Saturday, November 24, 2012

An Old Friend Found

     Saw a remarkable play, very sad, but good, about end of life, called THE OUTGOING TIDE, conveniently just a few blocks up 59th Street at a nice little theater,59 E. 59th Street,  acted very well by Peter Strauss, Ian Lithgow(John's son, and a ringer for him) and my old, loved friend Michael Learned.  Michael played Xantippe, Socrates' wife, in a staged, gorgeously dressed reading of a play I wrote some years ago, called THE WOMEN UPSTAIRS, about what the women were doing during Plato's Symposium.  Kind of the other side of the quad from the fellows who ruled the day.
     It was veddy intellectual, and I went back to Bryn Mawr to write it at the invitation of President Pat McPherson, to make sure it was authentic.  When I'd told Pat the idea, she said "Tell Mabel."  So I had the great joy of working with Mabel Lang, great Greek professor and formidable (and scary she seemed to me as an undergraduate)scholar, who waltzed me through ancient Athens so I actually thought I had been there.  We sort of constructed the text together, or, at least, she aimed me in the right direction for every scene which I then wrote and returned for her approval.  When it was finished, I brought her flowers.  And she said, this woman I had thought intimidating, "But I should be giving flowers to you!! I've never done anything CREATIVE before."  And with the word 'creative', she actually danced around the office.  This epitome of the old spinster schoolteacher.
     It was as heart-lifting a moment as I've had in my life.  And the play was actually funny if you didn't mind blank verse.   I wrote it in that because on the way there, in Philadelphia, I'd dropped my typewriter, it still was then, so the carriage locked halfway across the page.  I took that as a sign, and a guide to the direction I was meant to go, as I often do with  what otherwise would seem disasters, and so wrote the whole thing in blank verse.  With songs, yet, ancient seeming but really quite melodic and lovely, I must say in all lack of humility, written singing, as I wafted around the campus I loved, realizing I was having a blessing, to be able to return to that great institution in what is laughingly called mid-life, hang out, swim, write, and be with what was going on then with the undergrads. It was a true rejuvenation, in every sense.  
     Joanna Semel Rose, about whom I have written before-- she was the smartest one in the college when I was an undergraduate, a few years ahead of me-- was kind enough to love the play, and sponsored a production some years later.  But early on there was this glorious staged reading in Beverly Hills at the Canon theatre, in gorgeous costume, where Michael played Xantippe, and a raft of lovely actresses played the other roles, and a beautiful young woman with a gorgeous voice played Chorus, and sang the songs.
    I hired a videographer to record the evening, memorable and exquisite as it was.  She forgot to plug in the sound cable.  I marked it a huge leap in my spiritual journey that I did not kill her.
     But I still have the tape, pre-recorded of Michelle, the singer, (I think Piper Laurie had found her for me) so the lovely songs, and they were, still exist.  They played them off stage for the production that Bryn Mawr did with Joanna's backing.  This time the students were in charge of arranging the videotaping, which once again went awry.  So I have to believe it wasn't meant to be.  Oh well.
    Anyway, I am happy to have seen Michael, although the play, except for the performances which were upliftingly fine, was a downer.  Afterwards Michael and some other friends of hers who had come to see the play had a sidewalk discussion about end of life plans, in which I did not participate.  I mean I still barge through life as if everything were still ahead.  And who knows.  Maybe it is.
   A musical?  Some more songs?  A new book?  An agent who reads?  God?