

Picture of the Day
I loved these things when I was in middle school.

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