Friday, December 17, 2010

24. The script (a fragment). } A Black Masque

A few posts back I wrote about a script handed to me by an actress who’d been bloodied at an audition (?). After I finally read it (as I obliquely implied I had in post 21), I found myself troubled by it. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so had it not been for my encounter with it. That is to say, if I’d come across it in a book, it might have seemed weird and no more, but the deliberate (?) way it was given me, and where and when… it has haunted me. Regrettably, I haven’t the time to transcribe it all for you, and I’m pretty sure such a transcription is an infringement on the author’s copyright—who is the author? Can anyone tell me from reading the following? Anyway, what follows is a bit of the beginning. See what you make of it and if anyone knows who wrote it, please post a comment or email me and let me know.

Of MASQUES for ARISTOCRATS & the like. The first is
To be Personated during the Twelfth Night.

The persons of the play.

Uncle HOFFMANN, both himself and otherwise
POLO, Hoffmann’s nephew
BIRD, Hoffmann’s niece
OLIROOMIM, a demon

“First, for the scene, was drawn a Landscape”: a blank landscape, a blue screen. In front of the screen stands HOFFMANN who holds a box.

HOFF: …sends a package paid for with peculiar
postage. Needless to say it’s from away.
“My dear loves Polo and Bird forgive me
too much time has passed. Enclosed, the Black Mask.
Hang the angled mask, nail and copper wire,
hanged on your feature, face screwed in to it.

POLO is alone when he opens the package. He stares into it. Awkward and silent minutes pass, POLO crouched on the stage, staring into an open cardboard box. Gradually—so gradually as to be barely perceivable—a light within the box grows. Correspondent to the light in the box is an image projected onto the pale blue screen, at first blurry, then more clear, and more clear: it is a mask carved from obsidian.

At last, POLO moves. As he leans forward to reach into the box, BIRD enters stage right. (POLO and BIRD are dressed in the same black tights and black, form-fitting shirts, but there is nothing androgynous about either.) POLO mimes the removal of a mask, mimes putting it on his face. BIRD, lit up gaudy, is delighted and aroused.

There is no mask. The “mask” is an outline made by lights carefully projected onto POLO’s face. He leaps to his feet, the image of the mask projected on the blue screen disappears and a curtain, painted to look like the inside of a well-appointed city apartment drops behind POLO and BIRD.

BIRD: Oh Polo what a weird wonder our uncle
sent! Ha! So often is Hoffmann off, man!
It fits just right for tonight’s revelry!
POLO turns, faces BIRD.
POLO: (to audience) When do guests arrive for our holiday
masque? Are decorations hung? Light strands strung?

Lights woven into the curtain illuminate. A doorbell rings. PARTYGOERS enter stage right and left, all elaborately dressed and with masks—cheap plastic “Lone Ranger” masks, but in many colors and gold and silver. A soundtrack of glasses and wine corks and laughter, mixed with the susurus of the PARTYGOERS clothes. All dance waltzes around POLO and BIRD, though there is no music, only drums that keep the 3/4 time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

25. Readings } Two more.

During the open mic last night—there was a big turnout at Real Art Ways that included lots of new faces—a member of the audience caught my eye. She looked exactly like a student of mine who was killed shortly after her graduation last year. I know I’ve mentioned this student several times before, and I realize I also wrote about a woman who looked like my former student before—I wondered, in fact, if she might not be the same look-a-like I saw on the train. No reason why she couldn’t be. I hoped she’d read so I’d then have a reason to speak with her. She didn’t read. And when the open was over, she was gone.

Not only was she gone, but her seat was occupied by someone completely different, a young man who read a poem about “Her castle,” punctuating each line by clearing his throat.

Aside from this mildly off-putting visit, last night was terrific. I was honored by good people. The food was extravagant—baked brie! caviar! dried sausage! cheese! wine!—and I was pleased to celebrate both Color Plates and the two year anniversary of Inescapable Rhythms. A few of us gathered by the fire at Andrea’s, talked about publishing, listened to records (real records, including Paul McCartney’s excellent Ram “…but I leave my pajamas to Billy Budapest / and I don’t get the gist of your letter”).

When I was younger, I thought it would be so wonderful to join the gatherings of the great writers and artists; turns out it is pretty wonderful.

Saturday morning I’ll head to Norwich, where I’ll read with the venerable John Cotter as part of the Otis Library Holiday Book Fair, which may mean any gains I make selling Color Plates will be spent buying books. I feel I haven’t enough Penguin Classics (Dear Steve Reads, I disagree with you on Oh! so many things but greatly enjoy your “Penguins on Parade” series. I’m currently reading Bernal Diaz’ The Conquest of New Spain—a wonderful book. What’s your take?).

Sunday, John and I will share a podium at Bank Square Books. The reading begins at noon. I hear tell that this is the book store where Julia Roberts once made the staff extremely nervous by enjoying a rapidly melting snow cone over their recently received and autographed hardback copies of  The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Friday, December 3, 2010

24. Readings } Real Art Ways

Above, a photo from an Inescapable Rhythms reading held during the summer before it was moved to Real Art Ways. In the photo, I’m having a conversation with poet (and sometimes poet-collaborator) Kristin Kostick. After a brief humanitarian stint in Baltimore, she’s supposedly returned to Hartford, coincidentally in time for my featured reading on Wednesday.

Hosted by Andrea Henchey, Inescapable Rhythms (the series’ name in honor of hometown hero Wallace Stevens) is a once-monthly poetry reading, usually including both a guest reader and an open mic. Guests have included Jennifer Karmin, Deborah Poe, Matthew Klane, and Ken Cormier, to name but a very few, and not to exclude C.S. Carrier, a reluctant local poet whose book and blog y’all should check out. The readings happen on the second Wednesday of every month, and seem to happen no matter what: we’ve read by candlelight when the power was out (a most silent and beautiful experience), we’ve read when only three or four of us have shown up, and we’ve even read when Andrea has had to telekinetically lead us from the west coast.

As is customary, the reading will begin close to 7pm. We tend to gather a little bit beforehand, to buy each other drinks and to catch each other up and sometimes, just occasionally, to finish a poem to be read that night. Kostick, Henchey, and Carrier will all read, for sure, and they’re excellent readers. I’ll read poetry and some little stories from Color Plates. There’s a narrative to my reading, too—a thread to trail through the maze.

Come. Not just for me, indeed, not for me, but because it’s better than online, it’s better than TV, it’s never dull, the poets are mostly kind, and we listen.