In coffee, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Film, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Poetry, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Scene Prep, Theater, Titles on December 30, 2014 at 8:13 am

Compared to millions of others, I’m privileged. I have shelter, I have food, I have work, I have friends. I have enough money to allow myself the luxury of heating the one room in which I eat and work. Sleeping in a cold room is healthy if you have blankets under which to snuggle. Showering in hot water makes up for any number of ills. Granted, preparing food in a cold kitchen isn’t inspirational, gastronomy-wise. But the room in which I eat and work has heat in it. I’m not at risk of losing both power and water in the foreseeable future, as are some people I know.

So when I read in the morning news that Premier Ministre Emmanuel Valls considers himself a brave and lucid leader by declaring the French must “sacrifice even more in the years to come” so that their industries will be strong and their administrations leaner and healthier? I know for a certainty neither Monsieur le Premier Ministre nor any others in his close circles know much about life outside the world of privilege.

Responding to one of the countless scams and schemes the journalists manage to uncover, one young and savvy press aid blathered what are known as “language elements” i.e. set pieces of soporific strings of words signifying nothing. The journalist insisted; asked for the woman’s reaction to the moral wrongs inflicted by the scammers and their political facilitators. The response was immediate and offended: “Surely,” the woman said, “you don’t expect me to comment that kind of consideration.” Morality? Morality??? Is that journalist mad? Does she expect me to lose my job by stepping up and saying what happened was wrong; no one wants to take the blame and therefore people must suffer and make sacrifices because such are the ways of the world. End of interview.


To my right on the table, just beyond the bowl of coffee : Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia. To my left, stacked on the Robert-Collins French-English dictionary: Donald Westlake On Aime et On Meurt Comme Ça ( a French translation of something he wrote initially under the title Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death and with the Tucker Coe pseudo); Basho, L’Intégrale des haïkus; good old Sanford Meisner & Dennis Longwell’s Sanford Meisner On Acting (Chapter 10, over and over, Making the Part your Own); Acting the First Six Lessons by Boleslavsky; Zeami, La Tradition secrète du No; and Osip Mandelstam Été froid & autres textes.

Sometimes, I read from them. Sometimes, I just like to be surrounded by friends.

I open the Mandelstam at random, and fall on a critique he wrote of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, as played in Voronej in 1935. The production was described as a “scenic failure” by others. Mandelstam is at his scathing (and loving) best as he describes the actors who have just left the stage: the actress “an old little girl of the theater in a black dress and white head scarf” who played Varia; the actor who played Lopakhine, still wearing  “the expression of a merchant pike-fish, sly but sentimental”.


An odd sensation as I revised part of the story last night. Part of the dialogue resonated like actors’ voices do in a movie theater. When a scene is supposed to be a close-up, private moment between two people, yet their voices fill the space in Dolby Surround. Of course, in the story, the two characters are acting/hamming for the benefit of invisible cameras and other recording devices so the effect is as it should be. But it gave me pause before moving on to the fifth and final part of the revision. Fault lines. Things said, not said. How they affect visible behavior.


Oh yes. Monsieur le Premier Ministre further considers “the vast majority” of the French population – not to mention party members – understand and approve the notion of further sacrifices. What are leaders for, if not to bite the bullet, ignore all ridicule, and believe their own language elements?


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