Category Archives: Writing

JOE KINNISON’S IMPROV—THE WRITER AND ANGLER ON HIS NEW HOW-TO BOOK: ‘NEXT-LEVEL BASS FISHING’–FROM SKYHORSE ·

JOE KINNISON is on the hook for our latest interview, talking with SV’s Bob Shuman about getting started in bass fishing, enjoying the peace, beauty, and intellectual challenge of the sport, and sharing insights from the world’s top Bassmaster anglers:  Christiana Bradley, Tyler Carriere, Destin Demarion, Pam Martin-Wells, and Brandon Palaniuk. 

 

Joe Kinnison “sincerely promotes fishing for everyone.” His previous book is Oh’Fish-Al Innsbrook Fishing Guide, on fishing technique tailored to a lake resort community in Eastern Missouri. Joe is an officer in a St. Louis fishing club, and he has several bass tournament wins. He is also a member of the Missouri Writers Guild and the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SOEPA). 

 

What did you hook your first fish with—and what are your first memories of fishing?

When I was in primary school, my parents bought a small farm. The farm was all of the way at the end of a miles long gravel road. A small neighborhood organization took up a collection to maintain the road, along with a well that served water to the community. The well was a short walk up the road from our site, and a roughly two acre, kidney-bean-shaped pond was just downhill from the well on common ground. The pond was difficult to approach. It was surrounded by weeds and generally not well kept. Still, we decided to try fishing in the pond one summer day. After trampling enough weeds to get to the water’s edge, we baited hooks with bobbers and worms and started casting. In what seemed like no time, we were reeling in bass, many of which were good size, at least to a kid. Nearly every cast produced a fish, and I remember getting worn out, more than feeling that we’d caught all we could.

What kind of bait do you use today?

I use artificial baits today, and I change baits depending on the forage of the lake and the season of the year. I have had some of my best fishing days, in terms of volume, fishing a lipless crankbait. A lipless crankbait is a fairly heavy lure which is shaped like a fish. The fishing line ties to about the center of the fish’s back which makes the lure wiggle as it moves. A lipless crankbait can be cast a long distance, and the lure is retrieved at a regular rate. I use the lure to cover flats, which are large, shallow sections of lakes. I have had some of my most prolific fishing days dragging a lipless crankbait up the deep edge of a flat and long distances over the submerged surface of the flat. When the fish bite this moving lure, they tend to bite hard. The long length of fishing line from the long cast gives the hooked fish room run, and surge, and jump.

How has your technique changed over the years—and what crucial insight did you have about it?

When I moved to St. Louis, I started getting together with a small group of anglers. We jokingly called ourselves the Bassin’ Assassins. About once a month, we would travel to a group of ponds on a friend’s farm. We were not a very experienced group, but the ponds were seldom fished. These bass would bite almost anything. I started by throwing an inline spinner, which is really more of a trout lure than a bass lure. The bass bit it anyway. Since the ponds were a forgiving environment for an up-and-coming angler, I started experimenting. What I learned is that I preferred to fish slow, rather than just rip baits along a path and try for a reaction strike. I liked making the bait appear natural and move like a real crayfish or a worm. I later learned that this style of mimicking prey is called finesse fishing. Finesse fishing is the method I most prefer. It is slower, it gives a good feel for the fish, and being able to tempt a fish with what it believes is actual food is rewarding.

Why do you think people give up on fishing—and is there a way to keep them going with the sport?

I have met many people who like catching, but don’t necessarily like fishing. I think most people get excited to have a fish on the line. They get to steer the fish, reel it in, control it, and grab its lip. Although that’s the excitement of the sport, catching does not always happen. Moreover, sometimes when it does happen, the fish do not fight, or they are too small to be challenging. During most fishing trips, there is a period of time when the fish are not biting. Those are the times when most people give up on fishing, finding it boring. Those that stick with the sport seem to be the anglers that start seeking solutions when the fishing is idle. They start changing lures, alternating retrieve cadences, or switching colors. They start to notice changes in water color or wind direction or sun angle. Those that begin to understand the natural elements that impact the catching. These are the ones that keep going with the sport. I think the best way to learn the types of things that matter to fishing success is to spend time on the water with someone who loves fishing, not catching.

You interviewed five professional anglers, affiliated with Bassmaster for this book—were there any commonalities to their experience and stories?  Are most people who fish helpful to the newcomer?

Fishing is a welcoming community, especially to kids. In my experience, anglers are like golfers, in that they are happy to recount the elements that led up to their par, what club, what distance, what line, and so on.  For anglers, it may be what reels and cranks, what location, or what technique. While some anglers protect their secrets, most are quite open in sharing their experiences. As for the professionals, the most common element of their stories is that they each had a mentor. Be it a grandfather, brother, or family friend, each angler had a generous fishing enthusiast take them under their arm and give them experiences on the water. Although fishing is the second most popular outdoor sport, fishing can seem to be a small and not mainstream community. Really, it’s not. You just need to find a friend.

What does a fisherperson do during the off-season?

The off-season for professional fishing may not be what you think, the off-season is actually in the fall. Professional tours start as early as February, and the season ends in July. While that is the professional ranks, I make the point in my book that I am far from a professional caliber angler. For me, the off season is what you might expect, winter. I live in the Midwest, and I am not a big fan of cold. Some of my peers travel to Arkansas each year to fish for trout in the Ozark mountain streams. Personally, I like the heartiness and the fight of bass, so I stick with that type of fishing. I give my boat a good cleaning about Thanksgiving time, and I park it until the Easter season. I spend the winter reading and writing.

Please discuss the issue of releasing fish after they are caught. Why would or wouldn’t you do this—is it ever required?

Choosing to either keep or release a bass is a thorny issue, and there are passionate opinions on both sides. Large and smallmouth bass are not good eating fish. They are edible, but they would not be a first choice among diners. As such, keeping these fish for food is not the norm. For most of my fishing tenure, catch-and-release has been the preferred method. Recently, however, lake management views have been changing. Bass tend to be the apex predators in most lakes. With few adversaries, the fish tend to overpopulate. When a bass population gets too large, sufficient food is not present to support all of those fish. The fish tend to grow to approximately the same size and compete for what nourishment is available. These fish tend to thin. The industry calls such fish stunted. The bulk of the fish population of a lake can be unhealthy, starving. Some of the new thinking is that small bass should be removed from lakes and rivers to try to prevent the stunting problem. With small bass being particularly hard to prepare as food, the question becomes what to do with them. Dead fish are better used for garden fertilizer or even left on the bank to feed birds and raccoons. Some animal rights people believe that culling small fish is inhumane. Other animal rights people believe that starving a population of fish is inhumane. There are good arguments on both sides. I am a believer that catch-and-keep is the best policy.

What is fish body language and how does knowing about it help when fishing?

Even experienced anglers generally do not know that largemouth bass can change color. The fish have the ability to express the green and black pigments in their skin, or they can mask those pigments. It would not be unusual to catch really green-looking bass on one trip, and then catch really white-looking bass on another trip on the same lake. Coloration depends on how deep the bass are swimming and how much vegetation is in the water. Bass express their pigments when they are in the weeds. The green shades make them harder to find. The suppress their pigments when they are in deep or open water. More whiteness makes them harder to see by other fish looking from the bottom toward the surface. The pigment provides information to the angler. If you reel in a white-ish bass, it does not mean the animal is unhealthy. Instead, it means the animal came from a deep, suspended position to bite the lure. In that way, the coloration of the bass tells you at what depth the fish are feeding. This is valuable information for the angler.

How would this book have been written if you worked on it ten years ago—what has changed in the field?

I do not think this book could have been written a decade ago. Like many pursuits, fishing has undergone tremendous technological change in the last ten years. In that period of time, the industry has developed high resolution sonar equipment, invisible fishing lines, and previously unheard of lure presentations like umbrella rigs. Due to the improvements in the technology, most anglers have been focused on trying new gear. The new gear has been effective in improving catch rates, especially for offshore fish. As the technology has been assimilated, in my experience, questions remained unanswered. For example, if we both have all of the greatest gear, what makes an angler on the Bassmaster Elite tour different from me? In looking for that explanation, it became clear to me that soft skills separate anglers who already possess the latest technology. It really comes back to the human elements to determine success. Mentorship is a factor. It is also sensory skills, creativity, and organization that make the true difference.

What do you discuss in the book that isn’t typically covered in fishing books?

This may sound mundane, but one of the things that I discuss is how to get on the water. Some of the nation’s best fishing lakes are overwhelmingly large. It can be a difficult problem just to get started, and no one tells you that perspective. I point readers to where to launch their boat, where to get a guide, where to stay overnight, and where to grab dinner. Such practical things are often omitted in fishing books. Beyond the practical, few other fishing books will inform readers about things like sensory training and improvisation techniques.

How long does it take, on average, for someone to feel confident in fishing?

Getting confident in fishing can take a while. I cannot really identify a precise timetable, but I would say about five years will not be far off. As with any sport, some people have a natural gift for fishing. They may be particularly aware of nature or unusually observant. These folks usually start fast. For the fast starters as for the rest of us, eventually the angler will have an outing where they catch nothing. A reliable bait does not work or no fish reside in a confident “honey hole.” At these times, whatever confidence the beginning angler has fails. What restores confidence is going back out on the water and trying different lures, different techniques, and different locations until one finds and catches the fish. Having to adapt to different conditions and different quirks is what ultimately makes a successful angler. One would have to have experienced several shut-out situations before becoming assured that success could be achieved under most  fishing conditions.  Personally, going onto a lake knowing that I can effectively fish crankbaits, or spinnerbaits, or soft plastics, or swimbaits is what ultimately gave me confidence. That and being able to consistently out-fish my brother-in-law.

Do you honestly believe that both sensory training and improv training really make a difference to an angler?

Both of these disciplines sound “new agey,” and “fluffy,” as in not tangible. I refer people to a scientific study of a baseball team that employed sensory techniques. The results were measurable. In the book, I tried to translate some of the sensory training ideas to outdoors pursuits. I have tried these sensory exercises, and I believe that they have helped my fishing. My most memorable response to suggestions for sensory training was an angry one. A very experienced angler chastised me for trying to teach people what for him was just being “in the zone.” I guess he had some natural abilities, and he was upset that I was teaching people how to make the best of their lesser gifts. Improv is also a tentative conversation for most anglers. People seem to think that I’m trying to get them to try out for Second City Comedy or something of that ilk. No, I’m trying to provide permission and instill a process for experimentation. Sometimes just knowing it’s okay to cast a jig with a purple streamer or a crankbait with a worm weight ahead of it on the line is acceptable as long as it is purposeful.

You really make the sport sound approachable and fun.  How were you able to do that?

Two teachers in particular had an influence on my life. A high school English teacher was a fiend for economy of language. Second, a college professor once lowered a grade on a paper saying that I turned in ten pages because I did not have time to write eight pages. He wanted editing and economy. I brought those sentiments into my professional life, and I became a big advocate for clarity and simplicity. I believe that writing in that fashion makes most topics approachable.

Fishing can get really complex, and the industry is heavy on jargon. I have heard professional anglers take more than a full minute just to tell you the details of their rod, reel, line, and lure combination. I do not think it needs to be that complicated. One of the things that I really liked about the anglers that I worked with is that they too kept it simple. For example, one only used two lure colors, among the hundreds of choices. If the pros can reduce the options to two, so can weekend anglers.

Finally, fishing is fun. Something about the man versus beast situation is primal. Fishing is a rite of passage. Getting proficient at fishing is really just calling upon skills you use in other areas of your life and channeling them productively into this particular pursuit. Most people have the life skills that enable at least some measure of success at fishing. I am hoping to draw these out of people so that they enjoy the peace, beauty, majesty, and intellectual challenge of the sport as I do.

Thanks so much, Joe, for talking with Stage Voices.

View Next-Level Bass Fishing at AMAZON

Photo permissions (from top): Skyhorse; Joe Kinnison; Tyler Carriere 

(c) 2021 by Joe Kinnison (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

AN EARLY CHEKHOV SHORT STORY TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME ·

(Chekhov’s story appeared in Russia Beyond, 2/23/2021.)

Anton Chekhov. WOLF BAITING 

Translated by Dan Biktashev

It is said that we live in the nineteenth century. Do not be fooled, reader.

On Wednesday, the 6th  of January, in the European city of Moscow, a capital city at that, in the galleries overlooking the summer horse-racing track, sat a tightly packed crowd, jostling for position and trampling each other’s toes as they lapped up the spectacle. The spectacle itself, and even its description, is an anachronism… Are we even fit to describe it? We, who have exchanged brute force for ideas; we, the emotional, teary lot of suit-wearers and theatre-goers, and liberals et tutti quanti[1] – are we fit to describe this spectacle known as wolf baiting? I ask you, are we?

It would appear that we are. We must describe it, for we cannot help it.

Let me begin by saying that I am not a hunter. In all my life I have not killed an animal. I confess I have killed a number of fleas, but even then no hounds were involved; it was always a fair, one-on-one fight. The only firearms I am acquainted with are the tin cap guns I would buy my children as gifts for New Year. A hunter I am not, and I must beg forgiveness if I distort anything in my retelling, as non-experts are wont to. In what follows I will try to avoid touching upon matters that could allow me to flaunt my ignorance of hunting terms. Instead, I will tell you about this spectacle as the public would, i.e. in a superficial manner born of nothing deeper than a first impression…

It is the first hour. Behind the gallery are stagecoaches, luxurious sleds, and coachmen. Commotion and bustle abound… The sheer number of carriages is such that not crowding is impossible. Congregating in the galleries are men decked out in lambswool and the fur of raccoons, beavers and foxes; each professing expertise with horses, dogs, hawks, hounds, or other miscellaneous beasts. These men are freezing, but also burning with impatience. 

Ladies also congregate there, of course. You cannot have a spectacle without the ladies. Unusual for baiting many of the ladies gathered today are quite fair-looking. There are at least as many of them as men, and they, too, are burning with impatience. 

In the upper galleries one can glimpse an occasional gymnasium cap – students have come to watch the spectacle, and they are burning with impatience. Among the other spectators (burning with impatience) are the connoisseurs, fanciers, and self-styled critics who have come to the Khodynka Field all the way on foot and, for lack of a rouble to pay the entrance fee, have lined up along the fences, knee-deep in snow. 

In the arena are a number of carts laden with wooden crates. Inside the crates, the heroes of the day are enjoying the rest of their lives: the wolves. In all likelihood they are not burning with impatience…

As the crowd waits for the baiting to commence, it admires the Russian beauties riding about the arena on lovely horses… The most devoted and vicious of hunters are arguing about the hounds participating in today’s baiting. To a man, everyone is holding a poster of the event; the ladies also have a set of opera glasses.

“There is no pastime more pleasant than hunting,” an old man with a peaked cap and a wispy fluff of a beard confides to his neighbour; to all appearances he is a nobleman who fell on hard times a long time ago. “None more pleasant indeed… We would always set out on a hunt at first light… Sometimes with ladies, too…”

“There is no sense in going hunting with ladies,” his neighbour interrupts.

“Why not?”

“It’s not proper to curse in the presence of ladies. And what’s a hunt if you can’t curse?”

“Not much, I’ll give you that. But the ladies who went hunting with us were not above cursing at all… Mariya Karlovna, who was Baron Glanzer’s daughter, I don’t mind telling you, now could curse with the best of them! ‘You brazen-faced wretch,’ she would begin, and then proceed… with all manner of gosh and golly, dash and damn even… She was ever the bane of all low-ranking gentry’s lives… quick to anger, and to make use of her whip…”

“Mother, are the wolves in the crates?” a boy from the local gymnasium, who is wearing an extremely oversized cap, asks a woman with large ruddy cheeks.

“They are.”

“Can’t they jump out?”

“Oh, you! Stop that! Enough of your silly questions… Wipe your nose! Next time, try asking something clever. Why must you always ask about silly things!”

There is some motion in the arena. Six or so men, or shall we say, disciples of the hunting order, are carrying one of the crates. Now they put it down in the middle of the arena. The audience becomes excited.

“Good sir, whose pack goes first?”

“Mozharov’s. Hmmm… no, not Mozharov’s. Sheremetyev’s, I should think!”

“No, no, not Sheremetyev’s at all! Look at the hounds, they are Mozharov’s. And the black dog? It’s Mozharov’s! Or maybe not? Hmmm Yes, yes, yes, gentlemen, that yonder pack is Sheremetyev’s! Yes, Sheremetyev’s. Mozharov’s pack is over there.”

The men are pounding on the crate with a mallet. The crowd’s impatience is ad maximum… Now the men back off. One tugs on a rope, the walls of the wooden prison are pulled down, and a grey wolf – the most revered of all Russian animals – is revealed to the crowd. The wolf looks around, gets up and starts running… Sheremetyev’s pack race after it, followed by a Mozharov dog in breach of the correct order, in turn followed by the pack’s huntsman with a dagger in his hand…

The wolf does not get two full sazhens[2] before it is dead… The dogs have performed well, and so has the huntsman… “Bravooo!” cries the crowd, “braaavo! Bravo! Why’d Mozharov sic his dog out of order? Mozharov, boo! Braa… vvvoo!” Then another wolf goes through the same ordeal.

 

(Read more)

 

TOVE DITLEVSEN’S ART OF ESTRANGEMENT ·

(Hilton Als’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 2/8. PHOTO: Photograph from AKG / TT News Agency. )

The Danish memoirist built a literature of disaster, brick by brick.

Don’t think yourself odd if, after reading the Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen’s romantic, spiritually macabre, and ultimately devastating collection of memoirs, “The Copenhagen Trilogy” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), you spend hours, if not days, in a reverie of alienation. It’s because the author, who died by her own hand in 1976, when she was fifty-eight, makes profound and exciting art out of estrangement. Like a number of dispassionate, poetic modernists—the writers Jean Rhys and Octavia Butler, say, or the visual artists Alice Neel and Diane Arbus—Ditlevsen was marked, wounded, by her own sharp intelligence. Her world—the world she describes in “Childhood,” “Youth,” and “Dependency,” the three short books that make up the trilogy—was cash poor, emotionally mean, and misogynist. The sun must have shone sometimes in Denmark before and during the Second World War, but the atmosphere in “The Copenhagen Trilogy” is damp, dark, and flowerless. It’s not so surprising, then, that one of the first works Ditlevsen published, as a teen-ager, was a poem titled “To My Dead Child”:

I never heard your little voice.
Your pale lips never smiled at me.
And the kick of your tiny feet
Is something I will never see. . . .
See how I kiss your icy hand,
happy to be with you yet awhile,
silently I kiss you, weeping not,—
though the tears are burning in my throat.

In this attempt to imagine a mother’s repressed grief at the stillbirth of a child, Ditlevsen, who went on to publish more than twenty volumes of verse, fiction, children’s literature, and memoir, was beginning to explore the territory she masters in the trilogy’s terse, cinematic chapters: the drama and the particularity of disappointment.

You can’t be disappointed without first having hoped. As a little girl, Ditlevsen yearned for a complete union with her mother. “Childhood” (which was published in Danish in 1967 and is translated here by Tiina Nunnally) opens with the five-year-old Tove living with her parents, Alfrida and Ditlev, and her older brother, Edvin, in a small apartment in Vesterbro, the red-light district of Copenhagen. Times are hard. But they’ve always been hard. Tove’s parents met while both were employed at a bakery before the First World War. Ditlev, who was ten years Alfrida’s senior, had been sent to work as a shepherd when he was six. Social advancement was connected to economic advancement, and you couldn’t achieve either without an education. But higher education—or high school—was not an option if you were penniless, like Ditlev. A bookish socialist who wanted to be a writer—a dream that “never really left him,” according to his daughter—he was eventually hired as an apprentice reporter at a newspaper, but, “for unknown reasons,” he gave up the job. In any case, Ditlev’s love of words can’t compete with Alfrida’s constant arias of disillusionment. Alfrida is unhappy with the life she has made with her husband, but what can she do? She’s a woman. And poor. Her life is limited. Still, she makes an opera out of her dissatisfaction, and Tove is her rapt audience. Being an audience is one way to be loved. Being silent is another. Ditlevsen writes:

In the morning there was hope. It sat like a fleeting gleam of light in my mother’s smooth black hair that I never dared touch; it lay on my tongue with the sugar and the lukewarm oatmeal I was slowly eating while I looked at my mother’s slender, folded hands that lay motionless on the newspaper. . . . Behind her on the flowered wallpaper, the tatters pasted together by my father with brown tape, hung a picture of a woman staring out the window. On the floor behind her was a cradle with a little child. Below the picture it said, “Woman awaiting her husband home from the sea.” Sometimes my mother would suddenly catch sight of me and follow my glance up to the picture I found so tender and sad. But my mother burst out laughing and it sounded like dozens of paper bags filled with air exploding all at once. . . . [I]f I hadn’t looked at the picture, she wouldn’t have noticed me. Then she would have stayed sitting there with calmly folded hands and harsh, beautiful eyes fixed on the no-man’s-land between us. And my heart could have still whispered “Mother” for a long time and known that in a mysterious way she heard it. . . . Then something like love would have filled the whole world.

No mother is ordinary to her child. She is always as beautiful, confusing, and monumental as the world. It’s only when the child grows up that the parent becomes ordinary—which is to say, human. Part of the work of becoming an adult is figuring out how to reconcile your vision of your parents with who they actually are. Ditlevsen’s early obsession with writing may not have given her insight into that process, but she did learn how to use language to describe the rejecting force of Alfrida’s various gripes and dismissals. By the age of seven or so, Ditlevsen knew that writing was her vocation, and that, as such, it would separate her, “unwillingly, from those I should be closest to”; the gravitational pull of creativity would tear her away from her family, as it does to so many writers, even as she tore her family apart, the better to see it and tell its story.

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HOWLING IN THE DARK: LEE BREUER AND ‘THE GOSPEL AT COLONUS’, ‘PATAPHYSICS PENYEACH’, AND ‘LA DIVINA CARICATURA, PART 1: THE SHAGGY DOG’ ·

(Photos: Mabou Mines)

By Bob Shuman

Some of us had never seen Lee Breuer, who died January 3, working without a stocking cap—but what is probably most surprising is that we saw a playwright, this hands-on, at all.  In 2010, upon early audience entry, at New York Theatre Workshop, he clarified tech, behind a huge plywood board, for his double-bill of monologues Pataphysics Penyeach (Summa DramaticaandPorco Morto”).  In 2013, with La Divina Caricatura, Part 1: The Shaggy Dog, at La MaMa, there was a question as to whether he might even be seen, as press performances were canceled due to his illness.  He appeared, hustling through the impersonal subway tracks of the set, though, where a dog had been abandoned.  That animal, Rose, a puppet, also the star of the show, caused a visceral reaction, when she began eating “poop,” a polite way of naming the grotesque situation—one this reviewer categorized as an aberrant absurdist element, while still shuddering.  Much later, now the owner of two Jack Russell terriers, one who had been deserted on a highway in South Carolina, the truth of the writing emerged.  Although our dogs are now ensconced in Massachusetts during the pandemic, for several years, Breuer remained on my mind often, his visual observation about pets acute, disgusting, and pervasive.

He was part of the East Village zeitgeist—I should say he was our Peter Brook. Mabou Mines offered performance based on hard theatrical theory and experience, not simple propaganda, although clearly leftist. Breuer volunteered at the Berliner Ensemble, under Communism, worked with Grotowski, adapted Beckett, and more, to give his work an international edge. It’s impossible to think of the American avant-garde, without him.  Tracking our way back from the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, along Seventh Avenue to Forty-Second Street, in 1988, someone, talking about the chorus, was saying how you weren’t “going to ask those big, mature Black women to do a lot of choreography,” as we understood musicals then, when someone noted the stately stage progressions, in The Gospel at Colonus.  The voices moved the audience, and caused them to dance, instead.  Lee Breuer was, almost inarguably, America’s finest theatre practitioner at the end of the twentieth century and early twenty-first, mainstream or otherwise. His aesthetic was so fully formed, centered, and grounded, in fact, that it seems an injustice to say that he was an experimental director. It’s better to describe him as a seminal one.

In a July 2020 Zoom interview from Segal Talks, hosted by Frank Hentschker, with Maude Mitchell, Breuer macrocosmically talked about playwriting, music: 

“I wanted to get this feeling of everyone contributing their melody to a larger whole, and that there would be a form that would arise from it.  I think music is the key to it.  I think if we can feel that all the currents–political, aesthetic—are joining together to make a statement–and if you can discern what that statement is–that you will have achieved a tremendous revelation about what our times and what our lives now are all about.”

Breuer’s statements could expose internal horror about the American and human condition, combining humor with the monstrous, as he did with Pataphysics Penyeach, which used children’s storybook  and cartoon characters facing contemporary political and sociological existence.  Back in 2010, he seemed to pinpoint how we had been overwhelmed by the technological: “Reality is not real,” a distinguished professor, a cow, tells us “—it’s virtual.”  The play demonstrated a “spin” on French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry’s pataphysics (a “send up of metaphysics”). 

According to Breuer, in a 2007 video conversation at Towson University,  theatre only exists half the time on the stage; the other half takes place in the head.  The viewer is choosing the play’s message after “balancing the work’s thesis and antithesis.”  The synthesizing process is apparent in a work like Pataphysics Penyeach because, through the ridiculous and cerebral, one attempts to decipher the meaning, to make sense of the divergent inputs, holding on in the hope of unmasking the secret of the piece.  Steadily looking for metaphor, in “Porco Morto,” the second one act in the evening, Breuer turned the concept of “capitalist pigs” into a playlet about a piglet, who talks like Porky Pig.

For those drawn to the stage of Lee Breuer, part of its appeal must be his interest in the viewer as thinker, not simply as blank page—he was an intellectual theorist himself, not only a defender of theory, whether Marxist, Feminist, Market, or other.  Breuer’s is a formidable intelligence to be openly missed; irreplaceable, still to be reckoned with, and learned from. 

Don’t cover it up.

© 2021 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Visit Mabou Mines.

 

Two Breuer Reviews from Stage Voices:

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LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES): “IN THE WOODS” (8)  ·

By Bob Shuman

SCENE: In the woods. A small clearing, off a parking lot–hardly more than a triangle where two parallel felled logs act as benches.

MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on a log.  As at the dog run, using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with the dogs.

 CHRISTIE, late 50’s (male), is walking fast to catch up with JUNO, one of his two Jack Russell terriers (the other is Jasper) who has gotten out of her harness. Both JASPER and JUNO drag their leashes on the wet earth.  

Both MARY JANE and CHRISTIE wear gloves—CHRISTIE’s are surgical gloves.  CHRISTIE is also wearing a mask. MARY JANE leaves hers down—she only pulls it up when a stranger appears.

Beginning of May, still chilly and wet.

CHRISTIE: (About Juno.) Come on Jasper, help me get her.

MARY JANE: Did she go off?

CHRISTIE: Come on, Juno.  I’ve got to go get her. 

MARY JANE: Can you see her?

CHRISTIE:  Excuse, me I’ll be right back.

MARY JANE: I know someone who’s going to “prison.”

CHRISTIE:  Jasper, help me get her.

(Jasper runs with CHRISTIE to find Juno.)

MARY JANE: Lantern’s been a bad dog himself, running off.

CHRISTIE:  (Off.) Not too far.  Come on back, Juno.   Come  on.  Come back.  

(There is a clamor in the background.  Muted car horns and yells—shaking, pounding, rattling of kitchen utensils.)

CHRISTIE:  That’s it, that’s a good girl.  Thank you for listening.  That’s it.

MARY JANE: Lantern must be doing the loop.

CHRISTIE:  Let’s all go see Mary Jane.  Jasper, you come too.   (To MARY JANE.) Have they been sending people to the hospital ship?

MARY JANE: No, it was sent back—the ship wasn’t even half filled.  They were sending patients back to the nursing homes to infect others.

(Silence.)

CHRISTIE: (CHRISTIE makes a whooping sound for the hospital workers. About the clamor.) I think today’s Nurse Day.

MARY JANE: Nurse week.  Hello, Juno.

CHRISTIE:  (CHRISTIE gives another whoop, taking Juno to a tree branch.)  A sign was posted in our building about it.  I have to watch Juno because she can break out of her harness.

MARY JANE: Here she is.  Straight to “jail.”

CHRISTIE:  She was just like Dorothy, toodling down the yellow brick road. 

(Christie takes Juno to a tree branch of a fallen tree and loops the leash handle over it.)

MARY JANE: There’s one nurse, who walks her dog here in the woods.  She helped me, after I got out of the hospital seven years ago.  I had a sore on my back–I couldn’t reach it.  She came to my apartment and changed the bandage every other day,  so I wouldn’t have to go to a clinic.  She’s helping Covid patients now.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE: He’s been gone longer than fifteen minutes.  I don’t like it when he takes so long.

CHRISTIE:  (Calling.) Lantern! (To Jasper.)  Come on Jasper, stop bringing the ball to Mary Jane.  Bring it over here to me.

MARY JANE: I don’t mind.

CHRISTIE:  You might be tired of throwing it to him.

MARY JANE: What else would I be doing, since Juno’s been put in the “penitentiary”–and I don’t see Lantern? 

CHRISTIE:   (About Juno.) Juno was howling at something today.

MARY JANE: Probably critters.

CHRISTIE:   Junie, don’t pull on that harness too hard—she broke out of it on the way down here.

MARY JANE: (Calling.) Lantern!  His medication must be starting to work.

CHRISTIE: (Calling.)   Lantern! 

MARY JANE: This breed is supposed to live to fourteen years.  That’s why I bought him, because I knew he would be my last dog–but I don’t know if he’s going to make it much longer.  He’s eleven and a half.

CHRISTIE:   He gets his shots every two and a half weeks.

MARY JANE:  His arthritis is giving him a lot of pain.

(Silence.)

(CHRISTIE is playing fetch with Jasper.)

CHRISTIE:  (Recalling a previous conversation.) Wouldn’t the nurses be taxed anyway?

MARY JANE: Yes, in their own states, but this is in New York—we’re the ones who asked them to come help us. (Pause.) They should have protected the elderly first, but they didn’t know.  A 40-year-old can get over the symptoms in a few days.  

CHRISTIE: (Going to Junie, to look at her harness.) We’re going to have to get Junie a new harness—she can slip out of it, too.

MARY JANE: At my age if you wake up without something hurting you, you’re dead!

(CHRISTIE begins laughing.)

CHRISTIE: Did you hear about the llama?

MARY JANE: What was that about?  I saw something. In Belgium? 

CHRISTIE:  It’s this llama, in Belgium.   Named Winter.  In Ghent, Belgium.  She produces antibodies—two kinds of antibodies. 

MARY JANE:  I just saw the picture on the Web. Dark brown.

CHRISTIE:  Humans only have one antibody.   So this other one can stick to the virus.

MARY JANE:  I wondered why they were talking about a llama.

CHRISTIE:  This antibody gets into the spikes–you seen those pictures of the coronavirus? Those spikes?  And makes them . . . I guess it can wad up in there.

MARY JANE: At least they’re trying.

CHRISTIE:  Makes it less effective.  

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  I looked up that show.  It was first made as a movie in 1943, with Roddy McDowall.

CHRISTIE:   My Friend Flicka.

MARY JANE:  It only lasted a season in the late Fifties.

CHRISTIE:   I knew there had to be a serious horse show.

MARY JANE:  1957.

CHRISTIE:   Mr. Ed was more popular—it was comic.

MARY JANE: (Imitating Mr. Ed.) “Will-burr.”

CHRISTIE:   (Suddenly.)  You watch it, Jasper.  I saw you try to eat that poop—you’ll be next (to go to jail). You stop that, you hear me?

MARY JANE: The Post said that the number of deaths at Hebrew Home have been under-reported.

CHRISTIE:   When?

MARY JANE:  A friend sent it to me yesterday.  192 deaths.

CHRISTIE:  (Stunned.) I worked right there,

MARY JANE:  The highest in the state.

CHRISTIE:  Next to it.  Until March. 

MARY JANE:  I know.

CHRISTIE:  I didn’t hear about this.

MARY JANE: They were piling the corpses in the old retreat center.

CHRISTIE:  We know someone who works there.

MARY JANE:  Yes, from the dog run.  Her mother also lives there.  Ruff-Ruff’s owner.

CHRISTIE:  One of my students worked as a waiter there.

MARY JANE:  There are infections among the staff.  The paper said that.

CHRISTIE:  I think people from my church (also work there). 

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  I always used to, I was trying to pray.  I went to Catholic School with French nuns.  I looked up to them.  But I stopped. Something always seemed to be happening, so I didn’t pray anymore and never started again—and now things are so chaotic—and I can’t pray now.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  I’m afraid for people going into hospitals.  You go in and you might never come out.  Families can’t go to visit.  People are dying  and they’re alone. 

(Silence.)

CHRISTIE:  (Juno breaks out of her harness.) She broke out of her harness. She can snap the holder on the harness.  Juno you come back here.  I don’t want her running away.

MARY JANE:  Juno, you come back.

CHRISTIE:  (Suddenly.)  Don’t you run, Juno.  Junie, you come back here.  I don’t want her going down to the swamp.

(CHRISTIE runs after JUNO.)

MARY JANE:  You’re not going anywhere—you come back with us.

CHRISTIE:  Jasper, you stay here with me. 

(Juno is running off. Silence.)

CHRISTIE:  Come back, Junie.

MARY JANE:  She’s had enough of being tied up . . . 

CHRISTIE:  Come on back.  Don’t go anywhere. 

MARY JANE:  She’s tired . . . of everything . . .

CHRISTIE:  This leash comes off.  This leash comes off.  It slipped over her head.

MARY JANE:  . . . and the pandemic.  She sees what it’s doing.

(JUNO begins howling.)

CHRISTIE:  Stay right there.  That’s a good girl. I’ll come get you.

MARY JANE:   I’m glad an animal is helping us solve this.

(The howling gets louder.)

(End of Scene)

Copyright (c) 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. Photos: Winter, the llama, Straits Times; Jasper and Juno in “jail.”

LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES): “IN THE WOODS” (7) ·

By Bob Shuman

SCENE: In the woods. A small clearing, off a parking lot–hardly more than a triangle where two parallel felled logs act as benches.

MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on a log.  As at the dog run, using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with the dogs, primarily with her spaniel, LANTERN (who is missing at the beginning of this scene). CHRISTIE, late 50’s (male), stands, holding the leashes of his two Jack Russell terriers, JASPER and JUNO. He is wearing a mask, which itches, so he pulls it up and down on his face.  Chilly April. Both MARY JANE  and CHRISTIE wear gloves—CHRISTIE’s are surgical gloves.  MARY JANE does not wear a mask.

MARY JANE:  I’m usually on this bench or the next one over, and there’s another, after that, that I can still get to.

CHRISTIE:  (Joking, after a long walk with his dogs.)  Very . . . sylvan.  I just wish it didn’t take a helicopter to get here.

MARY JANE:  Lantern is reverting to his two-year-old self.  He disappears—and then I don’t see him again for half an hour.  It’s very frustrating.   He’s started ranging.

CHRISTIE:  I wondered where he went.  

MARY JANE:  After a while, he’ll come check to see if I’m still here and then go off again—usually dragging back some disgusting thing from the swamp.  (Pointing.)  It’s right down there.

(Pause.)

CHRISTIE:  Natan says the run should be open again in a few weeks. 

MARY JANE:  It will be longer than a few weeks.  More like two months, if they open it again at all.    

CHRISTIE:  Dogs can go without leashes at the park until 9:00 in the morning—I think the same thing happens at night. 

MARY JANE:  That doesn’t do me any good.

(Pause.)

MARY JANE:  (Zipping up her coat, because she is cold.) Doesn’t anyone know it’s April 22? Maybe the people  upstairs still think we’re in the middle of March, too.

(CHRISTIE drops his leashes and begins throwing a ball to Jasper.  He continues to hold JUNO’s leash, and she sits by him.)

CHRISTIE:  Jasper.  Don’t you go too far away.  I don’t want you going to the swamp.

MARY JANE: They can still ticket you here, if a dog isn’t on a leash—but what are they gonna tell me?  I can’t have one?

CHRISTIE: (Muttering.)  My wife will kill me.

MARY JANE:  If these dogs were left to go wild, we’d be seeing some serious food.  

CHRISTIE: (Joking.)  Squirrel.  Rabbit.

MARY JANE:  Chipmunks. 

(Pause.)

CHRISTIE:  (Surveying.) I wondered where you took Lantern (during the last week).

MARY JANE: I used to walk here all the time when I was younger.   The only problem is it gets really dark at 7:30—all of a sudden it’s pitch black.  

CHRISTIE: Come on back, Jasper.  Don’t you go over there.

(Jasper trots back to CHRISTIE.)

MARY JANE:   I’m going to have to get Lantern an e-collar to shock him, when he goes too far, like when he was little.  I’ve been putting off ordering it. (Pause, noticing one of the dogs.Hello, Juno.

CHRISTIE:  Welcome to the Bronx.  Epicenter of the coronavirus in the city.

MARY JANE:  And the state–and the country.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  Are they going to give you your job?

CHRISTIE:  Six are enrolled and they need eight to run the course.  Not having enough students in the winter was a blessing in disguise because I would have been taking five mass transit buses a day, back and forth to White Plains.

MARY JANE:  (Meaning the virus.) You would have gotten it.

CHRISTIE:  We’re lucky we don’t live farther south now. (About Jasper.) He still wants to put the ball between my feet.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE: I was watching Dark Victory, with Bette Davis last night. 

CHRISTIE: I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen it.  This mask is really itchy.

MARY JANE: That’s the way I want to go.  Three months.  Won’t be painful. She lies down on the bed–and dies.  Nice and neat.  

CHRISTIE: I should really see that.

MARY JANE: (Mary JANE is interested in the Spanish flu)   With the Spanish flu, they turned blue. Lungs filled with fluid.  Wilson didn’t do anything.  He wasn’t expected to. The only thing good about it was that you went fast. Twenty-hour hours.  But then people stopped researching it when it was over.  Let me see what time it is. (MARY JANE checks her phone.)   7:08.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  People don’t understand how much stress there is.  I was cooking dinner and when I was cleaning up I accidentally turned on the gas on the stove.  My next-door neighbor came over to see if I smelled anything. I had fallen asleep. I’ve never done that in my life.  Then I did it again the next night.  I’d been out with Lantern. Now the Super is at my door.  He thought I was trying to commit suicide.

(Silence.)

(Suddenly, Lantern rushes in carrying something in his mouth and drops it near MARY JANE.  Overlapping: )     

MARY JANE: Oh, my God.                                CHRISTIE: Jesus        

 

MARY JANE: What does he have?         CHRISTIE: That is so gross.

 

(Pause.)    

 

MARY JANE: It’s a bat.                           CHRISTIE: It’s a banana.

 

MARY JANE :  Bird’s wing.                 CHRISTIE: Piece of rotting meat.          

MARY JANE:  It’s a scalp! (Upset.) Get it away.  Get it away from me.   Christie, take it away.  Get it out.

(End of Scene)

Copyright (c) 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES): “AT THE DOG PARK” (6) ·

By Bob Shuman

SCENE: A dog park in the Bronx. 

NARRATOR:  As Mary Jane suspected, the dog park was closed, on 4/6/2020, along with all runs throughout the city.  Fearing Coronavirus infection, and a fine of one thousand dollars, if caught keeping a social distance of less than six feet from one another, people, out of home isolation, seemed to act silently and in slow motion. The public pathways, where Juno and Jasper were taken, were often uncrowded, especially in the April mists and rains, although this could change when there was sun.  Lantern was glimpsed, one morning, looking out a back window, rolled down, as Mary Jane’s car drove by the elementary school and slippery fallen magnolia blossoms, heading south. In the afternoons, Christie walked his dogs by the Hudson, and he recalled a little-known, sometime playwright of the archaic, who had composed, years before, a one-act on themes similar to those voiced now, during the pandemic.

 

TRAVELERS

 Based on and adapted from Shakespeare and Boccaccio, a companion piece to As You Like It

 

CHARACTERS:

DUKE SENIOR: His royal’s possessions included land in the Ardennes, where, after being exiled, he now lives in dense woods. (50’s) 

JAQUES:  A melancholy lord and follower of Duke Senior. (40’s)

FORESTER I:  A lord and follower of Duke Senior. (30’s)

FORESTER II:  Another of Duke Senior’s men. (40’s)

TOUCHSTONE:  A court fool of Duke Frederick, brother of Duke Senior.  The clown followed Rosalind and Celia to the Forest of Arden after banishment, although he knows little of country ways. (20’s)

AUDREY:  An unsophisticated country wench. (20’s)

MARTEXT:  A country vicar. (50’s)

The forest setting includes rough-hewn benches and a table—a stone ring to make a fire.

Suggestion for introductory music: Huun Huur Tu “Sixty Horses in My Herd.”

 

 

SETTING:  In the forest.

PLACE: Duke Senior’s encampment.

TIME: The plague years.

 

AT RISE: DUKE SENIOR and MEN are putting out a fire, preparing to hunt deer.  JAQUES enters with excitement.

 

JAQUES:

(Entering.) A fool, a fool!  I met a fool I’ the forest.

 

FORESTER I:

(About Jaques.) Must herbs need.

 

JAQUES:

A motley fool; a miserable—

 

FORESTER II:

Valerian.

 

HUNTER I:

Will only make him more melancholy.

 

JAQUES:

Drawing a dial from his poke.  And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye—

 

FORESTER I:

Perhaps saffron and . . . eye of newt.

 

JAQUES:

It’s ten o’clock says the fool very wisely; Thus we may see, ‘quoth he, ‘how the world wags; ‘tis but an hour ago since it was nine—

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Without jerkin?

 

JAQUES:

Without gabardine.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Next to venison?

 

JAQUES:

On its path.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Come shall be retrieved.

 

JAQUES:

And after one hour more ’twill be eleven, he says . . .

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Perhaps shall we see your clown.

 

JAQUES:

And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot.

 

(JAQUES laughs. Silence. A note of sadness—the joke is not as funny as Jaques intended.)

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Dost think that jocund?

 

JAQUES:

More there was.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Doth not of patched amusement seem.

 

JAQUES:

If ladies be but young and fair, They have the gift to know it.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

‘Tis better.

 

JAQUES:

And hereby hangs a tale.

 

DUKES SENIOR:

(Ignoring.)  Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile . . .

 

JAQUES:

I am ambitious for a motley coat.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Then you shall have it.

 

JAQUES:

I thought thou wouldst delight.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(Returning to his speech.) Old custom hast made this life sweeter than painted pomp.

 

JAQUES:

(Thinking of the clown.) Oh, worthy fool.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?

 

JAQUES:

As I do live by food.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Like Robin of old England, who ’tis said we live like . . .

 

JAQUES:

Motley’s the only wear.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

From the rich he steals–givest to the poor.

 

JAQUES:

Grant me leave To speak my mind, and I will through and through Cleanse the foul body of the’infected world.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(Noticing that JAQUES has not been paying attention.) I can tell what thou wouldst do.

 

JAQUES:

If they will patiently receive my medicine.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Fie on thee!

 

JAQUES:

To expose the hypocrisy of the world.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Most mischievous foul sin, in chiding sin.

 

JAQUES:

Why, who cries out on pride? 

 

DUKE SENIOR:

If you cans’t earn your keep and help our endeavor instead of souring.

 

JAQUES:

That can therein tax any private party?

 

DUKE SENIOR:

There are spies from the court!

 

(Silence.)

 

JAQUES:

He is but a coxcomb, my lord.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Something more than that.

 

JAQUES:

A merry man of the woods.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Thinkest he hast no objective?

 

JAQUES:

To give mirth.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

For thyself has been a libertine. As sensual as the brutish sting itself; And all th’embossed sores and headed evils.

 

JAQUES:

(About himself.) Hast been a traveler.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(About Touchstone.) When you have robbed him, pillaged for our company, shall you find him and strip his clothes as demonstration!

 

(Silence.)

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Come, shall we go shoot us venison?

 

FORESTERS:

Yes, my Lord.

(Silence.)

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(Waving negative thoughts away, as he exits.) It irks me the poor dapple fools being native burghers of this desert city should in their own confine with forked head Have their round haunches gored.

 

(DUKE and HUNTERS exit.)

 

(Silence.)

 

JAQUES:

(Thinking of the deer that has been felled earlier.) Poor deer, thou makest a testament as worldlings do, giving thy sum of more to that which had too much.

 

(ROSALIND enters as a man, as if from a dream.)

 

ROSALIND:

They say you are a melancholy fellow.

 

JAQUES:

I am so.  I do love it better than laughing.

 

ROSALI ND:

Those that are in extremity of either are abominable fellows, and betray themselves to every modern censure worse than drunkard.

 

JAQUES:

Why, ‘tis good to be sad and say nothing.

 

ROSALIND:

Why then, ‘is good to be a post.

 

JAQUES:

‘Tis a melancholy of mine own, composed of many simples, extracted from many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplations of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.

 

(Pause.)

 

ROSALIND:

Have you perpended tranquil canals in soft-hued Venice?

 

JAQUES:

Death.

 

ROSALIND:

The stately Nile on her course from south to north?

 

JAQUES:

Styx.

 

ROSALIND:

Woulds’t swim through the threadlike Hellespont?

 

JAQUES:

Drown.

(Silence.)

 

JAQUES:

Did’st not see the years wane, or calculate the height of waves.  Yet plagues I’ve seen . . . a pestilence so powerful that it attacked robust and vigorous strength–the way dry or oil close to fire will catch aflame.  Was’t living among the dead but dids’t not recognize it . . .  Just from the touching the clothes of those of the sick or anything felt or used by them.

 

ROSALIND:

(To herself.) Must pray harder think I often, if knowest how to.

 

JAQUES:

Fear filled us so complete that no one cared about the other.   Dost thou know what it’s like to in terror quake?—no, thou are still too young.  Brother abandoning brother, uncle abandoning  nephew, sister left brother and very often wife abandoning husband, and—even worse, almost unbelievable—father and mother neglecting to tend and care for their children, as if they were not their own.

 

ROSALIND:

You have great reason to be sad.

 

JAQUES:

Yes, I have gain’d my experience, boy.

 

ROSALIND:

I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s; then to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.

 

JAQUES:

I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s which is politic; nor the lad’s which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these.

 

(ROSALIND has exited; TOUCHSTONE enters.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Come apace, good Audrey; I will fetch up our goats, Audrey.  And how, Audrey, am I the man yet?  Doth my simple feature content you?

 

JAQUES:

Shh, shh.  The jig-maker.  It is him.   (Jaques believes that Rosalind is still nearby.)

 

AUDREY:

Your features! Lord warrant us! What features!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I am here with thee and thy goats, as the most capricious poet, honest Ovid, was among the Goths.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) O knowledge ill-inhabited, worse than Jove in a thatched house!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward child Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room. Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical.

 

AUDREY:

I do not know what ‘poetical’ is: is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, truly; for the truest poetry is the most feigning; and lovers are given to poetry, and what they swear in poetry may be said as lovers they do feign.

 

AUDREY:

Do you wish then that the gods had made me poetical?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I do, truly; for thou swearest to me thou art honest: now, if thou wert a poet, I might have some hope thou didst feign.

 

AUDREY:

Would you not have me honest?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, truly, unless thou wert hard-favoured; for honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) A material fool!

 

AUDREY:

Well, I am not fair; and therefore I pray the gods make me honest.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Truly, and to cast away honesty upon a foul slut were to put good meat into an unclean dish.

 

AUDREY:

I am not a slut, though I thank the gods I am foul.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Well, praised be the gods for thy foulness!  Sluttishness may come hereafter. But be it as it may be, I will marry thee, and to that end I have been with Sir Oliver Martext, the vicar of the next village, who hath promised to meet me in this place
of the forest and to couple us.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) I would fain see this meeting.

 

AUDREY:

Well, the gods give us joy!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Amen. A man may, if he were of a fearful heart, stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) I must have liberty withal, as large a charter as the wind, To blow on whom I please, for so fools have.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

But what though? Courage!

 

JAQUES:

They that are most galled with my folly.  They most must laugh.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

As horns are odious, they are necessary. It is said, ‘many a man knows no end of
his goods:’ right; many a man has good horns, and knows no end of them.

 

JAQUES:

He that a fool doth very wisely hit Doth very foolishly, although he smart,

Not to seem senseless of the bob.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Well, that is the dowry of his wife; ’tis none of his own getting. Horns?
Even so.

 

JAQUES:

If not, The wise man’s folly is anatomized

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Poor men alone?

 

JAQUES:

Even by the squand’ring glances of the fool.  Invest me in my motley.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, no; the noblest deer hath them as huge as the rascal. Is the single man
therefore blessed?

 

JAQUES:

By how much defence is better than no skill, by so much is a horn more precious than to want.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No: as a walled town is more worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a
married man more honourable than the bare brow of a bachelor; Here comes Sir Oliver.

 

JAQUES:

Doth pride not flow as hugely as the sea Till that the wearer’s very means do ebb?

(SIR OLIVER MARTEXTenters.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Sir Oliver Martext, you are well met:

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.)What woman in the city do I name When that I say the city-woman bears

The cost of princes on unworthy shoulders?  Who can come in and say that I mean her. . . .

 

TOUCHSTONE:

(To Martext.) Will you dispatch us here under this tree, or shall we go with you to

your chapel?

 

JAQUES:

When such a one as she such is her neighbor? Or what is he of basest function That savest his bravery is not on my cost, Thinking that I mean him—But therein suits his folly to the mettle of my speech?

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

Is there none here to give the woman?

 

JAQUES:

Then he hath wron’d himself; if he will be free.

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

There then!  How then?  What then?  Let me see where in

My tongues hath wrong’d him: if it do him right

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I will not take her on gift of any man.

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

Truly, she must be given, or the marriage is not lawful.

 

JAQUES:

(Advancing.)  Proceed, proceed I’ll give her.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Good even, good Master What-ye-call’t: how do you,  sir? You are very well met: God ‘ild you for your last company: I am very glad to see you: even a
toy in hand here, sir: nay, pray be covered.

 

JAQUES:

Will you be married, motley?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling.

 

JAQUES:

And will you, being a man of your breeding, be married under a bush like a beggar? Methinks you’re more than that.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

(Aside, but AUDREY overhears.) I am not in the mind but I were better to be
married of him than of another: for he is not like to marry me well; and not being well married, it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife.

 

JAQUES:

Dost not intend to stay?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Now am I in Arden; the more fool I; when I was at home I was in a better place.

 

JAQUES:

This fellow will but join you together as they join wainscot; then one of you will
prove a shrunk panel and, like green timber, warp, warp.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

By my troth, we that have good wits have much to answer for.

 

JAQUES:

Go thou with me, and let me counsel thee.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

‘Come, sweet Audrey: We must be married, or we must live in bawdry.
Farewell, good Master Oliver: not,– O sweet Oliver, O brave Oliver,
Leave me not behind thee: but,– Wind away, Begone, I say, I will not to wedding with thee.

(Exit AUDREY.)

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

‘Tis no matter: ne’er a fantastical knave of them
all shall flout me out of my calling.

(MARTEXT exits.)

 

JAQUES:

Brazen enough to wear motley among bumpkins?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

My weeds, sir.

 

JAQUES:

Think they wouldst not suspect thine purpose?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

To be married.

 

JAQUES:

Wilt see the duke again?

 

(Silence.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Doth thou know him?

 

JAQUES:

What wilt thou tell him of a rustic’s life?

 

 

TOUCHSTONE:

If thou never wast at court thou never saw’st good manners; if thou never saw’st good manners, than thy manners must be wicked; and wickedness is sin, and sin is damnation.  Thou art in a parlous state.

 

JAQUES:

Why wouldst examine?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

It is a good life, in respect of itself; but in respect that it is a shepard’s life, it is nought.  In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life.

 

JAQUES:

Must be companion to others from the court.

 

(Silence.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Come Audrey, let us make an honorable retreat.

 

(But AUDREY is gone.)

 

JAQUES:

Are you not solitary?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Single, to this day.

 

JAQUES:

A base, countryman and wife.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Am here to wed.

 

JAQUES:

Courtiers in disguise.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Wouldst not presume–

 

JAQUES:

Methinks you know something more.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Nothing, Sir.

 

JAQUES:

Know thou the look of informants?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I’m looking for naught.

 

JAQUES:

What does the Duke want?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I know not.

 

JAQUES:

Hey, fool?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

He wants his duchy peaceable.

 

JAQUES:

You know then.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

What else could he want?

 

JAQUES:

More!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I know not more, I tell thee.

 

JAQUES:

Hast betrayed thyself.

 

(Jaques attacks Touchstone, tearing off his clothes.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, sirrah.

 

JAQUES:

Live to be watched, not live to be free. Canst not tell woman from man?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Thinkest so, Lord.

 

JAQUES:

Think we’re daft?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Players is all.

 

JAQUES:

Spies.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Conceit in lusting spring.

 

JAQUES:

Shalt show thine major-domo?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Nothing is wrongly done.

 

JAQUES:

Give me thine garb.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

We’re travellers.  Travelers– young.

 

JAQUES:

Then thou shalt know the cost.

 

(Touchstone has been stripped naked, exhausted.)

 

(JAQUES flees with the clown’s clothes.)

 

(END OF SCENE)

(“Travelers”: (c) Copyright 2016  by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. This free adaptation of As You Like It includes material from Shakespeare and Boccaccio’s Decameron.

(c) 2016, 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES): “AT THE DOG PARK” 4 ·

(Photo of Jasper)

SCENE: A dog park in the Bronx.  Today, it is warmer—and there is sun.  

(MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on a bench in the dog park. Using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with her spaniel, LANTERN. Today, CHRISTIE (male), late 50’s, is standing at the beginning of the scene, but because of social distancing, he will be sitting on a second bench in this part of the run. JUNO and JASPER are CHRISTIE’s two Jack Russell terriers.)                        

(LANTERN is digging a hole to lie in; JUNO and JASPER are at the far end of the run.)

 

MARY JANE:  What are these dogs eating? Mud?

CHRISTIE:  Jasper you come over here!

MARY JANE:  What are they eating? Lantern was eating mud yesterday.

CHRISTIE:  You come over here, Jasper.  You, too, Junie.

MARY JANE:   I don’t mind if he eats a little mud.

CHRISTIE: (Suspecting Jasper is going to eat poop.)  Jasper, you get away from there.  

MARY JANE:   If he’s eating a lot of it, I care.  Is it poop?

CHRISTIE: I don’t know what it is.

MARY JANE: (Standing.)   I’ve heard about a powder for dogs who eat their own poop—makes it taste bad and they stop. But that wouldn’t help your dogs, because they eat other dogs’ poop.

CHRISTIE: Probably mud. (CHRISTIE kicks the ground where Jasper has been.)

MARY JANE:  (About a small piece of dog poop on the ground.) See, that’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t normally pick up.

(CHRISTIE picks it up anyway.)

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  Uh-oh.  Lantern’s going. (Lantern is pooping.)

CHRISTIE: (Moving straight into action.) JASPER!

MARY JANE:  Do you have a bag?

CHRISTIE: I have a bag. (Chasing Jasper.) No!

MARY JANE:  Come on, Jasper, you come up here by me.

CHRISTIE: (Yelling at Jasper, running after him, trying to get him away from the poop.) Drop it! You drop that! You drop that! You drop that, Jasper!  Drop that.

(Pause. JASPER does not listen.)

MARY JANE:  Did he get it?

CHRISTIE: I don’t think so.  Junie, you get up there, too.

(Silence.  CHRISTIE cleans up LANTERN’s poop.  JUNO sits by Mary Jane.)

MARY JANE:  Thank you for picking it up.

CHRISTIE: No problem.

MARY JANE:  I don’t think he’ll go again, but you never know–he’s been going a lot lately.

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.)  No eating.  You know full well you’re not supposed to be eating that!  The last thing I need is a sick little dog.

(LANTERNsettles down with his ball and begins “woofing” seven or eight times.)

MARY JANE:  (About the barking.) Lantern.  Stop being so loud!

(MARY JANE coughs and uses her launcher to play fetch.)

MARY JANE:  I’ve been coughing for four weeks. (since) March 1.  I take my temperature every day—I’ve never had one.  Cuomo says this is going to peak in 21 days—he changed it from 45. 

(Pause.)

CHRISTIE: Prince Charles has Caronavirus. (CHRISTIE is throwing balls to the dogs, as well.)

MARY JANE:  He does?  That must have just happened.  I listen to the news when I’m getting ready in the morning.   

CHRISTIE: Junie, don’t you go down there.  I don’t want you eating mud. 

MARY JANE:  A lot of people around here say they’ve already had Coronavirus. Coughing, headaches, sniffling, diarrhea, they’ve been doing that all winter. They have chapped hands from washing so much.   They need to put hand cream in the bathroom, and use it. If not, they’ll forget. 

(Pause.)

MARY JANE:  This cold I have–I think it saved my life. My friend Jerome tested positive—after waiting two weeks to receive the results. He texted me he’s getting better, but he’s still in quarantine.  If I didn’t have this (cold) Jerome and I would have been going out a few times a week. He has money, doesn’t mind paying. Getting lunch at Smashburger, riding up to Dobbs Ferry for drinks on the water. I would have gotten it. 

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  Jasper always puts the ball between feet, like croquet.  Lantern learned that from him. Now he does it too.  Is it the game called croquet where they aim the ball through a (she curves her arms and hands.

CHRISTIE:  (Seeing that JASPER has done this to CHRISTIE’s feet.) Yes.  Croquet.

MARY JANE:  (To LANTERN.) Now you want the orange ball.

CHRISTIE:  I don’t know what this is.  Last week everybody wanted the green ball.  Now it has to be orange.

MARY JANE:  (Lantern’s coloring is orange.) An orange ball for an orange dog.

CHRISTIE:  Trends can change at a moment’s notice.  Turn on a dime.  Everyone was fine with the green bacon ball until 11:17 this morning.  Then you couldn’t give it away. They got tired of it. No one will touch it. 

MARY JANE:  More and more I notice Lantern doesn’t like me leaving him.

CHRISTIE:  (Still talking about balls for dogs.) Jasper won’t even pick it up. Look at him. It’s right next to him. 

MARY JANE:  (About LANTERN.) He gets restless at night, can’t make himself comfortable.  Doesn’t want to be petted very long—and only when he’s lying down.  

CHRISTIE:  Lantern never likes to be petted.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  He has arthritis of the spine. He’s getting old fast.  He’ll be my last dog. He’s already eleven. 

(Pause.)

MARY JANE:  Uh-oh.

CHRISTIE:  (Yelling at Jasper, running after him, trying to get him away from the poop.) Drop it! You drop that! You drop that! You drop that!

MARY JANE:  Do you have a bag?

CHRISTIE:   (Running to pick up poop.) How long do you say you’ve been doing this?

MARY JANE:  I’ve had dogs since I was sixteen.  That’s when my father felt he could trust me to take care of one–when I wouldn’t mind cleaning up after them and taking them outside.  But I wanted one longer than that—I have the dog gene.

(End)

(c) 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES) “AT THE DOG PARK”3 ·

By Bob Shuman

SCENE: A wet dog park in the Bronx.  

(MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on a bench in the dog run. Using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with her spaniel, Lantern—although CHRISTIE (male), late 50’s, is throwing most of the balls today (to LANTERN and one of CHRISTIE’S two Jack Russell terriers, JASPER. The other, JUNO, sits on the ground near MARY JANE. ) 

CHRISTIE: Come on, Lantern, come back.  Don’t go down so far.

MARY JANE: Lantern, come back.

CHRISTIE: Jasper got it.

MARY JANE: He knows not to go very far when I’m throwing the ball!

CHRISTIE: (To Lantern.)  I’m trying to get it to you.

MARY JANE: I used to think he was smart.

CHRISTIE: I can’t throw it that far.

MARY JANE: Lantern, Christie’s wearing two pairs of gloves and has the ball in a plastic bag!

CHRISTIE: He missed it.

(Silence.)

CHRISTIE: Lantern, come back this way.

MARY JANE: A hospital ship is being sent to the East Coast.

CHRISTIE: (Explaining to Lantern.) Jasper will intercept it if you go too far downfield.

MARY JANE: Another one is going to the West Coast.

CHRISTIE:  I don’t have the arm for that.

MARY JANE: The problem is they only have 5,000 ventilators in New York.

CHRISTIE: How many do they need?

MARY JANE: 30,000.

(Pause.)

MARY JANE: Do they give one to the 40-year-old—or do I get it, with underlying conditions?

(Silence.)

CHRISTIE: (To Lantern.) Stay up here.

MARY JANE:  It used to be a disease would wipe out segments of the population—but we’re not used to that.  We got too smart in eradicating disease.

CHRISTIE: (To Lantern.) Forget it, Lantern—I’m not a professional quarterback!

MARY JANE: They were looking at the people who died in Italy.  The largest group had cases in the elderly population with three or four underlying conditions.  The second group had two–

CHRISTIE:  It’s like fires out West.

MARY JANE: Exactly. 

(The dogs suddenly begin to bark at children outside the fence.)

CHRISTIE: (To the dogs.) That’s enough, that’s enough. (About the dogs, to the children.

MARY JANE:  Lantern, stop barking.   

CHRISTIE: (To the children and nanny.) They’re just saying good morning.

MARY JANE: All the children are off from school.

CHRISTIE: (To the children, about the dogs.) They’re just saying hello.  You don’t have to be scared of them.  They’re just big talkers.

(The nanny and children move on and the dogs stop barking. Silence.)

MARY JANE: How is your son?

CHRISTIE: Still in Edinburgh. Going on lockdown.  He doesn’t want to come home. Says it’s as bad over here as it is there.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE: You know in Venice, without all the tourists there, the canals are like glass.  Crystal clear. Blue. You can see all the way to the bottom.

CHRISTIE: Lantern, you got the ball!

(End)

(C) Copyright 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES): “AT THE DOG PARK” (2) ·

By Bob Shuman

SCENE: A dog park in the Bronx. There are two benches. The first is near the entrance to the run—the second it toward the opposite end.

MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on one side of the second bench in the dog run. Using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with her spaniel, LANTERN. CHRISTIE, late 50’s, is sitting on the far side of the bench and throwing a ball to one of his two terriers—the other dog sits near MARY JANE. A sunny day)

CHRISTIE: (Calling, to one of his dogs.) Come on Jasper, stop taking Lantern’s ball.

MARY JANE: What to do? I wait for this all year long–I’m not sure if  anything will change by May or June. 

CHRISTIE: I saw, on the Web, that the worst should be over by the end of  April–not that it might not recur . . .

MARY JANE: I get the same ABT tickets in the parterre–with my friend.

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.) You have your own ball! Leave Lantern’s alone! (CHRISTIE stands.) Come on Jasper, put the ball over here!

MARY JANE: That’s all right. Just leave him. He’ll put it down when he’s ready.

CHRISTIE: Jasper!

(Jasper finally puts down the ball.)

MARY JANE: I told you. He always puts down the ball if you leave him alone.

CHRISTIE: Natan said we should just nuke New Rochelle—then our problems would be solved.

MARY JANE: And cancel 2020.

CHRISTIE: That will get rid of corona virus.

MARY JANE: The National Guard is taking food and medical supplies to the elderly.

CHRISTIE: How far away is New Rochelle? I’ve never been there.

MARY JANE: Depends on where you’re going. New Rochelle is a big place. Six schools. Two closed. Twenty-five minutes, maybe. That’s where my vet is and where I get my car repaired. We used to go to New Rochelle for the best pizza.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE: They closed Fordham. Columbia.

CHRISTIE: Saint Xavier. Courses go online Thursday.

MARY JANE: Was anyone at the school found to be infected?

CHRISTIE: Three.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE: What does that mean for you?

CHRISTIE: I can’t tutor because you have to work with the student face to face. (Pause.) They’re going on spring break anyway—it doesn’t matter.

(Pause. We hear the entry gate open and close. A small black and white dog, like on the old RCA records comes up to CHRISTIE—and he lightly begins petting the dog.)

CHRISTIE: (Changing the subject.) At least the weather’s better. That would stop the virus. That’s what happens with the flu. Knock it out. One of the workmen in our building said: “You want some Coronas? I got some.”

(Silence. CHRISTIE stops petting the dog.)

MARY JANE: (Speaking quietly.) You know Natan?

CHRISTIE: (Not hearing.) What?

MARY JANE: You see that man over there?

CHRISTIE: (To one of the terriers.) Come on Jasper—you can let Lantern have his own ball.

MARY JANE: He lives in Natan’s building.

CHRISTIE: Why is he holding a white handkerchief in front of his face?

MARY JANE: Natan often knows things about people.

CHRISTIE: (Throwing a ball.) The New Rochelle line was only a joke, you know that, right? I never know if people take things the wrong way. (Looking over at the man.) Maybe that guy is sick.

MARY JANE: His son is in quarantine.

(Silence.)

CHRISTIE: I was just petting his dog–lightly on top.

MARY JANE: Can you get it from animals?

(Pause.)

CHRISTIE: I don’t know.

MARY JANE: He seems sick. (The man is blowing his nose.)

CHRISTIE: I don’t want to wait to find out.

(The dog jumps up on the bench.)

CHRISTIE: I think I’m going to go in the other run.

MARY JANE: I’ve never gotten along with him. He takes up too much of a bench.

CHRISTIE: I want to wash my hands.

MARY JANE: I’m going to the doctor in a few minutes.

CHRISTIE: Let’s get out of here.

MARY JANE: (Suddenly.) Lantern! We’re leaving!

(End)

(C) Copyright 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.