Two things happened this weekend that on the face of it are unrelated, yet when I look a little deeper, I can see the connection. One was the March for Our Lives. The other was American Idol auditions.
One of the interesting things in watching American Idol, is the moment you realize the judges aren't simply looking for the best voice. Some of the people they choose from the auditions are raw, a few even make mistakes. Yet they are chosen over someone who sings perfectly. Why?
There is a quality of authenticity that eclipses simple talent. The ones who have that ability to project something that is purely themselves will move on, otherwise they get a no. Lionel Ritchie told one person he/she needed to go home and find out who they were. It wasn't a matter of performing someone else's material well, it was a matter of performing it as only he or she could.
In the past few days I've read comments from several people who seem to feel the students who initiated the march had no idea what they were doing. Yet those students were not afraid to say - we are the future, we are the solution, you have done nothing - a myriad of voices, each one of them sounding genuine, heartfelt, and very real.
Today I witnessed magic. A DVD came in the mail, and I stopped everything to put it in and watch it. It was Robin and Mark and Richard III, and if you’ve not heard of it that’s not so surprising. It’s a Canadian documentary in which the late theatre director Robin Phillips works with Canadian comic actor Mark McKinney on playing William Shakespeare’s Richard III, the title character of the play. It's only sold in Canada as far as I can tell, and it's wonderful.
At the time I had no idea what made Robin’s work unlike anyone else’s – all I knew was that during the intermission of As You Like It I had to get out of the theatre and away from people. I felt raw and fragile and had never experienced Shakespeare quite like that before.
If you want to see for yourself, there is a trailer for the film on the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/robinandmarkandrichardthethird/) and there’s another 5-minute film with Robin done by Hubert Davis on the National Film Board website (https://www.nfb.ca/film/move_your_mind/).
As I’ve mentioned more than a few times on this blog, I tend to re-read books, over and over again. Lately I’ve made a serious effort to read books I haven’t read yet, and to read some newer, more recent books. I still love my old friends, and now I’m getting to know some new friends as well. I’m going to share some thoughts about three books I’ve read recently and what prompted me to read them and stay with them.
From the first page, I was caught up in the story, caught up in Free’s emotions and the world and the people she loves. By itself, that’s great. When you add a sense of humor that had me laughing out loud at times, and the bass notes of genuine heartbreak and broken dreams, you have a book that I find hard to put down. I have to say also, that there were two plot twists that, while they made perfect sense, I didn’t see coming at all. That made it a really satisfying read for me. It left me wishing I could go hang out in the restaurant and the community with the folks from the book.
But it might have started way later than I think without my noticing anything at all. You see someone, but you don’t really see him, he’s in the wings. Or you notice him, but nothing clicks, nothing “catches,” and before you’re even aware of a presence, or of something troubling you, the six weeks that were offered you have almost passed and he’s either already gone or just about to leave, and you’re basically scrambling to come to terms with something, which, unbeknownst to you, has been brewing for weeks under your very nose and bears all the symptoms of what you’re forced to call I want.
That was it. I was hooked, and had a hard time putting it down from that point until I finished it.
I had to put this book down frequently and go away. The sense of foreboding and doom was so strong from the very beginning, it was palpable to me, and made it painful to read. At the same time, it was an incredible, beautiful story, and while it was Shakespearean in theme, it wasn’t necessary to be familiar with Shakespeare to appreciate it. I felt tremendously frustrated at the end. It felt like Edgar became a victim, instead of the hero of his story. I won’t say too much about why, because readers should decide that for themselves. It is not a book about which I could pretend indifference. It was a tough read, and yet it was compelling.
The court clerks who handled shepherding all of us (about 150 total) through the day, did it with calm, clarity, and patience. Considering the latecomers, the folks who don’t listen to what’s going on, and those who simply don’t understand, that was pretty remarkable. At midafternoon, the clerk who dismissed about thirty of us thanked us for our service and assured us that our time was not wasted.
It’s easy to laugh because we’ve heard a lot of this since we were kids at school, or we’ve seen it on television. What made this different was, in part, the setting. We were in a room that could be used as a large courtroom, though it was being used as a jury selection room. The other thing that brought a certain gravitas to the proceedings was that the people in charge took it seriously, and yet seemed to enjoy what they were doing.
As I look back on the day, my primary emotion/sensation was curiosity. I was genuinely interested in how the day was going to play out and was open to whatever happened. In the end, you could say it was uneventful, and that would be true. At the same time, it was a glimpse into another world, the road not taken (I went to law school but never practiced). And it was a day pulled out of my own world, yanked out of my comfortable space and thrust into a room with 150 strangers. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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