When the Hipp went Wilde

From The Book of Gainesville Theatre

March 1999

Oscar Wilde was at least a century ahead of his time. It has scarcely been a hundred years since one of the greatest artists the English language has ever produced was brought up on charges of “Gross Indecency.” And only now are we unraveling the paradox of that phrase, which aptly describes the repressive Victorian society that destroyed Wilde.

“A man can be destroyed but not defeated,” Hemingway was fond of saying, and Anthony Newfield, who plays Oscar Wilde in “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” by Moises Kaufman, now playing at the Hippodrome, would agree.

“Oscar Wilde was a genius of the highest order,” Newfield said before a recent rehearsal at the Hipp, “but despite his hubris, his refusal to run away, to escape his fate, shows his true character.”

Moises Kaufman’s play is a docudrama that rises above its genre to the realm of art by dint of Wilde’s brilliance. You don’t have to know anything at all about Oscar Wilde to be emotionally entangled in Kaufman’s web, woven not only of Wilde’s silken threads but also the coarse snares that strangled him.

Newfield’s performance as Wilde is of such depth and substance that had Wilde not really existed, Newfield might be said to have invented him. This is no mere impersonation. Newfield, a consummate craftsman who has studied with the Moscow Art Theatre, breathes life into Wilde.

Matching Wilde’s imperial height, Newfield carries himself as Oscar with the weight of the world on his shoulders. “’If hatred gives you pleasure, indulge it,’ Oscar says to his accusers, but it takes a terrible toll,” Newfield confrimed, having thoroughly researched Wilde’s prose and poetry, even studying Wilde’s vocal mannerisms and pitch for the secret of his sweet articulation.

“Of course you can’t play the research, you’ve got to play the lines,” Newfield added, but in his performance you can see Wilde’s mercurial wit finally grasping at straws, and with an intake of breath the tragedy of Wilde’s fall from grace plays out in Newfield’s expressive eyes.

“Lighter, higher, simpler, more joyful” was the lesson Newfield learned in Moscow from the intellectual descendants of the great acting teacher Constantin Stanislavsky. But it is a hard lesson to bear in mind while playing a man essentially pilloried for his virtues.

“Gross Indecency” was the euphemism Queen Victoria herself pronounced upon the “crime” of homosexuality. But as Moises Kaufman has pointed out, “Wilde was not being tried for being gay as much as for being a threat to the way in which Victorian culture operated.”

Wilde was the toast of London in the mid eighteen-nineties, the author of hit plays (“The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan”), a best-selling novel (“The Picture of Dorian Gray”), and the self-proclaimed Professor of Aesthetics. Among those in his thrall was the son of the Marquis of Queensberry, the young Lord Alfred Douglas, known to Wilde as Bosie once he and Wilde became intimate.

“My art was to me the great primordial note by which I had revealed, first, myself to myself and then myself to the world,” Wilde said, knowing full well the risk. The period of his greatest literary accomplishments coincided exactly with his homosexual awakening. Thus Wilde knew with certainty that “A man can commit a sin against society and yet realize through his sin his true perfection.”

If truly there is such a thing as gay pride, here is where it must be shown, in the face of degradation, philistinism, and inhumanity. Such were the crushing wheels set in motion when Queensberry (Yes, that Marquis of Queensberry, Boxing’s codifier) threw down the proverbial gauntlet in the form of a card left at Wilde’s club, calling the poet a sodomite (revealingly misspelled). Wilde responded by suing Queensberry for slander.

Queensberry responded by paying off five male prostitutes to testify against Wilde. The slander charge was dropped, and Wilde changed from plaintiff to defendant overnight.

Seamus Heaney, the Nobel laureate and Wilde’s fellow Irishman, has praised Wilde as a genuine hero: “In a reckless tactic that prefigured the non-violent politics of the century ahead, he provoked the violence of the system and suffered it in order to expose it.

The system of Victorian repression is on full display here, thanks to Kaufman’s multiperspective rendering of the Trial of the Century, and Mary Hausch’s dynamic staging.

“Courtroom Drama does not begin to describe the way this play really works,” Hausch said. “The play leaps from scene to scene with such simplicity and directness you leave the courtroom altogether and suddenly you’re all over London, all over the world.”

“How do you recreate history in the theater?” Kaufman asked himself, while workshopping the play with his Tectonic Theatre Project in New York two years ago. “I wanted to make sure all the competing version of the history of the trial were present in the play.”

To that end Hausch has employed a Brechtian technique, what the German master called the alienation effect, to achieve distanciation, a mode of viewing this event with the objectivity that time and history has afforded us.

An ensemble of eight highly skilled players people the world that crushed the life out of Wilde, headed by John Felix as the vituperative Queensberry. His misshapen, malevolent Marquis is a tragic foil of epic proportions.

Kevin Blake, Tim Altmeyer, David Schmidt, and Cameron Francis shuttle us from scene to scene with wit, vivacity, and literally dozens of character turns as the very panorama begins to fold in on Oscar.

David Arrow plays Oscar’s lawyer, who pleads with his client to flee the country. He tenderly offers Oscar freedom.

Brian Williams is Bosie, making palpable the Oedipal fire between son and father that catches Oscar inextricably between the dragon and his wrath.

Oddly though, yet somehow appropriately, the play turns on Mark Sexton’s portrayal of Carson, the attorney who grills Oscar. Here Mark Sexton’s trademark clipped speech and letter-perfect articulation is a superb counterpoise to Newfield’s virtuosity.

At one telling moment in the first act, just as Oscar is holding the hounds at  bay with the sheer brilliance of his intellect, Carson spots a flaw. Why, pray tell, was a certain boy of no interest to Oscar? Was it merely because of his ugliness?

Suddenly a fissure appears in the edifice of Oscar’s personality. Wilde’s entire philosophy of art was bound up in Beauty. He had said in so many words: “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.”

In one glittering instant we see Oscar’s realization that he has succeeded in turning his life into a work of art, and that, inevitably, it must be a tragedy.

Oscar Wilde is the patron saint of critics too, who believed that the true critic is an artist, and that criticism can be the purest form of art, a creation within a creation. So I ask myself, why did he not flee and live to write another day? Why did he stay and face trial?

“Because,” Oscar said, “it was more beautiful to do so.”

Native Gardens blooming at the Hippodrome

Two well-to-do couples find themselves living side by side, their cultures clash. The Hippodrome has been waiting to produce Native Gardens by Karen Zacarias since 2020. It’s one of the hottest plays in the country. It fulfills a need. It’s a valuable commodity.

Is it worth the wait or might this be another case of the Hippodrome outperforming the material? Which is not a slight to this particular material, which could bear any number of slights, let alone my pitiful sniping, being one of the hottest, most produced plays in America, or, more precisely the United States of America. In the way of plays, the script is very good; the performances make it even better.

These are people from that quaint period of time 2018. They are Del Valles, Tania and Pablo; and the Butleys, Frank and Virginia.

This play was written pre-pandemic, and before January 6, and before now, so, of course, it’s dated. This review is dated.

A play, however, is one of the temporal arts, and despite the time period in which the play is set, what happens on the stage is always present tense. We’re seeing it happen now. So, to relate it to our lives and our present reality, we try to picture it in our minds and, ok, we just barely can.

Here we are. Here are our most immediate conflicts right up front – and along the baseline, as in tennis: race, culture, politics, sex, all of that is perfectly real. The trick now is to find the comedy.

And not offend anybody.

And you won’t – as long as you get the right people to see the play.

The right people?

Who might it offend?

Or, is it a harmless but entertaining bit of fluff?

Karen Zacarias gives the Latinx couple first serve. It allows them to seize the initiative. These people make sense. We’re on their side. Well, I’m on their side. The tennis metaphor is apt. (see: set geometry) and if we’re already choosing sides, that’s good.

Mihai Ciupe’s set is a geometric marvel. Begin with the Hipp’s unique thrust stage, divide it in two, erect two households, unalike in dignity.

Ironically, Zacarias will use a presentational/representational Brechtian technique applied to bourgeois apologetics. At the beginning and the end, the characters in the play know we’re here and speak right to us.

The cast is strong – the cast of characters, that is, each with a dynamic approach to obtaining her or his objective.

Marco Adiak Voli & Alea Figueroa as Tania & Pablo (Photo by Michael Eaddy)

Tania is played winningly by Alea Figueroa an actress who is a seasoned pro at this, having played the role before, and she brings out every nuance of the character, never beyond the bounds of naturalism. Her Tania is sharp and gentle, wonderfully empathetic and charming.

Marco Adiak Voli  as Pablo establishes his authority, his command, his stature in character by virtue of his breeding, but in performance the actor makes it known at first sight with the way he owns the set, plays the Hipp thrust stage like a maestro.

Next come the Republicans, if you remember who they were in 2018 and before. Frank Butley defends his open-mindedness by forthrightly proclaiming: “I considered voting for Obama.”

How am I going to like them? How is Kevin Rainsberger going to like this guy Frank? He told me he likes him. How is he going to make him likeable – because dislikeable as both Frank and Virginia are as characters – if we don’t like them somehow, we’re not going to be able to like this play.

Kevin Rainsberger starts by giving Frank a Gene Kelly flair and proceeds to open up his full range of skills, vocally, with a span of tone and pitch that he wails with like a jazz trumpeter, and it jibes with Nell Page’s operatic approach so that the thrill of the two of them sharing the stage in full voice is electric.

It’s because Nell Page as Virginia Butley cuts to the heart of her character and fills it out like an opera singer.

Here is Nell’s acting philosophy put to the test. If you go deep enough in character, into the heart of any human being that you play honestly and openly and true to yourself – the emotions are the same, they are one – and it will come through in the performance. The basic humanity will shine through.

Kevin Rainsberger and Nell Page are married in real life, but it’s not just the chemistry that makes their performances glow, it’s the joint expression of their aesthetic.

Blissfully unaware of their privilege, the Butleys’ marriage is strong. How will they make us like them? By happily agreeing to being the butt of the joke. By being blessedly silly, ridiculously wrong. Glorying in their buffoonery, and, above all, loving each other.

It works. Even Pablo admits it works. “I like you, Frank,” he says, before initiating legal action against him to take over the final foot of his property, heretofore mistakenly ignored in the building of the fence that separates the two neighbors.

As for the Butleys and DelValles: It’s a bourgeois success story.

It’s not about the money; it’s the principle of the thing.

Working class people are less often cast into situations in which it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle of the thing. Those things must be rare. They’re expensive, I guess.

Fortunately, they can work these things out, even in the here and now post-pandemic, post-January 6 world, and, unfortunately, for the foreseeable future (unless you have your Marxist glasses on) – if they have enough money.

The performances are marvelous, varied, unceasingly entertaining, the direction by Kristin Clippard is crisp and fast-paced, the lighting design delivers subtleties of mood and time of day and dissolves from scene to scene, all adroitly handled with Robert P. Robins’ signature polish.

Maybe the white couple are turned into cartoons. But the same could be said of characters in a play by Brecht or Ionesco. Besides, we know already the point of view of the dominant culture. We know where they’re coming from. Tania and Pablo are revelations.

Tania points out that Pablo has been largely oblivious to the class struggle in his native Chile, which privileged him, and has only become outspoken against racial prejudice in the US now that it affects him.

We think about these things when we consider building a wall between us and Mexico, when the Israelis decide to build on the west bank, when ranchers decide to graze their cattle on federal land, we might be reminded of Mark Twain’s unassailable assertion: “There is not one square inch of the earth’s surface in possession of its rightful owners.”

Amanda Nipper’s sound design imbues the play with a jaunty forward thrust and comments slyly on the text.

Erin Jester’s costume design brings out the contrasting yet trendy bourgeois lifestyles in a series of costume changes that have the actors advancing the plot like turning pages of a fashion magazine – leisure, business, retirement, and of course, gardening attire.

As for the garden itself, you’ll get not only tips but a raison d’etre for the entire ecosystem.

With all that going right, there’s almost nothing to bitch about – except that somebody else is actually doing all the work.

Oh yeah, the workers, Alexandra Lopez, Allen McBride, and Andrea Acevado. They are a cheerful lot – they’re being paid, so pulling a fence down or mounting a new one is all the same to them. They constitute the movement and change in both the set and the plot. They attend to business, and they dance and move in rhythm, and they work it, chatting inaudibly in  a secret dialogue, and they do what they’re paid to do. Thus the property can be improved, the value increased, and all can live happily ever after – until, say, the banks start crashing. . .

Native Gardens plays the Hippodrome Theatre through March 26.

Playmates for Life at the Hippodrome

“This is the first time we’ve acted together as husband and wife as husband and wife,” Kevin Rainsberger explains with a smile. A winning smile, from the stalwart actor whose charm, talent, rugged good-looks and prowess have graced the Hippodrome stage for decades. He is speaking of his castmate, the Hipp’s iconic actress Nell Page, whose classic high cheekbones and razor-sharp performances have graced the Hipp nearly from the very start.

photo by Michael Eaddy

Kevin Rainsberger and Nell Page are co-starring opposite Marco Adiak Voli  (https://www.jackstraw.org/artist/marco-adiak-voli/ ) and Alea Figueroa (http://www.aleafigueroa.com/theatre-resumeacute.html) in the Hippodrome’s production of Karen Zacaria’s daring comedy Native Gardens directed by Kristin Clippard.

“I had to audition four times to win the role of Nell’s husband,” Kevin laughs. He means in the play, not real life. He and Nell Page have led lives in the theatre that have intertwined with dramatic art in such delightfully fruitful ways that this production seems to marry real life to dramaturgy like a well-made play. 

“I’m like this guy,” Kevin says of Frank Butley, the white husband whose life is just fine until the question of property lines draws him into conflict with his new Latinx neighbors. What Kevin Rainsberger is really saying is that he can be like just about any guy he’s playing, and this is the guy for now.

Kevin felt like the guy when he played the lead in Talk Radio at the Hipp, assuming the persona of the rage-fueled host by prepping in the dressing room, plugging in a heavy dose of acid rock.

“It was so freaking intense,” he says. “Chain-smoking. Going full out. So freaking intense. I played acid rock on my head-phones to get psyched up for it. I hate, absolutely hate acid rock. It’s so annoying. It was perfect.”

Again, what he means is he was perfect. His performance nailed the guy.

“That was one show I was able to walk off the stage when it was done and know, damn, I did it. I totally did it.”

Rainsberger’s craftsmanship, his work ethic, is matched by Nell’s. They are working actors. Doing a job they love. In a place they love, full of history and past lives. It’s all wrapped together.

Nell is not only a storied player at the Hipp, but she is also, appropriately, its director of development, having witnessed and participated in the Hipp’s evolution from storefront to world-class theatre.

It all began when she when she was a teenager and she played Antigone and caught the eye of  fledgling Hippodrome talent-seekers, Bruce Cornwell and the one and only Rusty Salling. She was star-struck, but they were the ones who were discovering her.

“Rusty was already like a hero of mine, and here he was complimenting me. Not long after that, I got a call from Bruce. I was shocked. They wanted me to play Charlotte Corday in Marat/Sade.”

Anybody would be shocked. That was the whole idea behind Marat/Sade. It’s shocking. The full title is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Picture it, start-up homegrown theatre in 1970s Gainesville performing a play set in a madhouse. That’s before we even get to Charlotte Corda, a narcoleptic waif unable to control her behavior who assassinates Marat. Top it off with the meta-trick that she was actually playing an insane inmate of the asylum playing Charlotte Corday. Nell Page had just taken a leap of faith that would determine the course of her life.

Her dad, an Episcopalian minister, was all for it. “The film of Marat/Sade, directed by Peter Brook, was shown here in Gainesville. It was quite a controversy. There was a panel discussion afterward and my father sat on the panel. He thought the film was deep and insightful. He was very progressive and aware.”

And with that encouragement, she took off. And so did the Hippodrome.

photo by Michael Eaddy

Nell remembers the 70s and the theatre environment in Gainesville: “It was the era of three-act plays. It was a time before the Hippodrome, when the only theatre in Gainesville was at the University or the little theatre. That was it,” referring to the Gainesville Community Playhouse.

An independent theatre  doing professional work was a dubious notion then, The Six who started the Hipp were not theatre department students by and large. “Mary Hausch was heading for med school. Greg Hausch was in the theatre department, I think, but Marilyn Wall had never even done costuming before. I think if they had been theatre department grads they might’ve been deterred. They might have known better,” she laughs.

Nell followed her passion to UF and the Theatre Department. The Hipp was quickly transforming into a major theatrical player in the southeast.

“I knew I wanted children. And I knew women in the theatre who were faced with the same choice. And I knew as time went on some of them had a sense of regret. I didn’t want that. And I had roots here. The opportunity seemed unique.”

She had Tennessee to compare it to. She’d lived there for a while after graduation, and it wasn’t for her. Gainesville was.

“The Hippodrome kept growing, kept getting better and better, developing a real tradition of professional excellence, bringing in artists of high caliber from all over the country. To be part of that was something very special.”

Kevin Rainsberger meanwhile worked his way through the Theatre Department at UF and was rewarded for his efforts with an MFA and several jobs right here in town. “Let’s see, I worked at Racks for a while, making $150 a week. I guess it was a step up, then, when I was maître d’ at Ironwood.”

Sure, we can picture that. Kevin Rainsberger playing those guys.

photo by Michael Eaddy

“Then I was the golf pro at Ironwood.” He casually tosses the fact off, yeah, golf pro at the club, and admits he wasn’t really well paid for it. But in 1978 when he won a part in the Hipp’s production of Dracula, everything changed. He was a professional actor now, and the fit was perfect.

It was a perfect fit in Orlando where he did a long stint in Disneyworld as Indiana Jones. Finally, the acting journey led back to the Hipp. The lives he had lived there, onstage and off, came flooding back one night on the Hipp front porch as he sat reminiscing with Nell Page, whose performance he had just watched with admiration.

Their rapport turned into romance and marriage, and now here they are onstage at the Hipp together again as Frank and Virginia Butley. Nell brings a well of knowledge to the role, as a realtor for Campus to Coast Realty  ( https://campustocoastrealty.com/ctc_agent/nell-page-rainsberger/ ) in a play about a property dispute. But that’s beside the point as far as she’s concerned. Nell accepts the role of actor on her own terms.

As controversy grows over what roles an actor might justifiably play, gays playing gays, Jews playing Jews, each to his own. For Kevin and Nell it’s a matter of basic humanity.

“I think in crisis, in conflict, in real human emotional turmoil, the deeper you go, the more the emotions broaden, simplify, become pure,” she says. “The deeper you go the less variety there is between any of us.”

Apropos of Native Gardens, Kevin agrees. “And that’s the point of this play. It may seem cliché, but it’s true. When the characters we play are drawn into this dispute, it’s gradual, it’s almost natural, the Anglo/Latin presuppositions. But  as it turns out, it’s just undeniable that we’re more alike than we are different.”

That’s the punchline.

“I think comedy is disarming,” says the playwright, Karen Zacarias.  “I mean literally. You let down your armor so you can laugh. And if you laugh, you’re taking things in. I want people who disagree to watch this play and be able to laugh at themselves.”

Native Gardens opens Friday, March 10 and runs through March 26.

Home – The Hippodrome Theatre

From the Book of Gainesville Theatre: Squabbling at GCP

February 1999 MOON Theater

On the Aisle

by Shamrock McShane

Rumors of the theater’s demise ran rampant throughout the twentieth century, but as the millennium dawns, the old whore, er, girl seems livelier (lustier) than ever. In fact, she’s franchised herself.

America’s greatest living playwright, Arthur Miller, says American theater used to be one theater, back in the forties. “That theater had one single audience, catering to very different levels of age, culture, education, and intellectual sophistication.”

Something like that audience still exists at the Gainesville Community Playhouse, where pre-teens and seniors wrestle the middle aged for the arm rests. You look around at the Playhouse and realize these people could just about all go on a picnic together.

Arthur Miller saw the theater bifurcate with the advent of the avant garde, and it has gone on splitting ever since.

Community theater would seem to be in the most precarious situation of all for survival in the future, given the limitations of its repertoire, consisting almost entirely of the tried and true, with special restrictions placed on its subject matter (as in G-rated). And yet, the Playhouse is hale and hearty heading into the millennium, thanks in no small part to young blood directors like Erik Viker, who brings us Marshall Karp’s Squabbles through February 7.

Erik Viker


Within the narrow confines of its repertoire, a director at the Playhouse can be like one of the great auteurs of the old Hollywood studio system who could embellish even a B-movie with their own inimitable style.

Erik Viker’s style bears the stamp of the craftsman, and he clearly believes it’s better to be good than lucky. His direction is fast-paced, his casting impeccable, and the scene changes efficient. There’s a tangible “Honey, I’m home” quality to Viker’s set for “Squabbles,” a reminder that he earned his spurs at the Playhouse as a scene designer.

The play itself conforms to the basic architecture of situation comedy, where characters are contoured like building blocks and are just as likely to be hollow. The playwright, Marshall Karp, is a real-life ad agency exec who gave us “Thank you, Paine Webber” and countless other such bon mots that linger like Muzac in our collective subconscious.

Squabbles is just such fluff, full of contrivances, the pitter-patter of one-liners, and predictability. The plot is bound up by the conflict between a pair of opposing in-laws, the irascible Abe Dreyfus (David Minnich) and the no less pugnacious Mildred Sloan (Jennie Stringfellow), both of whom are foisted upon their married progeny. It’s sort of “No Exit—Ba-dum-bum.”

David Minnich only needs a few moments onstage, peering over his glasses, setting up a punchline by actively listening rather than merely waiting for his cue, to establish subtext. That’s a fancy way of saying there’s depth to his characterization. And that’s where his timing comes from. And that’s why the jokes work.

Abe lords it over the household until his formidable opposition arrives. In the meantime Brett Demmi and Bert Bortnick lend likeable character turns, the former as a politically incorrect Puerto Rican stereotype, and the latter as Abe’s nice guy buddy. But we’re just biding our time, waiting for Mildred to arrive.

Jennie Stringfellow rewards our anticipation with an operatic lilt to her laugh lines and a knack for stage business that tweaks the jokes between the lines. Watch the way she deftly turns down Abe’s picture in passing; she never misses a trick.

Kristen Mercer as Abe’s smart-as-whip daughter Alice adds a bit of cheesecake to the early scenes before disappearing into maternity clothes. (See where this is heading?) She is throughout, nevertheless, witty and charming as all get out.

In the thankless role of straight man is the handsome and personable Mark Stalvey as Mildred’s son Jerry. I will thank him notwithstanding for picking up his cues with alacrity and deferring gracefully to the stars.

Make no mistake, David Minnich and Jennie Stringfellow are the stars of this play. They may not be Tracy and Hepburn, but they aren’t chopped liver either. They play off each other marvelously.

The Playhouse audience is more than appreciative in return. Billed as a romantic comedy, the true romance of this production is to be found in the waves of genuine fellow feeling that skirt the stage.

Arthur Miller rhapsodized about the unified audience of the forties, “One result of this mix was the ideal, is not frequent fulfillment of a kind of play that would be complete rather than fragmentary, an emotional rather than intellectual experience, a play basically of the heart with its ulterior moral gesture integrated with action rather than rhetoric.”

Squabbles is demonstrably not such a play. The bottom line is the jokes require the same soft sell technique Marshall Karp employed in his Grey Poupon campaign.

In modern times you can almost always tell that you are watching a play of essential unreality whenever reference is made to the governess. So very few of us can reflect meaningfully on our own governess, much less the one that we employ. In Squabbles, the governess is played with what seems an appropriate Teutonic rigidity by Rebecca Hamilton.

All the same, there are moments in Squabbles, under Viker’s sure-handed direction, that give a distorted glimpse of our storied theatrical past, which Arthur Miller brazenly posited as “a Shakespearean ideal, a theater for anyone with an understanding of English and perhaps some common sense.”

One such moment comes when David Twombley’s lighting design allows a spotlight to linger just a moment on Abe’s stricken face after his daughter has left for the hospital to have her baby. Another comes when the battling protagonists inevitably reconcile.

On opening night an elderly woman in the audience was so taken with the cooing onstage she couldn’t resist audibly cooing back, “Aw, look at that!” It got a laugh that rivaled those accorded the stars themselves, but it was a warm laugh that washed over the audience and then lapped up onto the stage.

From the Book of Gainesville Theatre: How We Learned to Drive

January  1999 MOON Theater

On the Aisle

Harry Crews has a line in his essay “The Car” that says: “We have found God in cars, or if not the true God, one so satisfying and awe-inspiring that the distinction is too fine to matter.”

Not a few of us find ourselves in cars, as in The Discovery of Self. That is what’s behind the muscular metaphor of Paula Vogel’s 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive, the seductive and provocative love story opening at the Hippodrome January 8.

“There’s something about driving, when you’re in control of the car, just you and the machine and the road, that nobody can take from you,” intimates Peck, the driving force behind this memory play. “I feel more myself in my car than anywhere else. And that’s what I want to give to you.”

Now you may well be asking yourself: Is it the gift or the giver that is suspect here?

Anthony Newfield

“Uncle Peck is not a monster. That’s the wonderful thing about him,” Anthony Newfield, who plays Peck, explained after an early rehearsal at the Hipp. “There’s so much to him. And this is my favorite time as an actor in putting a play together, when you’re free to explore and discover.”

The undiscovered country of How I Learned to Drive, however, is not the one glimpsed along the back roads of rural Maryland where the play takes place, but rather what the playwright John Guare called the landscape of the body.

Vogel cites Guare as her leading dramaturgical influence. The lineage is apparent in How I Learned to Drive. Consider the elegant simplicity of Vogel’s stage devices, her skillful plotting, subtly arranging events in non-linear fashion so we get the impact of a whole life lived.

There is even a Greek chorus to supply the panorama of dysfunction that gives birth to our protagonists, Peck and the memory play’s narrator, his niece by marriage, L’il Bit (Jennifer Hubbard). The plot devolves to these two characters and thus becomes pure drama. As Moliere said, “Give me two players and a passion, and I will show you theater.”

Here is theater, and given Vogel’s artistry, the subject matter could be horticulture and it might be palatable, even sublime. But instead, it is something else.

Paula Vogel

“My own taste or druthers,” Vogel herself has said, “would be to stay away from the P-word, by that I mean pedophile. This is a complicated, troubled love story. Basically, I wanted to respond to Lolita. I wanted to know if a woman writer, a theater writer, could attempt a take on Lolita from Lolita’s point of view.”

If you ask Jennifer Hubbard, who plays L’il Bit, the answer is an emphatic and intriguing yes.

“You can’t tango in a void,” Hubbard cut to the chase. The actress projects the same clear-eyed awareness as the matured character she portrays. Now her task in rehearsal is to awaken her own innocence. “There’s got to be something in the character and in the play that speaks to you. And this does.”

Finding a sense of ownership with How I Learned to Drive could be an ambiguous proposition. This is easily the most produced play in America this season.

“I believe there are 82 companies across the land putting this play together,” declared director Lauren Caldwell. “And I know some of them are thinking: basic two-hander, piece of cake. But let me tell you: It ain’t that easy.”

The difficulty exists because ultimately the subject of Drive does matter. Not only is the Hipp far from unique in producing this play, but the situation depicted, that of sexual abuse, is more prevalent than would ever be allowed had not art given it voice.

Warhol Caldwell

Is strait-laced Gainesville ready for this?

Caldwell didn’t miss a beat in responding, “Our job as artists is to lead, not follow. We’ve got to be unafraid to ask fundamental questions that people may well want to hide from, but we as artists cannot hide from: What is love? Who are we really?”

“The play makes you ask questions of yourself,” Hubbard agreed. “Maybe they’re questions that can’t be answered, but you have to pursue them, you can’t leave them alone. At least I can’t. It’s such a mystery.”

Hubbard shared a knowing glance with Caldwell across the rehearsal room. It is their professional acumen more than their mere show biz connections that does indeed lend the Hipp a sense of propriety toward America’s hottest play.

Hubbard is a veteran of the Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Humana Fest, sometimes known as the Center of the Theatrical Universe. Hubbard cut her teeth on world premiers directed by one of The Cutting-Edge stage directors, Anne Bogart.

Caldwell, meanwhile, is set for a five-week apprenticeship with Bogart after she opens Drive. Make no mistake, the powers that be at the Hipp are just a heartbeat away from the heart of American theater.

Then there’s the fact that Paula Vogel actually chose the Hipp of all places to personally workshop her comedy The Mineola Twins last season.

“That’s because I made such a fool of myself in her agent’s office. They wouldn’t budge on the rights and I wouldn’t budge off that sofa,” confessed Caldwell, the Hipp’s plucky artistic director. “I said I’m just gonna sit here and smoke cigarettes; why don’t you call Paula?”

Newfield laughs at the revelation. He was last seen on the Hipp stage as Uncle Adolph in The Last Night of Ballyhoo. The actor is as rangy as an NBA small forward, but as Adolph, his shoulders were hunched with inhibitions. Here, as Peck, you can see his frame expand to meet the role. “Uncle Adolph’s dark side,” he suggested.

Three weeks before opening, Caldwell wasn’t quite sure what role the chorus would play in her concept. “I don’t want some broad pastiche of humanity,” she said. “I think perhaps these two actors may tilt the equation.”

The equation is as simple and as deep as one human being plus another.

“There is an invitation implicit in this play,” Hubbard concluded, open to both the play’s eroticism and the incumbent psychical risks, its challenging questions: What shapes us and forms us? What blatant or subtle manipulations compose our personalities?

More importantly, when the distinction between teacher and lover is blurred because the lesson is love, what can you learn about yourself?

First Communion

You cannot go to communion if you’ve eaten.


That day.

Nor could you take communion if you’d committed a mortal sin. You’d have to go to confession and confess your mortal sin before you could take communion again, and if you do take communion when you’ve committed a mortal sin and not been forgiven, which the priest wouldn’t know about because he can’t read minds or anything, just turn bread and wine into body and blood and make Jesus be alive inside you, anyway, if you made the priest give you communion while you had committed a mortal sin and not been forgiven, it would be another mortal sin on your soul, for which you were to be held responsible for all eternity, and it only took one mortal sin to send you to Hell, so you would be doubly fucked, best just never to take communion again, if you could live without Jesus being alive inside of you, but once he was inside you, why would you ever have to take communion again anyway?

There was only one thing to do if you wanted to get into heaven. Confess.

Bless me, father, for I have sinned. My last confession was two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago? You lying sack of shit!

Go to confession. Confess your sins.

Bless me, father, for I have sinned. . .

And then he would lie about how long it had been since his last confession. You were supposed to go every two weeks. At least once a month. Like getting a haircut.

The Seal of Confession. If someone tells a priest in confession that he killed somebody, the priest can’t tell anybody. How fucked up is that?

I don’t know.

I stole money from my dad’s glass dachshund. I lied three times.

He didn’t say what it was he was lying about. He was lying about lying. He made up sins to confess to. Normal sins. Petty venial sins.

Confess everything and God will forgive you.

Clean slate.

You’ll feel better.

Just the opposite. What makes you think someone is going to feel better because they just said out loud everything they’re ashamed of? They’re not relieved; they’re humiliated.

Now for your penance, say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys.

And if you skipped out on that, it wouldn’t work.

You were only going to get into Heaven if you happened to die in a state of grace.

Say an Act of Contrition.

You were supposed to confess your desires too, your impure thoughts, sinful ideas. Yeah, like he’d be doing that.

Not my will, but thine be done. Yeah. Fuck what I want.

The host was kept in a tabernacle in the sacristy, but it could be put into a little to-go box called a pyx if the priest had to take it to somebody who was sick and needed Jesus in their mouth, or the priest could put the host in a monstrance, a contraption like a trophy, and hold it up to people at a benediction.

The Mohawks cut a priest’s fingers off, so he couldn’t celebrate mass anymore because he didn’t have his consecrated fingers to hold the host.

Augustine had preceded Aquinas, and Augustine was Plato’s man, and Augustine held that the people, the faithful, were the body of Christ, and the communion wafer was a sign of that body, and you ate it, like food, and the people were gathered together for a meal, to share a meal, which is what the followers of Jesus did to remember him, whenever two or more of them gathered together, he was there. He told them so at the Last Supper. Do this in remembrance of him.

At dinner, before saying grace, when they made the sign of the cross, Danny’s little brother Brendan would always do it wrong.

He’s left-handed.

He has epilepsy.

He’s retarded.

They sat down for dinner in the kitchen. It was only on occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter that they ate in the dining room. Dad was at the head of the table, Dan at the foot, his sister and Mom on one side, Gramma and his little brother on the other.

Say grace, Brendan.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the –

Other side.

Holy Ghost. Bless us, O Lord, for these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ Our Lod. Amen. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the –

Other side.

Holy Ghost. Amen.

Brendan was left-handed, in addition to being dumbed down by Dilantin, so blessing himself with his right hand always crossed him up. Mom perpetually intervened to prevent him from accidentally swearing allegiance to the devil.

Let Us Pray.

Come Holy Ghost and help me to realize whom I receive in Holy Communion. Help me to realize that it is my Jesus, who, though He is God and Man, was always obedient to His Mother and Foster Father until he was a grown-up Man. Jesus, because He loves me and wishes to come to me, hides Himself under the appearance of a little bread.

Help me, Dear Jesus, to receive You in Holy Communion often. I want to be near You. I want to be with You. Jesus, I love you and I repent of ever having offended you. Amen.

The logos became flesh in Jesus.

And thus, we Eat Our Words.                     

All of it made Dan gag. Well, something made him gag. The host. The wafer. The “little bread”.

They hadn’t practiced that part. They practiced everything else, but there was no practicing that, the actual welcoming of Our Lord and Savior under your roof – the roof of your mouth, where He got a little stuck. They had practiced walking in a line in an orderly manner and dipping the fingers of your right hand in the holy water and blessing yourself with the sign of the cross and genuflecting and entering the pew, but there was no practice swallowing sweet Jesus – because that would’ve been a sacrilege and you’d burn in Hell.

So, presumably a child would have to wait until the actual mystical experience to know how his untutored and traitorous body would react to the presence of Almighty God in the person of the good and gentle Jesus hiding Himself in a little bread.

Danny knelt along the communion rail with a row of his classmates, in alphabetical order, between Jack Leper and Danny McTigue. One by one, along the line, the communicants tipped their heads slightly, closed their eyes, opened their mouths, stuck out their tongues, and received the body of Jesus, Corpus Cristi, under their roof and into their spiritual lives and physical bodies. Here came Father White. He was laying Jesus on Leper’s tongue now. Ok. Now Jack “Strap” had Jesus in him. And now it was Danny’s turn. He closed his eyes and stuck out his tongue.

Don’t chew Him! One’s teeth must never touch the Host.

Father White placed the host upon his tongue and Danny took the Lord Jesus into his mouth, and he was careful not to touch Jesus with his teeth, but nobody had told him that you had to let Jesus melt in your mouth like an M&M before you tried to swallow Him, so, when Danny attempted to draw Jesus down his gullet by means of peristalsis, the circumference of the disc exceeded the aperture, and he started to choke on the fucking thing.

Do not chew the host. If you chew the host, you will go to Hell.

Ok, he wouldn’t chew it. But a terrible thing was happening. He couldn’t swallow it. He couldn’t swallow the damn thing.

Jesus! Jesus Fucking Christ! Sweet Jesus, help me!

Mother Imelda was patting him on the back.

Daniel, are you all right?

He didn’t want to cough Jesus up. He wanted to say I’m ok, but he couldn’t because he wasn’t. Why wasn’t this happening to anyone else?

If you choked on the host, it was because you were unworthy, and Dan was choking on the host.

Explaining how the metaphorical is really literal becomes quickly more and more absurd. Jesus as Bread and Wine. Think about it. Now think about it with all the rational thought of western civilization gathered into a wrecking ball to swing at shit and see what you get.

Or, you can just accept it, believe it, go thy way and sin no more.

If God and the Church were one and you were commanded to believe in miracles, even though miracles would only prove that God was not God, how could you believe it, how could you rationalize it, how could you reconcile the blatant contradiction?

Why was it called the Host? Like the host of a party? It’s just a wafer.

That’s the miracle. Looks like a wafer, but it’s really the Body of Christ.

His body, not his blood. His blood’s in the chalice that the priest drinks from. His blood’s the wine. The wine’s His blood. The priest gets that.

Secretly, the altar boys would sample both, the wafers and the wine. The whole backstage area of the church reeked of red wine, until it would be overpowered on occasion by the pungent smell of incense burning.

There was a fine art to mumbling a bunch of shit that sounded like Latin.

Seven sacraments: baptism, confession, communion, confirmation, marriage, holy orders, extreme unction.

Dan would need extreme unction before he died.

Extreme. That sounds bad.

Unction doesn’t sound too good either.

Guess that’s why you wait till the last minute.

Buzzer beater.

The Book of Gainesville Theatre

Book of Gainesville Theatre

1985 – 2023

Critical Index

Jun 6, ‘85        Hello Dolly (GCP)

Jun 13, ‘85      Fool for Love (UF)

Jun 20, ‘85      Taming of the Shrew (UF)

Jul 11, ‘85       Hipp Season Not a Gamble

Jul 18, ‘85       They’re Playing Our Song (Hipp)

Aug 1, ‘85       Cabaret (UF)

Aug 30, ‘85     Pirates of Penzance (GCP)

Sep 27, ’85      The Torch (UF)

                        Who’s Happy Now? (UF)

From 1996 to 2002, Shamrock McShane wrote a column on Theatre for the counter-culture publication MOON Magazine.


 Aug  ’96         Season Preview: Hippodrome, Gainesville Community Playhouse,

Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, University of Florida, Santa Fe Community College, Ocala Civic Theatre

Sep  ’96           Carousel  (GCP);  Playwright Sarah Bewley

Oct  ’96           Sylvia (Hipp), Man for All Seasons (GCP),

The Boys Next Door  (SFCC), Culture Movement (Acrosstown)

Nov  ’96          True West (Acrosstown), Mary, That’s a Boy’s Name (Melody Club);

 Profile: Sarah Bewley

Dec  ’96          A Christmas Carol (Hipp), The Taming of the Shrew (Acrosstown)

Jan  ’97            Profile: Writer/Director Sybil Odom, All Children’s Theatre

Feb  ’97           Freefall (Acrosstown)

Mar  ’97          A Streetcar Named Desire (Hipp)

Apr  ’97           The Oscars; 1984 (Acrosstown)        

May  ’97          Teen Play Fest (Hipp); The Invisible People (ACT);

How the Other Half Lives (GCP); Sandman (Acrosstown)

Jun  ’97           The Acrosstown Shakespeare Company

Jul  ’97            Profile: Playwright Jeffrey Sweet

Aug  ’97          Profile: Director Lauren Caldwell, Hippodrome

Sep  ’97           Steel Magnolias (GCP)

Oct  ’97           Dracula (Hipp)

Nov  ’97          Macbeth (everyday theater) reviewed by Colin Whitworth

Dec  ’97          Profile: Actor William H. Macy

Jan  ’98            Profile: Actor Rusty Salling, Hippodrome

Feb  ’98           Santa Fe Community College Shakespeare Fest

Mar  ’98          The Glass Menagerie (Hipp)

Apr  ’98           Judevine  (SFCC),

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead  (Acrosstown)

May  ’98          Private Eyes (Hipp)

Jun  ’98           Florida Studio Theatre; Miss 1988 ; SFCC one-acts

Jul  ’98            Search and Destroy (Pariah Theatrics)

Aug  ’98          Profiles: Designer Denise Mondschein

and Playwright Matthew David

Sep  ’98           William H. Macy Visits the Hipp for The Last Night of Ballyhoo

Oct  ’98           Horrors: Little Shop of Horrors (GCP),

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Hipp),

Hogtown Horrors (Acrosstown)

Nov  ’98          Orestes (UF)

Dec  ’98          Xmas: Chirstmas Carol/Tuna Christmas (Hipp),

Miracle on 34th Street  (GCP); Angel Hush (Acrosstown)

Jan  ’99            How I Learned to Drive (Hipp)

Feb  ’99           Squabbles (GCP)

Mar  ’99          Gross Indecency (Hipp)

Apr  ’99           The Good Person of Sichuan (UF); Teen Play Fest (Hipp)

May  ’99          The Shammies

Jun  ’99           Playwrights Arupa Chiarini, Sarah Bewley, Mary Hausch, 

and Shamrock

Jul  ’99            Profile: Designer Marilyn Wall-Asse, Hippodrome

Aug  ’99          Marie and Bruce (Pariah Theatrics/Rapscallions of the Periphery)

Sep  ’99           As Bees in Honey Drown (Hipp)

Oct  ’99           The Fringe Fest; Frankenstein (Hipp);

A Short History of the Devil (Jobsite, Tampa);

A View of the Dome (Rapscallions)

Nov  ’99          Frankenstein (Hipp); Amadeus (UF); The Diviners (SFCC);

Homeless in Gainesville FL (Homeless Book and Theater Project)

Dec  ’99          A Critical Credo: Amadeus (UF)

Jan  2000         The Piano Lesson (Acrosstown)

Feb 2000         The Importance of Being Earnest (UF)

Mar 2000        Hedda Gabler (Hipp)

Apr 2000         Hamlet (Acrosstown)

May 2000        The Shammies

June 2000        The Tony Awards

July 2000        Profile: Actress Nicole Simpkiss Dickson

Aug 2000        The Season (Hipp, Acrosstown, GCP);

                        A Decade of Gainesville Theater

Sep 2000         Boys in the Band  (Acrosstown), Cheese (Rapscallions)

Oct 2000         Hysteria (Hipp)

Nov 2000        Angels in America (UF), Enemy of the People (Acrosstown),

Hysteria  (Hipp)

Dec 2000         Xmas Carols, More Letters to the Editor

Jan 2001          The Blue Room (Hipp)

Feb 2001         Porn versus Art (Common Grounds), Amistad (Acrosstown)

Mar 2001        Macbeth (Hipp)

April 2001       Curse of the Starving Class (Acrosstown)

May 2001        The Shammies; Summer Reading (In Search of Lost Time, Capital,

                        The Magus)

June 2001        Homecoming  (Boulevard Arts), House of Ma (Wild Angels), Hedwig

                        and the Angry Inch  (Hipp)

July 2001        Richard III (UF), Bash (Thursday Afternoon Productions)

Aug 2001        The Music Scene: Vini and the Demons

On the Aisle — Producers and Directors: Sheila Bishop, David Shelton, Sid Homan, Ralph Remshardt, David Young, Lauren Caldwell, Mary Hausch, Jessica Arnold, Lowrie Fawley

Sep 2001         Dinner with Friends (Hipp)

Oct 2001         Art and Tragedy

Nov 2001        Misery (Hipp), Acrosstown News

Dec 2001         Profile: Actor Gregg Jones

Jan 2002          Profile: David Mamet

Feb 2002         Seven Guitars (Acrosstown), Out of Eden/America’s New War Strikes Back! (Galleriebob)

Mar 2002        The Diary of Anne Frank (Hippodrome)

April 2002       Julius Caesar (Acrosstown)


Return of the Satyr Play         Bat Boy: The Musical             November

Hippodrome State Theatre

Newmoon – The Shape of Things       October


The Kindness was Stranger   

Fiddler on the Roof                            July


Gainesville Sun


Lessons in Reviewing                         December

Twenty-Four Hour Plays                    November


Here’s to Dionysus                             October

Typecasting – I Hate Hamlet              September


Hanging with Mace                            August

Notes from Galleriebob                       August

The Life of Drama and the Drama of Life     July

The Utopian Actor – Medusa             June

(Crooked Letter)

Process, Not Product  The Carpetbagger’s Children             May


Actor’s Notebook                               April

One City One Story    Romeo and Juliet        March


Oh What Mangled Crud She Wove!   February

Romeo and Juliet                                 February


The Play about the Baby                    January



Jess’s Richard III                                September


Silent Voyeur                                      August

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change      July


Great Playwrights                               June

Second Stages                                     May

Jimmy Nil Fishhawk                           May

Ham ‘n Cheese                                    April


Minds greater than our own?              March

War of the Worlds


The Secret Obscenities of Everyday Life        February



Holiday Jeer                                        December

The Breakfast Club                             November


Complete History of America             September


Pre-Season Predictions                       August

Wring out the old, bring on da new!   January            Really Leary, Votive Pit, Our Town

(SFCC, Acr, Hipp)


Practicing Players (UF)                      December

Wonder This                                       November

Alice in Wonderland (Hipp)

Mamet Primer                                     October

San Francisco                                      September

Marx at the Matheson                         August

Great American Trailer Park Musical                        July


The Faux King                                                June


Joe Haldeman’s Cosmological Adventure     May

Elvis People                                        April


Pinter’s Politics                                   February


Frozen                                                 January



Playing the Dickens Card                   December

When Dickens can’t be acted

A World View of Theatre                   November

The Word is Spoken                           October

Whither Dominus Vobiscum              September

Doubt (Hipp)

Cinema Verite Hogtown Style           August

Shakespeare Abridged (UF)               July

Harry and the Hawk                           June

Memory of Water (Hipp)                    May

The Beauty Queen of Leenane            April


One City, One Story – The Chosen     March


The Smell of the Kill                           February


Acrosstown Film Fest                         January


Dark Night of the Soul Party              December

Giving Thanks                                     November

Notes from Fort Myers

Sara Morsey & Mike McShane

Political Theater                                  October

Waiting for the Parade                        September


Looking For Work

The Seasons and the Directors

at the Hipp, UF, GCP, and ART         August

Bunnay Hop

Bunnay, the Movie

Frog, Tom Miller

Study Break                                        July

College, The Musical (Hipp)

A Competition is Not a Fight

Mamet at the Movies                          June

Is Everybody Happy

The Pursuit of Happiness                   May

Back to the Coliseum                          April


The Web of Acting                             March

Project Threshold

The Odd Couple

Shopping for God                               February

Finger on the Pulse                             January

The Plays of Orna Akad        

The Drawer Boy

By Michael Healey

Directed by Mark Woollett

Acrosstown Repertory Theatre

Gainesville FL, August 24 – September 9, 2012

Haiti Project                SF                    2012

The Foreigner              ART

August 2014

Galileo of Gainesville             ART

Gaslight           ART    2018

Floppies/ Transferred Docs/ Sham Backup

April 99

Ralf Remshart             Good Person of Setzuan         UF

April 2000

Sid Homan                  Hamlet            ART

April 2001

Sid Homan                  Curse of the Starving Class    ART

April 2002

Sid Homan                  Julius Caesar               ART

August 98

Denise Mondshein      Matthew David

August 99

Rapscallions of the Periphery

August 2000

Lauren Caldwell         Season Preview: Hipp, ART, GCP

August 2001

Directors: Lauren Caldwell, Sid Homan, Jess Arnold, Ralf Remshart, Mary Hausch, David Shelton, David Young, Sheila Bishop

December 98

Hipp    Christmas Carol, Tuna Christmas, Like Totally Weird; Angel Hush, directed by Lara Krepps ART

December 99

Assailing the Review of Amadeus      UF

UF stopped asking the Sun to review plays after Arline Greer trashed two MFA candidates.

December 2000

Sid Homan      Letters to the Editor   ART

December 2001

Gregg Jones

February 99

Erik Viker       Squabbles        GCP

February 2000

Judith Williams           Importance of Being Earnest              UF

No Review


From the world’s pre-eminent authority on the plays of MPB

Playing Bobbitt | shamrockmcshane (wordpress.com)                                          

Another Job for Bobbitt Industries | shamrockmcshane (wordpress.com)

Sometimes Wishes Can Come True | shamrockmcshane (wordpress.com)                 

The Theater of Michael Presley Bobbitt | shamrockmcshane (wordpress.com)           

Notes on a Trailer Park Elegy | shamrockmcshane (wordpress.com)               

Let’s Get Down to the Nitty-Gritty | shamrockmcshane (wordpress.com)

Midnight Dreams

Hamlet (ART)


Oedipus Redux

Jack and Jill

Gruesome Playground Injuries

Looking Over the President’s Shoulder

Adventures in No Man’s Land

 Yellow Wallpaper/Masque of the Red Death/A Study in Emerald


In Splendid Error

Into the Woods

Angel Street

The Royale

Se Llama Christina

Much Ado about Nothing                   ART                2017

Word Press

Marley’s Christmas Carol

The Reason to See Saint Joan

The Foreigner

Mamet Primer

House of David

Across the River

Kimberly Akimbo

Akimbo Addendum

Flight of the Unicorn

These Shining Lives

Twelve Years a Slave

Albee’s Play about the Baby

Black Cat on a Hot Tin Roof



Death of a Salesman

Marvin the Marxist Mining

You have Proust to explain it now.  I did the same with Everett for eight years. All that I can think about the wasted years is that they somehow prepared me for the good ones that came. When I fell in love with Everett for the first time, I was so happy that I loved that my parents had beaten on me for 27 years because I thought of it all as preparations for the good times that came for a while after meeting him.

You will read all that in my journals sometime, and you will think: “The bastard Marvin forgot what a jerk he was where Everett was concerned. He gave up his career and at least ten possible lovers. I won’t take any more of his advice.” I will be dead five years by that time.  Why did it take you five years to read that part of the journal? I am not leaving them to you unless you agree to read them faster.

Did I tell you that I am thinking of becoming an official Marxist Therapist?  I talked to my lawyer about it yesterday. I would not get paid, but I don’t want to get sued.

I did not read Marx until after my fiftieth birthday, and I did not start having real fun out of life until—maybe yesterday.  No! It started when I was sixty, and I realized that I was going to finish writing a book, and that I was finally educated enough to know that what I was teaching was the most up to date one could be for our times.

I have Journals from May 21 1969-7 May 1972 and more from 1972 to 1974. In the second of those volumes, I found your typed poem: “Marvin the Marxist Mining”. Cheryl is mentioned on the first page of that volume. March 14 entry: “The play opens this evening. I’m still tired but resting and waiting for Roger to drop by.  Must masturbate before he comes, or my poise will be gone.”

Do you want the journals? I seemed to be reading Proust on 9 June of that year.  On June 5th: “Calls from Tim McShane and Nick Urfe today.” I will read more of it tomorrow.  You were sure there. 6 August: “Dark and damp day. Making some soup. Think more about Tim.”  Well! Well! Well!  How much we do forget.

You appear first on 5 June.  You called me. I gather that we did They Shoot Horses in Spring, 1972. There is no mention of you, however, until the 5th. I looked ahead, and there are more, but I want to read in sequence.

The surprises so far: 1) Roger was dominant in this period, but there were many other names mentioned and I cannot remember who they were, 2) it’s ironic because I was reading Proust at the time. I guess that I read some of it on that ocean voyage, and I was back finishing it.  Actually, just looked at a page and it says: “Reading my way out with Proust. Starting all over again.”  That was on 7 June. On 8 June: “. . . when depressed I must reach rapidly for some great work to read. Proust is helping. Concentration returned last night. Even for a while it relieved the pain.”  9 June, “The withdrawal continues into Proust.” Eleven June: “Up late-restless-even with sleeping pills. Reading Proust. Fascinating and disturbing.  Suicide slowly facing, because of Proust, forcing myself to go back over – to  remember my own pain’s past.  Remember incidents and love affairs and all my pre-Marxist nausea. Understand Sartre better. Understand it all better. Less able to cope.”

Nick Urfe fell Proust-like in love with Cheryl, and she became his Sweet Cheat always gone, but fucking him when she returned. (For a low brow presentation either see or read Somerset Maugham’s, Of Human Bondage. In fact, if you have never read it, see the Bette Davis movie version. It could be you and your wife, and, if you are not careful, it will definitely be you and Cheryl.) It is interesting that in the same journal entries these names appear: Cheryl, Roger, Tim, Nick Urfe, and someone named Stan Parks. I am having remembrances of things past. I am glad now that I kept the journals. I wish that I had been more detailed.

You are making me want to rush back and read Proust.  You know, we are having the most intellectual of relationships here. It has made me want to remember everything that was before, and I can recall nothing. Don’t be offended, however. I did your portrait–I still have it in the basement, and that says volumes. I remember Ken Mason, Toni Livingston, and the others vividly, but all thoughts of you have flown out of my head. Why?  I keep thinking that it is because I felt so guilty at hitting on you so hard that I am suppressing all memory. Your reading Proust has made me want to remember those days. It is very frustrating. You must be patient, however, and remind me of what books we were doing back then. I know that we were in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? together, but the rest flies out of my head.

I painted your picture, and I have it in my basement. That means that you sat for me, and we undoubtedly hugged a lot. I probably made meals, and I wanted you: I probably said so. My memory, which is almost always good about things, blanks on you. When I try to fill in the blank, my only experience is one of guilt. Actually, I may have offended you but without your even noticing, and I need not have felt any guilt. It is that way in life. In a novel, there are always two visible sides, and they make sense: not so in our own lives. I could go on with this. It does interest me as I look back at my steamiest relationships and remember that I only learned after the fact that I was feeling and providing most of the steam. The other person really liked me, but not the way I liked them. Damn the inequality.  However, when I think back, I had the better time. Only in retrospect. Proust is the only writer that ever got it right–at least for me.  Unfortunately, all my thoughts about what the other person felt are speculations, and sections of stories that I wrote where they told me what they felt. I hate speculations.

I am following Thomas Hobbes as his work penetrates into all writings after 1688. As you see authors weave in the major themes, you understand why we look at fundamentalists as ignorant: we also understand why we interpret Marxist work as utopian. The dominant paradigm controls all media. You must read Kuhn before noon. The Copernican Revolution.

My remembrance is that the Remembrances started racing for me around Sodom time. However, that is the time that he really gets into the boy box sex stuff. Charlus was a wonder for me. Remember, there were no other books of this quality about the closet, and I was returning from a Europe in which I entered superb love affairs with several men, and their boy friends.

I have never stopped loving anyone that I loved. I was the one who called my first wife the other night. I even wrote her an e-mail. She did not respond. That is why she is an ex-wife. Superficial people don’t remember their things past. They never did them with passion. Remember, read the Bible for feudalism, Hobbes for capitalism, Marx for socialism, and Marvin for communism.

That first volume of Remembrance is hard to do if you don’t know where the roads lead.

There is no reason why you can’t have two, three, four, or five different women. Some will be better than others in bed, but they may all be fun. (Jeremy has already picked up two more since he returned to China, and he has already made it with Alice. But! Mary is waiting for tomorrow.)  It is possible to have one hundred intimate and quality relationships. Work means teaching, tennis, basketball, reading, writing, cooking, dancing, and acting, to name only a few of the varieties of “use work.”  We are not yet in the communist stage of history, but we are already showing how bounteous our appetites will be in the future because the process taking us to the beginning of real human history, the end of pre-historical times, has put the working class in charge. Stop specializing. We were both brought up to think that Proust had the answers:  There will be one person, one career, and only one “real” passion. Our job? Too find that person, that one career, that one passion: to be all you can be by joining the Marines or becoming an “artist.” If we don’t find it, we fail: if it gets away, we are unhappy forever. 

“The more Proust I read, the more of a Victorian scientist he seemed, a truth-seeker, Darwinian in outlook and methodology. Marcel’s ruminations on social change after his years in the sanatorium are a Parisian Origin of Species. Since society itself evolves very slowly over a very long time and any one person sees only one section of it, it seems to be immutable, as animal species seemed to be, as the geology of the earth seemed to be, before the long view of the 19th century scientists was directed at them.” —

Phyllis Rose, The Year of Reading Proust

Who is this Phyllis Rose? That is pretty good thinking on her part.

The Marx raincoat is the only apparel that I find acceptable.  Unfortunately, with so much of the world anti-Marxist it means that you have to be stoical as well as cool until the other sleepers catch up. Remember The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner?  It was written for us. 

I did not read Marx until after my fiftieth birthday, and I did not start having real fun out of life until—maybe yesterday.  No! It started when I was sixty, and I realized that I was going to finish a book I was writing and that I was finally educated enough to know that what I was teaching was the most up to date one could be for our times.

Marcel Proust was a bourgeois scientist who studied love. Remembrance of Things Past elucidates his discoveries. The greatest of these can be a comfort to us all. It is simply this: You always get what you want . . . as soon as you stop wanting it.

The Proust line, you get what you want only after you don’t want it, needs much Marxizing.  That is a bourgeois truth: it is not a proletarian one at all. You are getting what you want now because you are not being petty bourgeois about everything in your world. Your writing will become more species directed, and your life will be more fun as you stop living it for one other: specialization is a disease in love as much as in art.

You have to realize that you are one of the two people in the world to have combined Marx and Proust as your tools for understanding specie’s life in the early twenty-first century. It gives you power to understand–or to control.

I was reading in Proust just now, and I saw in my writing, in the margin, R. C. 6/20/72 next to the line: “Life is strewn with these miracles, for which people who are in love can always hope. ”  I got lucky that night, I guess, but I had to go to my journals to find out who R. C. was. I thought maybe Robinson Crusoe, but that made no sense.  I don’t think that I will tell you who R. C. was. Read the journals sometime. But, in this volume some pink papers fell out. A Poem: Marvin the Marxist Mining. Do you remember writing it?  It is sort of unbelievable to me that I was reading Proust when we met.  (I actually know that I read the middle volumes, Sodom and Gomorrah, on the ship coming back from England in 1963.) But! The inscription in the first two volumes that I have is dated 1961.  Joyce gave me the next volumes in December 1966.  What a jumble. What am I going to do with all these journals?

I read more Hobbes yesterday, along with more Proust. Hobbes in a brief chapter early on is trying to figure out what makes people crazy, or what makes us say a person is crazy, and he finds all sorts of reasons and causes. He has taken us there by going through Imagination, Speech, Reason and Science, Intellectual Virtues, and now their Defects. For Hobbes, for example, crazy people might believe they are God.

Hobbes does the first scientific investigation of “human nature.”  His take, modified by all writers after him, especially Proust in the twentieth century, will capture the imagination of all thinkers. Freud is going to nail it down as science. Hobbes found the “essence” on which all relationships, political and social, are built. It was this human nature thing, never changing, the building blocks, the atom. 

Marx and Darwin split Hobbes’ atom, but not many have noticed that yet.

Proust, some two hundred and fifty years after Hobbes, comes along, and, using the lives of those who have private property as his principal model, he convinced budding blooming working-class intellectuals that he spoke to about their lives. He tried to convince them that his problems with Odette are theirs with your wife or Everett. We projected into Swann’s life, and we that way we learned that it is the human condition to repeat, to suffer, to long, to be jealous–we learned that we must accept that we reproduce over and over again the same results in our social relationships that we did when we were children because it is “human nature” to do so.  Marcel will become Swann because he practiced jealousy, love, and possessiveness with Gilberte. He will repeat, over and again, just as Swann does. He will come to love the jealousy as much as the loved object. We all Wait for Godot, and Godot won’t come, but we wait, and we learn that he won’t come, but the waiting for Godot is the entire life–the waiting becomes the only pleasure–that becomes the art of being smart. That is how Proust does Hobbes, but not before Locke, Defoe, Swift, Fielding, Richardson, Adam Smith, Paine, Blake, and Wordsworth reinforced the Hobbesian methodology and ideology. Darwin and Marx began the struggle against Hobbes. Oh! It was there in Blake and Rousseau, certainly in Shelley, but they did not have the microscope–without the microscope you do not know change. All this said, everyone around you believes the Hobbes to Proust line. 

Did you make a mistake? It is only a mistake in the Hobbesian kingdom. I repeated Everett about ten times after I finished with him, and I think that I was still doing it when I met you. Somehow the Marx acted as a prophylactic against that repetition. I am still not totally free of it, of course. Custom, use, repetition are how we learn.  It is how Robinson trained Friday, and how we train our students and children.  Remember, Friday went up to Robinson, and Robinson did not say: “Hi! My name is Robinson. What’s yours?” He said, “My names is Master, and I will call you Friday.” Now we would say, “Your name is so-and-so, and human nature is. . .”  The Catholic in you helped you to escape some of the damage. You were not going to buy original sin, but that came too late to get you to take in whole hog the bourgeois paradigm. You had on a feudal rubber.

Okay! I will have to tell you all the secrets. It probably means that you won’t need me as an adviser anymore, but it is the final weapon that I have for serious mourners. The only security blanket–until the revolution ends the pain of individualism–is in learning to do art and methodology by yourself.  The art you are already learning to do excellently: the art of playing, reading, cooking, painting, journal keeping, gardening, playing basketball, teaching, making love to someone else if you are lucky, talking to someone else in a comrade way if you are even luckier, masturbating, dreaming, and searching the new methodology for flaws. The doing of new methodology is lonely, frustrating, and rewarding. No one is going to love you for being a Marxist.

Hobbes’ methodology was flawed, but he believed in it, and those who came after him accepted it as well as the ideological implications of his conclusions. He wrote that about each individual alone in a state of nature: each swearing to uphold the state that would protect their own life, liberty, and property–especially property. In doing this, he separated everyone except those who, in the privacy of their space, invited someone to share, as their family, that area. (Wives swear to obey the husbands, husbands take oaths to the kings, kings use the law to beat up all those who try to take private property from those who have it–especially to punish those who have no private property to exchange but their labor power.) Hobbes wrote, of course, for only those who had private property: no one else would even be allowed to vote for three hundred years. Tim lives in that modern state where workers do vote. Before that happened, however, the state so beat up the minds of the working class, that they thought that they had private property to protect. This started with public education. (see Dickens, Hard Times.)  Working people were taught that personal property was the same as private property, and they fought for king and country to hold onto their underwear while throwing grenades at those who would attempt to take away Rockefeller’s oil.)

One at a time may be the only way.  After all those revolutions, marches, slogans, we still have only Catcher in the Rye as a plan. Okay! that’s it. I am your Catcher: don’t fall, however, because I am sixty-six and the weight will kill me. You can pretend to fall, however.

There are good lines in Proust, too many of them to ever copy out. I will have to go to my diaries to see what I put there from the first reading. I am still not certain when I read the thing. I know that I started with Sodom and Gomorrah when I did it seriously, and then went back to the beginning. I am interested in my old underlinings.

He is amazing, isn’t he? I was thinking often last night, I am just at the end of Gilberte now, how much you must be reading yourself and your wife into this read of yours. I think that I was finished with Everett when I picked up the reading about the time I knew you here. I was right in the middle of him when I was reading Sodom and Gomorrah.  Did I tell you that Everett surfaced about a month ago? Sad stuff.

Beware of one thing from now on: everything only seems to accelerate. We know, however, that ideas don’t change history, they just tell us more about where we are.  If the “class” gets the correct material ideas, however, history can move even faster, and the point is to speed the already changing history. Start teaching now: you’re just beginning to realize your power to educate. Unfortunately, some people “seem” uneducable. You can tell it by the fact that they still believe in God. Don’t interrupt them too much because that would be cruel. You can fuck them, however.

It is incorrect to use the terms “educable” or “uneducable” as if people were doing it on purpose: in fact, everyone is learning much everyday, even Darwinians who still believe in God. Almost all Americans are taught that there is a God, and that if they don’t like the one their parents gave them, that they should search for the one they like. Rarely do they have a crisis that leads to the conclusion: “There is no God!”  The fact that more working-class people are discovering that is reassuring. As I have told you, I think that we are already in the socialist stage of history. That is why it is possible that a nice Catholic boy like you can be thinking of fucking everyone–at least the lady ones.

You are an amazing reader. This one quality is what separates you from other people who try to solve their personal problems. You keep adding new raw material to the abundance already there. If you ever stop that, you will start trying to solve your problems with out-of-date solutions.  So called grown-ups always make that error. It is now time for Darwin, Kuhn, and Hobbes.  (Hobbes wrote Proust.) It has to do with dependence, but it has more to do with Catholics in marriage than he could know. Even I had a hard time seeing this until we went to your neighborhood. I would have missed it entirely if I had not been reading so much about the Church during the past months.

Let me put it as simply as I can. One of the sacraments is Marriage, and you married. You may not believe in God, the Pope, or Christianity, but you have produced the sacraments within you so that you can only crave passion, love a woman, and have a family monogamously. You were chained (trained) early, and you cannot break those religious bonds without a superman effort. My hope is that Marx, Proust, and the readings that you will do, will help to loosen those chains, but some things are too deeply ingrained to change much over one lifetime.  I am so sorry now that I chose a sexual specialty. How could I know better, however. My parents, my school, my friends, my books all said the same thing: one place, one time, one partner—and better in the dark.  I rebelled enough to invert the thing–see St. Genet again–but it cost me.  I cannot fuck everyone who wants to fuck me. I do more than most, but I cannot do all that I would wish.

Specie’s life. We all cease to be Americans, whites, blacks, French, Rwandans, Gays, Straights, women, and men. We realize that we are part of a species that has a history that connects everyone in that species. We become Darwinian-Marxists who have read Proust to help ourselves go beyond where we are.

I am freed from that silliness by having read Proust and then Marx and then Proust again and then more Marx, Darwin, and Kuhn.  It is my life, and I won’t waste it on speculation. It took me until 66 to get here: do it by 56. Show me up, boy. Be happier than I am a decade earlier, and I will die of even more happiness.

One of the most important traits of a Marxist is patience. Without a well-developed characteristic of forbearance, you cannot exude optimism about the future of our species, or even of your own life. This patience comes from knowing the laws of historical development. It comes from blending Marxism and Darwinism with the insights gained from reading descriptions of bourgeois behavior found in Proust. Patience without passion leads to martyrdom: passion without patience leads to hysteria.

Blend, blend the raw materials the way that we have been discussing for such a long time, and you will both understand and attract everyone to you, your writings, and your model for living a sane life.

Marx and Proust together but throw in Darwin some time. Did I tell you to read Stephen J. Gould on Ever Since Darwin. Darwin lightens up Marx and assures you that you are correct. There is lots of unhappiness out there, and only having control of the new paradigm can keep you balanced. Without Darwin, Marx, and Proust there is no possibility of survival without cynicism. Only working-class people can do it without reading, and that is because they live within the process rather than as its critics.  Once we started to read, bourgeois infections spread throughout our thinking processes.  When you are a kid first jumping into books, you think that they are all products of objective creative individuals. You don’t learn how lethal books can be until you get a translator: Marx and Darwin translate Proust.  P’s message is not for all times: he was not a scientist of the human condition; he was a student of bourgeois human nature. Someone may think of Proust as a Great Man and pick out a theme and think it is a permanent flaw, and then say, “I will try not to be that perverse,” but you don’t escape bourgeois ideology that easily. Without a translator-magic-ring decoder containing Marx and Darwin, you come out lonelier than when you entered.

It is when you combine Proust with Marx that Proust is the opposite of depressing. Because then you see a world where people get what they want when they want it, not when they don’t, which is an absurd contradiction, possessive love, capitalism. Surplus and people starving.

You can’t find happiness in another person, but you can find it in other people.

There is not a chance in the world that you could do this after reading so much Proust. You’re too rich in Proust now for that to happen. My God, you even figured out that Plato was dumb. What about Socrates? He could have escaped out the back door and had all the boys he wanted. He stayed for hemlock. Duh!

How you can still doubt yourself as a reader, I don’t know. I guess that you believe in “genius.” “If I were really any good, I would have come out of the womb writing Hamlet.” It does not work that way. For the working-class writer, he must first find income.  All novels, plays, and criticism before 1960 were written by petty bourgeois and bourgeois writers. We are just inventing working class art. My take is that it won’t be a novel, it might be a play, but it probably won’t be criticism. It could be the biography of a working-class hero, so write it. This is working class art. When we go beyond socialism, art has to be living life. There will be no writers or artists. At least, Marx says that explicitly.

Proust says what we want is not to live forever; what we really want is the same lifespan, but we want to see it from every perspective, every point of view, all of society (the whole species). We don’t want to live forever; we just want to do it all.

Proust is bourgeois, and he had everything. I want to live forever.

There are no children, friends, or workdays in Marcel’s life: there is only passion, highs and lows. If someone else is doing all the work, the owner has time to navel gaze. Once again, Proust tells us about the side of ourselves that imitates bourgeois mannerism–or, even worse, imitates petty bourgeois types imitating bourgeois mannerism.

The loneliness, the uniqueness, inversion means to feel like the only one who is like this and then perhaps to discover that what you are is a secret society that puts the masons in the shade.

You have to locate the field that you functioned in, and then try to work out the details of why this way and not that way. Obviously, part of your field was competition, big time. You probably confused the resistance to everything with specific resistance to you, and you went out to conquer. That is the simplest explanation. I could work on it more, but inversion is the theme. Proust does that over and over again, so it should not be difficult for you to understand. What is difficult to comprehend, I suppose, is that you were as inverted as I (and everyone else) was, albeit in different ways. We function in a field, and when we are children, we have no analytical tools to unpick the forces producing us–unless we are lucky, and we are born black or broken. We have a chance in those cases to figure out that something is wrong with the world. You had no reason to think that anything was wrong. You just had to make it. When it was easy, it seemed worthless. After all, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp” says Browning. We bought it. 

Eat what is at hand and stop worrying about what you want more or cannot have.

A New Life. Maybe you should put the Bernard Malamud book of the above title on your agenda too.  Yes! Kuhn could still be alive.  He was the most important thinker about science in the 1950s.  Two important books: one of the is The Copernican Revolution and the other The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The first will make sense of Hobbes. If you want to follow the Marvin line as my students are doing you would move to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Newton, Locke, and Defoe to see the first working out of the fresh bourgeois paradigm.  (I have not been able to figure out Milton ever, but I have one book to reread and that may do the work. There is one exception to that statement.  Milton’s Areopagitica fits tightly into the text of the new paradigm.)  If you wish to read the best theoretical work it is by C. B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. Macpherson has written several introductions to Leviathan. Check to see who wrote yours.  After that, I have been showing students how Richardson, Fielding, Hogarth, Cleland (Fanny Hill), Adam Smith, and Edmund Gibbon add to and develop the paradigm. We are marching to Freud, Proust, and Golding through the remainders on this semester’s agenda: Tom Paine, William Blake, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley.  If you wish, you and I can go the rest of the way through the nineteenth century English novel. It is better though to pick it up with the French novel and do Stendhal. Do you know Stendhal?

In any case, you will keep your poise by a diet of continued great reading.  By the end, you may have your own thesis, but for now you can follow me.

I am quite eager to read Remembrances again, but I am also going to put Gibbon’s Decline and Fall on my list.

Everett called last week to tell me that: 1) his friend of 30 years had died, 2) the friend died in a fire, 3) the fire was in their condo, 4) Everett was in Texas at the time, 5) he owns the three flat that they lived in, but it had to be rebuilt after the fire so no tenants, 5a) he slept on a friend’s couch for months until she kicked him out, 6) he does not drive, 7) he has no friends, 8) and he has not worked in twenty years. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, How was the play?  I felt as if I should go to Boston to see him, but I don’t know that I can face any of this. Everett was a depressant when he had everything that one needed to have in the Gay world. Now! ouch.

It is a terrible surprise when you suddenly realize that you are not thinking of the missed loved person any longer. I have experienced that, according to my journal, more times than just Everett. There are some people that still hold on, my friends Paul and Barry for example, who keep me enthralled because I still think that we could have fun together. Where passion was concerned, as in Everett’s case, only sympathy remains, and then only when I think of his awful life there in Boston.  Right now, Adam and I have finished, roughly, but I seem to be glad that chapter is closed.  The “kiddie” years are ending.

Money does bad things in capitalist society. It pollutes all relationships, and there is only way that I have ever been able to keep the fetishism at bay: by having enough to cover expenditures and suppressing all thoughts of unpleasant expenses and contrasts with what others have immediately. If I need a new furnace, I buy quickly, pay the bill, and get on with my journals. I don’t negotiate when caught in the trap. If I have a friend who has too many more toys than I do, I stay away from visiting too much. The hard part always is if there is not enough.  I don’t change houses or jobs, and that saves a lot. I once abandoned both and lost twenty thousand dollars in less than a year. I got very angry at myself, and I went on a mad budget until I felt that I had made much of it back by skimping.  At 66, I don’t want any more skimps.

There is no difference between hetero and homo in the field of Hobbes function. It is the same ache, the same simplicity, and the same waste of time.  It is also powerful, sexy, and produces powerful specialized love stories. Mainly, a sound and a fury signifying nothing–except one’s whole life.

Proust’s analysis of homosexuality–he calls it inversion–reifies the subject. When I read him, however, I began to understand myself a bit better because I needed to hold the subject steady in those years. After reading Saint Genet, I began to realize something more about the field of inversion that Proust left out. To understand Proust, Charlus, or Genet, you need to locate them in capitalism where specialization becomes necessary–and separation–and oneness alone. I understood everything after reading Marx until I read Hobbes and Kuhn.

Proust and Joyce are produced by the nineteenth century. The first ones on their block to have Freud and Einstein. They never knew Marx, however, and they hardly noticed the Russian Revolution. More “Modern” than revolutionary.

Charlus is the most inverted character in all perverse literature. In a fearful way, I sometimes identify with his antics.  (Not his class, of course.)  I don’t remember enough details to tell you specifics, but Proust explains all.

Proust defines it, holds it, and prepares us all to think of it as a permanence. This is “black,” this is “women,” this is “Gay,” and this is “American” are statements that reify. They all do a disservice to productive thinking. When I first read Proust, he made me think of myself as a Charlus. I got my class and my appetite wrong for years after: you have to read Proust while wearing a Marxist prophylactic or you will become cynical and pompous.

I have taken a leaf out of my own advice book. I am reading today. During the semester, I find it difficult to get deeply into a book, but I decided that I better start practicing for long days alone like today. The house is not sad at all, but it is quiet, very quiet. I have to decide how to shatter that quiet, and I am electing for classical music, but I don’t have much in my CD collection. I would like to burn some, but burning is not for me until my friend Bill gets here on Thursday. he is supposed to be my guide into this toy.  Marvin will need lots of toys around the house as the future unfolds. The thoughts of retirement, as you may suspect from signs here and there in my letters, are beginning to take hold. Sometimes, they shatter my self-confidence. Then I think that I am breaking new ground: a Marxist-Darwinist journal keeping sorting out type retiring. It is difficult to accept that only classes change history, not philosophers or diarists.  What is to be done? Still the best question.

Yes! One aspect of the retirement that I am concentrating on heavily is the renewed writing in the journal.  If you ever do read it, you will have my prescription for retirement. My friend Ruth used to tell me that there was nothing good about getting old, and that I should not believe anyone who tried to convince me about “golden years.”  Nevertheless, she always thought that if you stick around, you should do your time happier than anyone else–without hurting yourself or anyone else unnecessarily. (Lots of qualifications in that one.) I studied her carefully, especially after she retired. As I remember now, she stayed on working until into her seventies.  However, she only had a part time job, it was at the University of California, and she never went to work before 1.  She was secretary for the Committee on Prizes, so all she had to think about was how to comfort losers while she was meeting all the winners: talk about posh jobs for someone born to be a Catcher in the Rye.

Reading on the Russian Revolution, and it is distracting me wonderfully well. Slept lots of hours, and that seems the key to my dealing with my worst moods. Nevertheless, I should explain to you in what is our first holiday season together here that I go into winter doldrums. It has to do with the holidays. I start hating people around Halloween, and I don’t come around again until after New Year’s. In some years, I decide that it is best to join them than fight them. Last year was one of those. I gave more Christmas presents than any Jew in the history of the holiday.  This year is more typical: Bah! Humbug. Around 22 December things change because the sun heads back in my direction. I do try to break the moods as much as possible. A laid-back Thanksgiving with older folks is going to work for me this year.

You absolutely would not have believed my performance today. I handed back 25 percent f grades, and they were still glued to their seats—and actually laughing so much that we had to stop to breathe. I am being very, very funny these waning days. I am waning, but in a funny, cute, dimply kind of way.

Speaking of dialectical thinking, I was watching a long, long, long, long, boring, but fascinating, presentation of homosexuality on film through the decades.  Of course, they showed scenes from Rebel Without a Cause, Boys in the Band, and Tea and Sympathy. There were many attempts to evaluate the difference between lesbian and homosexual themes, but what came across mostly was that “fag” continues an acceptable term in films for bad guy use, and the good guys always want to use “gay” instead.  No one thinks that it is ridiculous to have categories at all. We are Black, White, Gay, Asian, Peruvian, and French.  The Israelis have to own the largest Ghetto in the world, and “natural” history demands that Kosovo be a nation.  As the obvious happens, the end of sexual differences, the demise of the national state, the eradication of ethnic biases, and the production of a god less explanation of phenomenon, the makers of culture celebrate diversity.  I fell asleep thinking of such things, and I understood that no one understands what is going on except for me. Everyone has it wrong but me.  Any normal person would say that a person needed a doctor if he thought that: surely, his friends should think to lock him up before he hurts someone. No chance that I will hurt myself! I’m right! They’re wrong. I will buy a new computer, and then get a better car to drive it home. I can’t cure the madness, but I won’t let it interrupt my fun and good mood.  Meanwhile, all the stupid people rush around the world trying to make diplomatic break throughs.  Pompous assholes. they finally figured out how to solve Serbia.  Throw billons at the people and they will shut up and fuck anybody while stoned.  Throw billions at the Jews and Arabs and watch them shop to decorate the universal holy land of everyone’s faith before ending faith. God needs killing–again. Blow up the churches.

I know that no one will ever stop seeing me “Jew,” “Gay,” “Queer,” “Prof,” or “Commie,” but I would not respond favorable to any of those labels. Call me Mickey or Marxist, Marvin is okay if it is sounded in the familiar way, and you do that way. (So do my secretaries.)  As for the rest, I will sleep with anyone that does not smell and attracts me no matter what language they use, but I won’t think highly of them if they reify me. The sadder thing is that they do it to themselves. “I am a Jew, and I am proud enough of it to kill Arab kids for ‘our’ holy land. It is ours! Ours! Ours!”

You don’t have to know shit about classical music if you are a Marxist. All you have to know is when classical (feudal) music ends, and bourgeois (capitalist) music begins. It is the same with the novel, accept there are no feudal novels: capitalism invents the novel. Capitalism may also invent classical and bourgeois music: one represents primitive accumulation—baroque music–the other starts with romantic music. Beethoven is the first of the romantics, and Brahms is the second. Bach is the last of the classical–maybe Hayden too. The romantic music becomes rough as capitalism invents imperialism, world wars, and atom bombs. (Symphony Fantastic, put it on now, by Berlioz, gives us the capitalist industrial revolution. Play it while you read my lectures if they get on the net.  I am being impatient with my secretary. she set up the web page, but I want her to put the lectures there.  Nag, nag, nag. I am afraid that I will die before I finish. It is possible now.

Listen to the Emperor concerto written to celebrate Bonaparte. I think that Beethoven changed the name of the symphony when he understood what a monster Napoleon could be. The concerto was written at the same time that Wordsworth is growing cool on the golden side of  “human nature.”  The romantics turn into reactionaries. You need my lectures before I die. The first one is online. Read it and let me know what you think.

Samuel Richardson.  Be prepared to be embarrassed, but don’t feel too bad: the English department neglects the history of the novel because they only care about style.  Richardson invented the psychological novel, and he also invented the soap opera.

Very important to approach music, and everything else, historically.  Marx does it backwards. He starts with a commodity, and asks, “How did that get here.”  Start with a symphony, novel, and a you and ask the same question. You will soon find yourself doing history. Proust, as you are seeing, knows history. That is why his novel is so full. Try Tolstoy for someone who knew history.

Know Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740.  A very, very good book.  It does not have the passion of Kettle, but he is better at Marx and history. 

I am doing everything right, of course, but everyone else is doing it wrong, so I look wrong, but I am right. I cannot figure out how I became so anti everything that others do: family, marriage, nation, army, flag, church, and even universities. It is an autobiographical problem for me, especially as Proust is doing to me what he did to me on the first go-round: he is making me self-involved.  I certainly did not need any extra impetus to spend my time naval gazing, and in winter.

I entered Sodom this morning with the story of Charlus, Jupien, and Marcel listening through the vent.  My remembrances of things past include opening this volume in 1963, the first that I really read of Proust if I discount the attempt to read the novel in 1955, when I got into, but not through, Swann’s way.  I understand on this read why so many people stop there, and I think that I would recommend for anyone who loves men that they start with this volume. They will want the rest of the story after this first introduction to the Baron and his playmates and to Proust talking about his “types.” I find underlinings here that any clever biographer would want to note, and I again wonder whether I copied these lines into the journal of 1963. It sits across the room, but I don’t want to cross over to open those volumes because it is winter, and it is enough to have Proust making me morbidly introspective without adding my own introspections from the past to the being alone in the house day after day in winter.

I am in an uncompromising mood today. Maybe “fury” would be the correct word. I will explain when I get there, but I no longer “think” things. I know that belief in God, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, America, capitalism, countries, genders, races, and classes as permanent is dumb, and even dumber is the idea that we worship these forms forever. Such ideas are causing the waste of the species and, more importantly today, my life.

Do you realize that there is not a pleasant character in Remembrance?

Hobbes invented the paradigm. Proust is writing to you about these people a century earlier.  They just got richer, more spoiled, and very bored. As neither Gore nor Bush can do use work, they want to run the plantation of wage slaves for entertainment.  If you don’t believe that human nature changes, you want either to torture it so it will shape up and behave, or you want to coddle it so it will kiss your ass better. This is the Hobbes-Locke division on possessive individualism played out three hundred and fifty years later by Democrats and Republicans with cameras and action. It is very wasteful, but these fights decode the system.  Why it should need any more decoding after the blow job in the White House, I don’t know?  We will not know that we are in a new stage of history until everyone is comfortably reading Darwin. That will be the first obvious sign.

You will need the history of the English Revolution to understand Bunyan, but he is very important. The Christian that will not live in England after the “Puritan” revolution fails goes to jail rather than participate in the Restoration. Jail for eleven years! He writes Pilgrim’s Progress in jail. He answers the question: How to live in Sin City when Mammon rules? You withdraw into yourself. He is the first of the Wordsworth Romantics to face living where capitalism reigns.  The good man, like Thoreau, goes to jail. Writers from Bunyan to Beckett present the same theme over and over again–see Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett.

Money matters are at the center of everything in bourgeois societies, indeed they star in all our plays, and they can depress terribly. If the problem is not solvable, then you don’t think about it.

We all function in a field, but we are only made aware of all the egoism involved in it when a crisis occurs. We don’t bother about how capitalists operate until their actions produce a health crisis through, say,  tobacco-making. Once we are aware of it, however, watch out: revolution is possible against the whole system that permits it.

What is fascinating is to see the Sermon brought back by bourgeois society. Bunyan and Wesley led the way in this conversion and replenishing of Christianity in a capitalist world. The most materialist society in history got the sermons it deserved. It was all about “Am I saved,” rather than the “Are we saved,” of the feudal period. It meant that each of us could think only of our individual souls while the capitalists took our property and our living labor. Religion and the bourgeoisie: quite a story.

It is important to remember the lesson that Proust teaches: everyone around you judges from a Hobbesian perspective. They see things through their own eyes. Each person’s personality comes to us as a “truth.” Sometimes it is a complex truth, sometimes it is one that does not interest us. But we, I, interpret regardless as if I were an all seeing Emersonian eyeball. The personalities are vivid, their reasons for doing things always thought-out, planned, and executed with “me” in mind.  The hardest thing to know is that we are always peripheral in everyone’s life but our own “unless” we trick that other one into our own through license. My mother makes it all so clear to me: “You can do anything you want after I am gone.”  This in regard to my taking a long trip to China. I gave her the mother-earned license to say it. What Marx proves is that we are all interrelated, and there are no licenses but those we made: Proust proves that we are always unaware of that relationship because our ideology and society separate us from new truths. The problem of you and me is how to we go beyond mere presentation, the artist and lecturer presentation, of all-seeing eyeballs? How do we analyze rather than describe? How do we comprehend rather than judge?  We must start off working as an ensemble with a fresh methodology, Marxism, so that we bring our perceptions into line with a better tentative truth than Hobbes’s.

One great thing that Proust is doing, is writing French history. Tolstoy did it for Russia. Very important parts of the novel. New technology enters as Marcel gets older. See the entire picture.  Proust is doing history, but he is finding human nature permanent. So, he is a mechanical materialist.  (See Politizer, Elementary Intro. to Philosophy.)

If you identify with the bourgeoisie or the aristocracy, you will get it all wrong. Proust analyses jealousy and possessive love better than anyone: he does not know what it is to be a worker and to lose your partner. It happens all the time to working class partners, by the way. Only recently have labor power fueled homes not been devastated by early death. Read Germinal. Men died and left their women, a lot. Women died in childbirth.  The average life expectancy for my father’s generation was 45 in the 1930s. Only the war and the American business of making business out of bombing and repairing from bombing made working class life consumptive instead of productive. Ugly stuff.

I can hardly wait until Proust is as out of date as is worshipping pharaohs.  It took a long time to put those mummies in their place–a museum for how wrong our species gets things during their drive to understand truth.

Proust will become a hundred thousand times more soothing once you are past the second volume.  Under other circumstances, I would suggest that you speed read the first two, but it will spoil it for you.  (I read the first two volumes, and then I read a review of one of the later ones, so I moved into that one: it gripped me so much that I sped through the latter books and rushed to read the earlier novels again.)  Proust wrote better and more about possessive love, jealousy, hatred, and anxiety than any other novelist that I know. If I had not read Marx later, I would have thought that all the truths of “human nature” were analyzed forever in his pages. It is only bourgeois human nature that he did, of course, but I did not know that human nature changed–or, better yet, did not exist—until five years after I read Proust. I wasn’t convinced until twenty years had passed.

My decision-making powers have all but left me now, and I am starting to withdraw wholesale even from my community. Marvin is not a happy camper now! Too much self-pity running rampant, and now I am concerned that the horse I backed, the pills, may not do the job.  I have already approached my boss about not finishing the semester: that should give you an idea of how desperate I am at the moment.  Yet the sun is shining.

I am going to try some classical music again during the car ride. The other stations are driving me mad, and the more popular stuff that I like is tied so to memories, and I had quite enough of those, thank you, while piling through to almost the end of Proust. He is back on his shelf, and if she should scream, “Finish me,” I will turn his face to the wall. I have done the memory, and now it is time to go forward. Backward only has belief in Gods, religion, Freud, Hobbes, and Proust. Forward contains Marx and Darwin, but I know no other books outside of Kuhn now. I am looking, but they are all in the science section, and I can only read science at a certain level.  I am not suspicious of classical music because I don’t know it well enough to know what it might be doing to me. If there is a music to go with Marx and Darwin, I can only believe that it is our internal music, but that is as romantic as thinking that I can be Ponce de Leon.

The pills are working in only one way so far: they provide sleep, and I wake with much energy. Unfortunately, I have no project beyond making myself Ponce.

Adam showed back up in my life yesterday, and we healed some of the past months. I don’t know what I want to do with him, but I noticed that he was much improved without having a Marvin. From what he saw, he could have said that I was much impaired without having an Adam, but I don’t think having an Adam would have made any difference. I am graduating, and that means the third generation of worker, i.e., person specialized to work, to enter retirement land without a clue. I cannot go to Las Vegas to gamble, and I don’t think that you will find me on a carnival cruise–my mother and brother did those things. I might get to China, but it is looking less likely as I add up the possibility of summoning up my energy. It all depends on my mood.  I cannot guarantee anything, even that I will be here. I would prefer not to be, but I don’t think that I have any idea how to accomplish that. My mother’s face is too much in front of me to get far in thinking it.

As for Marcel and Albertine, he is a spoiled poofster and she is a posh connected whore.  The power of the novel is in the selling of what we consider “common sense.” There are no more analogies for us in this book than there were for slaves who thought their lives contained the same social relationships as their masters. I don’t think that Blacks ever could have gotten it as wrong, however, while in slavery as they did out of slavery. Even that said, Blacks, Gays, and Women still get it more correct than the white men, but everyone is still begging Proustians rather than knocking them off. Go back to Long Distance Runner for the line something like:  “The difference between them and us is that if we had the whip hand over them we would let ’em have it” while they keep us going because we do all the work.

It solves the problem for the bourgeoisie because it protects life, liberty–and property, especially property. It is the political “science” for capitalists who needed an idea system that guaranteed their ownership against the pope and the people.

Translating dreams is comparable to translating history: an art form. Of course, they mean something, but they are made up of so much raw material that it is impossible to know what they “really” mean. You un-pick them afterwards, and then you live with the lingering feeling that interpretation gives you: the interpretation, more or less, stays with you and influences the day–in some way. The only good book Freud ever wrote was his Interpretation of Dreams.

I could not finish re-reading Proust, and I won’t go back to him. Adam claims that my reading him is the prime cause of this awful depression.

My sadness is flowing in British history big time. I don’t know that I am good for the students in this mood: I am too old, too retired, too wintry, too sad. You hold to your fetishism as tightly as I seem to be holding on to my depression. I wonder what makes us such fanatics. I don’t know that I am getting any better any faster than you are. Today was a truly brutal day because the great new pills, whose main value to now has been that they grant me sleep, did not operate last night which is now the night before last. I may have slept a bit more, but not that much, and only with the aid of two sleeping pills.  It is not strange to me that I am growing desperate.

“If there be Contract, the Dominion is in the Mother. For in the condition of meer Nature, where are no Matrimoniall Lawes, it cannot be known which is the Father, unlesse it be declared by the Mother: and therefore the right of Dominion over the Child dependeth on her will, and is consequently hers. Again, seeing the Infant is first in the power of the mother, so as she may either nourish, or expose it, if she nourish it, it oweth its life to the Mother; and therefore obliged to obey her, ratherthan any other; and by consequence the Dominion over it is hers. But if she expose it, and another find, and nourish it, ‘the Dominion is in him that nourisheth it. For it ought to obey him by whom it is preserved; because preservation of life being the end, for which one may become subject to another, every man is supposed to promise obedience, to him, in whose power it is to save, or destroy him.”  Hobbes, LEVIATHAN, part II, chapter 20.

Don’t believe everything Hobbes says–he gave birth to Proust–but Hobbes understood the bourgeois rule book.

I am into the history of paradigms, and what living in a particular or between paradigms did to individuals who left records. Shakespeare left lots, and it was mostly written between the time that Copernicus started the ball rolling and Newton closed that new paradigm. If Shakespeare had lived a century after he lived, he never would have written what he wrote–if he wrote anything. It was living between eras that forced his attention. Which side is correct? Is either side right? What if there is no right or wrong, etc.  He can be called, fairly, the first intellectual.

I am trying to write something that contrasts paradigms: the one that Lear understands, the one that Richard III understands, and the latest one that I understand. To live, somehow, I have to keep convincing myself that I am correct about everything. I have abandoned the bourgeois paradigm, but I cannot leave the bourgeois epoch even if it is finished. Its residual power continues to enthrall me by its thoughts on human nature and God. When I lecture on these subjects, students light up because they want to discuss “God.” He is “dreadfully” important to them and their wellbeing. They don’t like me for saying that he does not exist, that the idea is a mythical truth, but they still want me to say it. I cannot understand them: they want their God, but they want me to contend with him for them. It is their passion play.

Richard III should be played as a new man. You understand Richard III by thinking of him as someone who has read Shakespeare, listened to the arguments between Catholics and Protestants, and processed all the new information that the sixteenth century had to offer.  (Even if historically, he lived in the fifteenth century, he is a late sixteenth and early seventeenth century skeptic gone atheist: a John Donne before that poet’s leap of faith.) Richard does not believe in God. Put even more powerfully, he has discovered that mankind made up God out of their fear of living.  He is not going to let God get in his way of getting what he wants materially. As Edmund in Lear says, I could not have land by birth, so I will get it by wit. Wit means in that case killing a brother, which Richard does, murdering other relatives, which Richard does, seducing women, which Richard does.  No guilt. I go and kill, maim, fuck, and never worry about judgment.  The worst part of all, however, is that he intends to convince everyone that he is a good guy.  He knows that they are dopey enough to believe him because they believe in God, and they cannot imagine someone who is not fearful of divine judgment.  He plays the innocent as fools and tricks them out of their possessions and even their lives. He is a con man. I think a modern movie was made with that theme recently.

I actually had a moment last night where I got an idea for a writing project. I wrote only one line, but I will develop the idea in English history class. The theme is one of my favorites: The Old

Men Versus the New Men in post Copernican England. I would start with Henry VIII versus Lear‘s Edmund.

Marx would not talk about “you” as an individual, and I don’t think that Kuhn does either. Proust does, and Hobbes does, but classes make revolutions not individuals. As individuals, however, we can decide which side is more progressive, and join it.  It is quite simple: we function in a field, and Marx was correct when he wrote that there were only two classes left with that field. If the capitalist class still rules as it did in 1900, the species dies out from the environmental crisis. If I am correct when I insist that we are in the socialist stage of history, then the working class is driving, and we are much safer than we think we are after reading the morning paper.  “You” changing the world, however, is out. You can, on the other hand, loosen Proust’s hold on you by understanding that Remembrance contains the previous, still potent but dying, ruling class ideology.  By breaking it, you join the long-distance runners. I think that it will make you happier, but there is no guarantee of that.  If you can keep the idea before you that laughter, humor, and play are sensible in this stage of history, you will have more fun in prehistory than you are having. I don’t know that you can do that–you are ambitious as well as feudal–and you may want to keep suffering the way that you do because all the characters in novels either love or suffer in a way that makes sense to you. Read Germinal for a contrast.

The grip that Albertine had was more than Proust’s addiction: it was also his ideology that prepared him for the addiction, the habit.  He had Hobbes in his head, possession counting for all, and he nourished that ideology, that paradigm.  He believed in romantic love instead of communal love–with sex.  Albertine was a “normal” working class parasite living in the bourgeois epoch. Marx would have put her in his “lumpen” proletariat, a class traitor, a whore. She liked sex, money, and rock and roll. Marcel was a drip, but she needed the money to have the sex and rock and roll. You probably should read Germinal as an antidote.  You know, of course, that Proust and Zola were contemporaries: Zola, however, wrote about the working class struggle against the Prousts and Albertines of the world. 

I am certain that we live our everyday life within a process that destroys all old, backward, unscientific modes of living. Capitalism is the major tool used to uproot all those other ways, including the feudal mode.  That does not mean that most people, your father would probably be a good example, cannot thrive–lose their fears–by adopting the outdated idea system, and passing it on to their children. Living in the cast-off mannerism of previous ruling classes works well for most people still addicted to the Catholic church. Your father gave you this worthwhile gift for budgeting and surviving during the transformation period, and it will help you to buy a car and to solve other practical problems: use it. As you already know, it does not help much with the existential dilemmas.

If you can see it from the navigator’s point of view, you are beginning to see how it controlled the species for so many centuries. Imagine all those children learning such physics as common sense! They then go on to Newtonian and Hobbesian common sense which is as incorrect and even more disfiguring because the entire world population agrees on that paradigm. At least in the olden days, different folks in separated communities had conflicting paradigms, and the contradictions were culturally debated. External paradigm arguments! Now, however, the corrections have to come from inside.

Yes! But what you must get also is that Shakespeare, and folks like him, lived before the new paradigm shifted and while the old ruled as dumb King Lear and Calendar Pope Gregory.

Freud was right in the way that Proust is correct, and they both based their insights on Hobbes.  If there is a human nature, it works the way that they say: if there is not, there is only process. It is relatively easy to list the facts, and that is the first way that historians work. It is a bit more complex, to reflect the process as seen, and that is the way that Proust, Freud, Hobbes, and Shakespeare worked, in reverse order, of course. This is the second way that historians work, and the greatest of them, men like Edward Gibbon, find rises and falls, but no safety, and certainly no different future, just different costumes, generation after generation. Shakespeare took no hostages, and that is why he was, in many ways, the greatest of the bourgeois historians, dramatists, poets, and comedy writers: “A sound and a fury signifying nothing” with Puck.  If

Marx, Darwin, and Kuhn are correct: we are inside the process, and we works. This is the third way in which historians work. And now you have my lecture in British history for tomorrow before I introduce Marx’s formula, the agricultural, and the industrial revolution–and the working class, and its specialization before it had retirement, unemployment insurance, or carnival tours.

I don’t think that the perspective is getting fuzzy. It may be just the opposite! The sharper it becomes the more Lear like I become: what a waste of humanity’s time not living within the new paradigm. We live in the cast-off mannerisms of all the preceding generations that can be brought forward through modern technology. History as distraction and instruction! On what? On the theme that nothing changes but fashion.  The counterproductive forces are still too strong.

Proust says something simple: we are all separate, you cannot know anyone, you will always love in a way that the other does not love, and the only thing that can be left for glory is a concerto, a painting, or a novel. What’s it all about, Alfie? Art!  He never recognizes any beauty in the food that the world produced for him, the warmth, the electricity, or the language.  He is the artist! Taking credit for everything and condemning those who take credit for everything more obviously than he does. Yes! It is sad that we still die, but instead of concentrating on immortality through a book, play, or painting, we should go for the real thing.

I am more excited about giving you the Kuhn books, which I have ready to go. You will learn much more from reading them than you learned from Proust.  Proust, however, is great raw material for studying the bourgeois paradigm in its most powerful form. I think that the game is up, however, just because the novels are becoming so much thinner, being replaced by too many movies one after another, and, yes, even too many plays one after another.  Basketball and tennis, played by workers, is where the new art form is, but no one sees it that way because they still call it recreation or wasting time. Novels were seen as trash too until the bourgeoisie discovered them (and the revived Church) as valuable for selling theories of “human nature” and explanations for poverty. The art form of socialism is play, not a play, just play, and I am wondering what I will play at after I give up my classroom.  I am faced with needing a new project badly, the reason for my recent depression, but I am hesitant to start writing my memoirs because that project is done alone. I don’t like alone doings. It would be a distraction, but it would not be play.

The only way to understand the women in Proust is to know that they are men, homosexual men, that “trick fuck,” each other, exactly the correct phrase as you put it. No one in Remembrance loves anyone the way that you do because the writer never loved a woman, or a man, in the way that working people love. My take it on it is that the book is about life in two dying classes, two non-working classes, two parasitic classes: it is not about “life.”

“Well, he’s playing around with Time, what else are we to make of it?”  This is our time, all the time we’re ever going to get, so does that not lend a kind of permanence, “for all time”, human nature quality to it, even if it’s just pretend, because it might just as well be human nature as a permanence if it’s all we’ll ever know.”

It is a trap to think history in this way because it leads to passivity. That is the destructive power of Hobbes and Proust (The novel in general): if you buy their take on it, especially Proust who does indicate that “it might just as well be human nature” because it is the only life that you have.  This a very conservative take on Time, a very self-involved, self-interested take on time by someone who had all the toys: drugs, books, art, music, costumes, action.  No one who works in Remembrance makes anything: the entire working class are servants for the rich.  If I were an aristocrat or a member of the bourgeoisie, I would view time in the way that Proust does. If you were a member of either of those classes, your marriage, your love, your idea of friendship would be as jaundiced as those that he describes. Parasites are that way, or worse.

You know this drill, but you, as I, could never go through the action more than mechanically because we are not doing something that gives us pleasure. I will go to school today, I will see some students, I will prepare the lectures, and I will try to write to short letters because if I stay home the only thing that I can think of doing is going into the garage, starting the engine, and closing the door behind me. 

People I’ve Been

                                                ROLES (STAGE & SCREEN)



Dry Land

by Ruby Rae Spiegel

Directed by Michelle Bellaver

Hipp Unplugged (Staged Reading), Feb 2023


A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens, adapted by Niall McGinty

Directed by Laura Shatkus

Hippodrome, Dec 2022


The Ultimate Cheeseburger

by Jena Rashid

Directed by Niall McGinty

Hippodrome New Works Festival (Reading), Nov 2022

Beverly Weston

August: Osage County

By Tracy Letts

Directed by Jay Nixon

ART, April 2022

Mr. Midnight

Return to Sunset Village

By Michael Pressley Bobbitt

Directed by Tom Millet

Gainesville Community Playhouse, February 2022


Duck Variations

By David Mamet

Cedar Keys Island, August 2021

Jacob Lutterloh & Meshack Lutterloh, Sr.

A Cedar Key Christmas

By Michael Presley Bobbitt

Directed by Anne Rupp Polo

Gainesville Community Playhouse, December 2020



                                    By Michael Presley Bobbitt

                                    Directed by Michael Presley Bobbitt

                                    ART, October 2019



                                    By Michael Presley Bobbitt

                                    Directed by Michael Presley Bobbitt

                                    Gainesville Community Playhouse, September 2019



By William Branch

Directed by Carol Velasques-Richardson

ART, February 1 -17, 2019



Written and Directed  by Tom Miller

The Slate, Gainesville FL

December 3, 2018



                                    By Michael Pressley Bobbitt

                                    Directed by Tom Miller

14TH Street Y Theatre, NYC

                                    August 5, 2018



By Patrick Hamilton

Directed by Laura Jackson

ART, February 9 -25, 2018



 by Michael Presley Bob

Directed by Michael Pressley Bobbitt

  ART, September 1, 2017



                                    By Tom Miller

                                    Directed by Michael Pressley Bobbitt

                                    ART, May 12, 2017



                                                            By Kristopher Owens,

adapted from the novel by Solomon Northup

Directed by Rhonda Wilson

            Atlanta Black Theatre Festival 2016

            Best Supporting Actor

OSCAR MADISON             


                                                By Neil Simon

                                                Directed by Deborah Dickey

                                                Ac*tors’ Warehouse

                                                Gainesville FL, November 2015

JACK LAWSON                 


                                                By David Mamet

                                                Directed by Steven Butler

                                                Actors’ Warehouse

                                                Gainesville FL, January 2015

SAUL KIMMER                 


                                                By Sam Shepherd

                                                Directed by Mike McShane & George Steven O’Brien

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, September 2014



                                                By Darren Willis

                                                Directed by Brad Hicks

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, April 2014



                                                By George Bernard Shaw

                                                Directed by Krsnaa Fitch       

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, February 2014

WILLY LOMAN                 


                                                By Arthur Miller

                                                Directed by Mike McShane

                                                High Springs Community Theatre

                                                High Springs FL, February 2013



                                                By Dan Kahn

                                                Directed by Dan Kahn

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theatre

                                                Gainesville FL, January 2012

OLD ACTOR                       


                                                By Thom Jones & Harvey Schmidt

                                                Directed by Scot Davis

                                                Expressions Studio Theatre

                                                Gainesville FL, September 2011



                                                By William Shakespeare

                                                Directed by Michael Cormier

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, February 2011



                                                By Bernard Pomerance

                                                Directed by Mike McShane

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, January 2011

MURRAY BURNS              


                                                By Herb Gardner

                                                Directed by Marshall Morper

                                                High Springs Community Theater

                                                High Springs FL, June 2010



                                                By Edward Albee

                                                Directed by Sheila Bishop

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, January 2010

RICHARD ROMA              


                                                By David Mamet

                                                Directed by Drew Blair

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, October 2008

OSCAR MADISON             


                                                By Neil Simon

                                                Everyday Theater

                                                Eden Dinner Playhouse

                                                Gainesville FL, March 2008



                                                By David Mamet

                                                Everyday Theater

                                                Civic Media Center

                                                Gainesville FL,

November 2006 & October 2007



                                                By Harold Pinter

                                                Directed by Sidney Homan

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theatre

                                                Gainesville FL, February 2005

BALD MAN                         


                                                By Shamrock McShane

                                                Directed by Will Eyerly

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, January 2005



                                                By Bertolt Brecht, Music by Kurt Weill

                                                Directed by Sidney Homan

Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, May 2004


SIGMUND FREUD            


                                                By Marco Antonio de la Parra

                                                Directed by William Eyerly

                                                Acrosstown Repertory Theater

                                                Gainesville FL, February 2004



                                                By Paul Rudnick

                                                Directed by Jessica Arnold

Acrosstown Repertory Theatre,

                                                Gainesville FL, September 2003     




                                                By William Shakespeare

Directed by Sidney Homan

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre,

                                                Gainesville FL  May 2003



                                                By W.T. Underwood

                                                Directed by William Eyerly

Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, Gainesville FL  January 2003 & February 2005

JULIUS CAESAR               


                                                By William Shakespeare

Directed by Sidney Homan

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, May 2003




                                                By Sam Shepard

Directed by Sidney Homan

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, Mar 2001




By Mart Crowley

Directed by Lowrie Fawley-Helton

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre,

Gainesville FL  October 2000



By William Shakespeare

Directed by Shamrock McShane

the everyday theater

                                                Gainesville FL  October 1997



By William Shakespeare

Directed by Michael Briggs

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, April 1997




By David Mamet

Dircted by Sarah Cailean

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, Dec 1996




By William Shakespeare

Directed by Andrew Toutain

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, May 1995     


RICHARD ROMA              


By David Mamet

Directed by Laura Beth Hiers

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, Nov 1995                                       



                                                By Shamrock McShane

                                                Dirceted by Robert Dean Mowry

                                                Fitzgrealds, Bagatelle, Tux

                                                Key West FL, summer 1981



                                                By Shamrock McShane

                                                Directed by Robert Dean Mowry

                                                Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center

                                                Key West FL  spring 1979



By Edmund Rostand

Directed by Robert Falls

Wisdom Bridge, spring 1977



                                                By Anton Chekhov

Directed by Patrick O’Gara

Old Town Players, Fall 1975



By Jean Giraudoux

Directed by Patrick O’Gara

Gill Community Arts Center Chicago IL  fall 1974



                                                By William Shakespeare

Directed by Patrick O’Gara

Gill Community Arts Center

North Wells Street, Old Town           

Chicago IL  spring 1974

GRAND DUKE                   


By Bertolt Brecht

Directed by Patrick O’Gara

Gill Community Arts Center, Chicago IL  winter 1973

NED BUNTLINE                


By Arthur Kopit

Directed by J. Dennis Rich

Northern Illinois University, Dekalb IL  spring 1973

BOBBY DIPESTO              


By Horace McCoy

Directed by  Nilo Manfredini

Northern Illinois University, Dekalb IL spring 1972




                                                By Edward Albee

                                                Directed by Willard Welsh

                                                Northern Illinois University

                                                Dekalb IL  spring, 1971





Walking Man

The Seven Sides of Shakespeare

Directed by Tom Miller



                                                Directed by Georg Koszulinski

                                                Substream 2009

Captain WERGER              


                                                Directed by David and Paul Dupree

                                                Dupree Brothers, 2009



                                                Directed by Mike McShane

                                                Son of Sham, 2009

BALD MAN                         


                                                Directed by Mike McShane

                                                Son of Sham, 2006



                                                Directed by Mike McShane

                                                Son of Sham, 2006



                                                Directed by Andrew Schwartz

                                                Enscorcelled Productions, 2006



                                    Directed by Julian Goldberger

                                                Antidote Films, 2005



                                                Directed by Georg Koszulinski

                                                Substream Films, 2004

AD FRANCIS                      


                                                Adapted from the short story by Ernest Hemingway

                                                Directed by Peter Neu

                                                University of Florida Filmmaking, 2004


Are You the Hipp’s Hero or Villain?

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Kristoffer Diaz’ play about the professional wrestling industry and the way it treats its workers, has opened spectacularly at the Hippodrome Theatre. The spectacle is the workplace.

Everything happens openly before our eyes and we’re in on everything, but we’re never not in on it. The entire play happens in public, before an audience, us. Only gradually, if at all, do we become aware of the fact that the characters cannot escape us. We will never see their private moments.

No doubt about it, my son Homer was thrilled, entranced, hooting and hollering like a bellicose pro wrasslin fan should, befitting his eponym, chronicler of the first great WrestleMania and the faceoff between Achilles and Hector in his epic Iliad. Homer’s in the fifth grade, a kid of the modern world, unshocked by profanity and hip to the faux violence of popular entertainment, entering wholly and innocently into the play’s conceit, cheering and jeering with vehemence.

He and I will bring different perspectives to the play, see it on different levels, which will fuse at the end and give us lots to talk about.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is sure to work best with a full house of screaming maniacs – just like at Summer Slam. And therein lies the dilemma that Chad Deity presents.

Hipp Artistic Director Stephanie Lynge Opening Night (photo by Gregg Jones)

The Hipp makes the absolute most of it, maybe more than any other theater in the country has been able to, thanks to Alberto Bonilla’s bold staging and Tim Dygert’s set design that effectively and impressively turns the Hipp thrust stage into an arena. That turns the audience, us, into characters in the play.

This is right up Homer’s alley, but perhaps not everyone’s. Pro wrasslin may not be your cup of tea. The mixture of metaphors is deliberative and illustrative of the play’s fascinating contradictions as they emerge.

What a gamble the Hipp has taken with this costly production. Wrasslin fans might be disappointed that these professional actors are nowhere near the size of Hulk Hogan or Leon Scott https://mlw.com/leon-scott/ , and cognoscenti of theater may turn up their noses at such overblown theatrics. That is the worst-case scenario. The script plays against itself. The Hipp is banking on its audience being hip.

The production design and execution by the Hipp’s extraordinary team of Robert P. Robins (lighting), Erin Jester (costumes), Bill Boothman (projections), and Amanda Nipper (sound) is nothing short of magnificent, among the Hipp’s flashiest ever.

In its perfect replica of the pro wrasslin arena and the hyper realistic recreation of actual wrasslin action – superbly rendered with genuine athletic prowess and skill – everything about the production screams reality, but from the very start something happens that would never ever happen: One of the wrasslers proceeds to let us in on all the tricks of the trade.

It’s all out in public. He is Mace, the most talented and proficient wrestler, the best wrestler, whose task is to make less proficient wrestlers look good. He’s telling us, confiding in us, and Alexis Suarez is marvelous at it, immediately personable, empathetic, honest, and funny, not to mention quite convincing as a pro wrassler.

Mace (Alexis Suarez) and Chad Deity (Jonathan Bangs) Photo by Michael Eaddy

This whole play breaks the fourth wall. There is no fourth wall.

Who wants a fourth wall anyway?

What’s a fourth wall for?

Now we’re getting somewhere. The fourth wall is for privacy, ours and that of the people onstage. It presumably protects the characters from our prying eyes and ears.

David Patrick Ford gives a herculean performance as THE Wrestling impresario Everett K. Olson, the villain of the piece. Ford has of late become the Hipp’s go-to guy for impossible roles to play. In Fahrenheit 451 he mastered the impossibly long monologue of that play’s monomaniac. Here he plays a villain in full rant from the get-go, and he is the least to benefit from the entirely public nature of the presentation. We never glimpse the dark night of his soul as we might in a moment of privacy, as say, Shakespeare displays the depth of Hamlet’s villain, Claudius.

David Patrick Ford as E. K. Olson (Photo by Michael Eaddy)

In the drama we see, which must be separated from the drama that the characters we call The Audience, the wrasslin fans see, Mace is the hero. In the drama that E.K. Olson presents to the worldwide audience, Chad Deity is the hero.

Jonathan Bangs plays Chad Deity, who plays the hero for E.K. Olson and for the cheering maniacs who are pro wrasslin fans, but he knows the truth, and it takes balls, showmanship, and above all cooperation to conceal the truth profitably. Bangs conveys those contradictions with aplomb.

Rahul Joshi (photo by Michael Eaddy)

The wild card is the guy with his arm in a sling, Rahul Joshi, who plays the seemingly supremely exploitable Vigneshwar Paduar, whose brown skin and geopolitical identity is a motherlode of xenophobic gold for the country of America, which, as Mace points out, is not actually a country. The wrasslin fans must suspend their disbelief about a guy with his arm in a sling beating anybody in a wrasslin match. He’s not acting; Joshi really did break his arm in rehearsal, but he adroitly answers as to believability by positing a character whose fundamental sense of honor, justice, morality, whatever, is immovable. Joshi expresses all of that with wit and charm, taking us into his confidence with an assurance to rival Suarez. Nicely too, because that is the point of the play, that the wrasslers are not rivals, that they need each other. Just as we do. The challenge of the play is to identify with the wrasslers, not the fans, ourselves.

The wrasslers are not action figures; they’re human beings, as the ensemble ably demonstrates, fully dimensional human beings. I’ll extend that definition to include not only Jose DeGracia in the thankless nonspeaking role of the Opponent, but also the production’s wrestling choreographer Leon Scott, imposingly seated ringside, who imbues the whole evening an aura of authenticity.The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity plays through February 12 at the Hippodrome Theatre. Tickets available at: Home – The Hippodrome Theatre