Julius Caesar – Free Shakespeare in the Park

playbill and statement, the public

Oh myopia!  Delta and Bank of America are bothered about a tree while standing in the middle of a forest. They huffed off with their funding and missed the point completely.

American Express clarified that they made no financial contribution to, nor do they “condone the interpretation of the Julius Caesar play.”

Well to me that is more troubling.  The interpretation?  The Public Theater’s current production of Julius Caesar couldn’t be more faithful to the spirit of this Shakespeare piece.  It’s a cautionary tale.  Tyranny is terrifying but maintaining democracy is a delicate balance.  To usurp democracy in response to tyranny renders democracy impotent and fuels the opposing fire.  The assassination is the impetus for the rest of the play.  It’s what happens next that we need to talk about, before the forest burns to the ground.

As for my thoughts on the artistic merits of the play, that’s another 8 minutes, but suffice to say I loved a lot of it.

The trip up north felt like punishment

Shinae would never understand how a body could wear so many clothes every day.  Even the biggest bird could not carry the feathers in this coat.  But the boots were the worst; waterproof lead weights that they expected her to run in and not fall.  And the falls weren’t even cushioned by the pillowy snow. It crunched on impact, as if each flake were enrobed in ice.  Even the sledding was more discomfort than thrill after ten minutes. Why were all the Spring Break activities winter sports? The whole trip was based on lies. Every photo the Canadian cousins had sent was a terrible lie.  Surely there were tears in the eyes hidden by the mirrored glasses, the photoshop-white teeth frozen into smiles.   How could they have the same genetics? Aunty didn’t understand the forty minute hot baths she had to have every night.  As she soaked she wondered whether mamma had found out she let the Levy boy put his hand on her new flesh – the soft round barely there breast.  She wondered if there’d still be more punishment when she got back to  Kingston.

8 min @ Tisserie, NYC
dip source: The New Yorker, April 3 2017

make precise ticking things

Nana said it was only a matter of time.  A body could only take so much but a mind was a whole other matter.  Genny was a strong woman even though she didn’t immediately look it.  She wasn’t tall but she was solid; squat and solid and she could set her heels in like a mule when necessary. Genny’s skin was thick and she flinched at little.  Everyone marveled at what she endured but Nana said to mark her words the time would come.  It took forty years for  Genny’s long smoldering fuse to ignite.  What a fire it made.  The brightness could be seen for miles and it raged for hours.  There wasn’t much left of the farmhouse or the out buildings after and there was nothing left of Earl.

8min @ Soveriegn Cafe, Toronto
dip source: The New Yorker, Mar. 20, 2017


He has a boat that he uses to explore

It doesn’t look like much, it could easily be mistaken for a lump of dirty soap floating and bobbing in the increasingly tepid water. The skin on her upper arm flesh starts the poultry pucker.  The shape is crudely reminiscent of a boat and it floats. Dad’s toy boat. The knife marks are still visible after all this time, roughly whittled it looks like a torpedo or strange nut shell that has been flattened on one end.  It threatens to capsize when she rubs her chilled shoulders. It rights itself and bobs along toward the faucet.  She looks at the clock, she’s been sitting in the bathtub for forty-five minutes. Forty-five minutes meditating on the sole inheritance from her father.

8 min @ Manhattanville, Harlem NYC
dip source: The New Yorker, Mar. 20,2017

“The White House watched for signs”

The feud had been going for three generations. Mindy didn’t understand why Ed didn’t just sell the stupid house and move them to the city that they loved. There was absolutely nothing special about the old wood paneled rooms other than their size. The plumbing was shit, the new central air and heat system had failed them two summers and two winters in a row and the garden never got enough light to sustain a basic of herb gardens.  Sitting out there was only ever a invitation to the mosquitos that it was happy hour. They might not be able to buy their dream loft in Brooklyn, but they’d get something decent.

But It didn’t seem to matter how much schooling one had or how much world travel one experienced. The bitterness had been encoded into the genes and now it was embedded into the very marrow of Ed’s bones.  To sell would be a victory to a family of faces they would never see again, and barely saw now. There wasn’t even anybody alive who could remember the argument  between the old men. 

8 min @ Kobricks Coffee NYC
dip source:  The New Yorker March 6 2017

“They are waiting to go to America”

The bed sags and bites.  Sherene takes the old woman’s advice and wraps a garbage bag around the mattress and puts the stained sheets over it. There are six of them in the room, Sherene shares the bed with Ziad but the old woman doesn’t have to share her bed with anybody. Sherene promised their mother she would make sure Ziad learns the language of their new country.  Every morning and every night they review the same twelve pages of the exercise book.  Half the book was lost at the camp in Calais. That is not all they lost there, but Sherene knows not dwell on the lost things. She is learning so many things in her twelfth year.

8 min @ Think Coffee, 21st and 3rd
dip source: The New Yorker, March 6 2017

“The response to the video was immediate”

Momma always said actions speak louder than words. Lissie didn’t waste time, it was of the essence as Momma would– dammit the woman was gone over ten years now and she still couldn’t shut up with the opinions and advice.  Lissie was glad she wasn’t alive to see the latest betrayal in what she had called a cursed union.  But maybe Momma would be proud of her finally finding her backbone.  Tiller women were the backbone of their families and having one was a birthright. Tiller women didn’t allow for men to ride roughshod over them. Tiller women ran the game. They were the Chief Executive Organizer of family details.  Lord that woman could beat a point. Well, Lissie was calling the shots now. She sat looking at the ziplocked cellphone and wondered how much longer before the locksmith got there.  She didn’t know what putting the phone in the bag served but she knew it was symbolic.

8 min @ Voyageur Espresso, John St (Fulton station)
dip source: The New Yorker, March 6 2017

8 minutes on THE PRESENT

She is just so damn present. One hundred percent there, in the space doing and being. One hundred percent alive and truthful, even when she’s staring off ‘disengaged’ from the person talking to her.  Cate Blanchett has that gift. and it serves her well in this awkward, uneven production. It’s messy Chekov, adapted by Mr Blanchett aka Andrew Upton. It’s infused with humor but the bones of this beast cannot avoid becoming a clumsy staggering mess once it’s all fleshed out.