Act V, scene ii:
The fight is over. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, his mother, stepfather/uncle, and Laertes, the brother of the tragic Ophelia, all lie dead. The Ambassador from England enters, surveys the carnage and announces:
“The sight is dismal;
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfill’d,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:
Where should we have our thanks?”
Who are these men of whom he speaks? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Minor characters in the greatest play in the English language. School friends of Hamlet. Brought to Denmark to spy on the brokenhearted prince, to determine the extent of his sanity. The two so tied together that even the King cannot tell them apart.
Chech-born, British playwright Tom Stoppard wrote a play in 1967 exploring these two characters and how they might inform us about our own existence. If they are not actors but simply characters in a play and they become aware of that, what does it teach us about our own roles in life?
From Good Reads: “Acclaimed as a modern dramatic masterpiece, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is the fabulously inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the worm’s-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. In Tom Stoppard’s best-known work, this Shakespearean Laurel and Hardy finally get a chance to take the lead role, but do so in a world where echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, where reality and illusion intermix, and where fate leads our two heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.”
Next week the Revelers of the Spartan Playhouse at Spokane Falls Community College will present Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. In a twist, the play, directed by Scott Doughty will be presented in the round. For the first time in Reveler memory, audience will be seated on the upstage side of the playing space as well as in the theater seating.
What have I to do with this? My permanent part time job is as a costuming technician at SFCC. In this production, as well, I’ve had the pleasure of designing the playing space. I’ve designed sets for SFCC in the past. I can’t wait to see how it all comes out.
The following are photographs from a recent rehearsal. All the photos are taken with my iPad Mini. You can click on the photos for larger versions. All the quotes are from the play.
After a couple days visiting with my daughter’s fiancé in the hospital (treated and released by now, thankfully) I drove home from Moscow, Idaho through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, the Palouse region of eastern Washington State. I’ve driven it many times over the course of my daughter’s college years at the University of Idaho in Moscow, and I never tire of the serene rolling hills unique to this area.
The Palouse is marked by hill after rolling hill that has been cultivated for over one hundred years. The deep, rich top soil is ideal for dry-land farming of wheat, barley, lentils and canola. The scene is ever changing. The beauty of the vista is not dependent upon season here, as every sort of sky perfectly complements the patchwork of fields stretched out before you, whether in cultivation, under harvest or lying fallow. In the winter the snow sweeps across the hills turning the scene into a white-on-white landscape, interrupted by the occasional tree or abandoned outbuilding. In spring the hills green at various times and in a myriad of hues according to the art and science of farming. In late summer the ripening wheat bends and ripples like a beautiful sea of grass, first bright as it bends in one direction, then taking on a silver hue as the light hits it just so when the shifting breeze bends it another. Late summer and then fall is a time for brilliant sunsets as the dust and chaff from the harvesters fill the air and the wind carries it high overhead.
On this drive, heading north on US 195 from the Pullman/Moscow area, I was traveling in the magic time of late afternoon. The sun followed me and played hide and seek through the swiftly moving, broken cloud cover. The partly cloudy sky added another layer of light and shadow to the patchwork of the Palouse. Then I saw the wind farm. The impossibly large wind turbines turned lazily against the stormy sky. In one direction the white of the machines reflecting back sunlight against the black of the clouds. In another, giants were silhouetted against the sun and the shifting clouds. I’m never without my iPhone and love taking pictures of the Palouse.
I even managed to capture the beauty of the wind and the turning in a short video. WindDriven.mov
I wrote this, then I asked God to show me where I lack love…And He did.
If We Were a Body
If we were a Body–
No part unnecessary
None worthy of being overlooked–
Would she still sit
Isolated in the crowd
a glance that says… “I notice you”—
If we’re a Body?
If we were His Workmanship–
One great Temple
Established on a living Cornerstone
Chiseled, scraped and smoothed just so
And meant to be a Beautiful Place
A Holy Temple welcoming the Glory of God–
Would this little one be
Judged too ugly to fit within the
Beautiful framework intended for God’s dwelling
Wanting only to feel part of a whole–
If we were His workmanship?
If we were His Bride–
Redeemed from the slave market
Dressed in a robe of His making
Perfected in His love–
Would she still see herself
Soiled and ashamed?
Yearning to be welcomed
To the Groom’s banquet table
If we were His Bride?
If we were a Family–
Adopted as longed-for children
Chosen, not born
Inheritance freely shared
By the only One with any right to
His Glorious Riches–
Would a little brother
Beg for scraps under the table
Like an unwanted orphan
From an unclean land–
If we were a Family?
If He were our Peace–
Making One from many
The Reconciled from the Separate
Bringing near those of us who were far away–
Would their faces still be
Pressed against the glass
Looking from the outside
Treated as strangers… “Who are They?” “What do you think They want?” “Maybe if we’re quiet, They’ll go away”
If He were our Peace?
If we really were His Body–
Built up and connected by
Blood and Tears
Nourished with the Bread of Life
Washed in Living Water–
Would they feel overlooked
Desperately longing for an invitation… “Stop and stay” “Eat and drink” “Rest and grow”
…that never seems to come?–
Once, I looked into his laughing eyes while I put one naked foot after the other on the shifting surface of a stormy sea. But yesterday…
…his eyes were filled with pain. The pain of disappointment, “Why couldn’t you stay awake with me, especially tonight, Simon?” The pain of a thousand crushing voices screaming, “Crucify him!” The pain of betrayal, “I don’t know him. Never saw him before. You lie! I’m not with him.” The pain of separation, “Take care of her, John.”
Once, I felt his hands (made strong with helping his dad build and repair tables for all those years) pluck me from raging waters that grabbed at me, threatening to overwhelm. Hands whose only violent act had been to rebuke blasphemous dogs who took advantage of the faithful poor. Hands that healed and blessed and fed. Hands that reached out to restore what my one poorly aimed blow so foolishly cut away. Once I watched his hands break the unleavened bread, offer the cup to Judas. But yesterday…
…those hands were pierced and bleeding, convulsed in agony. I watched hands I love strain in anguish against iron spikes, despite mangled muscle and torn tendon.
Once, I heard his voice, calling to me over the wind and the waves, laughing as he shouted the name he’d given me. “Rock!” And then chiding me, like I was a little boy, for being afraid when he was right there with me the whole time. The voice that stopped the wind and the waves and soothed the crying babes placed in his always open arms. But yesterday…
…his voice cried out in misery as nails were driven through his wrists, and then that voice spoke words of forgiveness to his enemies, to those who betrayed him, and to those of us who said we loved him and would never leave him, but were too afraid to stand with him. And I heard his voice cry out to his Father. Our Father. “Abba, Abba…”
Once, I couldn’t wait to get out of the boat. Nothing could have stopped me from stepping from the deck to the water. But yesterday…
…I couldn’t wait to get away from the scene of my shame. My bones turned to water at the words of a serving girl. The stones of the courtyard might as well have been waves as the eyes that witnessed my shame rolled over me like a flood.
…Friday, no matter where I ran, or from whom I turned, my flight put me on the hill overlooking the place of execution. I saw it all. I heard it all. The darkness and the weeping. The jeers and the awe.
Yesterday, when I heard that cock crow, I knew nothing would ever be right again.
A post from a couple of years ago that I re-read recently. It still says what I want to say. It’s good to go back, I think, and revisit ideas, contemplate them and learn new lessons. I’m making a lot of progress in the area of my physical health since originally posting this.
Recent events have caused me to ask myself, “How and Where do I want to live for the next decades of the rest of my life?”
The How(Physical) I am turning 50 this year. My recent physical shows an uptick in all my numbers. And I don’t mean in a good way. My doctor, a mild mannered and non-scolding type, told me that even though he understands how I got here, I’ve got to get a handle on this now. I can no longer fool myself into thinking that ‘once this stressor is taken care of’ I’ll be able to deal with my weight, my blood sugar, my blood pressure and my cholesterol. One thing I’ve learned in the past 5 years is that there’s always another stress inducing issue just around the corner.
It’s true that all of my physical issues are exacerbated by stress, but mostly my own laziness is to blame. I’ve always hated to sweat. As far back as I can remember I would rather sit and read than kick a ball. When choosing food, I’d rather have fried than fresh. My sweet tooth has always been out of control. I can remember getting sick as a child from too much candy on multiple occasions. And I like to bake. Breads, pies, sweets, you name it, I’ll bake it. And eat it.
But I want to live a long time with my sweetheart. I’m in no hurry to leave here for the next life. I hope for a long autumn before winter. So I have some work to do. I can no longer blame my laziness, or my sweet tooth. I’m smarter than this. Old habits and thought patterns are hard to break. I have to believe that I’m up for this challenge.
The How(Spiritual) This one’s a struggle. Personal devotion to Jesus Christ has to be the cornerstone of my life. But I struggle with getting this right. And that’s a part of my issue. Perfectionism. If I sense that I might not ‘get it right’, well then, better to not try, right? I referred to my laziness. Trying and doing is sweating. How much easier to think about and dream about doing. But this needs to change, too. I have too long lived in a way that allows me to ignore my own, personal spiritual walk in favor of focusing on what others were doing or not doing in theirs. And this has added to my own stress and the breakdown of my body.
The Where(Physical) I dream of living in another place. I’d love to live in Leavenworth (Washington) all year around. But our kids have family and friends besides us living here in their hometown. Leavenworth is another 3 hours to travel whenever they’re able to come home. It’s not practical to think that Scotte and I can leave all behind, church, family and friends to live in a town where neither of us have any connections. We both grew up here and here is all we really know. Spokane is a great place to live, but sometimes in my restlessness, I forget that.
I need to focus on living here, contentedly.
And commit to visiting Leavenworth, frequently.
The Where(Spiritual) The City of God. Two recent articles (one in World Magazine and one in Condé Nast Traveler) were both entitled similarly with this phrase leaping out at me. The City of God is where I live with my Lord, loving Him and working for Him, and enjoying Him. The beauty of the Gospel is that this City already exists and I am invited to live there with Him starting yesterday. It’s only my old self, with my old habits and thought life that keeps me outside the gate today. And why do I want to listen to her anyway? Where has she gotten me?
And so here I am, on the verge of the second half of my life. Getting serious about living this half better than I lived my second half. Where this will take me, who can tell?