Volume III, Issue IV Winter 2004

Turbulence - Charlene Baldridge's theater diary

Dreaming Lear, or, how dreams flow into daylight

The journalist goes ill-prepared to interview King Lear (Sam Woodhouse) and his director Todd Salovey. Due diligence seems to evaporate when it comes to William Shakespeare's complex play, despite the fact that it included the study of pertinent sections of Harold Bloom's "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human," Stephen Greenblatt's recent book, "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare" and the late Joseph Papp's essays on the character and the play.

The interview proceeds despite journalistic jitters, as the two brilliant men sit at a conference room table, sometimes running with ideas and concepts and sometimes merely running out of words.

One theme of our discussion on January 11 was the human need, in old age, to order things, to let go of control, and to make preparations to die.

Lear hopes to control his kingdom beyond abdication and death. He divides his property and stipulates how governance will continue. Things go awry when his youngest and favorite daughter, Cordelia, appears not to love him the way he demands. He disinherits her, his other daughters cast him out, plot both against him and each other, and Lear goes into the wilderness, as Woodhouse calls it, in order to become fully human and regain his sanity.

In between the interview, Thai food and bedtime there was a fabulous production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" sung by a talented a company composed largely of recent college graduates. The writer supposes this was "there" to remind her of the promise that youth holds, the wonders when such hope – a new state! – is put on display along with Laurey's romantic dreams and her rescue from darkness (Jud Fry) by a tall, strong, handsome man.

Of late, I've been dreaming much of traveling. My dream self is ever on the way somewhere, waiting for conveyance, in a heightened state of anticipation. That I never actually embark worries the dreamer not at all.

Let me recall my dream and the ensuing morning, January 12, as best I'm able.

Laura is concerned about several elderly friends and relatives, aunts that do not exist in reality. What to do about them, she asks. I suggest we set up some sort of group home where we can look out for one another. While we're there, I say, we have someone teach us how to die, that is, to make spiritual preparations for death.

"Oh, mother," she says, "you are so wise. I'm so happy I'm your daughter and so proud of you. So few people talk about these things."

In the next scene, I'm opening cupboards with sliding doors for a smallish man who's showed up, presumably at the new house, to stay briefly. (Is it Joaquin? Paolo?) He has a very small plastic bag, presumably containing a toothbrush, and I'm trying to find an uncluttered cubbyhole where he may stash it. There's an empty corner on the right, but he declines putting his bag there and opts to put it on top of a large plastic container to the left.

I'm outside and there are two extensions of the porch with an abyss of some kind in between. I envision Laura as a young girl, leaping from one to the other effortlessly. Now the one on the far side has a metal railing; but then it did not.

There is a grown woman teetering on the edge of the right-hand porch extension. Even if she can make the leap, there's a railing on the far side. Somehow, she makes it and sits facing me on what little concrete exists between the edge and the metal fence. She wear's Laurey's wedding dress.

This morning, I showered and went to Peets for coffee, not something I normally do on a weekday. My friend Nora (81) was there, talking with Carlton, and I did not wish to interrupt their conversation, so I sat alone. When she rose to go, she was distraught because she couldn't find her keys. In addition to her handbag, she carried a small gift bag stuffed with Kleenex and two paperback books. The grosgrain handle was broken. While she looked for her keys, I mended the bag by wetting the ribbon, putting it through the eyelet, and tying a new knot in it.

"Aren't you lucky to have such a handy person as a friend?" said a passerby to Nora, who said, "Did you mend that just now? Already?"

"Yes," I said, "I'm the old sewer from the faraway hills."

The other woman said, "Oh, I have a necklace that matches your earrings. I should bring them to you." These are the Mexican silver earrings Laura gave me, spirals like DNA with a purple stone suspended inside them.

Nora never found her keys. We checked in the restroom, under the table, and in her unlocked car, parked out behind Peets. I drove her home, where a neighbor has an extra set of keys. She was gone for a time. I sat in the car, nursing my coffee and pondering how someone who hadn't died could possibly tell my dream people how to do so.

"Ah, she was home then?" I said when Nora returned with her keys.

"No, she wasn't. I hate to tell you this. I found my keys. They were in my pocket."

"Let me show you how I handle finding mine," I said, intending to show Nora the big wooden heart on my key ring. I reached into the back seat for my purse, which eluded my grasp. I pushed my seat back and turned the engine off, intending to open the doors to retrieve my bag. Then we both dissolved into gales of laughter, for the keys, of course, along with the big wooden heart, were suspended in the ignition.

"You're a lifesaver," said Nora. "All this happened for a reason. There's something I can't quite remember that ties it all together."

I returned Nora to her car. She promised to phone me when she remembers what ties it all together.

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