What if . . . [short fiction]

Stanislavski suggests–yes, of course he did in his transformative An Actor Prepares (and we are all actors in the world, in our many places, various and variegated . . . the theater of the world, the theater of our society, on our political stages, on our community stages, the streets and cafes and offices and churches and synagogues and libraries and mosques the scenes); yes, my friend, my mentor, Constantin . . . I read him when I was how much younger I won’t say now, Vanitas, vanitas . . . perhaps you want me to say . . . non est veritas, but in keeping with my overwhelming sense of personal vanity, hoc vanitas veritate mea–yes, my readers, this vanity is my truth.

What next to say about this hubris? I am not happy with ‘vanity’ and ‘hubris’ being synonyms, let alone interchangeable in every context of usage, which no two words can ever become–yes, no two words share what might be called absolute synonymy. Everything apropos, we say in English from the French a propos, which meanssimply, ‘about.’ What about this? Do you remember Jean Vigo’s masterpiece A Propos Nice? I’ve seen it several times, having watched it only once on a large screen, I forget where . . . why is the where important? It was New York City, Manhattan, a cinema devoted to foreign film . . . the many estrangements of my youth . . . was it in the 80s? I hated the 80s and more than just because Regan was President–but then I don’t remember any Presidency I was happy with . . . is that not the responsibility of the citizen, politai, Aristotle would have called him or her, the antonym of his idiot, a person without any general or social concerns?

Of course, we say, bien sur, the French would say about so many things happenings decisions choices we make and take for granted, the manner of the matters of the things we do habitually become facts of nature and not the facts of a long nurture endured and confused for nature. Why the French herein when the discussion is about Stanislavski . . . Constantin who was born, lived, worked and died in Moscow . . . what would the appropriate thing for anyone to say to himself or herself about one’s Self (and the upper case ‘S’ is significant, necessary). The thing to ask yourself is not What if Hamlet were I? No! The question to ask is What if I were Hamlet? The two are completely other–mutually exclusive. You do have to suspend disbelief, and the first step is to avoid saying to yourself that you find the character and his choices and actions unbelievable because you would not do them or because you do not know anyone who might act the same . . . and yet how far have you walked in his sneakers shoes moccasins? Someone who cannot judge a work of art based on his personal preferences is an idiot, Aristotle’s and mine.

Yes, how would I fill my metro card at the machine in the NYC Subway, if I were the Prince of Denmark? How would I feel if I were my wife, perhaps too many men do not ask with Stanislavski’s mandate apparent in their method? What then must men do? I know many women imagine men never asking themselves.

How would I order a beer at a bar I have never been in, if I were subsumed by the happenings and the consequences of choices at Elsinore, Hamlet’s Elsinore, or in my own private Elsinore? How do I make Elsinore my everywhere? Whose Elsinore am I in when I perform Hamlet? It must be the Elsinore of the text. Close reading? Deep reading? Never a superficial skimming of pages will do.

How would I order dinner in my favorite restaurant? How might I kiss my wife–or how would I kiss a stranger, if I were in the position to kiss a stranger? Once more, as from above, How might I come to be in my own private Elsinore, apart from the stage that Hamlet is on, but the one that I perform on daily, minute by minute (we live in the minutes, not just the hours, Ginny); this stage here, now and now again there and now once more anywhere . . . all the stages of my life, of my selves, the many selves of my overarching capital ‘S’ Self, yes, as I have informed you, perpetually, I am we day in and in once more, all the players I come to be who stand in the wings of the Self waiting to strut and fret their time upon the stage . . . playing out the roles, building whatever character–and we do build character–what is it we assume that that phrase means? You must check out Stanisslavski’s Building a Character; it does have a double meaning in its most pronounced implications, applications.

These and other questions like them are what every actor should ask . . . Hamlet is not I; I am Hamlet and what then . . . knowing that word and action do become one, function reciprocally . . . having already suited word to action and action to word, what then is this Hamlet . . . no one should ever say that what Hamlet does or says is unbelievable because he or she would not do so in his or her life.

Now, what if I were an orangutan–an orangutan without a tree–how would I oder lunch at the take-out Chinese restaurant around the corner? What if I were a Non-white Caucasian being told by most non-Whites how White I am? What if I were a Catholic Man told by Protestants and Jews in America that there is nothing like Anti-Catholic sentiments present in the decisions of office, of State, of culture, of media . . . ? What if I were told by media, by academia, by the culture that only White people can be bigots, and that everything wrong with Power setting itself against the will, the needs, the destinies of the People are White, White and European alone everywhere? What if I were a man in this culture faced with the notion that only White Europeans were Colonialists and Imperialists . . . ? I prefer for the moment as a theater exercise (which I have always found helpful interpersonally, socio-politically . . .) What if I were an orangutan without a tree? This seems the foremost exercise in the political theater of my contemporary America, once the most veiled Oligarchy masquerading as a Democracy . . .now no longer  so veiled.


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