A drum! A drum! – MACBETH, I iii

I hear from a friend (and drummer) that Clyde Stubblefield is dead.

Clyde Stubblefield was one of THE drummers, particularly known for his work with James Brown in the mid-1960s-early 1970s and for being one of if not the most sampled drummers in hip-hop. But here’s just a tiny taste that serves my purposes.

(This is the spot where I’d imbed THIS ONE MINUTE VIDEO of Stubblefield performing but the vagaries of the Internet are being vagarier than usual this morning so I suppose I’ll just let you click the link. It rewards clicking, I assure you.)

This is primarily a blog about Shakespeare, so perhaps I should explain. Stubblefield (along with great Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, who also did/kept time with Brown, among hundreds of others you know) is my go-to example for how I firmly believe speaking verse ought to work. To wit (and I promise not to get utterly crazy here, but I feel I owe Messrs. Stubblefield and Shakespeare some specificity):

Hamlet. Act Four, Scene Three. I chose this at random and only went digging into Hamlet because it has plenty of long chunks to dig into. Claudius soliloquizes (relatively) briefly and tells us

          I have sent to seeke him, and to find the bodie:

          How dangerous is it that this man goes loose:

          Yet must not we put the strong Law on him:

          Hee’s loved of the distracted multitude,

          Who like not in their judgement, but their eyes:

          And where ’tis so, th’Offenders scourge is weigh’d

          But neerer the offence: to beare all smooth, and even,

          This sodaine sending him away, must seeme

          Deliberate pause, diseases desperate growne,

          By desperate appliance are releeved,

          Or not at all.         (Enter Rosincrantz.)

                                   How now? What hath befalne?

 

So take the basic rules of the verse as our kick drum – ba BUM ba BUM ba BUM ba BUM ba BUM. Ideally four acts into a play that spends the majority of its time in this basic heartbeat rhythm, you can rest your leg and kick no longer because the audience is hearing it without it even being there. You lock back into it now and again, but you don’t need to hammer it every time. They’ve got it.

That said, we’re not in a free jazz place here. It’s funk/soul. It plays around with the beat, but we’re not allowed to just run off on our own, here. People came to dance.

          I have sent to seeke him, and to find the bodie:  

Or rather: “I have SENT to SEEK him, AND to FIND the BODY,” and pretty quick out of the gate on the not-quite-I’ve “I have”. But then, you also, without beating it to death, must manage to play “find” off of “seek” and therefore “body” off of “him”, which, this being a line full of monosyllables, isn’t impossible, but is a skilled but of rhythm-futzing to enter a scene with. Plus you’ve got that comma/caesura/pickup breath in the middle, which is a breath you-the-actor don’t need yet, having just started the scene/sentence, but there it is, some kind of hiccup, and it’s not grammatically necessary, so better to assume it’s a rhythmic notation. I’m guessing this whole line is handled in about three seconds. Uh-oh – then a colon – we’re drifting into another facet of the thought…

          How dangerous is it that this man goes loose:

I love that two-syllable DAIN-jruss. The brain is moving along. But right back to staccato. Is. It. That. This. Man. Goes. Loose. I defy you not to hear the hi-hat in “is it that this”. (Also: “this man”? Pretty cold words. And I don’t mean Claudius chose them to be cold. I mean as he’s thinking (aloud, alone), them’s the words that pop out.) But then, though still monosyllables, “goes loose” kind of stretches out. No comma – I mean, let’s not be barbarians –but still. Rounder and less spitty. This is one of the most James Brown lines of pentameter in the speech. Try it.

          Yet must not we put the strong Law on him:

What?! Wait. So it can’t be straight rhythm – Yet MUST not WE put THE strong LAW on HIM – because that’s not how humans speak English, unless you believe the lyrics of Tim Rice, which, again, we’re not barbarians. So…Yet MUST not WE (I think you can play with how hard to smack that Royal “We”, if you want to throw weight to getting someone else to do the dirty work, which is in fact what happens) put the STRONG LAW on HIM. But not hitting the “him” that hard but not letting the “on” off that easy. Feel it out. And “put the” almost inevitably becomes just two plosives, a syllable each but with hardly any vowels when spoken, almost an unspellable “PT”. So double word score lands on “strong law” because it’s a weird phrase anyway and it’s what they’ll hear. But this colon begs the question, “Why not, exactly?”

          Hee’s loved of the distracted multitude,

LOVED…TRAC…MUL and the rest sort of just bitterly simmers. Real hardcore Folio types would even insist that extra long “Hee” has to be given it’s due, and certainly in this spot I can hear the argument for some extra sneer (snare?) in it, to lead you into some snark in “loved”. And you can hear impatience with the idiot mob (who buy their US Weekly with Hamlet on the cover (again!)) in the even-spittier “disTraCTed mulTiTude”. Comma…

          Who like not in their judgement, but their eyes:

Back to mostly solid backbeat for the first half. Who-like-not-in-their-JUDG-ment- (oh, but comma – nice chance to really bite off that “t”)-but-their-EYES.

          And where ’tis so, th’Offenders scourge is weigh’d

More pops and crackles, a breath, and that lovely “th’Of-fenders” where he hurries over “the” so he can say the most frustrated letter of all, “FF”*.

          But ne’er the offence: to beare all smooth, and even,

Now, a slight edit here – Folio says “neerer”, but most agree that “never” makes more sense, though the Elizabethans often elided their “v” in the middle, so we get “e’en”, “se’n”, and of course “ne’er” (which inevitably sounds all fancified when Great Actors do it, despite the fact that in my own Kentucky stomping grounds, this is still a perfectly normal thing offstage). In a hurry again. BUT. But. The “the” is fully written out. BUT. But. There are still too many syllables. It’s not “th’offense” or “e’en”. Now, we can cheat a spare weak syllable dangling off the end there by the Rules of Pentameter, because Quiller-Couch or whoever says so, but maybe one could describe “theeyuh-FENCE” as having a cheated grace beat in there. Which ends the pre-colon section, where we grind a new facet of our shiny thought – stop philosophizing and focus, Claude. (Still bearing in mind that each these lines takes really three to five seconds to speak, tops.)

          This sodaine sending him away, must seeme

“Sodaine” is of course “sudden”**. This one’s pretty clear, comma and all.

          Deliberate pause, diseases desperate growne,

(I like to think of the start of this one as a Bluebottle/Ted Baxter/Ron Burgundy stage-direction-accidentally-read-aloud. I know it isn’t but I like it anyway. Sidenote Within Parenthetical: I watched the 1942 To Be Or Not To Be yesterday afternoon with the nephews and enjoyed again the delicious pause before and after the prompter unnecessarily feeds Jack Benny the title line. Every actor I know is in that pause. “I know the line – I was acting!!” Anyway.)

This is also a good microcosm of the “play the verse” argument: you can’t just say “must seem deliberate pause”. What the hell fun is that? “…must seem (inhale) (must seem what? Uh…)/ DeLIB’rate pause…”) The mid-line comma here is usually turned into a period in modern editions, which is grammatical, but also implies a full stop instead of the move-it-along pace of a guy who doesn’t get too many moments alone. So pickup breath, but don’t overdo it. You do this when you’re thinking, this hopping forward to the next part of the thought; no reason not to do it aloud. The two-syllable “DES-pr’t” is nice particularly because…

          By desperate appliance are releeved,

…it has to be a drawn-out three syllables immediately after. And again with the spit-spit-spit-spit-releeeeeeeved action. Let off the hi-hat pedal and let it ring.

          Or not at all.         (Enter Rosincrantz.)

                                   How now? What hath befalne?

Shut up! There’s some one here! Stop plotting out loud and get the info! Why hasn’t he answered you in the no-time you’ve given him to do so? “Hath befall’n” is a clumsy Sylvester mouthful which could either slow you usefully down, or make you sound like you’re clumsily changing direction. Both have their advantages.

Now, that is ridiculous. That’s eleven lines that take maybe forty-five seconds to speak and in a standard two-hour version of Hamlet are likely to be cut anyway and I’ve wasted a lot of your time and mine on it. But the late Mr. Stubblefield would I hope agree with me that once it’s in you, it comes out easy. You sweat, but it’s no sweat. Ride the beat and feel around the edges of it until it snaps you back in line. When you’ve put the proper, as his boss occasionally said, glide in your stride and gut in your strut.

I imagine Funky16Corners will be putting up a tribute mix of some kind soon, which I will preemptively recommend. I pray you. Give the drummer some.

 

 

*mileage may vary in Wales

**I used to find charm in spellings like “sodaine” for “sudden” until I worked with a director who so hated audiences and actors that in the midst of a flat, Midwestern accent (and, ahem, production) he’d insist on actors pronouncing them like they were spelled, which succeeded as entertainment only in that it made me sing the word to Clapton’s “Cocaine” under my breath in rehearsal. He did this with about five cherry-picked words he had probably heard about when he woke up in the middle of some lecture he missed the point of – upon consideration, he could have been giving the lecture and this would still be true – and regarding which most sane people would just opt for audience clarity. Again, these weren’t Original Pronunciaption productions, just by a goof who wanted to talk (and talk and talk) in rehearsal about how a “divell” and a “devill” were two utterly different supernatural entities and only the most callous and sloppy actor wouldn’t play the difference. Then he’d doze back off and we’d get some rehearsal done. I seem to have let all the bitterness about it go, right? The moral is never let Bottom believe he’s Prospero.

O dainty duck, O dear! – MIDSUMMER, V i

Let me introduce you to my Patronus…

No doubt you are familiar with the Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies animated classic “Duck Amuck” (1953), written by Michael Maltese, voiced by Mel Blanc, scored by Carl Stalling, layed out by Maurice Noble (in some of his finest work this side of the 24 1/2 century) and directed by one of my primary (also prime and primal) artistic influences, Chuck Jones. (This post was very nearly titled “…dearest Chuck…” (Macbeth, III ii) instead, but Bottom won the toss.)

If you haven’t ever seen it, a) I envy the opportunity you’re about to get (though never miss a chance to see it on the big screen) and b) here it is, not in the best visual quality but still magical.

I’ll wait.

Now, as I’ve mentioned one hundred times in self-aggrandizing plug after plug, I’m playing Guildenstern next week in this stellar production of Stoppard’s classic. And what I’m going to suggest to you now, before I get buried in tech for several days and have to lay off the blog while I mumble my four thousand lines to myself for a couple of hours a day, is that the two aforementioned works are as spiritually analogous to each other as the latter is textually with Hamlet.

If you aren’t familiar with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a) I envy the opportunity you’re about to get to see it on stage (if you’re within driving distance to Louisville, directions are at the link above – January 3-8, curtain times vary) and b) you could always read it, too.

I’ll wait.

I should note here that I’ve always been of the opinion that comedy, especially of the goofier sort, is always a few steps ahead of the avant garde. Beckett is a wonder and a favorite, but Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, & Harry Secombe were pop stars doing the same thing on radio first, not to mention Laurel & Hardy. The following falls into that line of thought.

Now:

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern = Daffy split;

The Player = The Pencil/Brush;

Shakespeare = Bugs;

Chuck Jones, et al. = Stoppard.

Demolish.

 

Now to a few tedious work days of tech, then the relative sport of the playing holidays of performance. And then, as Silence drunkenly sang, “we shall

          doe nothing but eate,

          and make good cheere,

          and praise heaven for the merrie yeere” – Happy 2017, y’all!

So much as from occasion you may glean/ Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus – HAMLET, II ii

Like this blog, my Twitter account is not widely followed. Not that it should be – it’s mostly the semi-daily ramblings of a guy who cracks wise, follows comedians, & gets mildly-to-very outraged at various sociopolitical happenings. The only real upside for folks who follow me is a No Cat Video guarantee.

I have been, on fewer occasions than one needs a hand’s worth of fingers to count, retweeted by People of Note. One of those instances was a few days ago when I noted something during some light road trip playlisting and the band in question retweeted said observation, which resulted in a weird amount of strangers commenting/favoriting/retweeting and it’s all over now, this phenomenon of something in the neighborhood of twenty or thirty people noticing some damn fool thing I said.

Anyway, I promised to dig deeper into this blithe comment, and herein do I so dig.

En route to Florida, The Wife and I were listening to the 2015 They Might Be Giants album entitled Glean. I am, as I have mentioned here before, also in rehearsals for Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (from which we had a brief break for this pre-arranged trip). These two things are not related.

At least, they weren’t. But I listened too closely.

I will neither dignify this foolishness with a well-footnoted treatise nor any real claims that the band set out in its Dial-A-Song project to make a companion soundtrack to a fifty-year-old absurdist reimagining of Hamlet. But I feel compelled to share a few observations.

We’ll begin with the first track, “Erase”.

          You and I will be together

          When we shed our memory…

          Think of this as solving problems

          That should never have occurred

          Please don’t call it strangulation,

          That is such an ugly word…

          When darlings must be murdered…

          The skeleton that won’t stay down

          The mercy kill that can’t be drowned

If you’re at all familiar with the play (which I’m going to have to assume because I’m not going to try to summarize it and its themes here; I have too many lines to learn), this will stand out to you immediately. The title characters have constant short and long term memory loss, which causes them no end of consternation. Also (spoiler) they die, which also causes them consternation, though with an end in that case. They are themselves problems that should never have occurred, characters who exist for no real reason except perhaps to be one of Hamlet’s many proverbial women in refrigerators.

 

The second track, “Good to Be Alive” is even easier to apply. It’s about what the title would imply. So there you go. Think of it as an oblique version of Rosencrantz’s Act II speech about being dead in a box, favorite of college auditions for decades.

 

The third, “Underwater Woman”, can only now make you think of Ophelia:

           No one on the shore will ever know what’s in her heart…

           Laughing uncontrollably, who is she talking to?…

           Intently staring at a photograph…

           No one can tell when she cries…

Duh.

 

“Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2”, I hear you cry? Clearly the musicians who, along with the tragedians, are implausibly stuck in barrels for the first half of Act III. Next.

 

“Answer”, a word with profound significance in R&G, is filled with images of surveillance and agents and spying (the very job Claude & Gert have hired them to do), and also features the quatrain:

           It might seem like a thankless existence

           But don’t lose hope just yet

           You’ll be remembered for your persistence

           And this is the thanks you get

Which is about half of the title characters’ lines in a (pardon)  nutshell. Though they’re more often in the form of a question. But when one is in jeopardy, what else can one expect?

 

“I Can Help the Next in Line” is a stretch, sure, but the line “Have you been with us in the past?” is not without import here. Also, the extended calling for “Next!” is something that happens repeatedly as R&G wait with increasing desperation for someone, anyone, to enter the stage.

 

“Madam, I Challenge You to a Duel” I take to be aimed at poor little Alfred, slave to the Player, that purveyor and perverter of “transvestite melodrama” and various over-wordy tales of swordplay, “full of fine cadence and corpses”.

           Such a lot of words

Yep.

 

“End of the Rope” – here we are back at strangulation imagery, and while beheading is more likely to be their fate, it should be noted that even the cover to the published version of the play includes a rope-as-ampersand in the title. Hanging is in no way too good for them.

           You’re gone, but I’m still there

           Clawing at the air

           Now it’s curtains for me

           And I’ll spend eternity

           Doing joyless cartwheels in the void…

is as close to Guildenstern’s last words as one is likely to encounter via serendipity (cf. the whole first scene of the play and its thoughts on coin-spinning and the laws of probability). And

           How dumb can you be?

is something Guildenstern asks Rosencrantz repeatedly in the form of “Are you stupid?”, “What’s the matter with you?”, and several other withering phrases.

 

“All the Lazy Boyfriends” is Hamlet’s song, I think.

           Who needs motivation when you live in your head?…

           Did you say out loud that you think you’ve lost your edge?

           Begin again, begin again…

(“What’s he doing?” “Talking.” “To himself?” “Yes.”

And furthermore, “”He might have had the edge.”

As well as the repeated variations on “practically starting from scratch…”)

 

The very first words of “Unpronounceable” are “Time stopped”, which is but one of Guildenstern’s theories on their plight as it relates to the constant heads-uppery of the coins they toss. But then we get to the meat…

           Your name it is unpronounceable

           Distorted and illegible

           I never figured out what that was…

(On trying to figure out which is named R and which G, after realizing no one can tell them apart, including themselves: “…people knew who I was and if they didn’t they asked and I told them.” “You did, the trouble is, each of them is…plausible, without being instinctive.” They never do figure out what that was, not with real certainty, even with only two to choose from.)

 

The wordplay and poetic lic-/nons-ense of “Hate the Villanelle” works more as a tribute to both this play and its verse-laden source material. “Words, words, they’re all we have to go on.”

 

Though at first I was thinking of “I’m a Coward” as another Hamlet song, pulled right out of the “rogue and peasant slave” speech, it quickly became more Stoppardian via Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello or whichever duo you think these two most resemble.

           I need a confidant

           A co-conspirator

           To turn the tide

           On my losing side…

 

“Aaa” is about unpleasant surprises of the sort that result in both physical and existential danger, with lots of screaming. Ditto R&G.

           And what am I made of?

           I’m gonna find out now

           Aaa!

           Aaa!

           Aaa!

 

“Let Me Tell You About My Operation” is about a procedure in which

           Doctors removed your memory

tying back into the constant memory loss (“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and the presumption that once our eyes watered.” I am so incredibly proud to have typed that from memory right now, because getting off book for this damned show is slowly killing me.)

More importantly, this song provides the only reference to Stoppard’s other obvious source material, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which I am not currently memorizing but still know a “tray bong” when I hear it.

 

Which brings us to the final and title track, the instrumental “Glean”, which is a word I say seventy damned times in this show, almost as much as the actor playing Rosencrantz says “heads”. I don’t know that we ever do quite “glean what afflicts him” beyond the profoundly obvious, because we’re too afflicted ourselves to solve that pampered mutterers problems, regardless of his uncledad’s potential financial generosity.

 

That’s it. That’s too much. That’s enough. That’s all.

Seafaring men, sir. They say they have letters for you. – HAMLET IV vi

In pulling out the previous post title (and remembering one from a couple of months ago regarding the same scene), I’m was hit by the notion that the reason scenes like that are often trimmed mercilessly or cut entirely (besides of course the human bladder) is the very reason people love particular episodes of the better episodes of this New Golden Age of Television we’re in.

Ask fans of Game of Thrones or Mad Men or what have you for a favorite or at least a monumental and point-turning episode and they’ll frequently mention “that one where they dropped sixteen of the seventeen plotlines we usually jump around among and focused on just one for the whole hour”. (“The Watchers on the Wall” and “The Suitcase” episodes of the aforementioned are good respective examples. You no doubt have your own favorites.)

But the moment the Burbage Break hits a play like Macbeth, the whining begins. “That’s not our lead actor; that’s not the main story; can’t we get rid of most of that and get back to a star turn speech or a swordfight?

The Burbage Break, for people who don’t do this all the time, is a colloquial term (one of many – I’ve heard it called other things, but I like plain “Burbage” most) for that moment around Act IV when Shakespeare et al. would leave a nice and probably contractually dictated gap in which the inevitably Richard Burbage-portrayed protagonist would be captured by pirates or something and the actor himself could go have a pee or an ale or a shag or just a seat before coming back refocused for the big swordfight that led to his temporary demise, twice Wednesdays.* And the candles would get their wicks trimmed for the indoor shows, and the audience would have to live with other stuff going on.

(In the midst or rehearsals for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, I noticed that even in that play’s Act III version of what happens during Hamlet’s Burbage, Hamlet sleeps through most of it. All that nattering is exhausting. And even during his break, Hamlet won’t butt out – he sends a long letter poor Horatio has to just stand and read on stage. There are other people in your nutshell, Hamlet. Make room.)

All this is hearsay, of course, but the fact remains that these rest spots do exist for the big feather-in-the-cap tragic roles – Shakespeare was a practical man; just look at his grain storage.

And that Other Stuff gets fascinating. You don’t notice Lear disappears for several scenes because of the onstage eye-gouging. Hamlet’s gone? Groovy – let’s watch a woman go stark raving mad. Malcolm & Macduff, though, bless their hearts. I’ve seen their long (long) scene done really well, but there’s a long while between the baby-murdering that distracts us from the start of Macbeth’s teatime and Macduff’s grief about something we knew already as Macbeth finishes his biscuit. And most of that long while is a not-even-argument-exactly purity test given in real time. It’s a staging challenge when compared to blinding a man with one’s thumbs.

So TV producers out there, hear me out: do a four or five hour episodic adaptation of one of the plays (instead of doing four plays in that span coughhollowcrowncough); let your star off for Episode Four and suddenly everyone will be all excited about Malcolm and the lingering visuals of the healing hands of Edward the Confessor and of Rosse’s long ride to England and no one will even notice the big jerk was gone.

…I suspect the lack of break for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern was in the back of my head when I thought of this. They don’t rest. There’s no ale. And I’m blogging when I should be memorizing. Back in a bit.

 

 

*I know, I know, they didn’t do twice Wednesdays then. We barely do it now, relatively. It’s an expression. The internet demands such a lot of preemptive defenses against literality.

Remuneration!–LOVE’S LABOURS LOST, IIIi

I probably should have brought this up before, but here’s the deal with me and Shakespeare of late. The reason I’m writing all this nonsense.

He’s putting money in my purse.

It’s happened before, but never to this extent. Since about February of 2014, I have, depending on how you count it, been a part of either twelve (12) or fifteen (15) Shakespeare productions. Which, I am led to understand, is not normal. This immersion has been full-bodied and has left my brain simultaneously exhilarated and numbed, or if not simultaneously then toggling rapidly from one to the other. This blog is among other things an attempt to get all this down before I forget it, as the brain space is at a premium these days what with all the verse, etc.

For my own sanity and your clarity, let’s lay them out in briefest possible C.V. here:

Hamlet – An abbreviated (a redundancy when talking of Hamlet, I guess) eight-actor touring version in the spring of 2014 in which I played Polonius, the First Gravedgger, and Osric. I continued as Polonius in the full-cast version that followed as part of Kentucky Shakespeare’s summer mainstage season.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – I finally got around to playing Bottom in my fourth time doing this play (Demetrius in my 20’s, Theseus/Oberon/Wall and Flute/Thisbe in my 30’s). A delight, even with an excessively large, musty, thirty-five-year-old ass head on. This would be the one about which I’d write my Anthony-Sheresque memoir (Bottom’s Up!, obviously). This also marked the stage debut of Oscar, my splendid toupee (named for Oscar Jaffe of Twentieth Century), on which may the iron door never be closed.

Henry V – Fluellen and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Rounding out my 2014 Summer of Yammerers.

As You Like It – a remount of a six-actor cutting I did in 2009 of this one, with commedia masks, an Old West setting, and the opportunity to play Jaques and Touchstone simultaneously thanks to dowel rod lorgnettes and a lack of shame.

Macbeth – another abbreviated touring version leading up to a mainstage remount. I want to count this one as two, though, seeing as I played Duncan/a Murderer/Doctor/Seyton/Probably someone else on tour and the Porter/Lennox on the mainstage, so I had all of about four lines overlap. Felt like a separate production to me, at any rate.

The Tempest – Stefano, with a large sweat-absorbing prosthetic belly and probably more rouge wine blossoms than strictly necessary. 2015 was the Summer of Entering From the House, what with Stefano’s shanties, the Porter’s crowd-climbing/-accosting and…

The Taming of the Shrew – …Petruchio’s big wedding entrance. I had the honor of playing opposite my wife for this one. Saving that for a post of its own. Or the book. (Oscar was in this one, too.)

(I should note here that for the previous three productions I was also company dramaturg/text coach because I suggested that one would be helpful and that it should be me. I seem to have inadvertently pulled some sort of Jedi Mind Trick on the Artistic Director, because it happened. This continued to be true for the following Kentucky Shakespeare shows.)

Twelfth Night – Malvolio, this time opposite my wife’s Olivia. Another pleasure, and, like Bottom, one I had been waiting to sink my teeth into for a long time. I have a much better Yellowstocking Tale from a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, but again, another post. This was on Twelfth Night itself (and the evenings surrounding), blessedly indoors instead of on the magnificent-in-summer-but-uncomfortable-in-January stage in Louisville’s own Olmstead-designed Central Park.

Two Gentlemen of Verona – Another pairing with my wife, who was Speed to my Launce. Maybe pairing is the wrong word because of the lovely Hope (Crab), who stole most of our laughter, applause, attention, and pride, which is the way of this show and I suspect has always been. I also got to write the setting of “Who is Silvia” for this production. (I played Proteus in college in the 90’s, in the days when all my hair stayed attached to me after the show.)

The Winter’s Tale – Polixenes. What a weird role. What a weird play. I love it dearly. But I defy anyone to deny its weirdness. Unlike anything else. Also a thoroughly justified appearance by Oscar in Act I. And another setting, this time for Sonnet 97 (“How like a winter hath my absence been”) as sung by Mamillius.

Romeo and Juliet – Friar Lawrence. July 2016 being the hottest month in recorded history (until August), it was nice to balance out Launce’s 1919-ish three-piece suit with the updrafty Medieval caftan of Polixenes and the monkish robes of the Friar. Such a pure functionary, which is a great thing to get to play. You’re not going to steal any scenes (or you shouldn’t) because the audience really only deeply cares about two people. So join them, I say. (I was also the dramaturg/text coach for the spring tour of this one, as well as being responsible for the cutting, which was a bit of work and makes me want to count this one twice as a bonus, maybe.)

Titus Andronicus – a Kentucky Shakespeare fall rarity. Previously mentioned in gory detail here. Purely behind the scenes on that one. It opens Thursday.

Macbeth Again – So much Macbeth, this time at Actors Theatre of Louisville until near the end of this month, with a small role that provides plenty of knitting time and time to cobble together this Shakespeare workshop I’m teaching soon.

Purely onstage, that makes twelve (12) productions and in the neighborhood of twenty-two (22) speaking roles large and small over the space of two years, eight months. Somewhere in that time I’ve also finished two separate cuttings of Julius Caesar for next spring/summer, a cutting of Antony and Cleopatra that I think conceptually brilliant but have yet to convince anyone else of (or try terribly hard yet, honestly) and a fair heap of preliminary leg work on another yet-to-be-announced play for 2017. And the trip to Stratford!

I’ve done other things in there (three or four plays from the last hundred years and an understudying gig, probably ninety or so audiobooks recorded, a reasonably major intestinal surgery), but none so connected to each other that they made me want to dedicate an entire blog to them just to clarify my thoughts and tangentially drag other people along for the ride.

So when I seem loserishly footstuck in the Jacobean mires of the rules of performing verse and so on, please remember it’s all I’m allowed to think about. If I didn’t keep a blog, I’d just turn my brain off and play Assassin’s Creed some more and what would that accomplish? (Although a Macbeth or Henriad edition would kick ass. Think on it, Ubisoft. “There’s not a one of them but in his house I keep a servant fee’d – this one’s name is MacGregor. He’s an Assassin.”)

And when I mention one or another of these productions (and I think I’ve at least mentioned every Shakespeare I’ve ever done – wait, no: another Twelfth Night, an Othello, a Richard III, and a college Much Ado About Nothing) eventually in this furious jumble of bloggery, I’ll be able to find them here.

Thanks for the indulgence.