When I was in high school I was a thespian (oh get your mind out of the gutter – it doesn’t mean I kissed girls…). My drama teacher Mr. Lee, would hold auditions and post the names of those chosen and the roles they were given on a bulletin board outside the theater.
Mr. Lee was a wellread innovator who cast me (and a few other unfortunates) in Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. I love this book – a series of free-form poems told in a graveyard by the dead of the fictional town of Spoon River, but it’s probably not the best choice for a high school theater audience.
Many of you have been there – fidgeting in your auditorium seat, waiting for a glimpse of your offspring on stage while your mind screams, “When is this going to be OVER?” and “Who in the world chose this play?”
As I recall, our ensemble stood on a minimal, darkened stage behind faux tombstones and delivered the lines we could not possibly be expected to understand given our youth and inexperience. Even the costumes were a dreary mix of gingham and rope belts…
The number of attendees to this show-stopper, was the number of parents each cast member had (we couldn’t even get our siblings to sit through it…).
It was a bomb.
Spoon River Anthology popped into my head recently (I can still recite most of the poems by rote) and although I am not dead, the last line of one of the vignettes I delivered long-ago has more meaning to me now – after all I’ve been through…
And why not? for my very dust is laughing For thinking of the humorous thing called life.
83. Russian Sonia (yes, I did it with a ghastly Russian accent…)
I, BORN in Weimar
Of a mother who was French And German father,
a most learned professor,
Orphaned at fourteen years,
Became a dancer, known as Russian Sonia,
All up and down the boulevards of Paris,
Mistress betimes of sundry dukes and counts,
And later of poor artists and of poets.
At forty years, I sought New York
And met old Patrick Hummer on the boat,
Red-faced and hale, though turned his sixtieth year,
Returning after having sold a ship-load
Of cattle in the German city, Hamburg.
He brought me to Spoon River and we lived here
For twenty years—they thought that we were married!
This oak tree near me is the favorite haunt
Of blue jays chattering, chattering all the day.
And why not? for my very dust is laughing
For thinking of the humorous thing called life.
Today I’m not drinking, because I’m rereading Spoon River Anthology .
How come you’re not drinking?