Exchange Me for a Goat.

We walk into our cluttered downtown core, looking for shoes. E. is one of my best friends, we've known each other for the better part of a decade, and we're an unlikely pair to be seen shopping together. E. is fashionable and lovely and bright, I'm dour and clumsy and funky. There is great affection between us both.

We haven't seen each other in nearly a year, and we both agree this is frankly untenable. We amble along, exclaiming at the proliferation of silly hats and the sad disappearance of legendary establishments. I teach her how to tie a bow tie. She helps me find a sash for Othello.

I'm looking for boots. Dark crimson, 14-eye boots with which I could strike out into the wilderness, or drive Library trucks, or storm the hills on my bike. We find some near misses, but nothing quite right.

She's looking for sneakers. E. is remarkably adept at narrowing the wide panoply of colors and prices and fashions and qualities into a single, magical pair of sneakers, that would serve equally well in her running kit and her party dress. We ramble for hours, over beers and tater tots, hashing our love lives and work anxieties and the general dross of being grown-ups. And eventually, fitfully, I come around to my worries about Othello.

E. quietly encourages me out of my moping, desultory mood. "'Othello' will be great," she says, "even if it isn't."

My friend the playwright S. echoes this same advice. "It is impossible for you to fail because it's impossible for you to succeed." He agrees with all of my reservations, my anxieties, my insecurities. "Of course you're too young. Of course you're too inexperienced. What better way to gain what you lack than by doing it?"

S. and I are sitting on a bench outside of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream store on Hawthorne, near where I live. S. is dressed in black, with a black-banded straw hat, rather like a post-modern G. K. Chesterton complete with umbrella-(sword?)-stick. I'm in my cycling kit with my lightning-streaked helmet and my REI knickerbockers.

We're talking about Kurosawa films, and how the only "concept" productions of Shakespeare plays that have ever been notably successful have been the samurai-zations of King Lear and Macbeth, that are 'Ran' and 'Throne of Blood', respectively. Since they could not directly render iambic pentameter into Japanese, Kurosawa's ideas and visions about those plays were liberated into the dynamic, thrilling, violent, frenzied films that they became. They are not definitive productions--indeed, they are more properly sui generis works than they are versions of Shakespeare. But they are entirely worthwhile in their own right.

And it brings me around to reaffirming that my interpretation of Othello will only succeed by embracing the fact that I am not what I am (a la Iago). Theatre liberates the artist by frankly embracing other identities, and it is the magical paradox of being and not being, both at once, which most inspires and catalyzes everyone's imaginations, artist and audience alike.

We're opening tonight. The weather threatens everything. There is much that I'm nervous about. Ain't nothing to it, just to do it, rocking and rolling, roller-coasting, stepping on out on the good foot.

You're all invited, front row seats, compliments of the house.




Anonymous said...

oh Paul. OOOOOOhhhhhhh Paul.

paulmonster said...


Anonymous said...


Paaaaaaaaauuuuuuuulllllllllllllllll you're just so...

Anonymous said...

Your friend the playwright S.? Interesting. Why not seek the counsel of fellow actors before seeking that of your friend, the, um playwright, um S? Just curious.

racer X said...

Duh. Because he's really a writer who occasionally acts, as opposed to an actor who occasionally writes. One can do both I grant you, but come on, look at this blog. He has a BLOG. How many working actors do you know that have these things? His work in the theatre is like his travels; it's primary source material (experience) about which to write. He just hasn't come to terms with himself yet, but hey, how many people his age do? There's nothing wrong with it, anonymous.

paulmonster said...

Moaning Anonymous:


Curious Anonymous:

I did seek the counsel of fellow actors before seeking that of my friend. I simply chose not to blog about it.

Racer X: I know some actors who write. I know some writers who act. Why, when I was your age, actor/writers were all over creation. This was before they had any of that newfangled running water, mind you...

racer X said...

It's not nice to tease a lady about her age. Only my husband gets to do that! FYI: An elder is some one to respect and listen to -- food for thought. And while it's been over 20 years since my Lady M., I think I still my views may be of service to you.

Good luck with your work as an actor. It it may behoove you to pay serious attention to to your obviously overrriding drive to write. Life is short, and while I can't speak to your acting, you talent for writing is apparent. Mamet acted for a long time before he figured out he should focus on writing, and the world was thankful when he did. Again, just food for thought.

Anonymous said...

That you instinctively value the opinion of a playwright/theatre critic above that of actors (at least enough to choose to write about it) should speak volumes to you, paulmonster. True colors and such. Think about it.

And racer X - I did not say there was anything wrong with it. In fact I didn't say anything about it all. But I think you're probably write. (Get it? Har har.)

paulmonster said...

Racer X--
Sorry, I didn't mean to rail too pointedly on the matter. No offense meant. Brashness of youth, and all that. Thank you for your compliments; I do take writing very seriously, it is the most direct of the disciplines available to me and it means very much that you and others speak so highly of it.

In light of your comments, I would have very much liked to have seen your Lady M. Again, thanks.

Likewise, I appreciate the encomium heaping around my writing. I must apologize for being far too defensive to all commmenters lately... if I could just figure out what all that moaning is about... I suppose I mentioned my friend S' advice firstly because it hit home more succinctly than anyone else's. Oftentimes--especially around here lately--I find myself bristling and wilting like the (thorny) pansy I wish I weren't, and the understanding and patience demonstrated by such trusted friends as S becomes that much more treasured, in my eyes. Hence, the urge to write about it.

All this to say that there's always a lot more to it than what I have the wherewithal to put up here. And I very much appreciate your views, as you see fit to tell me of them, since all of these perspectives (except for maybe the moaning one) helps me to explore and understand this strange, strange archipelago I'm still navigating.