rooks are for pansies

Backstage, I have a small camp set up, with my letter-writing implements, my small stack of books, my script crammed with post-it notes, my first aid kit, my boot polish kit, and my thermos of tea. From time to time actors exit offstage and into a Green Room absolutely transfixed by an ongoing chess game, usually between myself and one of the more ambitious and cerebral actors on the cast.

I think actors make natural chess players. We of the west are trained to think in terms of these abstract gestures, these physicalized manifestations of objectives and intentions. It hearkens back to a (by now) outmoded conception of theatre as primarily pscychological; but at the same time I see a transcending experience of the abstract made manifest, and of the deliberate, cultivated virtues and skills which make for extremely adept and effective performers of whatever theatre discipline. In chess, there's a creeping fascination to the tension deliciously turning upon a single, deft move. An entire world plays out between two focused minds, two people silently sparring with a vicious elegance.

There has been much tension in these technical rehearsals, as is usually the case. Things go wrong, almost as a matter of course. Our cast has numbers and an irrepressible temperament on our side, but after the eleventh and twelfth hour things must fall apart, as a matter of course, and nothing can kill a joke like a roomful of repetitive actors. Yes, even cleavage jokes get old.

During one of the several long pauses onstage, while techies furiously worked to resolve recurring glitches in their gear, I wandered upstairs and found an access ladder onto the roof of the building--obviously somewhere I'm really not supposed to go. Outside, Portland was blazing with tremendous rainclouds glowing in the setting sun, and rain backlit by the shining river and the walls and overpasses reflecting the sky's warmth. Two successive rainbows arched around and above us. The dark rainclouds offset the shining windows and the lush green of the trees. Mist was rising off the streets and the tar-paper roofs.

I don't know that this sour, misanthropic mood (which has kept me from posting and generally hounds me away from my fellow humans) will lift anytime soon. But so long as moments like that keep coming, I am well content.



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