Friday, June 20, 2014

A midsummer vignette

Walking down the canal tonight, Byron and I approached a group of teenagers hanging out on the park benches, singing "Barrett's Privateers." Well, trying to. They were bawling out the chorus at least, but then I heard them stumble: "What was the ship's name?" 

"I dunno. . ."

"Well, the something sloop was a sickening sight - "

And they all sang out "HOW I WISH I WAS IN SHERBROOKE NOW!"

And just as they all faltered and fell back into silence, we walked through the group. Without breaking stride, I said, "She'd a list to the port and her sails in rags and the cook in the scuppers with the staggers and jags."

They all stared, then burst into cheers and applause. One held up a hand and gave me a high five as I kept walking, and they all started singing, 


I was a few feet away when they finished the chorus and dissolved back into laughter. One shouted "That was AWESOME!" and another yelled something like "Bless you!"

I raised a hand without looking back, like the hero walking off into the sunset, and remarked to Byron, "You know, if I've learned one thing in life, it's that knowing all the words to 'Barrett's Privateers' opens all kinds of social doors." 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The final hours

I meant to post so much more about the Iliad and the process of working on it for this show, but, of course, life got in the way, and when I would get a moment I could post, I'd realize I could either post about the Iliad - or rehearse for it. And so it goes.

But now, we're 36 hours away, as I write this, from the first voice being raised on the stage at the National Arts Centre, and the beginning of the story.

I will be there in the audience at the beginning, and all the way up to my set, and beyond it. Nervously, and excitedly, waiting for my chance to pick up the story and carry it along, and watching to see the audience getting carried along with it. Watching some of them - maybe most of them - discover or rediscover it. And I will have a completely new perspective on the Iliad from when I started.

You want to know why it's lasted almost three thousand years? We fight wars, the human race. We're cursed with it, maybe. And in our wars, we can be at our most terrible and our most beautiful, our most tragic and our most triumphant. There are moments when people shine - and not necessarily when they fight: sometimes it's when they care for each other, or miss their families, or run back to tend the wounded. And there are moments when one fatal misjudgment can get you killed, or where a man stands shoulder to shoulder with a friend.

Spend as long as we have spent with it (as we, the tellers, have learned to know these people, talked to each other about them, thought about destiny and the patterns and parallels that keep emerging) and I think you'll come to the realization that the genius of the Iliad is that there are no sides, there are no easy answers, there's no "just war" or right side.

Or come spend twelve hours with us, and with it, and with all its complicated, courageous, petty, gentle, loving, frightened, monstrous, valiant, blazing human beings (and gods). I'm sure you'll never forget the experience: and I believe it will speak to you, about the sorrow and beauty of being human. It did to me.