Right now my son is taping my mouth, tying my wrists with binoculars, shutting my lap top and just took a glob of cocoa butter to smear in my mouth. He is earnest and compelling to watch in his work. I don’t feel he’s doing to it to me, but rather with me, as I am not the object, but a subject in a story of his imagination.
The way I watch his face, before he’s hidden my glasses, is the way I watched the players of St Joan last night, and of Hamlet earlier this week. They work the authors’ stories as if they are working them out of their own imagination in the moment. The fascination of the audience, engaged on the precipice of each breath, heightens the immediacy of the drama. The way the players believe what they are creating moment by moment is volleyed back by the disbelief, or awe, that we are privy to the unveiling of these dramatic, historical and tragic human events. Isn’t this like Hamlet’s relationship to the players in his castle, how he needs to have them act out his father’s murder, not only to reveal Claudius’ guilt, but to believe it himself? Hamlet needs to see his own drama acted out with the truth of conviction, with the guiless presentation and simplicity of children playing, to know what he knows and feel what he feels.
I can say with confidence that I was there at the trial of Saint Joan; I experienced the thoughts with Ophelia that led her to drown herself. How often do we get this privilege in our lives, and do we trust our senses even when these real dramas are happening right in front of us. This is why we need theatre. And the less artifice the more art, the more art the less distractions from the story, the more story from the mind of the author, the more we get to learn, understand, feel and process our own tragic comedies. I mean lives.
And would you believe that only four players, Edmund Lewis, Andrus Nichols, Tom O’keefe and Eric Tucker play all the roles in both Hamlet and Saint Joan? And they are so relaxed, charming, engaging, nurturing…why is that? Because they are THAT GOOD. They know they have it in their loins, their auras, and their essences. No pomp and circumstance, I bet you could wake each one any time after midnight and get a Tony award winning performance of any character in their half sleep.
Be aware, you will be used in the set, spoken to in the play, and perhaps called upon to read an official church document about Saint Joan, which brings everyone to tears. Oh, to relive that moment. I have to go again. Will you please go experience Bedlam’s Hamlet and Saint Joan? You’ll be in the center of the “The Know”. Changed forever. But don’t bring too much crap and wear comfortable clothes, they move you around.
The Place is the Lynn Redgrave Theatre on Bleeker street. The inspiring Meredith Lucio produced it with Sarah Hancock, Ron Simons and others, and the extraordinary director is also an actor in both plays, Eric Tucker.
Sophie B. Hawkins