Thursday, February 23, 2006

art history

today, while walking home from a shakespeare gig, i was accosted by a dude who took credit for being one of the people who honked horns @ me while i was walking home from a shakespeare gig the other day.
he said he was in his car, so i assume he wasn't the dump-truck driver because anybody who'd think it wise to try and get my attention while driving one would prob'ly also think he should recall himself that way, since he made a memorable impression. i don't think this character had the sense of understatement required to refer to the dump-truck as his car.
anyway, shakespeare- since i spend so much time with his work, people tend to assume i know a lot about the dude and gimme shit when i don't, so i'm creating a disclaimer: i don't care who shakespeare was, and don't care that i haven't read the full canon. whether he was the earl of oxford or some no-name dude who technically didn't have the education to have written what he wrote, whether he wrote alone or not, whether his name was shakespeare or not, whether he was a he or not, whether the dark lady was wife, mistress, or boyfriend, shakespeare's dead and all i care about is the body of work left behind. and while it may be true that knowing such details (especially about the dark lady) might provide deeper reading of said body of work, i simply engage whatever subtext seems fitting and interesting, or whatever subtext fits my director's (production) vision. and as for not having read it all- well, he wrote a lot and recycled everything, and i don't think i need to read it all to love it all. i've read enough to know the basic recycled plots and devices (twins, shipwrecks, girl-dressed-as-boy, mistaken lovers, adventures in the woods, gulling, play-within-a-play, dangerous ambition, revenge and murder most foul) and the various characters that pop up time and again under different names and/or disguises, and already have a thorough appreciation of the writer's way with words. anything i haven't read yet, i'll read when i eventually work on it, and i feel no need to be able to talk like an expert, so i'm content. so there. it doesn't lessen my groupie-dom or make me a bad shakespearean. and when people ask, i'ma continue responding with, "does it matter?"
i started thinking about all this because this week i ran into somebody who reminded me again of where i started- a certain pottevil commented on my blog and when tracked down, their journal only listed 1 favourite, which was the blog of somebody i know and want to be reading (and you do too). for some reason this led me to believe that they were both her journals and she was linking them to each other, so i brazenly sent an email. the reply i got said that pottevil wasn't who i thought, but he turned out to be somebody i knew nonetheless- we met when i was a teenager, through my director and mentor, john isaacs.
so big up pottevil (relatively new blogger) for reminding me that i keep promising myself to post about the amazing aunty noble douglas.
it's that time.
i wouldn't be where or who i am without john isaacs and noble douglas. i have amazing parents and the best extended family, and john and noble were more than teachers, doing as much to raise me as any family.
i started out doing ballet at the caribbean school of dancing where pat roe delighted my dancing feet- and i must digress to point out that this is how easily our choices affect our lives: my mom asked me if i was interested in ballet, and @ first i hesitated because the class clashed with saturday morning cartoons i didn't want to give up, but she convinced me to try 1 class, and i fell in love and never looked back- so i started ballet and loved it, and one saturday my dad was late picking me up and i wandered into the front studio. in the front studio were aunty noble and the lilliput children's theatre drama class. she and then-director brian invited me to join them while i waited because in trinbago, the village still raises the child. i loved it, and promptly told my parents i wanted to take drama too.
in retrospect, it was financially a lot to ask- 2 daughters dancing, and now a drama class- but they didn't balk, and i joined lilliput.
brian soon left and was replaced by john, who was with us until he died.
lilliput does an annual production, which had previously been written by (adult) artistic directors, based around the costumes/characters designed for each year's carnival band. after a few months with john, when we were about to start working on the upcoming show, he pulled me aside and told me he wanted me to go home, write a play, and bring it back to workshop in class the next week.
i was 10.
he gave me a plot and the cast of characters and told me to write it. he said it like there was no doubt i could do it, so i never thought it was hard and just wrote a play, like he said, in a week. i brought it back to class, we workshopped, i edited, and it was the show we performed that year. i was a performed playwright by the time i hit high school, and kept it up until i graduated and started working for the newspaper. lilliput members continue to write their own scripts.
now, when i write anything, especially dialogue, i question and doubt every word. but then, john's faith that i could do it made it possible. and again, i never looked back. i wrote the annual lilliput show for the next few years and acted in it, kept taking ballet, and decided theatre was my life. agreeing to try ballet, in spite of saturday morning cartoons, led to my future happiness. i have no idea what i'd want to do when i grow up otherwise.
john isaacs was my mentor, and still is. i miss him like i miss my grandfather basil.
he treated us like adults from day 1, like we had limitless talent and potential, like we were intelligent and thoughtful and had valid opinions. he never said he thought we were ready, he just handed it to us, and creative failure never crossed our minds. he made us think. he made us experience more than we thought we could handle, and we handled it fine. he told us when we did shit. he walked out on us when we weren't prepared to work. he encouraged us to run our own warmups and classes and we felt like we had learned and loved learning. he trusted us and taught us to trust our creative impulses. we would not be here without him.
noble douglas is my aunty noble, mine and hundreds of others.
she still runs lilliput theatre- we (my drama class, john and herself) decided to drop the "children's" because we kept tackling issues that our poor, shocked parents couldn't reconcile with "children's theatre"- as well as the noble douglas dance company inc. (adult, professional, and they call her aunty noble too). she knows the name of every single one of her hundreds of students, past+present, their whole family story, and whether they need a drop to+from class (ent nico, couldn't let that go). she nurtured us and buffed us proper when we deserved it (over a megaphone in queens hall so you could hear it all out in the carpark). she gave us everything and let us get away with nothing. she trusted us, and trusted john as our leader when others doubted that "children" should be experimenting with the subject matter we chose. she choreographed us and introduced us to music we couldn't stop listening to.
she loves us.
going home for lilliput's 30th anniversary gala last september was wonderful and sad. i didn't know how much i missed it, i didn't realise how much it had given to so many. i didn't know how much i wanted to be there, working with manwarren, the mentor and friend who's thankfully still with us and working and inspiring us, to share what he and john and noble taught me.
i didn't know how bad aunty noble's rheumatoid arthritis has become and how it would break my heart to see her struggle to move, she who danced with graham and ailey and never scratched her fire-engine-red-nailpolish. i didn't know how it would make my heart dance to see her choreography performed again. or how it would break me again to see john's mother onstage with aunty noble and remember that they lost him too.
eventually, i'll be back, to help aunty noble and manwarren teach the upcoming youth what they gave me- the knowledge that we can make our own choices and our own lives.
walk good.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for saying it.


8:29 am  

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