Hirst: Tonight . . . my friend . . . you find me in the last lap of a race . . .I had long forgotten to run.
Spooner: A metaphor. Things are looking up.
— from No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter
To be an American as I write feels like being at the end of a long marathon. At the end one man left standing, our election season lurches to a close.
American politics dances a quadrille – four-year figures in a weird box step. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Time to move on to the next partner. One, two, three, four.
It turned out that our last partner had two left feet and really didn’t know how to lead us around the dance floor. One, two – uh oh – ooops. A war. One – uh oh – oops. A city floods with the dancer doing a heckuva job. One, two, three – uh oh – oops. An economy in tatters.
And so, where I am, we’re doing a play about how humans have the ability to survive. The Skin of Our Teeth. Some drama. Some laughs. The opportunity to look at the troubles of the human race and laugh at them and cope with them.
Where I am, the air starts to bite in the early evening. Leaves change color. Large flocks of both birds and people start the annual southward migration in search of warmth. The year ends.
Endings seem like curious things to a storyteller. In life, stories don’t end. Not neatly. Stories shift, wander, digress – they may wind through every winding tunnel and byway of reality and hope – but they don’t end. Even death doesn’t really end the story.
But in our line of work, we have to make endings. In *cough* years of working in the theatre, I can’t name more than a half dozen truly great last lines – lines that effectively and appropriately end the play. So we muddle through. Where endings aren’t, now with the artist’s help, endings are.
Hirst’s line in No Man’s Land is one of those lines that comes to mind easily. There appears to be an elusive paradox in the line for me. The race isn’t over, despite being in the last lap. There’s more.
Curiously our nation will select a leader who will impact the entire world over the next few years – possibly for the next generation. One man – a true hero – seems to get angrier as the days of autumn stretch closer. He can’t seem to believe that a grateful nation doesn’t simply reward him for his life of dedicated service. The other man – a young man – projects calm in a sea of troubles. He seems able to listen to people and synthesize information and communicate ideas that excite people. More importantly, the young guy seems to be grounded in an apparently healthy marriage – a good sign.
As my little play grows closer to opening, I can only hope that I’ve done my best to communicate how making a performance works to my young actors. If we’re lucky someone will hear our message and think better of their fellow human beings.
And as winter cold sinks on the mountains, I can only hope for a warm place by the fire and a good long story.
Beginning . . . .