Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Spoon River

I, like many, many misled others, once thought I was a possible poet. Yeah yeah, laugh, laugh at me. Then laugh at yourself because you went through that phase also and even NOW you probably have those poetic tendencies. The problem is, those who are excellent poets are truly excellent and most words we come up with are crap. I think this every time I read T.S. Eliot. His deeply rooted meandering. His purposefully structured wanderlust. Oh, I love him.

In Alhanti's class, we have been attacking the Spoon River Anthology.  Meisner did this with his students. I watched a segment of Frances Sternhagen (a much younger version, but who later plays "Bunny", Trey McDougal's mother on Sex & The City ....What? Yeah I watched every episode.) reciting Amos Sibley.  Meisner takes Frances through a process that brings purpose and point of view to the poem/monologue.  Essentially, Janet has instructed us to do the same thing - find a character in Spoon River, really GRASP the material (break down the cryptic nature so that there are no ?s left for the actor then you will KNOW and OWN what you are talking about), and find a specific point of view from which to deliver the words. We have easy guidelines here - all of the poems in Spoon River are by deceased people of the town. They are dead and gone and each monologue/poem is exactly what each person has chosen to say after death - now, to WHOM is the question, and WHY is another. Janet always asks "What is this about?", in her echoing Bronx tone.

What's hilarious is that most of us have NO CLUE what it's really about. The poems are not that hard to decode, but some are more cryptic than others - and despite an emotional and human through line that has lasted 100 years past Edgar Lee Masters's initial publishing, there are some differences that may be defined and unlocked by the period.  I will say what is said in Yoga that also applies here and many other countless places: Repetition leads to freedom. Spending actual TIME with our material/words/scripts can lead to levels of creativity and understanding that patience has not allowed us to find before. Is it our generation's doom - and others behind us - to be flagbearers of A.D.D. and let that excuse us from our disciplinary intentions, or - dare I say it - disciplinary necessities?!?

God, I hope not. A violin player is out there rehearsing 10 hours a day. An opera singer, 6. Where are the exercises and the time slots and the practice rooms that are being occupied by today's actors, specifically in La La?  Yikes.

Anyway, Spoon River is something that should be learned in high school, but if you had a Kentucky education like myself, I didn't get to it. Or maybe I skipped it and still got an A.  I don't remember. It is regardless a pleasure to visit this wonderful book of poems, this work that sticks like a deliciously dark film to your brain if you let it sink in, like the bodies that have sunk six feet under or more.

Thus far, I have performed Nellie Clark, Pauline Barrett, and today I added Mabel Osbourne. I've read others but felt less clear. Dora Williams was my first attempt and it is a wonderful doozy. I should revisit it on Wednesday with the sprightly verve that Dora deserves. I already promised to attack Pauline Barrett again - oy, she was a cryptic one. Pauline is a woman who committed suicide and wants to make sure her husband knows that he had no part in it whatsoever; that this was completely her decision due to the pitfalls and unfortunate events of her life. Here's the poem of Pauline Barrett. Tell me if you figure out what kind of operation she had. And don't cheat by looking it up online!

So these are the things I've been doing in acting class - Spoon River - and a recent scene from DINNER WITH FRIENDS with Rick Malambrai.  It went very well - he's a fun actor to react with. Hopefully he'll replace Channing Tatum one day.

Next up on the list: romantic poets. Byron, Shelly, Blake, St. Vincent Millay. Mucho, mucho excited to delve.

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