I Leave Me No Choice

In Act 2, Scene 2, of Hamlet, the doomed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are chatting with Prince Hamlet. They are his old college buddies, and King Claudius (Hamlet’s step-father) and Queen Gertrude (his mother) have sent for them to attempt to learn what is bothering the young man, who has been acting with an “antic disposition” and saying strange things, half to himself and half to, well, no one can figure out who.

Hamlet greets them and speaks in the same riddling manner that he has been using with the rest:

HAMLET: Let me question more in particular, my good friends, what you have done to deserve such fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord?
HAMLET: Denmark’s a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Then the world is one.
HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.
ROSENCRANTZ: We don’t think so, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

Hamlet quickly determines that they are not merely dropping in to talk about sports and the weather or to compare Klout scores but are indeed spies. Ultimately, he manages to have them both killed.
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Happy Now? Happy?

In Act 2, Scene 2, of Hamlet, the doomed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are chatting with the prince. They are old college buddies of Hamlet’s, and King Claudius (Hamlet’s step-father) and Queen Gertrude (his mother) have sent for them to learn what is bothering the young man, who has been acting with an “antic disposition” and saying strange things, half to himself and half to, well, no one can tell who.

Hamlet greets them and speaks in the same riddling manner that he has been using with the rest:

HAMLET: Let me question more in particular, my good friends, what you have done to deserve such fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord?
HAMLET: Denmark’s a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Then the world is one.
HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.
ROSENCRANTZ: We don’t think so, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

Hamlet quickly determines that they are not merely dropping in to talk about sports and the weather but are spies. Ultimately, he manages to have them both killed.
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An Actor’s Life?

I am a self-conscious actor, yet I sometimes work at it half-heartedly. Now and again. Half-hearted and hesitant—I blush easily, which makes radio the perfect venue for the experiment (and if you write for that type of character, a blushing, stammering sort, I’m your man).
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The Story with a Twist, or, I’m a Frayed Knot

Every alcoholic in recovery has a collection of anecdotes that can be simultaneously heartbreaking, outrageous, and hilarious. Perhaps they are hilarious only to fellow alcoholics; perhaps they can not even be listened to by outsiders. For an outsider, most alcoholic anecdotes may as well conclude with the same punchline, an interchangeable rubber-stamped ending: “And then I got away with it again.” Or, “I didn’t die that time, either.” And then comes the next hair-raising—or eyebrow-raising—tale.

Every alcoholic in recovery is living a story with a twist ending, if they remain in recovery. It is that two-word pair there, “in recovery,” that provides the surprise, the twist, a period of life as surprising to behold as some of the antics, the many bizarre actions and activities and inactions and inactivities that were surprising for outsiders to watch unfold in the previous life.
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Almost, Famous?

Noises Off” is one of the most popular comic plays of the last forty years. If you have ever seen it performed, you know it can be hilarious; the film version proved that there are some plays that can not be made into movies because they are so completely theatrical. This is a story about the original Broadway production and an apology from me to Victor Garber, who starred in it.
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‘Know Me,’ Nomi

Klaus Nomi was born 71 years ago today. A performer whose career may have reached its peak as a back-up singer/dancer/weird presence for one single show behind David Bowie, Nomi managed to stand out in a time and place that made a virtual fetish of uniqueness: New Wave-era New York City.

Many actors and performers attempt to find their voice or vision in a performance that resides in the very process of erasing the self, even the idea of a self. Some comedians who build a stage persona in this territory will even flirt with the idea of not being “in” on their own joke; they have brilliant moments but tend to have brief careers. Singers and pop stars find it easier to latch onto a persona for an album or concert tour or two, then drop that for an entirely new one a few years later.
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‘A Conversation with Cary Grant’

Starting in the mid-1980s, Cary Grant toured in a one-man question-and-answer show, “A Conversation with Cary Grant,” in which he spent ninety minutes or so answering questions from audience members. Several other movie stars and celebrities have since taken on similar productions in which they and their fans bask in an accepted and reflected adoration— Gregory Peck, for one—but Grant was the first. The show was an extended, and deserved, curtain call from beginning to end.

One cool feature to Grant’s tour was that it visited theaters in which he had performed during his vaudeville years in the 1920s. Thus it was that in April 1985 I found myself sitting in the balcony of the small (1500 seat) Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston, NY, a stage on which he had performed. I was 16 and a movie nerd and Cary Grant was my idol.
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‘For the Time Being,’ Part 3

The concluding sections of W.H. Auden’s Christmas oratorio continue his blend of the contemporary and everyday with the mysterious and eternal. All of modern philosophy is briefly made to vanish in a blur of the mundane world:

But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays.

The fact of faith—not what one has faith in, but that faith exists, is a reality itself—that is the miracle of the day, is what Christmas is about:

Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

“For the Time Being” was published in 1944. It is found in Auden’s Collected Poems. Section III is perhaps the most often reprinted part of the poem:

III
NARRATOR:

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes—
Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week—
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully—
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, that, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.

IV
CHORUS:

He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 26 asks, “Have you ever managed to paint yourself into the proverbial corner because of your words? What did you do while waiting for them ‘to dry’?”

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