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.