As If: An Autobiography

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ONE They and There THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE TRACKS My father read the newspaper from back to front, as if it were the Talmud. He read every word of it (though let me not be misleading, he was skeptical about the Talmud), without worrying about origins or the sense of an ending. He was convinced that wherever it started, whatever it was, it couldn't be trusted. No matter what was reported about it, there was nothing but thievery from beginning to end. But as though to confirm it again, the irrefutable, the inarguable, he read in reverse scruple, backing through the news, and if a story were continued, so what? he already knew the story, as he also knew the score, but he had to read it all, with headlines, subheads, captions, columns and other commentary, profiles, reviews, letters, stock listings and market statistics, the edgy ups and downs, as in the major-league standings or shifting decimals of batting averages, comic strips and cartoons, the schedule of ship sailings, obituaries, classifieds, everything from the editorials to the finest print of ads, and in every section on Sundays. “They're all the same,” he'd say, as he closed the paper with a hard crease, front page up. He didn't care about a referent. They. The pronoun could shift all it wanted, he knew who they were. They were all the same. Hadn't he seen for himself, daily, in The Daily News, biggest circulation in the country—well, maybe not then but soon to come as the other papers folded, the Mirror, the Journal, the Telegram, the Trib, only the Post left in the afternoon. You could hardly believe it today, but the Post—that virulentPage 2 → tabloid of the smirking Right—was for the sympathetic Left, or what passed for liberals then (a word more scarce at the time) or for those too politically pantywaist to be thought of as Trotskyite. Whatever you called them, you couldn't trust them. My father was a socialist, but he worried about them too, as he did about the unions, though he was a card-carrying charter member of Plumbers Union Local #1. Where we lived—with a Communist storefront in the neighborhood (and recruiting parties on Friday nights)—the Daily Worker was on the newsstand of the candy store downstairs, but you'd be hard pressed anywhere to find The New York Times. And why would you want to, “All the News That's Fit to Print”?—which for my father was worthless too, and not a picture on the page. That's of course changed today, and with color no less in the Times, a sort of plaintive washout of color, sometimes adorning atrocities that, as they replicate past the millennium, with no perversion, disease, horror, barbarity unimagined—serial killings, child murder, rape, ingenuities of abuse (not only familial and bureaucratic, but also priestly too), AIDS, genocide, jihads, and in the repertoire of the lethal (preserving virtue or power), amputations, stonings, machetes in the Congo and global weapons of mass destruction, biological warfare, and maybe even cyborgian, as well as the excruciating intelligence of torture never shown—recurrently makes me wonder how we read the news at all. Which I do with the Times every morning, like my father with the News, almost as compulsive, but going front to back, as if not wanting to escape the worst of it, or what we're waiting for, like the inevitable news of a suicide bomber in a downtown shopping mall, and with the occasional feeling that in any direction my father had it easy. Still, the fact of the matter was that he had it grievously right; long before the Absurd, none of it made sense. Nor was that an excuse—no more than it was in Beckett, with his excruciating intelligence—for thinking it might get better. “Use your head, use your head, you're on earth, there's no cure for that!” That outburst, over the years, I've often quoted from Endgame. So, if that's a revelation, what's new? my father would say. As for the news not fit to print, you might have found some of it back then (more of it now, though it's being printed) had you followed this direction: over the Manhattan Bridge, left off Flatbush onto Atlantic Avenue, then straight out toward East New York, to where the Long Island Railroad cuts below the street, like a coronary bypass of the Jewish heart of Brooklyn. There was a bridge over the tracks which I patrolled when, in fourth or fifth grade at school, I was captain of the Safety Scouts and, with aPage 3 → quadrangular silver badge, tilted and cusped, snug around my arm, had a ritual

fight with the leader of a black gang, or his surrogate, several mornings a week, to keep things moving over the crossing. The martial arts were not on the scene, but there was a studied, Kabuki-like formality as the contest began, attaining in its repetitions—not irredeemably brutal, though it could be briefly fierce—a condition of equilibrium, thereby keeping the peace (which made more sense, at least, than the news as my father saw it). We usually fought in silence with a little crowd gathered around, either up on the bridge with its concrete walls, or under the steps below. The black kids were usually more agile, but soon as I saw it coming, no turning back, I had a way of reaching out quick for a collar, holding on tight with the right hand and punching steadily with the left, not down in the belly but crack there on the cheekbone or dead on in the nigger's face. And if the counterpunching was trouble I was damn good at wrestling too, moving from collar to head-lock and getting an elbow under the chin, either choking or jabbing with that, when I got him on the ground. I must have done pretty well, because they never took away my badge, which I polished every day. It meant more to me, I think, than the gold medal the principal gave me at an assembly—I didn't know it was graduation—for being the best student. It was not only embarrassing to be called on stage, but something of a surprise, because I was too busy fighting or playing ball to worry about studying then. Well, I must have somehow used my head, since I did get pretty high grades and was graduating a year early, having been skipped twice. My father, who was not given to bragging about his kids, not only watched me playing ball, and now and then fight as well, but also saved my report cards to show around. As for the fighting, if my mother didn't like it—once coming after me with a broomstick to make me stop—and he couldn't quite approve, he never interfered, except the one time he grabbed me, when he saw me backing away, and pushed me toward a bully, a wop named Nutchie, older than me, bigger, much too much of a match. It may have been because my father was there, but Nutchie was so startled when, crying in a rage at being forced to fight, I went with unceasing fury head first into his groin, grappling, butting, kicking, throwing punches wildly, through whatever he did, that he backed off himself. The turnaround would have been impossible without an accompaniment, of course: cocksucker, motherfucker, shithead Italian prick! the repertoire was endless, out of neighborhood fuck-you contests, fuck you too and up your ass (which you still can't print in the Times), but with a pedagogical dividend that came in later years. Page 4 → That was when, in the process of training the actors who became my KRAKEN group, I upped the ante on what they were doing by starting to curse them, way beyond any critical excess they'd encountered from me before. And then, as they moved from being baffled to being pissed to being charged up enough to tell me to fuck off, I challenged them to summon up every dirty word they ever knew, turning them on each other, making up words if they had to (since most had deficient backgrounds), or dissolving them into sounds, fricatives, dentals, plosives, in every conceivable register or torn from the vocal cords, assault unabating, letting the venom work. This was actually part of a series of exercises in what I called (in quite another language) “the teleology of an instinct,” starting at an extreme and letting it take you beyond exhaustion and psychophysical risk to what you otherwise couldn't imagine in some other zone of yourself. Some time before that, in Paris—a far cry from Brownsville in Brooklyn, but in this danger zone of the vocal not so far as it seems—I'd been friendly with Roland Barthes, when he was first moving from “the pleasure of the text” through “the grain of the voice” (a sort of deep-throated outburst, through glottis, mucous membranes, spittle, nose and teeth) to the notion of jouissance. The word is untranslatable (something more or other than joy), a certain exultancy in excess that, before I read any texts, I learned back there on the streets, at the leading edge of performance, where—as out on a football field, screaming your head off for motivation—you could also really get hurt. As for that graduation, with punches thrown and fuck-yous, my grades were pretty good too, and if they wanted to give me a medal they could have given me a medal for that. Meanwhile, I wanted nothing more than to be a football or basketball player, a desire that continued until I was nearly out of college. Better at those sports, but good at baseball too, I studied the moves, strategies, signals, subtleties of form, with a conscientious passion that—as required in the game, no excuses there, like making a double play or getting a pass to a spot or blocking someone out or, in the knife-like instant, not letting yourself be faked—may have spawned an attentive reflex that, with part of me somewhere else, I also brought to school, along with a quick impatience for inaccuracy, cover-up, or those who by goofing off showed they lacked staying

power. Down in a basement, laying pipes, these are qualities my father had, as everybody attested who knew his work as a plumber. Like him, with unerring eye, I read the News backward then, but only the last few pages, because that's where they had the sports. In the summer, with no floods in the schoolyard for night games, and no television at home, I'd wait aroundPage 5 → the candy store, jumping over the Johnny pump or playing kick the can, till an early edition of the paper came. I may have heard the score on the radio, or even part of a game, but I wanted to know it all, in detail and with pictures, and they were great in the News, a full back page of often crucial plays. What I hoped to see most of all—and here a betrayal, a Yankee fan in Brooklyn! before the Dodgers betrayed it too, selling out to L.A.—was an immaculate swing by Lou Gehrig, no doubt into the bleachers, or Lefty Gomez following through, going all nine innings, or if not, there was Johnny Murphy coming in for relief, along with the advantage of being supported by the sluggers of Murderer's Row. There was, as I imagined myself out there, doing what had to be done, and knowing it had to be right, an accretion of discipline not much different from what I later sought in the theater, where no matter what the talent, as coaches say in sports, a lot of it is mental. Or as Whitlow Wyatt, his pitching coach at Milwaukee, said of the Hall of Famer Warren Spahn: “Every pitch he throws has an idea behind it.” And so it was with me, the idea there, but something obsessive about it. From the morning, protecting the crossing, till I fell asleep at night, rehearsing a marvelous steal or an inexcusably botched play, there was—even in sizing up cracks in the sidewalk for casually kicking the can—a sort of thinking with the body that also went to my head. But then, so did certain images that, if congenital to the neighborhood, were out of another world, like my grandmother putting a towel over her head on Friday nights and, leaning over the Shabbat candles, with a faith that was never mine (and never meant to be), wafting up her nose the unassuming fumes. If that's thinking with the body, it's more like an outer body. And here, too, I learned something about credibility, as I later came to know it in dramaturgical terms: the appearance of a reality through the reality of appearance. Not believing what she believed, only believing that she believed it, I would find myself believing—for the apparitional moment, against all wish to resist—that what she believed was there. That short, unshapely, wispily white-haired woman—was it merely how she did it, a matter of performance? I couldn't have dreamed yet of asking the question, but at some subliminal level was maybe thinking of that. I'm not sure what I was thinking, however, when one Friday night, in an early presumption of atheism, or premature existentialism, I decided to put her on, laying out the proposition that God didn't exist. My parents were away, and Baba was making me dinner, indulging what was in my rather slapdash demystifications increasingly supercilious, as she cooked and set the table. “Shaa,” she would say, but that'sPage 6 → it, until I said something that touched a nerve, when she suddenly turned on me with finger pointing and said with a whispered vehemence from the tautened orifice of her lips, “You'll see!” And I thought Jehovah would strike me. What I'd said went out of my mind. I hadn't read Sartre yet, or Nietzsche on God being dead, but even if I had, I'd have eaten my boiled chicken with kishka and never brought them up. This was just about the time when I should have been bar mitzvahed, but it wasn't a matter of getting back at her, with some assertion of bolstered doubt, when it didn't happen. There was no refusal in principle, only the simpler fact—out of the same ubiquitous obsession—that our ball games conflicted with lessons at the Talmud Torah. Even when they brought in a rabbi to tutor me privately, that often conflicted too, and since he was not the intimidating or brutal type you come across in Jewish novels, such as the relentless Call It Sleep, I gave that poor man such a hard time that he refused to go on. If I somewhat regret this now, with utter faithlessness as the bedrock of all I've come to believe, it's mainly because of my grandmother, since it almost broke her heart. As she, too, felt that I was the natural scholar in the family and would surely thrive in Hebrew school—”Herbele,” she might say, “could even be a rabbi”—the delinquency was all the more disappointing. Normally, Baba could absorb the very worst—or somebody's belaboring too much the unavoidable or unpredictable—with a shrug informed by the ages: “What can I say, it's all written,” she'd say (long before grammatology and the writing in the beginning, which, whether Derridean or Freudian, was intrinsically Jewish too). And indeed, about my not coming to manhood through the ritual, there'd been some writing on the wall. For even when I went to the synagogue, which was only on holidays, I rarely attended the services, put off by the women caged upstairs, and the prayer shawls and the snuff and the odorous murmurings below, the rocking back

and forth of the men with beards and sideburns, and phylacteries on their foreheads or wrapped around an arm. Even in a reform synagogue today, I feel discomfited, out of place, and want to leave as soon as I can. And that's what I did back then. There were, in a makeshift playground that didn't belong to the schul, swings and monkey bars adjacent to the building, and I either went out there, or downstairs, for the halvah, strudel, and hazel nuts, with which we sometimes played games too, pitching them toward a wall, winner take all, the one whose nut gets closest to it, in a wobbling final roll. As for the failure to get bar mitzvahed, my parents didn't like it either, though they shrugged and let it pass—in my father's case, I suspect,Page 7 → because there was something more to it: with whatever residues or equivocations, his own lapse of faith, which didn't mean he couldn't be Jewish. Yet it was unthinkable, even when he showed my report cards around, that he'd introduce me among the plumbers as his kaddish, even if I could recite the prayer for the dead that would somehow assure through me—the one who comes after—something of an afterlife. “When you're dead you're dead,” my father would say. Still, I wonder what he might feel about his being remembered here, or through memory or its lapses what I'm saying about him now, and whether I'm getting it right. Or whether he'd even know. My own sense is that if he had encountered the oracle's “Know thyself,” he wouldn't have known how to go about it. (But then, with all the rites of memory, and on the current scene, therapeutically endorsed, self-nurturing narrativity, which of us really does?) As for the loss of faith, his or mine, it was not anything we could talk about, nor did we ever discuss anything, either through his readings or an amorphous Marxism, like the philosophical grounds for it, just as he wouldn't discuss what it meant to have been thrown out of Boys High School—perhaps the best in the city, and the one I eventually went to. Turreted, like a castle, with high academic ambitions, Boys High was in one of the finer neighborhoods of the Bedford-Stuyvesant district (the not yet dreaded Bedford-Stuy) with its bourgeois brownstone houses. But getting there, when he went, from where my father lived, was more than sufficiently threatening. What I did know is that he had been suspended for carrying a gun, as others he went with did, because in crossing over the vacant lots, trash piles, and marshes to school, they'd often meet up with an Italian gang, which sometimes flourished guns, and in the tense encounters the Jew-boys felt they needed protection. On my father's side, he said, the guns were not even loaded, merely show, and because of that, on appeal, others were reinstated. But unfortunately, my grandfather, who had escaped from Austria and its virulent anti-Semitism, and lived first with a certain furtiveness on the Lower East Side, still had the mentality of somebody just off the boat at Ellis Island. An illiterate tailor, with no English, he didn't even know that an appeal could be made, and thus my father was out, and besides—Italians, for sure, but a Jew with a gun?—maybe it served him right. When I was secretary of the senior class at Boys, and consulting now and then with the principal Mr. Tausk, he gave me access to the school records, and they confirm it as doubly sad that my father, henceforth, did his reading in private—as if it were somewhat shameful that he had to educate himself. Page 8 → However it came to be, it was just not in his temperament, even as my curiosity grew, to sit down with me and engage an issue out of his past. Even if I were up to it I could never incite him to it. Intimacy of that kind was somewhere beyond the pale, and the same with emotional intimacy, at least as talked about (no therapy then, of course, which would have been, not only to him, something of a laugh). He had ideas, but whatever they were, he didn't talk about them either. About plumbing itself, no inhibitions, but as he was not inclined to speak out much at a union meeting, he was without the resources at home to explore what he thought any more openly than his gnomic statements about the news. Yet there was something poignant and even eloquent when, on long summer evenings or weekend afternoons, he'd sit at the window, wearing a tank top, and stare out over the avenue, as at some unfathomable emptiness. I hadn't yet encountered T. S. Eliot's lonely men in shirtsleeves leaning out of windows, or that other figure Gerontion, who speaks of the jew (lower case) squatting on the windowsill, with whom, through any semblance of anti-Semitism, he (and Eliot?) seems to identify. But my father, wearily, palpably, had something in common with this unappeasably convoluted self-mortifying figure, who didn't have the words for it, no less “the word within a word, unable to speak a word,” the night coming on, “Swaddled in darkness.”

There in the window, what did my father wish for? It may seem disproportionate, but many years later, teaching the poem in a class, I found myself thinking of that through the stunning passage about the complexion of history, its “contrived corridors / And issues,” deceiving with “whispering ambitions,” and through all the vanities and “supple confusions,” giving “too late / What's not believed in, or if still believed,/ In memory only, reconsidered passion.” Or do I say this only because, having with some aversion done a dissertation on Eliot, I still think this is the finest passage he ever wrote, and amidst the predictable historicizing in our graduate schools today, where Eliot has been discredited, much closer to my own sense of history? However that was acquired, through a belated intellectuality or the vicissitudes of a complex career, it may also be in some respects the intellectual legacy of my father, who was kicked out of my high school, and more than wavered in faith. With or without faith, and unlike Gertrude Stein's Oakland, there was a there there in Brownsville, though you might not have wanted to be there, even secure in faith like my grandmother, in the vicinity of where she lived, because it was turning increasingly black. This was, in actuality, the more dubious margin of Brownsville through which, with urine smellsPage 9 → on the train platform and sour pickles down below, the cramped, redolent Jewish district drains, with an intractable damp sorrow, into something more heterogeneous, even some Gypsies there, who might have predicted—in one of their fortune-telling “parlors,” a curtained hovel in a doorway, with beads around a lamp—what in aching, ruinous, impoverished time all of it came to be. Baba's two-story house, with its blistered yellow paint and flaking green windowsills, steps up the front stairs buckling, was actually on Howard Avenue, just off the bridge over the railroad, across from the synagogue, a half-block down from which was the playground of P.S. 28, the grammar school I went to. That's what they called it then, and taught it—subject, predicate, object, maybe with faulty reference the indeterminacy of they, but (whether with they or there) we came upon the subjunctive with drills and penmanship. I was not particularly intimidated by the regimen at school, merits and demerits, the seemingly incessant daily and weekly testing, midterms and finals, and the chastening record books; nor by the report cards that our parents had to sign, with their (uninflated) double grades, one for “Conduct” too—so that underneath an A there might also be a D, which I was actually rather proud of when it did happen a couple of times. Nor did the teachers seem godlike or overbearing as they instructed us in good manners, good posture, good speech, or insisted we sit there in silence, good boys, good girls, hands clasped on the wooden desks as they diagrammed a sentence on the blackboard and the drill in grammar resumed. There were those who, despite the parsed syntax, and the devotion of teachers too, remained next to illiterate, but that was less so with the grandchildren of immigrants who still spoke mostly Yiddish, as if with whatever misfortunes we lived on the right side of the tracks. Or at least at a fortunate distance—not from those that went under Atlantic Avenue, but from the El on Fulton Street. Two blocks over, three flights high, the trains clattered past the windows of anaesthetized people there, very few Jewish, mostly Italians, and some potato Irish, who not only because of the trains hardly saw the light of day. But then, as my father saw it, there weren't many who did. In his cross-cultural judgment, not only confirmed by the news but also his secret reading of Russian novelists, especially Dostoyevsky, that was virtually the human condition. The tracks over Fulton Street were the somewhat forbidding perimeter of what was—when I was born, on May 3, 1926—known simply as Brownsville, without the prefix of Ocean Hill on the prior side of thePage 10 → hyphen. Since the nearest ocean I remember was off in Coney Island, which we reached by the Fulton El (with or without the nickel fare, often sneaking under the turnstiles or climbing up to the station), I still don't get the name. Actually, I never heard of Ocean Hill until many years later, after World War II and Vietnam, when the racial violence that broke out devastated what was already a ghetto as I grew up through the Depression. If that seemed to return with a vengeance, without any sort of New Deal, there was some last-ditch pillage by druggies who ripped off pipes and fixtures from the tenements along the street, selling the scrap metal that most of it really was, to keep their habits going. Last time I looked, more than a dozen years ago, the tenement in which we lived at 2110 Atlantic Avenue (near Saratoga) had all its windows cemented, to keep the predators out, like a vertical field of gray tombstones anonymous in the brick. I was actually born at 2182 (corner of Rockaway), two big blocks over, none of the buildings spared, all ripped off, then sealed, and ominous everywhere. Thus when, quite recently, I wanted to go back again, to stir up

memory for this book, I was warned in no uncertain terms, by Irving Frankel, my oldest friend from Brooklyn (living now off Madison Avenue, in the fashion regime of New York), that even with a bodyguard I'd better stay away. I was also thinking of returning to the nearby Bedford-Stuy, whereupon somebody who lives there—actually, a black woman, a friend of a former student, who against his better judgment felt he should go with me—said in a quaint phrasing: “About Bed-Stuy think thrice, about Brownsville not at all.” Just the day before somebody had come up behind a white guy and put a bullet in his head, apparently for no reason except the apparent reason. Had he still been alive, my father would have known; he could see it coming. But in this regard, so did most of those who lived there, including my brother, who became a plumber like my father and struggled through the Depression to his own construction business. Eventually, anybody who could afford it moved out to Long Island, as the entire neighborhood, not only around the bridge, turned inexorably black, with every social impasse that went impossibly with that. As for my Polish grandmother, born in Kraków—who'd be a saint if Jews had saints—even as the warnings were warranted, dear Baba wouldn't move, not so long as the synagogue was there. When my parents had a telephone installed in her kitchen, so she could call if anything happened, they worried that she wouldn't use it. “Tell her, Joe,” my mother would say in utter exasperation, and when my father insisted it was dangerous, after the schwartzes broke in and stole thingsPage 11 → from her house, not once, but twice, she said, “So? They need it”—and stayed there, with my crazy Aunt Rosie living above her, till the night dear Baba died. At the time of that last trip to the neighborhood, my wife and I were staying in Greenwich Village, for the several weeks of a seminar I was giving at NYU. I may have been talking about Brooklyn when Kathy—a shiksa from Wheaton, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, who spent her teens in a New Jersey suburb—said she wanted to see where I grew up. So I called my brother out in Long Island (way out in Westbury), who by this time had done more than well enough in his business to have a new car every year—nothing but a Cadillac—and asked if he could drive us out there. “Kathy wants to see where we grew up.” “What does she want to do that for?” he said, with a long-familiar, almost genetic inflection—not at all cynicism, too all-knowing for that—which almost brought me back. But when I told him not to give me a hard time, pick us up, he said he'd meet us at Junior's, a now-famous diner just over the Manhattan Bridge, where you can still get, it appears, the largest portion of cheesecake anywhere. We had some coffee, but skipped the cheesecake, and waited for Sidney to come. When he pulled up in his white Cadillac, and we got in, he rolled up all the windows, pushed the buttons down on the doors, and said, “We're only going on the main streets.” What there was elsewhere, hard to guess, but the main streets, like Atlantic Avenue itself, were a wasteland, or on this block or that corner, like parts of Berlin when I saw it, subsided into grimness, for some time after the blitz. As for residents, there was nobody there as we drove, except for a little girl who was wandering who knows where, since there was—so far as we could see—no place to go, tenement windows sealed, broken glass in the frame houses, walls battered in, some of them collapsed. Where could she possibly live? Only rarely when I lived there did I feel anything like that. I remember certain late afternoons, just before dark, autumn turning to winter, with the wind blowing at me with nobody on the street, and there was on Atlantic Avenue a sense of vast desolation. There was no reason for me to stay out, and I could have gone immediately in—except that I felt, forlorn as it was, some anomalous thrill of endurance. But what about that little girl? The only thing comparable I've ever seen was, almost farther than far away, out in the red deserted landscape of the Southwest, where driving through one time, with the mesas out there above, I passed an Indian on a horse-drawn wagon, moving in implacable slow motion through what must have seemed infinite space, with no destination.Page 12 → Or so it seemed to me. Where could he possibly be going? Probably some cave up there, hidden out of sight. And so with the little girl, one of the back streets, some place we couldn't see. Kathy was devastated; she couldn't believe it, though I assured her that when we lived there it wasn't quite like that. If today, at best, Ocean Hill–Brownsville is a sort of eerie DMZ, there was once—with a cluster of (sometimes dozing) convivial women sitting on milk boxes on the sidewalk, and somebody hitting two sewers in a game of stickball across the street—a semblance of community, certified by seders and bar mitzvahs, and over among the goyim, people going to church. As for the imminence of the cross-cultural, one could see on weekday

evenings—fathers home from work, maybe more so when unemployed—some kid carrying a pail, even a Jewish kid, to an Italian bar on a corner, to have it filled up with beer (thus acquiring expertise on how much foam there should be at the top). If that didn't exempt us from gang wars between Jews and Italians, then Jews and blacks, there was—at least at our end of Brownsville—a certain civility in the violence, by which I mean, though you might get hurt in a fist fight, where somebody might pull a knife, or by water bags thrown from a roof, there were rarely gratuitous killings, no rapes so far as I knew (though a gang bang once in a basement, with an onerous sort of consent), nor anything like a drug scene with its weekly quotient of murders. Or somebody just coming up and putting a gun to your head. Or at least where we could see. For the neighborhood was the outer border or principality of Murder, Inc.'s dominion: not the Sicilian, but the Jewish mafia. “What do you expect?” my father would say, in an inflection shared with my mother. Jews were no better, they were all the same, except maybe for the schwartzes, who in a kind of huddled and cryptic isolation, but sharing half the block, were still coming up from the South. Among the first about-to-be-urbanized blacks, they were settling into the two-story frame houses, like my grandmother's, left over from when, back in the 1880s, Brownsville itself was being settled. Realtors from the Lower East Side in Manhattan bought land cheap and put up dwellings, often unheated railroad flats, for the more belated immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe, who then, needing jobs, went back over the bridge to be exploited by other Jews in the sweatshops and markets emerging on the lettered avenues and around Delancey Street. That's near where my father was born, on Allen Street, conscious of not having been an immigrant, while my mother, who was born in Brooklyn, wouldn't have cared if she were. Page 13 → Nothing that troubled my father ever really bothered her, at least as it came from the newspapers, which she hardly ever read or might glance at for a moment, usually with a sigh. As for the thievery he assailed, like a muttering Isaiah, maybe yes, maybe not, and if as bad as he thought she'd just as well forget it. “So, it could be worse,” she might say, and over the course of time they were in paradoxical accord, for whether ontologically or prophetically, or with her self-regarding indifference, it almost certainly was. My mother had other things to worry about, her children, to be sure, and getting dinner on the table, but most of all herself: her makeup had to be right, though for us it was always too much. “What do you know?” she'd say, as she put on even more lipstick, with an almost deliberate smudge, never getting the line of it right, insisting that's how she liked it, as if that were her aesthetic, the lipstick there like that until the day she died, and even into the grave. A beauty when she was younger, with long dark hair, she would spend half an afternoon combing it before a mirror with folded sides, giving her the benefit of a triple image of herself, which—though the hair was gradually thinning as her already voluminous body was adding folds of flesh—also provided more of herself to admire, as she turned from side to side, mesmerically, slow, with a certain voluptuous pleasure. If I was given to specularity, it was in watching her from the door, as she sat there combing, oblivious as an odalisque in a sort of buttery slip. Beside her was the bed on which my father stretched out on his back, unmoving, exhausted, when he came home from work, to which he went off (when the work was steady) before five in the morning, even in the winter, totally dark outside, nobody else awake. My brother and I slept, twin-bedded, in the same small room, knees up to chests in blankets, drawn up over our heads, but once in a while, turning over, one eye open perhaps, I'd watch as my father came in, still dressing, running his fingers over the radiator to see if the heat was coming up. The apartment itself was freezing, because the heat turned off in the basement, by the janitor at night, took some time in the morning to reach our floor again. When my brother, who was seven years older, became an apprentice plumber, my father would get up first, waiting for a knock in the radiator, perhaps, before he woke Sidney up. When Sidney dated on weekends, and had the money to get around, that looked good to me, but when I asked my father, even begged him, to let me work—not in the winter but in the summer when I wasn't going to school—he said, reaching an arm toward me, fingers spread, “If you touch a pipe, I'll break your hand.” Page 14 →

The proposition was simple: the grades were still coming, and I was destined for something else. In junior high, St. Claire McKelway, P.S. 178—where we played football, not merely touch but tackling, on the concrete of the playground—I won another medal, for a speech on Theodore Roosevelt, whom I admired for his rough riding, and in the Tenderloin of New York his pre-Giuliani toughness. This honor was not awarded at a school assembly, but instead I received a quite elegant invitation from the Women's Roosevelt Association to a reception in Manhattan, the Gramercy Park area of the fashionable East Side, which I didn't know existed. Though he didn't much like the prospect of all the wealthy people who'd probably be there, my father went with me, and for a moment might have agreed with F. Scott Fitzgerald, in that famous exchange with Hemingway, that the very rich are different from us—yes, as Hemingway said, because they have more money, though Fitzgerald knew a lot better what that amounted to. Anyway, those who greeted us there, an elegant variant of they, were surely not the same; indeed, some were more like the characters I eventually discovered in Henry James. As it turned out, my father was impressed, and though I might not become one of them, he was convinced that I'd do all right. And years later I did, with similar types, up to the critical difference, and then with a newer breed, fraught with other controversy. I am speaking of the board at Lincoln Center, which interviewed me at the top of the First National City Bank on Park Avenue, and then, some years later, the one at CalArts, that unorthodox institution endowed by Walt Disney, and whose board consisted of those who became Richard Nixon's kitchen cabinet, and afterward Ronald Reagan's. The head of the board at CalArts, and the man who actually hired me—his fame later established by the Watergate scandal—was H. R. Haldeman. How that came about, my being in either place, was not only unexpected, but as inconceivable to me as it was then to my father. If there were projected ambitions, they were of another kind, with some favoritism in the family. My brother had started to study accounting at CCNY, but then dropped out, because of the double bind, still needing to work as a plumber, the courses up there at City's non-campus in Harlem, the jobs moving out to Long Island. There was to be nothing, however, keeping me from going all the way, in the desideratum of the tradition, becoming a doctor or lawyer—aside from any distinction, not to worry about money. As it turned out, when I finished my first degree, it was in chemical engineering, which I really liked, was good at, and in which I might have done very well if I'd not gone into the theater, which was, to say the least,Page 15 → confounding to my father. In any case, he was quite forbearing about it, as he was, with money scarce, when he went off early and lay there after work—even through his snoring, looking as if he were dead—and I had permission, if I needed a nickel or dime, sometimes even a quarter, to slide my hand in his pocket and take it while he slept, which he did for an hour or so, motionless till dinner. Since he hadn't taken off his clothes, I might be doing that while my mother was also there, making sure I didn't wake him, while loop by careful loop she unlaced and took off his shoes. If his eyes would happen to open, she'd say, “Joe, Joe … sleep, sleep.” As for the dinner that had to be ready when she told me to wake him up, no problem for her at all. Despite the afternoon's narcissism, the shopping was somehow done, and with a vigilant eye. “What are you doing, take off the fat, no, leave a little more …” I remember her instructing the butcher on just how the meat should be carved, from the slabs behind the counter, or if cut and laid out already, otherwise sliced or ground, including what all of us loved, the liver to be fried with onions or chopped with chicken fat (which I can only dream of eating now, because in the new dietary laws, orthodox or reformed, ecumenical through the media, what's certainly not kosher is cholesterol). A couple of times a week she'd be going downhill to the market, six blocks to Prospect Place, picking the onions, carrots, beets, briny pickles from the barrels, fat peaches we ate right away, or the slightly greenish bananas (so they wouldn't brown too quick on the skin), from the pushcarts along the street. Sniffing with disgust at the dreck, or making no bones about it, she was known by all the peddlers, outside whatever the weather, the bundled-up women in winter, non-stop with their Yiddish rap (“Veyba, come, fresh, what are you waiting for?”) and the mittened men, who sometimes made sexy jokes but knew she couldn't be conned. “Yetta is betta,” they would say, in knowing a bargain too. And when the shopping bags were full, she'd struggle back up the hill, never mind her varicose veins, then climb up all those flights when we moved from the ground floor to the fifth. But as it became, with veins swelling, and her body too, more difficult for her to walk, she managed to get one or more of the neighbors, or my Aunt Fanny, her younger sister, who lived next door, to do the shopping for her.

They all did it quite willingly, as if it were a privilege. She would then make an entire meal—chicken soup with kreplach or borscht with sour cream (not the thin supermarket stuff today, but scooped from a tub at the grocery), a thickly gravied pot roast or the plumpest gefullte fish—merely sitting beside the stove, hardly getting up. If somebody said thePage 16 → sour cream (with meat) was not exactly kosher, she'd shrug it away by saying, “So, sue me, you think they're gonna die?” The logic was infallible, and if there were something that she needed, in the fridge or somewhere else, flour perhaps from a neighbor, you'd gladly bring the ingredients when she fondled your name as she did, “Fanny, dear, would you mind,” and lovingly told you what. And she'd prepare it all on the oilclothed table beside her, cutting, sprinkling, stuffing, then slide it into the oven or lower it into a pot. Warm beyond measure, my mother eventually relaxed into being—though she was pretty relaxed to begin with—the laziest person on the block. Yet everybody adored her, including the schwartzes who, when my father became a foreman, were paid a few dollars on alternate weeks to come and clean our house. They were probably the first who came up the block and into the comparative luxury of the tenements, where, actually, there were those who kept things going by doing similar jobs, like the Sicilian woman downstairs who, before she found something better, had been sweeping under the beds and scrubbing our bathroom floor, and even mopping the staircase leading into the apartment. If Yetta Blau had been asked whether it was a little awkward to have a neighbor do it (for maybe a dollar extra), her response might have been like her mother's—saintly Gussie Roth—when the blacks broke into her house: “So, she needs it.” And that didn't prevent the two of them, if the Sicilian woman wasn't working and my mother not combing her hair, from rejoining the sidewalk circle, together outside on their milkboxes, and the reality principle there. And this is not said, I trust, with an overflow of nostalgia. Still, I've been wondering as I write—and my wife Kathy has asked about it (having written much about aging, she is finishing a book on “the emotions”)—how much nostalgia is here, as if it were a sin of perception, as it has come to be in theory, though I've never bought into that. And if so, the sin be damned, since I'm still inclined to feel, though not averse to theory, that in thinking over a life there's no perception without it, that is, what we can't help feeling—regret, dismay, shame, and, even in a warp of the worst, some nostalgia too, verging as it may on what we'd rather forget. Among the liabilities of remembrance is that it can't quite manage that, no less the unresolved feelings, summoned up or just there, finding yourself divided, in the embrace of what's remembered. And so about living in Brownsville, which could also be seen as a putrid place where people pissed in the sewers and threw garbage out the windows, while you had to watch your ass inPage 17 → that cesspool of kikey thugs, with nothing but gangs (as in The Amboy Dukes), where illiteracy was the norm because nobody went to school. We might have escaped such charges, technically, by claiming we lived in limbo rather than Brownsville, whose border in our direction was (though nobody knew it) where the pavement of Pitkin Avenue turned green on Eastern Parkway, with a reluctant row of trees. That was at the other end of Howard Avenue from where my grandmother lived with the blacks. For those of us up the block, that was still nowhere but Brownsville. As it turns out, this book was started as far from that neighborhood as anyone there could imagine, in our apartment in Paris, where Kathy reminded me, just the night before I began, that at the time we bought it, over twenty years ago, I was adamant about refusing to buy another, in some ways more attractive, but in a Jewish quarter—the last thing I wanted from that tradition being the right of return. And now, when I am in New York and take the subway from Manhattan, getting off at Atlantic Avenue, it's not out in the middle of the borough where the railroad goes under, but where I go to the theater at BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music), which never existed for us. Nor did we ever go to the theater, at least I never went, not until I wrote a play, when—in my senior year at NYU, finishing that degree in chemical engineering—I felt I ought to see one, after which by a series of accidents I found myself out in San Francisco somehow starting a theater. (As for my father, I seem to recall him saying that, when he lived on the Lower East Side, he went to the Yiddish theater, and one time, fondly, he spoke of Molly Picon, that tiny cross-dresser, with insouciant charm, who was playing on Eastern Parkway, close to us in Brooklyn. I may actually have seen her too, maybe in a movie, Yiddle Mtin Fiddle, or is it—since my mother used it as a turnoff when somebody went on about what she didn't want to hear, Yiddle mtin fiddle! —that diddling sound I recall?) While I've seen some admirable things at BAM, it's almost of more interest to me because of its proximity to the high-rise Williamsburg Bank, whose clock at the top I once thought I could see at a

distance, from way down Atlantic Avenue, if the weather was right. That may have been an illusion, but I came to know it was there, because I'd see it closer up when, on a Saturday, my father would sometimes take me with him when he drove downtown for a meeting of the plumber's union, near Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn's Times Square then. It was at the magnificent Flatbush Theater where, cartoons aside, I first saw a Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the animators of which I came to know many years later when, before Michael Eisner, I went to work for thePage 18 → Disneys, even while remembering my father saying, never mind Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney was anti-Semitic and, during the 1930s, a notorious union buster. As for the imperiousness of that bank, it seemed to escape any working-class scorn, and I might see the clock again when, once or twice a month, or after a union meeting, we'd drive over to The Daily News building, not to picket in disdain, but to redeem coupons I saved from the paper, with which over the course of a couple of years I accumulated, book by book, a complete set of Charles Dickens and then a complete set of Mark Twain. In making a recent move, we gave about a hundred boxes of books to a university library, but with pages worn and bindings going, those two sets are still in the family. The coupons for the books were perhaps the only thing in the newspaper that my father ever approved. Despite the reading I started to do, that maybe illusory clock was in the early years of the redemptive New Deal (“Hoover Hoover, rah rah rah / Stick him in the ashcan, hah hah hah!”) not merely an emblem or material sign of capitalist hegemony, but without such jargon for it, just viscerally felt, the virtual limit of my world. I was especially conscious of it at sunsets, those last emblazonings right behind the clock, which drew me to it again on steamy summer mornings when, shortly after sunrise, I'd get up to play ball. But first I had to buy, with the few pennies my mother gave me, going back to sleep, a jelly doughnut for breakfast, picking the fattest one off the tray on the shoulder of a limping vendor who almost always showed up with the sun, still moving as I paid him, across the broad avenue with next to no traffic at all. And then, before going off to the schoolyard, I'd eat it right there, in the exact middle of the street, aligned as it seemed with the bank, gazing off toward the clock—with whatever thoughts of beyond, that New York still a mystery. That image always comes to mind, with a backward rush of thought, when I find myself near the bank, under the clock now, staring the other way, but not quite inclined to venture, especially late at night, out to where there was once a racial issue because whites were still on the block. If we were dominant there then, it was as it moved toward stalemate within an economy of deprivation, live and let live for the most part until we managed to move away. With our five-story brick tenements rising over the frame houses, clapboard falling apart, but rentable to blacks, it was like a graph or relative index of poverty. Here perhaps, if needlessly, I should say something about my using the word blacks, as we didn't use it then, at least not much. In an era long before Black Power, and then, hyphenated or not,Page 19 → African Americans, the going thing on the streets was niggers, and while the older Jews said schwartzes, Negro was what we said mostly at school when there were niggers in class, as they increasingly were. We were, of course, not yet making excuses for what, if the bigotry was endemic, was part of a collapsed economy in another order of things, where the Jew's long experience of prejudice was not, by empathic means, over the color line—the division right there, strange to begin with, increasingly felt as a threat, and there were certainly grounds for that. Forget the allure of otherness, that fantasy of the academic, which in that setting—come on! historicize—would only make you laugh. (I can see my father now.) None of which means—putting color impossibly aside, or even the possibility of an illicit, then unspeakable attraction to it—that nobody cared about the complexities of difference, most specifically economic difference. This was certainly not the case with my friends Willie and Hymie Kaplan, whose entire family went to the Communist store-front, not only for the parties on Friday night, where as we got older we went to look for girls (not quite yet on the principle that Communist girls were looser, and might be looking for us). And while Willie and Hymie were sometimes made fun of, particularly when, between innings at the schoolyard, we'd hear them speaking of the class struggle and alienated labor, they somehow made us listen. Or at least I did, though it was stupefying when they'd suddenly leave in the seventh inning or with the fourth quarter about to begin, to attend a Party meeting or go off to Pitkin Avenue to join a picket line. I don ‘t remember any of us going with them, but among the older people it was not only the Communists who were sensitive to the material discrepancy between us and the blacks. Yet if one of them broke

into a house, to somehow narrow the difference, what would you expect?—there were very few like my grandmother. Within the family, there were characteristic variations in what we said and did, with residues of the bigotry in our making up of the difference. Well aware as my father was that even in hardship there's not parity, this basically decent man—who was pleased when he could give a job as a plumber's helper to a Negro who might learn the business, and eventually did—was nevertheless amused when we lived on the ground floor, and in the summertime, windows wide open, our bulldog Sporty, black-and-white, would recline on a sill, growling only at blacks and—as he did once when not restrained—jump if they came too close. Many years later, my brother Sidney, who eventually became president of the Master Plumber's Association of New York, with considerable influence in the constructionPage 20 → industry, was still calling them schwartzes, while doing more than anyone had ever done to see that blacks could get into the plumber's union, thus making jobs accessible. But back there on the block, where things were tough for everybody, that could hardly have been foreseen. As for me, some of my best friends were not blacks, until Richard Younge in high school, who was also, I'd guess now, gay avant la lettre, like a somewhat effeminate Colin Powell. With a fine, assured posture, portly, he had an incomparably elegant wit that was, in a class of exceptional brilliance (an average above 90 percent not much above average there), in a class by itself. I can't recall where exactly he came from, or what his parents did, but if there was nobody quite like him in that high school—up there with Townsend Harris and Bronx Science—there wasn't much of a chance that I'd overlooked somebody like him, black or white, in my neighborhood. As it was, my brother Sidney, who died recently of complications from Alzheimer's, came as close as anybody, for he certainly had the elegance if not quite Richard's wit. Above the desk in my study—put there after he died—there is a picture of him dancing, with my sister-in-law Bea, which might have come out of a Hollywood studio, but in the days when glamour was what it ought to be, not merely scandal or hype, there for the paparazzi or late-night Letterman show, but with a reserved presence that has a lot of class. Sidney is in a tuxedo, looking taller than he was, muscular body poised, mustache perfectly trimmed, and Bea, full of life, seductive, luxurious in a long gown, turned toward the camera, leaning slightly back in his arms. It is an image of effortless grace that might have been envied by Ginger Rogers, because my brother was, if equally elegant, much handsomer than Fred Astaire. This was, moreover, not a one-shot deal, a pose, maybe taken at a wedding—to which I can attest, because for some reason Sid and Bea would now and then, if he could borrow my father's car, take me on their dates (and I'd fall asleep in the back while they were necking up front). I loved to go with them because they were champion dancers in high school, winning every contest, not only jitterbugging like crazy, but also doing the Peabody. Supposedly a faster fox-trot, done to ragtime music, I saw it as a kind of waltz without the turnings that, as Sid and Bea did it, nobody does anymore, with its exquisitely gliding steps, she going mostly backwards, and at his merest touch shifting from side to side. No question, the blacks soon outdid us, with steps we'd never imagined, and music to go with them too, but at the time, so far as we knew, they had nothing quite like that. If they were the newer kids on the block, it wasn't long before theyPage 21 → started moving around, beginning to psyche us out, and then, as on the bridge, test us out as well. The older blacks, meanwhile, probably from custom of long repression, mostly kept their place. Furtively there, wary, they were sometimes seated on the porch, with maybe a woman rocking, just the sort of figure that could be seen, as if in a warp of time, when—during World War II—I was in training with the paratroops at Fort Benning, Georgia, and we'd jump over the Chattahoochie River into some nowhere of Alabama. On one of those jumps, as we were floating idyllically down, a sudden wind dispersed the chutes, and swinging far and wide I landed in a watermelon patch, alone, no one in sight, separated from my unit. After a quick gathering up of my chute, I walked down a road and up to porch where, indeed, a woman was rocking. But along with the déja vu, there was an odd sense of dislocation when I asked her whether she'd seen any other soldiers. She gazed vaguely over my head, no answer, as if I didn't exist. There, back in Brownsville, when they first showed up on the block, and we happened to pass a porch, no less ask a question, I felt very much the same. What did they know? we wondered, if anything at all. And what did we know of what they were surviving on, or how they made a living. Actually, there was a period during the Depression when we were briefly on welfare ourselves (in those days called “relief”), and my father—who also had to drive a taxi, which he resented, because

plumbers were out of work (“The pipes can go to hell!”)—was even reduced to the ignominy of trying to borrow three dollars from a brother-in-law who refused him, that bastard! served him right that he drove a taxi for the rest of his life. Because of his sister, my Aunt Rose Tiegel (not the crazy one, Rosie), my father didn't break things off with my Uncle Dave, whose grinning heartiness he put up with, though he knew him for what he was. Yet when things got better for us, and my father looked down the block at the blacks, he couldn't figure them out, and wondered what made them tick. Something had to be done, but they weren't doing enough for themselves, and where would things be when they did? What did they know, or anybody? When push came to shove, and everybody was shoving, the schwartzes hadn't caught on yet; they were too dumb. Which was, in one crucial respect, what I happened to think myself. Would you believe it? Those black kids down the block didn't even know how to play basketball! We had to teach them the game, or rather demonstrate it, since they kept their distance at first when they began to show up in the schoolyard, wary too at the start, more aggressive in time.Page 22 → But then we tend to forget that, if basketball was invented in Kansas, it was at that time a New York Jewish sport. And as it turned out, the superstar in our schoolyard was Red Holzman, who became a legend at City College and later went into the Hall of Fame after coaching the Reed-Bradley-Frazier-DeBusschere-Monroe Knicks. Red lived in an apartment a couple of floors above us. If I taught the black kids, it was Red who taught me, though mostly by example or in an understated way. He was equally good at other sports, soft touch on a football, accurate spin, and it seemed as if he'd thrown it when, with the same spinning precision, he'd kicked it out of bounds. Reduce the size of the ball, same thing, same calm, as it was in handball, which he mostly played alone because there was nobody to take him on. We'd watch him setting up shots against the wall with a sort of cunning ease, or placing the deftest killer into a corner not an inch above the ground. Even my father was impressed. They may have been all alike, but not on a basketball or handball court, as Red made perfectly clear, with an unpretentious grace (no slam dunks then) that made it seem an art. If there was any other athlete at the level of Red Holzman, it was Harold Green, who lived next door and was my closest friend from early childhood until I went to junior high, and if the friendship diminished there, and after, it was not only because Greenie couldn't get into Boys High. The fact is he could barely get into any high school at all, and he dropped quickly out when he somehow made it in. Had he been able to stay at Thomas Jefferson, strong as it was in sports, his athletic prowess was such that he might have broken all records there. One thought of power with Greenie, but he also had style; if it didn't seem a thing of grace, as it did with Red, that was because Greenie's gifts were so utterly natural you could hardly believe them at all. He could high jump, broad jump, or literally climb up the side of a tenement building, from the street to the roof, by putting his fingers between the bricks and going with the tenacious finesse of a spider—here you could speak doubly of grace—brick by perilous brick, infallibly straight up. They weren't slam dunking those days, but given his ability to jump, even higher than bigger players, he could easily have done that too. It was the fact that basketball players were getting so big that, by the time I was in college, nearly drove me mad, because—though in a state of denial—I could no longer compete. Soon it was similar in football, where the players were not only bigger but faster, and while I knew what they didn't, and could outfox them, outfake them, deploying the unexpected with a savage will, there was also a limit on that, and I was never that quick on my feet. That wasn't the case with Greenie, who wouldPage 23 → surely have made it into the Hall of Fame as either a wide receiver, as balletic as Lynn Swann, or as a tight end, with a toughness almost ballistic—if they had such positions then. Remarkably for me with Greenie, for some gratuitous reason, or because I had the smarts, faster with my mind than he was with his feet, he brought these resources into my service. And, believe it or not, if we came to fight, as we rarely did—but once when he was so mad he actually went after me with a fork—I could by getting him into a headlock, thereby pulling my weight, hold on for dear life, and manage to hold on long enough until, breathing hard and even crying, Greenie would suddenly stop. I certainly didn't have the psychological resources to know what was really at stake, but he desperately wanted, even needed, my friendship—and in order to assure that, he was also my acolyte, doing my bidding, just about anything I told him to do. Some of the things were sexual, down in the bins of the cellar, though if there were anything homoerotic it was a sort of team play too, since in cold or rainy weather all the guys were down there, flipping cards or throwing dice—and when things really got

boring, measuring their cocks and jerking off together, competing for distance when they came. As for the ball teams outside, there Greenie was a double asset, because among his astonishing abilities was that he was also an expert thief. So when we needed a bat or some gloves or a football, or maybe a jersey or two, Harold would meander into a sporting goods store, check out when nobody was looking, simply pick up the desired objects, not even hiding them, and blithely walk out. No haste, no waste moves, but he could run like hell if they saw him and came yelling after, chasing him down the street. He was around the corner before they knew it, two blocks away, or hiding in an alley, or going some other way after passing the stuff to us there. That was how, on my birthday or just for kicks, he'd get me a present too, and one time when I started to collect stamps, buying singles or little packets, he went into Woolworth's, where they had a huge album of samples chained to the counter. Greenie didn't bother to sort out what I might have had from what I didn't, since I didn't have very much, but simply broke the chain, and walked out with the entire album—whereupon, in a bounteous instant, my stamp collection was one of the best in Brownsville. At home, Greenie didn't have it so easy. His father was an off-again, on-again drunk, who used to beat up his wife, and until the son could defend himself, he'd be beaten up too. One time Mr. Green, powerfully builtPage 24 → him-self, picked up a small radiator that was turned over, disconnected, and heaved it at Harold, just grazing a leg, but otherwise fortunately missing. When things got really bad—to be estimated only on a scale of continuous violence—Greenie would come up and stay with us, sleeping in my brother's bed, if he were away, or on the floor between our beds (my mother loved Harold, and called him that, but she put a taboo on the couch). That Greenie's good nature persisted through all this was itself a remarkable thing, and he was really put off by some of the more notorious cruelties that occurred in the neighborhood, like the time a couple of guys took a cat up to the roof of a tenement overlooking the House of Good Shepherd—an orphan asylum for Catholic girls—and whirled it over their heads and threw it over the wall, delirious with the possibility that it might even hit a nun. Greenie was in a rage when he heard about it. Had he been up there he'd have saved the cat and thrown the two of them off the roof. There was another time, however, when his sense of loyalty, or even devotion, and latent violence mixed. Close by, above Howard Avenue, was another orphan asylum, this one for boys—a building of dirty brick, oppressive in the summer, damp and bleak in the winter, but with a redeeming virtue: it had an indoor basketball court. And when it rained or was very cold, we'd go up there on Saturday afternoons, when they let the boys out on their own, and the staff took off as well, or so it seemed, since there was usually nobody around. I'm not quite sure where we met him, either at school or maybe there, but there was a kid named Ralphie, curly-haired, sweet-eyed, gentle, who would manage to get out on other days, joining us in the schoolyard. One Sunday morning, he and Greenie and I were there, tossing around a football, the yard otherwise empty, when a gang of black kids showed up. At first they leaned against the fence and watched, and then they spread out, most of them bigger, and began to work up a taunting hilarity if a pass were wide or we dropped it. We didn't stop throwing but started to back away, when one of them intercepted the ball, and they lofted it over us as we chased it, until what was a teasing game at first became something rougher, as they'd bump into us or hold an arm to keep us from getting it back. When it bounced at one point, it came right at me, and as several of them rushed and grabbed me, piling on, punching, I managed to swat it toward Ralphie. There was shouting and running as I struggled to get up, when next thing I knew there was a scream, and all of them running off, with Ralphie down, legs drawn up, and blood coming out of his side. As I went to help, I realized that Greenie had tackled the one with the knife and was screaming now on top of him, a head in his hands, GreeniePage 25 → banging it savagely on the ground, until that kid must have been brainless. I'm not sure what happened to him after, but if that black kid wasn't dead it was because—with Greenie out of his mind—I somehow pulled him off. By this time, Ralphie was dead. What Greenie eventually did with the violence, or the desire to get back, if not at his father, at somebody, somehow, was to bring it to another sport, one more brutal than football, but requiring skills that he couldn't bring to a college then, as he couldn't with football either. It's not quite a matter of thievery, but if Harold Green were in high school today, on the edge of dropping out, every college recruiter in the country would be there to persuade him to finish, with maybe a secret bonus, and he could go to the team of his choice. And if they couldn't tutor him through or rig the grades, no sweat, for he might even go directly from the high school, even before finishing, into the NFL. Or since, unlike the NBA, the NFL has a restriction on that, they'd somehow get him to graduate, and

then a giant bonus as part of a huge contract, in figures you couldn't dream of, even if you made it then. But since none of this was possible, Harold became a boxer (forgoing the name Greenie), and one of the best of his time—a middleweight contender, who fought three famous ten-round fights with Rocky Graziano, outpointing him twice, but not getting a crack at the title, and then suffering a double whammy when, in the third fight between them, Graziano presumably avenged the losses with a three-round knockout of Green. The real situation was, as we heard it, what might have been expected. Harold was controlled by the Jewish mafia, Murder, Inc., and told to dump the fight (as his daughter said in an obituary after he died, “My father fought in an era when you did what you were told to do”). His career declined after that, going downhill faster when a couple of years later, in New York, he was knocked out by Marcel Cerdan, in two short rounds. The last time I saw him fight was when—completing my doctorate at Stanford, while teaching at San Francisco State—I happened to be in New York, and my father told me Greenie was heading the card at a stadium in Canarsie. We went out there to see him, and though he disposed of a stiff in a few rounds, he was himself overweight and sluggish, and had to supplement his earnings from boxing by running a junk business as well. When we surprised him in the dressing room after the fight, Greenie was sitting there like a has-been, but he brightened when he recognized me, and after a hug and short exchange, invited us over to his house for a party, and also to meet his wife. Sad to say it was a party at loose ends, with an odd lot ofPage 26 → hangers-on, food shabby, not well-catered, atmosphere downcast, rather embarrassing for us all, and we left soon after we came. And that was, too, the last time I saw him. Even for my father, who was very fond of Greenie, and followed his career in the newspaper, that may have been the way it was, but not how it was supposed to be. Not only for sports, but everything else, the News had the best pictures. My father studied them like telephotometry from a U-2, interpreting, interpreting, or like the detectives in CSI on television today. But the detective he most resembled, in one conspicuous way—which he didn't mind being kidded about—was from my favorite comic strip, also in the News. He had a Dick Tracy nose, broken at the ridge, and (though not the exemplary Dick Tracy) a hacking cough. That was mostly due to his smoking three packs of Camels a day—what he did mind was my mother telling him to stop—though there was also the dampness in the cellars where he impeccably fixed the pipes. The nose didn't help; he never said how it happened, but the passageways were a tangle of cartilage and bone that kept his breathing hard. When he dressed on a weekend, though, he was a dapper man, with a flair to the herringbone coat he'd wear as the weather turned cold in the fall. Somehow he looked like that even when he couldn't afford it, but when things got better through the Depression, he'd buy his clothes at Abe Stark's, the best men's store on Pitkin Avenue—doubly impressed upon me by the biggest advertisement at Ebbets Field, right there below the scoreboard, when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. My father also liked cars, the bigger the better, with fins, when streamline first appeared. Not quite like my brother later, who acquired the taste and more, he somehow managed a new one (or maybe used new one) every other year or so, like the blue Pontiac, which he kept in perfect shape, oil checked, tank full, spotless inside, with every service vacuumed. Nothing in the neighborhood ever came close to that. Indeed, when he pulled up at the curb, with a certain distancing pride, just ahead of the circle of milk boxes, and stepped out with that flaring coat, he seemed like one of the Jewish mafia; but though he'd once carried a gun, he was not one of them. Abe Stark maybe, but not him; no honor among thieves, and he was through his jaundiced ethic somebody you could trust. Even in summer, however, when the temperature was at its worst, my father wore a hat and long sleeves for protection. He had a fine white skin—so fine he'd never sit in the sun for fear of sunstroke, which he once suffered when he'd been swimming. It must have been awful. He was stoicPage 27 → about pain, but he never swam again. I used to study my father's skin, as if for a sign. It was fine like parchment, with the drawn-out pigment leaving an array of figures or sort of calligraphy, a pinkish writing behind, which corresponded, again despite all jaundice, to his unionized inclination to the Marxist Left, though he was hardly the bleeding heart you'd want to call a pinko. I rarely saw him entirely naked, but when he was undressed the body was pale and smooth. The plumbers called him Whitey, but that was more because of his hair, which was paler than blonde, and smooth. (Years later, I remembered my father's nakedness when I thought of the Ghost in Hamlet, that scrofulous figure of an absence, who remembered in lamentation: “All my smooth body.”) If he didn't swim, that didn't keep us from going to Coney Island in the summer, which he enjoyed, with the knishes at Sea Gate, a special stand there, and

the hot dogs at Nathan's, before it became an institution, not only where the action was, near Steeplechase and the Cyclone, but even in Times Square. He'd wear a soft fedora, brim down, and stay under the boardwalk while we swam, all day long, never sitting, because sand was also too harsh. (There, incessantly, he'd suck on lemon drops, which I happen to remember because I'm doing that right now, not in emulation, but because my doctor said they're good for dry mouth when you sleep, a liability of aging.) On such days his patience seemed infinite as he waited for us—as more painfully so in the window, lost in the amplitude of nothingness—but he was an intemperate and driving man on the job, gutty, tough, coarse, for his uncompromising standards a legend in the business. If I've never been bothered by elitism, so long as it's based on merit, thus it was on the ball fields, in the pool hall (where I could bank one in the pocket), and certainly at Boys High, but it may have begun with my father, whose merit was appreciated, hard as it was to put up with. His fame was corroborated any time he took me—not on those frigid mornings, but once in a while on weekends—for bagels (I didn't yet go for the coffee) at Dubrow's on Eastern Parkway, where the plumbers also congregated just before they went off to work, here and there in Brooklyn, then to Astoria, Jamaica, and with the extensions of Grand Central Parkway increasingly out on Long Island. They delighted in telling me, when Whitey was out of hearing, how his temper would erupt at anything like a sloppy job, whether installing a heating system or merely repairing a boiler, fixing a radiator or getting the right bowl for the toilet, as if they still couldn't believe it, the perfection down in the cellar or (“You can't even see it,” they'd say), going behind the walls, not a coupling mismanaged or, not by the barest fractionPage 28 → of an inch (the level always there) anything out of line. If anybody took the brunt of it, however, it was my brother, as he qualified for the union, but it was he who said more than once, with pride, if sometimes anger, that laying a pipe on the level was for my father like a religion, everything perfectly threaded, exactly coupled, the way a job ought to be. That he was a real trial to work with, no doubt, but that seemed to be a testament to another kind of excess. Sidney wouldn't have stated it thus, but if Joe Blau was never satisfied, enraged by sloppiness, that driving anger, it was some unexplained compensation for the rage of slipped achievement. Even there he would speak of they, when he was appraising a job that somebody had screwed up, or when a piece of equipment appeared which was obviously useless, and nobody knew who had ordered it. They did it, as always, and were likely to do it again. I wasn't on the scene when the anger emerged, and with me it rarely happened, although I must have absorbed it, somehow, along with the dedication, an excess without exultancy that sometimes, to this day, I can turn against myself, wanting to do fiercely better what I've already done quite well. Discipline be damned, it's all mental, but sometimes deranged in sports, and one awful time in baseball. I could bat both ways, from either side of the plate, but I used to go right in the schoolyard, not only because the fence was too short from the left and, if you hit it over, an automatic out, but also because the other way was a challenge. I used to hit a long ball the length of that schoolyard up against the wall of a building at the other end. But one time I was in a slump, and in a late afternoon, relentless, next to berserk practice, I stayed at the plate in a tearful fury because I kept hitting and couldn't reach it, lining one hard drive after another, good for one or two bases, but not lofted and far, or whacked against the wall. I couldn't stand it, but with my friends laughing, pitching to me, I swung until I was exhausted, refusing to go home, and as long as they pitched I hit and hit and hit, lining one savage drive after another, but not to that fucking wall, and finally had to give up, and my father laughed too when they told him, and I nearly shouted fuck you at him, crying with rage even more. My nickname was Turk at the time, an inspiration of my Uncle Mac (Fanny's husband), because—as he only too often repeated—”gobble, gobble,” I liked to eat, and mostly ate too much, and what did we know about eating. Aside from my mother's sizeable meals, and the usual “Eat, eat, you're on a diet?” you were supposed to drink a quart of milk a day (with the cream still up at the top), and my father would bring home a cheese-cake which we'd share before going to bed, with maybe another half bottlePage 29 → of milk. My father never gained any weight, but here, no question, I had my mother's genes. Overweight was always a problem, which she didn't much worry about, but which I detested more than anything because it slowed me up on the basepaths and, even worse, though I could feint my way to the hoop, on the basketball court. Yet Mac's resourcefulness was such that the nickname had diverse meanings: Turk as in young Turk, if not for Turkish tantrums, a maybe unspent ferocity (like that of

my father, though Mac didn't think of that), not strutting as gobblers do, but at some pugnacious moment only too ready to fight—and one of the things I'd fight about was jokes about being fat, including the stickiness of Turkish candy that also made me fat. My wife tells me the pugnacity is still on the ready today, but my own, perhaps self-justifying, sense is that I don't pick fights, and I didn't then, but if somebody comes at me—now even in theory, as before in the theater—I'm not inclined to back away. As for giving as good as you get, here analogies fail, it's not at all as on the street, and I rather like the sort of argument in which you can intellectually count on that, the getting as good as you give. But in the ideologized context of the academic world today, which with all its talk about deferrable meaning determines thought in advance, the argument is just about over before it even begins. If I suffered any major anxiety in those days it was, loving cheesecake as I did, the curse of being fat. Obesity is a national scandal today, and I'm luckily out of that, though the discipline wavers. Now, when I hear the word obesity, I think of it as nothing more than the merest abstraction of fat, and if it had any currency then, which it didn't, it would have been, for me, a repellent euphemism for fat—and not the “Fat! Fat! Fat! Fat!” that exuberance of excess in the gaiety of Wallace Stevens, but when all is said, and they said it, humiliating fat. As for Turk, it depended on who said it, and the tone, as to whether I liked the name or not. Mostly I didn't mind, but there was no greater torment than being called fatty or tubby or chubby, or even—though mainly for women—the sparing epithet stout. And I could have killed somebody once, a son of a bitch on a porch, where we were coming on to some girls, who said, in words I still remember, as one surely remembers the worst, “Hey, Turk! if you get any fatter, you'll have tits like a girl,” and then quickly reached out and squeezed a nipple through my shirt. I belted him right there, and we struggled down the steps. Fat: that's one thing, indeed, that my father didn't worry about, and somehow, too, he didn't mind it in my mother, who in her lovinglyPage 30 → self-indulgent way wouldn't have worried about it if he did. (And sometimes, too, she even flirted with it, her fleshiness a come-on, as I remember once at Coney Island, when after a day on the beach, with my Aunt Fanny and her kids, we went over to Stillwell Avenue, for food other than hot dogs, but into a kind of saloon, with music and a little dance floor, and a guy came up to our table, and though she didn't dance, she let him buy her a beer.) Yet, while I envied my father's trimness, I wondered about his anger, or did, mainly, when my brother brought it up, since I didn't see much of it, nor was I yet aware of the degree I might have that too in my genes. If I could lose control at times, or sometimes indulged the excess, or did something wrong in the house, my father might tell me to cool it, but mostly took it in stride. I can hardly remember him shouting, and as I was growing up he hit me only once—or rather kicked me, hard, right through the scrollwork over the brown cloth screen of the radio, a piece of furniture then, with high thin legs, which my careening broke—because I'd insulted my mother. Did I ever resent my father? Given what I've written about him in journals, many years later on, I certainly must have, and what I say about him there appalls me. But I'll come back to that. Otherwise, though he wouldn't talk to me about the books or ideas, and I never pressed him, he seemed, as I matured through Boys High—with its major football teams that dominated the city, but where you couldn't be unintelligent—to want to be with me, as if in reverse identification, though I was so unformed myself, so random and inchoate in thought, that I wouldn't have had any idea of what he might be identifying with. What we did share was sports, and he made a point of taking me, not so much to Ebbets Field (which was eventually near where we moved, as I was finishing up at Boys) nor to Yankee Stadium (which is near the campus up in the Bronx that, when I went on to engineering, belonged to NYU), but over to see the Bushwicks in minorleague Dexter Park: no large scoreboard, plain wire fences, the field well-tended but rough, making for odd bounces that could turn a game around. There on a lazy, sun-drenched Sunday, no canopies or bleachers above, maybe a handkerchief on your head, much of the game slow motion, then a base hit, a steal, the catcher blocking the plate, slow again, unrushed, the pitcher rubbing the ball, leaning into the signal, one of the coaches pulling an earlobe, running his fingers down his chest, the batter stepping back, then kicking up dust at the plate, and waiting there for a curve that seemed to take forever. Gestural, ritualistic, drawn out, as I once described it, into the American equivalent of the Japanese Noh drama, it nevertheless seemed in those days morePage 31 → authentic,

what baseball ought to be, not as it is now with instant replay and portable videos, showing the fans as they missed it what was right in front of their eyes, with razzle-dazzle on the scoreboard to keep them from getting bored. And there was also the privilege of seeing what you couldn't see in the major leagues, the great black ballplayers, like the pitcher Satchel Paige, who made it up there, regrettably, when he was somewhat over the hill, or the slugger Josh Gibson, who, without steroids like Barry Bonds, but with the power of Babe Ruth, never managed to; and then for something more than novelty, because they were competitive too, the House of David, a team of Jewish ballplayers, who ran out onto the field—with the crowd cheering and laughing, until the umpire cried “Play ball! ”—with great big bushy beards. Somebody invariably made the joke, perhaps what they intended, about their being in the bush leagues, if not the Bushwick district, and you can imagine what might have been said if, maybe there with Netanyahu, Bush were president then. Joe Blau would have loved it, and I loved it when he laughed. Nowhere else was my father so relaxed. It was as if there in the ballpark—even with a hit-and-run or a homer, and everybody on their feet—they had disappeared. He'd even sit back with his arm around my shoulder. On those long, seemingly somnolent Sunday afternoons, whatever the outcome, the game itself bespoken, the intimacy was there. What else, then, was there to talk about?

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TWO The Invisible Wounded and the Ethos of Depression “Each year, as commencement approaches, senior classes throughout America are hailed with the traditional advice about conquering new worlds and entering upon an era ‘full of forebodings.’” Thus, the opening sentence of the farewell editorial in the Senior Recorder, the year I graduated from Boys High School. As that year was different, the editorial went on to say, the words assumed a new, twofold significance: “First of all, upon us, the youth of America, will fall the task of conquering our enemies and establishing the peace; secondly, we must bear the brunt of the responsibility for the success of this peace.” As it happened, World War II started on September 1, 1939, only a few days before my class entered Boys High; unfortunately, it didn't end with our graduation in June 1942, but rather a few days after my birthday, on May 7, 1945, the enemy finally conquered, but with more or less foreboding, futures still up in the air. If we were still a little young to take responsibility for the peace, it seemed that nobody took responsibility, except my grandmother—in her devoutly enduring way, more than bearing the brunt—for certain failures of the peace after World War I, if not on the scale of the League of Nations, on the local and familial scene. After that war, too, there were futures up in the air, and if not left on the battlefield, others utterly ruined, what we now call—with the peace not even secured, returning from Iraq—the “invisible wounded,” the uncounted casualties we're most likely to forget, and with them, too, the others whom they ruin. Page 33 → “What's she doing up there?” I'd say, about my crazy Aunt Rosie, who lived, if you could call it living, up the staircase off Baba's kitchen, where I'd stand, looking up, maybe climb a few steps, but—an unspoken prohibition, and woefully oppressive there—rarely go to the top. Even before I started reading Dostoyevsky, the first writer I ever read who could leave an invisible wound, I was fascinated by the idea that there was madness in the family, though I could also be embarrassed when it was out there on the street. If I said anything about that, Baba would wearily shrug her forbearing never mind. I could be sweating all over, midsummer, and Rosie … there she was by the stove. Of course, I knew what she was doing, nothing, or maybe rocking back and forth, in a fur-collared black overcoat and a red kerchief tied on her head, with all the burners going, turned up full all summer, which might have been winter to her. If I started to say she was crazy, as if uncovering the family secret, Baba would say “Shaa,” putting a hand to eye and brow, with an intake of breath suggesting, “What are you telling me, I don't know, so much it breaks my heart.” There were other things to break her heart, like her eldest son Willie, out of the navy into an asylum, but Rosie was the neighborhood freak. When she did appear on the sidewalk, in the black overcoat, collar up, kerchief tight, over her greasy hair, she would walk in a mumbling staccato perfectly straight line, one step, two steps, three steps, stop, and if she had to make a turn, it would be, exactly so, in a perfect right angle, never to the left, which meant that if she had to move in another direction she'd be turning successive turns, right and right and right, or waiting to make the turn if some kid got in the way—which, more often than not, one of us deliberately did, including me. We all made fun of her, teased her, and lining up behind her, imitated her step, flipped up her long skirt, and one time, too, somebody ripped off the kerchief—when suddenly, ashamed, as if he were mocking me, I could have ripped off his head. How did Rosie get that way, the neatly attired young woman, sloe-eyed, with a nimbus of dark hair, in soft white blouse, string of beads, long black skirt, ruffled at the waist, pensive but self-possessed in a family portrait? The cause was my Uncle Jake, a short, tightly-muscled, bristled man, who was otherwise loudly good-natured, or at least he was to me, the few times I really saw him. So far as I knew he didn't work, mostly slept all day in a cramped bedroom, shades down, until at unpredictable moments he'd simply go berserk, because he was gassed in the war, no support groups then, or medications, to bring it under control; nor the sort of diagnosis that has become available now, though varied from war to war: “battle fatigue,”Page 34 → “combat stress,” and since Vietnam, “post-traumatic stress disorder,” with nightmares and hallucinations, the kind of psychic turmoil that is

desperate or suicidal. And indeed, one time he threw himself out a window, three stories to the street, managing to survive, but then, brain damaged already, with a crippled body too. Which only made things more brutal, intensifying the rage, when he did go out of his mind and he'd beat up Rosie and my cousin Maxie, who became through the beatings another neighborhood freak, or rather—because big, clumsy, forgetful, retarded, but always smiling and seeking affection—the easy-to-pick-on clown. There was an article in the Times, just the other day, about young Germans who, dispossessed themselves, or in a reflex of self-contempt, gratuitously abuse, even torture, some marginal, outcast, or sadistically chosen schoolmate, and if Maxie went often enough to school he might have experienced something like that. As it was, we'd sometimes tie him to a lamp-post near a shack behind the tenements, and in our own theater of cruelty, dancing around and taunting him, leave him there overnight. Or lock him up in the shack, with its piles of rusty junk, littered with soda bottles and candy wrappers, and a scatter of scumbags too, attracting cellar rats. How he passed the psychiatric exam is beyond explanation, but Maxie was drafted into the army in World War II. He wasn't in long, however, before he was discharged on mental grounds. It was then that he lived with us for a while, my mother attending to him, and with a certain belated protection from me, though he was almost a foot taller, and strong as Lennie in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. The longest inscription in the biggest letters on a page of autographs in the Senior Recorder is from Maxie, who signed his best wishes for my coming years in college, “From your dearest cousin, Max Horowitz,” preceded by a “(Mr.),” which he inserted in the parenthesis, and then crossed out. Sad to say, he was my dearest cousin. I was always fond of him, even through the taunting, moved by his innocence. He was delighted to be staying with us, but soon forgot where he was, or he would wander off and get lost, and I'd either run around looking for him, or my father would get in the car and track him through the streets. Big as he was, and strong, Maxie harmed nobody except himself, though once in a while his body would faintly convulse, what sounded like sobbing becoming a spasm, maybe an inflection of violence, as if something genetically programmed were about to make its way out. In any case, with the symptoms getting worse, and what might have been self-abuse, none of us was up to it, and like his father he was eventually institutionalized, in the same veterans' hospital. I recall visiting him a couplePage 35 → of times upstate somewhere, my mother bringing a lunch that we shared on a lawn outdoors, but once I left New York he disappeared from my life, or—even before he died, and I'm not quite sure when that was—so he did in the flesh. “Give memory a chance, and it will try to forget.” I wrote that many years later, in Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point, reflecting there, in the work of my KRAKEN group, on a methodology we called “burrowing.” The intricacy of it was derived from Kafka's last unfinishable story “The Burrow,” a heuristic structure of paranoia, maybe over the edge, the manic obsessions of which engaged us, through every defense mechanism, in the psychodynamics of guilt. That was already compelling my attention when I first studied classical drama, but in the insidiousness of the Oedipal there was ample preparation, along with depression, anxiety, unaccountable guilt, and whatever I did to deserve it, some excess of self-disgust, unnerving and ineradicable. When I look now at the Senior Recorder, and what I was known for at Boys High—academic achievements, editorial work aside, for a prolific sociality, gregarious and uninhibited, and a certain “racy speech, studded with memorable phrases”—these introspective tensions seem doubly unaccountable, and not even the “era full of forebodings” quite explains some developing uneasiness in the interior life. Where it all came from I can't say (who can?), especially the onerous feeling that, whatever I may have accomplished, I was always failing myself, doubly again, and redoubled, when there was real failure too. As for the circuitry of memory regretting what's irreversible in the past, who can ignore the hapless ironies of what's encountered there. Among the things we never forget is often what never happened, not what was but what might have been, while the profoundest memory may very well be what we've never done, what we longed for and couldn't do, or should have done, and didn't. If anything is more memorable than that, it's likely to be what, having mortifyingly done it, we wish we never did. And so it was with Maxie, who is something more than a pretext for my thinking about forgetting, or the rare remissions of conscience among the vicissitudes of remembrance. If the dead have a certain dominion, it's hard to know the dimensions, and while the cruelty to Maxie may seem, among the embarrassments of the past, of relatively minor magnitude, it's one of those things for which, even now, I can hardly forgive myself. Maybe that was the burden of a developing self-image, but I've often wondered how I

couldPage 36 → have done it, given a sense of myself as refusing, wherever it is, whatever's at stake, to merely be like the others, doing what they do. Whatever the pressure or going reason, such an inclination is what I'm likely to feel most contemptible now, whether in others or some residue in myself. The refusal to go along, even to think as others think, has over the years caused its own problems, especially when merged with a desire—for reasons that seemed apparent, like a moral obligation—to radically change things. That was certainly so in the theater, which led in the early days at The Actor's Workshop of San Francisco to a reputation for arrogance, particularly among those who didn't want to think at all—which at the time, with varying degrees of feckless, fierce, self-deceiving, or odious resistance to change, seemed to be just about everybody in the American theater. When I said as much, or unsparingly more, in The Impossible Theater, one of the critics in San Francisco, whom I hadn't spared either, through his condescending overtures, once on a TV show, wrote a distraught review of the book in which—not without praise, as if wanting my respect—he compared it to Mein Kampf. (As for making it, or not making it, on the theater scene, I took solace, when still writing my dissertation, from William Butler Yeats, who also met opposition when he founded the Abbey Theater. “Try to be popular,” he wrote, “and you think another man's thought, sink into that slothful, inanimate, semi-hypocritical thinking that Dante symbolised by heads and cloaks of lead.”) If the reputation persisted through the years, with significant repercussions, at Lincoln Center in New York, then through the tumult of controversy at CalArts, it still does recurrently on the academic scene, where I'm also still teaching, which I started doing nearly sixty years ago, before the Workshop even began, and that embattled career in the theater. “The graveyard of creative people,” said Elia Kazan, in his autobiography, “[is] the teaching profession.” Maybe so, for some, and I've known some prematurely aged or moribund people there, of whom I'm all the more conscious now that I'm many years older than anyone on the faculty. But then—back in my early twenties when I started in both—the bad rap on teaching was far more true of the theater, which still has a deadening effect on potentially creative people. Be that as it will, when Jules Irving and I replaced Kazan and Robert Whitehead at Lincoln Center, that might have become my graveyard were it not for the teaching, in which I've had a parallel but always independent career. It was the teaching that not only saved me, but also transformed and replenished, by challenging my conception of it, what I eventually did in the theater. And it did that, too, inPage 37 → fact, much before Lincoln Center, in the earliest days of The Actor's Workshop, letting me think about things that, otherwise, might never be thought there, and in ways that to this day I rarely encounter among those working in the theater—some of them complainingly, susceptible to ideas, but even post-Brecht, the apparatus indisposed, with the wrong kind of alienation. That this would, however, be an issue at all—that I'd not only be teaching, but a university professor as well—that was as unimaginable back in Brooklyn as my being in the theater. If I never went to the theater until my senior year in college, I did have an early experience of it back in grammar school, when for some play in an assembly program they made me up as the North Wind, in a loose-fitting gown with ribbons, rouge on my puffed-out cheeks, and a mouth enlarged with lipstick, abundantly red and bright. That getup was so embarrassing, sissyish, making me look like a girl, that I cried my way on stage, and blew and blew and blew, and if it weren't for the rouge, smeared by all the crying, I might have been blue in the face, blowing there with rage. But to return again to the tough-guy scene of earlier battles, and another thing I did that I'd rather not have done, which happened back there in Brownsville without my knowing that I did it. One day, Greenie and I were squaring off with a couple of other kids in the backyard of the tenement, when a woman came up the alley—a pretty gutty woman, who expected to be listened to—and broke it up. A sort of social worker, from the homerelief agency, she ignored what might have seemed threatening, calmed us down, passed out some candy, and asked us if our fathers were working. The others either said no or that they didn't know, but when she came to me, I said with an almost disdainful certainty—and how could they do without him, he was the best plumber around—”Sure he's working, he's the foreman.” And that's what he had become, because he knew how to run a job. As it turned out, however, this was one of the periods in the Depression when there were no jobs, or with meager construction being done, next to none for plumbers. Since it was pretty much the same for carpenters, masons, electricians, painters, and plasterers too, they congregated in sometimes intermingling groups on Stone and Pitkin Avenues, talking shop, unions, socialism, Zionism, and with some anarchism there too, imported from

Eastern Europe, they might also be arguing religion, or asking why, when some of them didn't, the others still went to shul. The Labor Lyceum was nearby and the headquarters of the Workmen'sPage 38 → Circle (managed then by Sol Hurok, who was known when I turned to theater as a big-deal Broadway producer), and there were even, Sabbath over, Socialist Sunday Schools. Since Jews were excluded from the patronage system of Tammany machine politics, they could focus on labor organization, while The Brooklyn Eagle, the borough's dominant newspaper, attacked socialists and anarchists as un-American, anticipating McCarthyism. If that also stank of anti-Semitism, as my father thought—and the Eagle, he'd say, a newspaper he wouldn't use to wipe his ass—you couldn't count on the synagogues, in a liaison with the Lyceum, for supportive political action. Unlike Catholic priests in working-class neighborhoods, who were connected to the Democratic Party apparatus and Tammany Hall and—Good Friday, Black Friday—thus to business interests, most rabbis were nonpolitical. Actually, as things got worse, the rabbis were irrelevant. Prayer shawls stayed in the closet, and with the widespread loss of jobs touching the latent jaundice in the skeptical nerve of Judaism, the effect upon many workers was to turn them away from religion. Zionism was another matter, but you didn't have to be religious to support the right to a homeland; deprived of the right to work, they also argued about that. With shop talk or small talk opening into ideas and the airing out of differences, and even public debate out there on the streets, boredom might be deflected and maybe promise aroused, but what persisted was a consensus of unrelieved anxiety, as the men waited for some boss or contractor to eventually show up, taking stock of the prospects for one or another job, politics trumped for the chosen people by a little selective luck. After the Great Crash, as quickly as 1930, about one-quarter of the workforce in America was unemployed, but it certainly never occurred to me that my father was one of them, nor that, with the New Deal just emerging, we had recently been put on relief. After all, at any gathering of the family they'd say—my Uncle Dave or my Uncle Mac, or any plumber who might be there—that my father could easily have been a boss himself, except that he didn't want to bother with business. Or as his sister Rose (again, not Rosie) would usually restate it, with a berating gesture: “Look at him, Joe Blau, with business he can't be bothered, so he makes money for other people.” But then, with money scarcer than ever, I'd apparently made it worse. I don't recall telling them myself, but my parents were very upset when they heard what I'd said to that woman, about my father not jobless, being a foreman. There was not much they could do about it. About a week or so later, we were off relief. I'm not sure how we managed until my father started working again. Perhaps it was then that he drove a cab, which hePage 39 → hated, though he learned a lot about the city that he passed on to me when—as ever, impatient with imperfection, nearly giving up—he later taught me to drive. If there were times in driving when, reflexes off, I wasn't quick enough at the wheel, the one thing I could count on (as in basketball too, where I should have been quicker) was peripheral vision, which was pretty much how I came to see what was happening around me in those troubled years—and even so, with varied attention, in a perceptual blur. It wasn't until Boys High School that, from more sophisticated classmates and a socialist history teacher, I learned to talk about it, with words like “issues” and “causes,” as the economy itself was reviving, not only through Roosevelt's clever optimism and the New Deal, but with the imminence of war, which from Germany's invasion of Poland to approaching graduation we had some reason to think about. As union factions made more sense, I was puzzled as to why, despite the Soviet Union's alliance with the Nazis, the leftist wing of the CIO agreed with John L. Lewis, imperious master of the AFL, that Roosevelt was a warmonger for siding with Britain and France. While non-Communist leaders of the CIO, like Sidney Hillman, saw the Nazis as a threat to freedom everywhere, Lewis treated the war as a political diversion from domestic misery and the urgent needs of labor. The Nazi advance through Europe did little to dissuade him, and the CIO Left persisted, at least until our junior year, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and, treacherous as it was, alleviated the misery, by bringing a kind of prosperity to Brownsville unimagined there before. As patriotism merged with the war effort—and I became one of the founders of the War Service Council at Boys, organizing events like the Ambu-Dance, which raised funds in support of our soldiers—jobs multiplied, and the patriotism all over the city made an irrelevancy of the WPA. For if you were willing to get on the subway and maybe take a ferry, there were all kinds of jobs for all kinds of workers, from laborers, porters, stock clerks to the men on Pitkin Avenue, craftsmen skilled in construction, who

were needed at the Port Authority, in Red Hook, at the shipyards of the Erie Basin or over on Staten Island—and through the Holland Tunnel, at the induction centers and the factories in New Jersey, reactivated by the war, or converted to other production, making uniforms or equipment. Suddenly, too, there were jobs all over the country, paying even more, as army camps were built, and there was a period early in my senior year—I had just started to study for Regents exams—when my father and brother went off to install plumbing in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and my mother joined them on the trip. They traveled by car, sometimes backPage 40 → and forth from one state to another, and I'd receive picture postcards every day from towns I never heard of, Albuquerque, Malvern, Nacogdoches, and also Mineral Wells—the place where we'd get drunk on Saturday nights when, a few years later, I was at Camp Howze, Texas, where I did my infantry training. Mostly my mother would write, sometimes my father, and with a few from Sidney too, those postcards were not only a record of their journey that I wish I still had, but a fragment of cultural history, as they made their way among strangers, strange accents, strange sights, strange living conditions (at some of the earliest motels), even strange food, in out-of-the-way parts of the country, deserts, Hot Springs, the Panhandle, they'd hardly imagined before. For much of a year, meanwhile, that left me as sole proprietor of the apartment at 2110, though my Aunt Fanny was next door in case anything went wrong—and whenever I wanted supper, but especially those Friday nights, Baba nearby too. I was at the time president of the Swing Club at school, and as a parting gift, my parents gave me something I really wanted, a portable record player, and as I studied for the Regents the music was nonstop: the Benny Goodman quintet, Artie Shaw's “Begin the Beguine,” Fats Waller's “Ain't Misbehavin,” and sometimes contrapuntally, the young Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey and, when he formed his own band, the trumpet of Harry James. Sexuality was going too, and a girlfriend on the scene, not in the apartment, however, but voluptuous, dark-haired, over in Borough Park, and one time, too—after the Paramount on Times Square, citadel of the big bands—at a cheap hotel on Eighth Avenue, corner of Forty-second Street. Edie Wotman was a virgin, but that was her idea, and in every way getting to it, wittily, teasingly, she was the one who knew. There was a bemused and winning intelligence in everything that Edie did, and if the hotel was a one-night stand, we continued to go together, on and off, even talked of getting married, as we finished high school and I went to NYU. The sex was good, the exams went well, and I got a Regents' scholarship. It was a period of independence that I know I really enjoyed, though Kathy was dismayed, not about Edie, but when I first told her that my parents would leave me like that. And even quite recently—in our usual after-dinner argument, over a bottle of wine, about who did what or didn't, at home, in politics, at school (where she heads a research center), our daughter, Dick Cheney, what's being done about terrorism or what to expect of children, or for that matter, they from us—she brought it up as a case of neglect. Here we've moved too fast, however, through the desperate heart of the Depression and, however indiscernible, its still-inscribed effects. Since IPage 41 → was very young at its worst, my consciousness of the Depression was vague, and if also vaguely troubled, by no means as disheartening as it must have been for others. Much of that also escaped me, but there were some things which, if seen peripherally, were looked at thus because of a tendency to look away—which, if not quite vision, brings them into the orbit of what you're unlikely to forget. So it was with the pitiful clutter, out there on the curb, of rain-soaked furniture, the twisted bedsprings, the rusting remnants of misery, of those who had been evicted, and sometimes, too, neighbors sitting there, with children about my age, not knowing what to do. It's hard to imagine, even now, that we were in jeopardy that way, though with home-relief cut off it may have been that we were. Still, if we were poor ourselves, it seems to have been relatively so, with those poorer people around us, not only the blacks down the block, but the Italians, Irish, other Jews, and the proximity of poverty was not quite felt as oppressive, or was disguised somehow in the family or, through the gaps in my awareness, by the obliviousness of necessity. Or, with the illusions of everyday life, the blessings of distraction. In the hottest summer or midwinter, there were long, dull, uneventful, inescapably empty days, but what stays with me more are those other times when deprivation seemed to be compensating with sensory overload. And I'm not even talking here of running off to Coney Island, where the fun-house at Luna Park, the beach, the waves, the sun, or a sidestroke swim out far, then way over to Seagate, were low on the scale of thrills compared to the

Cyclone's swerve or a plunge on the Tornado. As to what we saw on the streets—or even up on the roofs, where there were pigeon coops and crap games, with the birds released and returning, flying overhead—there was a liveliness to it, whether the klatches of women around the stoops or punch-ball across the street, or riding a bentwheel bicycle with no hands, then standing up on the seat, or pulling fortunes out of a hat, the organ grinder's monkey, or with its tinny undulant music, kids jostling to get on, the horse-drawn, hand-cranked, jalopy merry-goround. What might really have been puzzling, however, given the index of poverty—if one thought about it at all—was the seeming orchestration of an anomalous sort of abundance. It might vary from season to season, as with the sunrise jelly doughnuts, but there was from morning to night a singsong menu of itinerant food, halvah, hot knishes, or with brownish sugary glaze, teeth-sticking jelly apples, then a cart with a rainbow of syrups for cups of Italian ices, or the peddler with steaming stove, selling “Arbes, arbes!” (grainy peas with yellow pods) or—so hot you couldn't hold it, tossing it up to cool it off, thenPage 42 → licking the charred skin, the more burnt, the more delicious—a sweet or roasted potato, which we'd sometimes cook ourselves in an oil drum or ashcan (the potatoes usually stolen from an outdoor vegetable stand), and these we'd call “mickeys,” using the Irish name. There was, of course, in his melodious white truck, the Good Humor Man, and the man with a spindle of pretzels, soft, warm, and sugar-coated, and everything had to be washed down with either seltzer or soda: cream soda, cherry soda, root beer, Dr. Pepper, which we could always get at the candy store downstairs, along with licorice sticks, Hershey bars, gumdrops, charlotte russe (sometimes cream, sometimes custard, over cake or crumbs). It was so tight inside the store you could barely fit in the aisle, but you could order from behind the counter three-cent egg creams or five-cent malteds or two-cent swollen-syrup, chocolate-coated cherries—an expert bite required to keep the dripping off the chin. “Sweet are the uses of adversity,” or so it was said in the forest of Arden (in the first Shakespeare passage I ever memorized), but if there was in that ghetto of Brooklyn other more dubious uses, the sweet tooth fully indulged confirmed a simple truth: whatever the hardships in Jewish families, eating was somehow exempt. Or at least in the families I knew, like that of Red Holzman, whose father, a tailor, knocked himself out earning very little, which didn't prevent Mrs. Holzman, a terrific Romanian cook, from seeing they ate well, with haggis or moussaka or spicy cabbage rolls, while friends and relatives kept dropping in, asking when do we eat? As Red used to say, she could feed forty people on nothing. My mother couldn't or wouldn't, and she was no great cook, but in her lovingly laid-back, always seductive way—with the forty people probably, only too willingly in her service—there was no question either that we'd be eating pretty good. Nor was it altogether a special occasion when we went down the corner to that social institution, the Hebrew National Delicatessen, where you could get the legendary hotdog for a nickel, with plenty of mustard and a mountain of sauerkraut, and still sizzling from oily immersion a mound of French fries too, or for little more than a quarter, chicken soup and matzoh balls, with a pastrami sandwich, or pastrami and corned beef both, so big you could hardly bite it. And speaking of big, the watermelons, which we bought from a gangling Italian, off the back of a wagon, and instead of cutting them up, simply smashed them on the sidewalk and divvied up the pieces—then betting as we ate about who could project the longest distance, spitting pits in every direction. Whereupon the yentas on the sidewalk would insist we clean it up. Page 43 → Should all this talk of an edible complex (and beyond any pun, it really was something like that) seem soft, warm, and sugar-coated too, let's remember there on the curb what the yentas seemed to ignore, though since they mostly ignored nothing, it was an unspoken protocol to better leave it alone. And indeed, nobody touched the broken couch or bedsprings left behind, or the mattress soggy by then with unregistered despair, lest the evicted return to claim it, that emblematic detritus, though that was unlikely to happen before the garbage men took it away. As to where those families went, some might have squeezed in with relatives, but most disappeared from the neighborhood, not to be seen again. Which contributed to the sense that things were never as bad as they were, what I've come to know competing with how it felt at the time, or for those who knew better, what they preferred or needed to feel. And sometimes the need was such that, along with any compassion, there might be a certain heartlessness—self-protective, maybe, with wounds enough at home—about those who were hurting more. “So what am I supposed to do, cry?” my Uncle Mac might say about one of those evicted. “Son of a bitch never

wanted to work—couldn't keep a job if he had one.” But then, Mac was Mac, that otherwise big, practical joking, good-hearted bluster of a man, who in what we now call lifestyle, or “quality of life,” had his own momentous way of making the best of the worst—which is what he did one day when, with cash from who knows where, he bought himself a motorcycle. “Do you know what he did? Do you know what he did?” cried my Aunt Fanny, usually forbearing, indulgent, but almost out of her mind, as my mother tried to calm her. What he apparently did, too, when she railed at him—why in the world? how in the world? what are we going to live on?—was to point proudly to the sidecar, saying with lusty affection that he got it just for her. If she was so mad she'd never get in, the sidecar wasn't wasted, as when he'd show up suddenly on one of those long summer nights so hot nobody could sleep, and we'd be out on the streets past midnight, tossing a ball or playing casino or shooting dice for (literally) peanuts. Fanny may have been in her kitchen, wondering where he'd been, but instead of going in to straighten that out, “Jump in!” he'd shout, and we would, me and my cousin Milty, also big, good-hearted, not at all docile, but easygoing, and what to do with such a father? Even before we settled—the two of us barely fitting, one on top of the other, with a leg over the side—there'd be a quick screech of an angular turn, and off we'd go on Atlantic Avenue over the Manhattan Bridge and, past Canal Street, intoPage 44 → Chinatown, where Mac, with a last show-off burst of the engine, would skid to a stop at Lee's, the restaurant we always went to. Up one flight we'd go, and the waiters would greet us, but as soon as they saw Mac, knowing what to expect—the vulgar bravura, ready to show its playful side, which could also be teasingly cruel. There is in A Gift of Fury—a play I wrote in the 1950s, and directed in San Francisco—a character like Mac (with a version of Maxie too) described by another who (in self-critically embarrassing ways) happens to resemble me. About the “gift” in the play's title, that was in its permutations a virtual family trait, but here's my avatar's view of Mac in his simple insufferable self: “He talked to the waiters in pidgin Chinese. Knew a few words. A great joker. He'd pick up a spoon while the waiter was taking our order, examine it very carefully, then he'd wipe it with a napkin. Examine it again. Then he'd bend it in two with his thumb and tell the waiter: ‘Chinkee show. Dirty. Chop chop. Get another.’ Always the same routine.” The waiters put up with it, because times were tough in Chinatown too, with the restaurants all competing, and Mac was—always reckless with it, but where did he get the money? —one of the regulars there. So they brought, along with the fried rice, pork ends, sweet and sour chicken, and shrimp with lobster sauce (which Mac, “gobble, gobble,” always ordered for me), another spoon, wiped, before it was set on the table. There's an adventitious coda to this, which occurred in the late 1970s, when KRAKEN was in residence at the University of Maryland–Baltimore County, where as payback to the university for subsidizing the group, and hiring some of its actors, I agreed to be dean of Arts and Humanities, if they were prepared for radical change, which I promised to bring about. The man who encouraged the promise, by approving the whole arrangement—quite unusual then, and quite unlikely now, requiring far more than budget, guts, and imagination—was chancellor of UMBC, and his name was Calvin B. T. Lee. We became rather friendly, and one night over dinner, at the chancellor's house, he spoke about growing up in New York's Chinatown, and working at his family's restaurant. There was only one Lee's, that was it, and Cal waited there on tables. He said he didn't remember any behavior like that of my Uncle Mac, and laughed when I told him about it. I don't think I said, however, that when Mac bent the spoon, I laughed too—not that the spoon wasn't funny, but it was the “chop chop” that really got me. And I'm not exactly sure how long it was before I'd blush at something like that, in this tracking of the formation of sense and sensibility. Page 45 → By the time I graduated from high school—at what, because of the war, was the turning point of the Depression—I was thinking in another register, about myself, about others, as well as “current events,” including those in everyday life that had merely been passing by. But in assessing what I overlooked, I sometimes tend to forget that when the American economy went into shock on October 28, 1929, the dismal date of Black Friday, I wasn't even four years old. No doubt that shock had repercussions as I made my way through the Thirties, but it's hard to know what they were. Nor did I have an idea what in the wider world, on the international scene, would be

having repercussions to this day. It is, to be sure, of some ongoing consequence that in the auspicious year of my birth television was invented by J. L. Baird, rocket-powered guided missiles were first built, and when Ibn Saud was proclaimed king of the Hejaz, the name of the kingdom was changed to Saudi Arabia. Whatever the status in national consciousness, all of it was preempted by the stock market disaster. How kids tuned in to “the Crash” is really a matter of guesswork. The word had a certain currency as I was growing up, but if you wanted to get a laugh, the name Hoover was a joke (the rah rah rah), which carried over to the years when it became a vacuum cleaner. As to what it all meant, and how I came to see it, well, again there's some inadequacy in the suction of memory itself. If there was an accretion of knowledge as the Depression deepened around us, or maybe went deeper within, it came by some chance dynamic between the mostly unrecalled and what, without knowing it (indeed, the not knowing), makes it unforgettable, that half-absorbed sensation or other thing overheard or, as an echo of the unspoken, some strained inflection in my mother's voice—something I'd never heard. That happened once when I begged her for a nickel, and she told me to go away, and I begged her again and she nearly hit me, and another time when I'd besieged her for days, my birthday coming up, using it for extortion, to let me have a dollar, “Only a dollar,” for something I'd seen at a store, a toy pinball machine, and somehow, desperately, she went through her purse, a drawer, a pocket, and—” Only a dollar? Only!”—gathered enough coins, and as if I were looking at what I shouldn't, suddenly threw them at me. And then there was my father, who didn't speak much anyhow, but was hardly speaking at all, even about the Daily News. Never mind the thieves and liars, it was as if, not working, he couldn't trust himself. Yet, if there were also other signs, and some that made an impression, I didn't quite put them together, and some made other impressions. Once inPage 46 → a while somebody would wander down the street, who seemed from elsewhere, the really dirty poor (few women I can remember) carrying all his belongings in a paper bag, but there was rarely any begging, and none of the parks nearby, as in Manhattan, were populated overnight by the homeless, sleeping on the grass or benches. And back on Stone and Pitkin, there was unlikely to be, hard up as they were, anybody homeless among the clusters of the unemployed. Which is not to say that the tenements in which they lived were on a level with ours, there on Atlantic Avenue, that wide-open thoroughfare. On the tight mean streets off Pitkin, the housing could be squalid, overcrowded, without heating or hot water, nothing like a bathtub, or even reliable toilets—yet all of this worse for blacks, even those on Atlantic, in their nearly shanty dwellings. As for Pitkin Avenue itself, around the job-seekers and party speakers, that could seem like another story. For even at the nadir of the Depression, it was, with its shoppers, strollers, stragglers, sizing up the clamorous politics and the myriad best buys, the raucously vivid, apparently thriving Fifth Avenue of Brownsville, a colorful panorama of low-capital commerce, and when the lights came on, with neon signs (and neon still new in New York) a pretty glittering contrast to the gang-infested tawdriness of some of those side streets. It was this contrast that sometimes made Brownsville seem like a contradiction. For if there was even a certain affluence on Pitkin—its merchants having profiteered through a postwar boom, with enough in the bank to double up on business or venture into real estate—there was always the squalor mixed with the clamor, as well as the everready prospect of an enveloping violence, exceeding that near our tenements, which could be bad enough. Those congested, grimy side streets were a breeding ground for gangs, spawning on a scale of menace from the most viciously foul-mouthed to the most virulently tribal, with utter scorn for any authority, except within the gang, where you were shit if you couldn't fight, and with toughness as a measure of both status and size, the little guys obeyed the big guys or, with other humiliations, got their heads knocked off. Still, when you stayed on Pitkin, with all of the bustle there, you could in the participatory consumerism streaming by the historical materialism—the socialists on their soapboxes—forget about the gangs. For me, whether or not I had any money, Woolworth's was a mecca and, while I was not so adept as Greenie in our stock-taking wanderings up and down the aisles, an easy rip-off too. But then there were smaller or specialized businesses that eventually got a lot bigger, like London's Shoes andPage 47 → Fortunoff's Jewelers, now a classy chain, even on Fifth Avenue, with a megastore out in Westbury, near my brother's house. In those days, if you bought a suit, you bought it with two pairs of pants, but as my father insisted, before he could afford a fitting, the place to buy it was Abe Stark's, always the best for men. If nothing like that for women, there were down the avenue more or less fancy apparel shops, along with the banks, loan affiliates, appliance stores and repair shops,

our Target for sporting goods, barbershops and drugstores (not called pharmacies then), and ice cream parlors with open windows, for bigger and better egg creams, but also, with sprinkles and cherries, capacious French frappes (the size of which, or the frappe, I've never seen in France), as well as ice cream sodas with not much soda because of globalized double scoops. My father had a favorite Ukrainian restaurant somewhere off Pitkin Avenue—a little shabbier than his usual taste, but with great perogies and sour borscht—and on the avenue itself there was a multilingual array of restaurants and cafeterias, all the food kosher, except for local chow mein and, timed to the toothy second, perfect Italian spaghetti. What reigned over all, aesthetically, was the sumptuous facade of the Loew's Pitkin, with its Mayan–Art Deco terracotta design, the Mayan mock-exotic, Art Deco still in fashion—not that I knew about it, my notions of fashion yet to come. If there was no ball game on a Saturday, I'd be there all day, and often on Sundays too, and sometimes (don't know how I wheedled the money) three or four times a week, and I grew up thinking that the only place for a movie is a movie palace, where—before Mr. Deeds came to Washington or The Grapes of Wrath to the Dust Bowl, with the futility of migrant labor—Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford certainly deserved to be, and even with a cynical wit, Bette Davis too, tapping her cigarette. Standard wisdom now is that the glamour of the movies was a refuge from the misery of the Depression, and the Loew's Pitkin was, in its almost slumlike surroundings, a lavishly remedial setting for another sort of relief, as if a subliminal social contract endorsed a Grand Illusion, or for an exhilarating moment, like the dancing of Astaire and Rogers, transfigured the mere concealment of the actual woeful truth. The inside dazzled with its high polychrome ceiling and, with embroidered draperies and a carpet of peacock blue, the grand stairway went up to a mezzanine of myth, hybrid HispanicMoorish, in paintings, tapestries, and carved into the furniture too, massively there as décor, including stately chairs and couches rarely sat upon. I would be at the Pitkin early on Saturday mornings, waiting outside before it opened, though there were no lines then to buy a ticket. It was aPage 48 → matter of principle, however, to be there when they opened the doors, and getting in first was a competitive thing. But I was showing up, too, as if for a meeting of a movie club. What made for a special urgency was my somehow missing a “chapter”—each week's episode of a cowboy serial—and needing to be filled in. If I'd seen it, though, and some guy said he hadn't (usually no girls to speak of, they came later with necking), I would immediately recapitulate, scene by scene, and with the right pitch of emotion, the chase, the gunfights, the flipping over the saddle (Tom Mix adept at that, but Ken Maynard even better), stirrup to stirrup, to escape the bad guys' bullets or the whooping Indians' arrows, and then, as with the fading aura of the vanishing West, the ride into the sunset. And I could do it non-stop in mimetic detail for every chapter that I'd seen. Or I could rethink it all in the instant, improvising another sequence, to complicate the action or as maybe it should have been—though I wasn't yet up to the tragic, when the hero might have been shot. And then I'd see the new chapter as many times as they showed it (they usually stopped late afternoon), and the movie too, first from the orchestra, then from the balcony, then from the mezzanine, ending up in the orchestra, first row first, then experimenting with different rows, staying there from when it opened, late morning, until just before dinner time, and sometimes until the screen went dark and, still not wanting to go, they ushered us into the night. Years later, when I'd move around a theater to get different views of the stage—especially at final rehearsals, with time maybe going too fast—I'd sometimes think of the stamina required, and the hours, for the ardent fastidious looking of that earlier shifting perspective, on what, with a flat screen, was like a magnetic field, with lines of force reversing and then reversing again, polarities shifting too, as if through four dimensions, or so it was for me. And all of this seemed to make, long before Dolby sound, the stereotypes stereophonic. I'm obviously thinking now in terms in which I couldn't think then, but if the Hollywood film, hypnotic, presumably determined our fantasies, my earliest sense of it was that, with a countervailing power in the phenomenology of perception, I could make it do what I wished. And yet, despite that, or because of it, I've never been very much tempted, though I've had various opportunities, to direct in film or television. And that has something to do with what the theater is, even embodied, recessive, a thing of disappearance, materializing as it does from whatever it is it is not—and what that is, like the fault lines of the Burrow, became a kind of obsession in my later work in the theater, and then, spawned by its disappearance, the theoretical writings since. Page 49 →

Back, however, when the movies were an obsession, the thing was to see them all, though there was a problem in doing that when I was in school or playing ball. With money overriding principle, there were also times when, instead of being inside the Loew's Pitkin, I'd be outside on Pitkin Avenue, amid the crowd of strolling shoppers, where I could make a few bucks myself. It was easy enough to do, so I gathered some black and brown polish and brushes—from our apartment, my Aunt Fanny's, and once off a counter at Woolworth's—into a box I'd made, with a jerry-built wooden footrest, and I'd work there shining shoes, with a rat! and a rat-a-tat tat of the cloth, tat!, in a nifty finishing off, usually good for a tip. As the surging buyers passed (where did they get the money?), it seemed a prosperous scene. Still, in that bleaker period of no jobs, one might have been conscious of another facade, right behind the congregation of the unemployed, the defunct branch of the Bank of the United States, which went into bankruptcy with the Crash, the shattering sensation of which impacted even on what was, with some better-off exceptions, the hereditary hard times of those who lived in Brownsville. I've described how Kathy was devastated when, having asked to see it, my brother drove us around to show her where I grew up, but one can almost believe that what it became was what it was fated to be. And there were certainly those who believed it. Impoverished as it was, and even worse to come, Brownsville was often seen, even before Brooklyn expanded to its eastern border, as a degrading place to be, not only a destitute wasteland—without the redeeming mythic debris of Eliot's “Unreal City”—but an area literally used as a dump, not only for waste disposal but other noxious things. My first awareness of this came with the intellectual increment of an incipient historical perspective, though I couldn't yet think with any subtlety about the politics of pollution or, as others would have it, the pollution of politics, which even during the course of the New Deal made the Communist Party a real option, with subsequent ambivalence or ensuing disenchantments, for writers I came to admire. When I started to read with some seriousness, I'd take long walks over to the public library in the Bushwick area, where I learned about the colonial period from the historical fiction of Kenneth Roberts: first of all, Northwest Passage (despite a bad film with Spencer Tracy, an unremitting account of Rogers' Rangers, like our Special Forces today, in the gruesome, barbaric fighting of the French and Indian War); then Rabble in Arms (the American Revolution as a populist uprising) and Oliver Wiswell (thePage 50 → Revolution seen by the Loyalists); then Arundel, Lydia Bailey, and, most of them read more than once, any others of Roberts's novels I could find there on the shelves. I also came upon a few books from the Depression—perhaps suggested by the librarian, if not to historicize the present, to balance the reading out—like Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road and James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan, with its sardonically desperate hero struggling through a trilogy to the dead end of Chicago, where at the turn of the century, in an earlier market scandal about the manipulation of wheat, Frank Norris had set The Pit. I'm not sure when I read them—it may have been later in high school—but it was the exhaustive naturalism of Norris, and that of Theodore Dreiser (who joined the Party but had nothing to do with it), which documented for me, from the onset of the twentieth century, the predatory indifference of money and power, the titans, the magnates, the financiers, and then, as with Sister Carrie or the protesting poet, Presley, the inadequacy of ordinary people to the ruthless economic forces and the laws of supply and demand. As much as anything in the library, however, I became fascinated with displayed documents, as well as several large volumes on Brooklyn's history (so fascinated, I even tried to steal one, a very tall book with maps, which I couldn't maneuver past the loan desk). Through them I discovered, in a nonfictional way, supplementing Roberts on the American Revolution, that after the Battle of Long Island, Hessian mercenaries may have been billeted just about where I was, on the site of that very building (and while I was not yet up on architecture, and didn't check out the dating, I liked to believe that was it). While there was animosity between the Hessians and the people who lived in the district, which Governor Peter Stuyvesant (his name in Bedford-Stuy) mapped out as Boswijck in 1661, some of the soldiers returned after the war and settled there themselves, which made the area around the ballpark predominantly German-American. The houses there were respectably brownstone, with neat stoops and polished brass, and the library was situated near a street known as Doctor's Row. While the librarian was delighted to have me there—the large high-ceilinged room not exactly full of readers—what went with the neighborhood's respectability was what you might expect, an indisposition to Jews, which you could sometimes almost feel when you were out there on the streets, where some had been attacked.

There were other Jews, however, they apparently liked to have around, but on the stage in a movie theater, to which we also went on Bushwick Avenue, because along with the movie they had vaudeville shows. It was there that I may have first seen MiltonPage 51 → Berle, but mostly, as with the ballplayers at Dexter Park, minorleague comedians, who warded off bigotry by arousing it, like the beards of the House of David, with well-timed circuitous jokes, often at their own expense, thus getting laughs from the Germans. The librarian was surprised when I told her where I lived, and I became fond of her because she was very helpful, whispering over the counter whether or not there was anyone there, or sometimes, as I was reading, bringing over another book that she thought would interest me. If Brownsville, meanwhile, didn't turn up in my reading as the most desirable place in the borough, it was even worse when, now and then, I'd look at the library's copies of The Brooklyn Eagle, which—in learning, the more I read, to read between the lines—made me feel like my father. According to the Eagle, Brownsville was a backwater of mostly dirty, stagnant people, all the more (without saying it) because the large majority of them were Jews, who were by nature or definition dirty and—never mind the rabbinical tradition—uninformed and backward. About that, I might have referred the newspaper's editors to another library, far from the one I went to, and where I really liked to be, because of the gentility of the neighborhood and the reading room itself, that lofty space with a skylight—all the more because, sometimes on Saturday afternoons, I seemed to be the only one there. Actually, the other library was on the more ghettoish side of Pitkin Avenue, and though you might think it would be ill-stocked, makeshift, or otherwise run down, it was far more impressive and always full, its circulation the largest of any branch in Brooklyn. The building was Gothic or Tudor, with various shades of brick, and the cornice was decorated with carvings of literary figures and historical events; and there was a children's branch nearby, in the midst of tenements and under clotheslines, no historical carvings, but also with shaded brick. Now, if I were asked why I didn't go there, instead of over to Bushwick, I'd have to confess again my own little quotient of something like anti-Semitism—a recurring inclination not entirely separable, as now and again here, in this phrase, that inflection, from the pleasure of being Jewish. There were people there, young and old, reading at every level, from Tom Swifts and Jack London to Balzac and Tolstoy, but what put me off were the various signs in Yiddish and the books you'd pick off the shelves that were translations into Hebrew, or Yiddish too, and there were much too many of those. They embarrassed me; I didn't need them. Nor did I need in the reading room, otherwise inviting, warmly lit, the constant murmuring in Yiddish, as if they were davening in a synagogue. Or, with plenty ofPage 52 → yarmulkes around, someone might ask a question for which I was ill-prepared, inept as I was in Yiddish, with not enough words to make a sentence. But the main reason I didn't like going there was that, despite the Gothic or Tudor, the neighborhood was depressing, or, site-wise, smelly, a correlative of the Depression, with derelict plumbing, roach-infested, almost as dirty and stagnant as The Brooklyn Eagle said. What was true of Brownsville, crossing its ethnic and racial divides, was the constant struggle to maintain adequate living and sanitation standards, which my father insisted upon in our tenement. He'd often check things in the basement, and to avoid or stop flooding or some other mess, he might—because the janitor wouldn't or couldn't, or wasn't even supposed to—fix a pipe or toilet in a neighbor's apartment. Occasionally the struggle was exacerbated, even way down Atlantic Avenue, by the presence of paper, rubber, and plastic factories on the eastern perimeter of the Long Island Railroad, as well as a bone-boiling plant out in Jamaica Bay, from which, when the wind blew, you could smell what you'd rather not. So it was, too, on those summer nights when (with Mac's motorcycle absent) the air seemed perfectly still and, to escape the heat in the un-air-conditioned reality of it all, I'd sleep on the fire escape. There was a sense, of course, in which the Depression itself was, in body and soul, a universal stink. But when my father sat in the window, bathed, body scrubbed, in that white tank top of his, the vitiligoed skin would seem, as if in metaphysical protest, off-white white on white, utterly unblemished. The protest, however, was against the indignity of having to wait for work at Stone and Pitkin, and then to be picked out by some overbearing boss, a know-nothing, who circulated among them as if he were King of the Hill. For my father, to be chosen was a stigma; the whole thing seemed abhorrent. What was strange for us, however, was to have him there at home, motionless at the window, sometimes even on weekdays, in the morning and afternoons, as if he were refusing to go to work. Meanwhile, if she stared at him now and then without knowing quite what to do, and though her pocketbook may have been close to empty, there was never any sense from Yetta

Blau, except for that one eruption, that we were living at the margin, no less—again, are you crazy?—that there'd be no food on the table. Nor would she interrupt, as if all the more reason for it, the afternoon seance at the triple mirror, the bright penumbra of crimson around her lips, an overdosed blending of rouge, the languorous brushing of her thinning hair, or in a finale of self-adoration, as she caressed and fondledPage 53 → her body, obese with slackening skin, the soft bountiful raising … of her breasts below the slip. No identity crisis there, nor mere escapism in the solipsism—the illusion then would be to underestimate my mother, who was, as in her exploitative efficiency, more than realistic. In later years, if my father, who otherwise still adored her, made a joke about her makeup, or raised his voice about something she did, she turned him off with simple disdain, “A real Hitler!” And she certainly had the last laugh. You'd simply have to see her when she did go to a market, or bargaining at a store, or with the often complaining, envious presence of Mrs. Tendler from upstairs, flesh-faced, sloppy, arthritic, and a busybody too, who might even look in your icebox, but was diverted by my mother into doing some shopping for her. She was also adept, whatever the impediments, at keeping the house in order, and with nothing like standards of taste made it more than livable. Even when she wasn't in the kitchen, the space was a little cramped, and so was my little bedroom, but for an apartment in a tenement, ours seemed—again relatively speaking, in any comparative study—to have a little class. This was especially so of the living room, with its breakfront arched at the top, forest green and black, with a Japanese landscape across the doors, a carefully polished coffee table, with carved legs on ball and claw, and white sheets over the couch and armchairs, keeping them from getting soiled, only removed when there was company. To this day, out on Long Island, in my brother's house, the same practice is observed by my sister-in-law Bea, though with clear plastic for the sheets. Meanwhile, life is lived in a larger kitchen, or a family room in the basement, unless there is a special occasion, a bar mitzvah or a wedding, or after my brother's funeral, when the sheets came off and the liquor out and, in a catered superfluity, there's enough to feed a village. The parade of food on Atlantic Avenue was, with its carts and smoking stoves, never quite like that, but there was, indeed, the feeling of a village on certain days in winter when, idyllically, the entire street would be covered with snow, no traffic for a while, only stillness, as if the Depression itself had ceased. Or, as I might imagine, we were on another planet. And if not in heavenly orbit, there was a spatial displacement when the snowplows came and pushed it all, not slushy yet, white against the sidewalk, where we created summits of snow with ski trails and the prospects of avalanche, or the sort of tunnels in which the Taliban may be hiding in northern Waziristan. Geography was actually one of my favorite subjects in school, thoughPage 54 → everything in that direction was, at the time, sort of “Asia Minor.” It wasn't, however, the Middle East or the Far East that we worried about in those days, which is what made it all the more surprising, even in Boys High School, when those sneaky Japs came out of nowhere and, turning depression to the foreboding, set the theme for our graduation. If geography itself has gone, in its evolution through cultural studies, much beyond map reading, it wasn't until Boys High that my own horizons really widened, which mightn't have been the case at another school. Since Boys was one of the four most privileged in the city system, unquestionably elitist, not everybody could get in, and since I don't even remember applying, I'm not really sure how I did. Rumor was that students from a couple of schools in Brownsville (P.S. 66, that number sticks) were blacklisted at the Board of Education or by principals at the favored high schools, but that was not so, apparently, of P.S. 178—from which, going through a box today, I discovered another medal, surprised myself to see it was for algebra this time. What didn't surprise me, however, was to see a report card with the conduct grade abysmal, for one of the most vivid memories of junior high is of an impulsive absurdity that I thought would keep me from graduating. That crucial incident occurred when I felt I was being hassled by a teacher I otherwise liked, Bubble-Eye Newman, a towering man we called that because just beside his left eye there was an oversized mole. One day, at a recess in the schoolyard, he told me to do something I didn't want to do, and when I pretended not to hear him, he suddenly grabbed my arm, releasing some crazy resistance, and as he told me again to do it, I did instead what some of us there used to joke about doing. I had to jump up to reach it, but I socked him so hard on the mole—to gasps of shock and laughter, everybody scattering—it's a wonder it didn't burst. There may have been some disciplinary action, but (no counselor to shape me up) I remember crying later at a talk with Mr. Newman, who was, to say the least, charitable about it all. With no pieties about my behavior jeopardizing the prospect, he

skipped over high school and, as no teacher had done before, engaged me in a conversation which aroused my first real sense that I might be going to college, and ought to be thinking about it, because I had the ability. Of course, I'd heard that in the family, but this was a validation. And it might have had something to do with my not feeling anymore, as when I entered Boys High, that I was a little out of my class, what with the students there from neighborhoods all over Brooklyn, some I'd never heardPage 55 → of, and all of them better than Brownsville. I'm sure there were those, wherever they came from, who were unnerved by the competition, and I might have been by the fact that some were the sons of doctors and lawyers, of which there weren't many in Brownsville, because very few could afford them, though a doctor might work on credit if you were really in need or sick, charging two dollars for a house call, as our local doctor did, putting a thermometer in your mouth and, if you could do without a prescription, a wet towel on your head. As for making an appointment, you didn't need one, you just went. At the dark apartment, which was his office too, no receptionist there, or nurse, I might turn up with the symptoms of what he'd diagnose as the grippe, after which my mother would hand him some money, which might have been partial payment for an accumulating bill, if not the cost of a visit. It probably didn't occur to me, but one might have wondered why—if this was the state of the art, and the income to be expected—the pressure persisted (no mere folklore) for good Jewish boys to overachieve and get into medical school. My father and mother didn't push it, but the mandate was always there, a sort of subliminal prompt, in the putting off of the future in those awakening years at Boys. The alternative, of course, was law, but that might have been puzzling too, because when my father, my uncles, whoever, talked about lawyers, they were always dismissed as shysters. As for becoming a dentist, the negative feelings were mine, because if you had to see a dentist, you went with a little dread. Without today's swift electronic devices or perfunctory anesthetics you'd almost prefer the toothache, as you stiffened against the grinding drill when, the nerve unprotected, it went deep into a cavity as if it would never cease. Whatever induced those with esteemed degrees to set up a practice in Brownsville, that wasn't by any means the usual expectation. (“All those years and money, for what, he should give it away for free?”) If becoming a doctor or lawyer was everybody's highest ambition for the boys who grew up then, the assumption always was that it would be a decisive break, taking them somewhere else. As it turned out, I didn't have to wait for that, for when my parents returned from the army camps—even back in Brooklyn, the war keeping incomes up—we actually moved from Atlantic Avenue over to Maple Street, at the lower edge of Crown Heights. Since that was once called Pig Town, it might not have seemed an improvement, but with streets paved, swine gone, it was relatively serene and bucolic, a row of trees on the block, within easy walking distance of Ebbets Field and Prospect Park, and nothing like a gang between. Page 56 → At the time we left Atlantic Avenue, the violence was getting worse, and my parents might have gone sooner were it not for the fact that Baba, with her street more dangerous, but the synagogue still there, was just not going to move. With Sidney and Beaty living on Eastern Parkway, and Mac and Fanny having moved out to Canarsie, somebody had to be nearby. And so I was one miserably wet snowy night when, nevertheless dressed up, my mother fully lipsticked, and wearing a fake fur, and my father in his flaring coat had just gone off in the Pontiac to a party at the plumber's union. I was listening to music and doing some homework when the telephone rang. “Joe….” And as I started to say he wasn't there, “Herbele, come quick,” Baba said, and I knew right away that something was really bad. I ran through the slush to Howard Avenue, and at the top of the slippery steps had to break in the door. Slumped over the kitchen table, she hardly knew I was there. And I hardly knew what to do, with my parents not home, not knowing how to reach them, and nothing like 911 to help me out if I'd thought of it. I couldn't even tell if she could hear me, but when I kept repeating they weren't home, she finally managed to say, “Fanny, take me to Fanny…” So I put a blanket over her and ran down the steps out onto Atlantic Avenue, near the railroad crossing, to see if I could hail a taxi. The cars kept splattering by, but no taxis I could see, then as one or another came it seemed they'd just ignore me, speeding up in passing. After some time there, with the wet snow still coming down, I ran over to the Fulton El,

where there was sometimes a taxi waiting, and nothing there either. I ran up and down under the tracks, then back to the avenue and over to Fulton again, and then to Rockaway, yelling at cars and crying, what must have been more than an hour, when a taxi finally stopped and, out of breath from all the running, I kept stammering about my grandmother through a U-turn to her house. I didn't have any money, but the driver was a decent guy who helped me get her into a coat and down the stairs, and somehow I knew the address or where to go when, with Baba nearly unconscious, he drove us to Canarsie. Fanny answered when I knocked. I pointed to the cab: “Baba…,” and she screamed for Mac to come, then the incessant lament, “Mama mama mama,” as he went out and with the driver carried Baba into the living room, putting her on the couch. I hardly know what happened after because I was so exhausted, except that Miltie was there and we went up to his room when they told me to go to bed. What woke me up in the morning was a wailing downstairs, and then loud voices, and when I came down Fanny was trying to restrain Mac, who was yelling at a bearded rabbi,Page 57 → “Who the hell are you! You can wait, there are people who want to be there.” The rabbi was insisting on a quick burial, as the Jewish law prescribed. My father and mother were there, she on the couch sobbing. There was more shouting and confusion, until my father went over to Mac and took him away from the rabbi. I don't know when they called a doctor, but all he could do was confirm it. Baba was already dead as I was falling asleep. If we were getting away from the blacks in the move to Maple Street—an apartment building with an elevator, really up in the world—it was quite another matter over in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the darkening of the streets around Boys High had already more than begun. Yet, for all that, there was a stylish excitement around. With various activities keeping us late at school, now and then I'd see, on the way to the subway, or even before that, still walking back to Brownsville (never alone, watch your ass), black dudes parading, maybe with nothing to do, but then, with music audible on the street—not from a church in a storefront, the gospel spreading too—getting the body going for a night spot down below. It was then I discovered the zoot suit, which has been identified with the pachucos in L.A., but there it was in Bedford-Stuy, even before the name change, about which time it was worn by that drug-dealing hipster who described it in his autobiography when he became Malcolm X. Unfortunately, I didn't have a jacket with shoulders far and wide, but with trousers up to my chest and long gold chain looping below the knees, voluminous material there curving down to twelve-inch cuffs, and, set just right, a tilted-forward porkpie hat—come on, for a white boy that was a tuned-in facsimile, and in tryouts around the house I did some parading myself, the phrase not yet in style, but learning to walk the walk. As for talking the talk, it was my best friend Irving Frankel who had a gift for that, and for what was attributed to me in the yearbook. A correction in order here: if there was anybody with racy speech, studded with memorable phrases, that was seemingly low-keyed Irv, to whom I was at best the runner-up. As it is today—in that apartment off Madison Avenue, right above Valentino's, fashion houses all around, all the new flagships, Armani, Prada, Helmut Lang—his wit was practical-minded, but with a mischievous drift, as well as a taste for clothes, which put him into a zoot suit, probably more with-it than mine. But man! we were something, when, a duo instead of four, we'd imitate the Ink Spots at parties in cellar clubs or—”If I didn't care …” or “Maybe …”—to entertain ourselves. ExceptPage 58 → at dances, however, or swingy occasions, the getup was not for school. I don't remember much that was way out, but there were some decidedly in, who dressed and behaved as if they'd already made it, to law or medical school, or in private practice. This was remarkably so of my black friend Richard Younge, though smart as he was, judicious, that would have been next to a miracle, and for Jews too, remember, there were quotas at the time, which may have been one of the reasons I chose to study engineering—not that I thought of it much till nearing graduation. Things were too busy for that, as I discovered from the outset a capacity to make them happen. But so did various others, thus busy in all directions, with the extra in the curricular merely an understatement. As it soon became apparent that everybody had something going and most were pretty damn smart, it took a special brilliance to really stand out, and in that regard you might say that voluble Norman Geschwind was in a class of his own. He might look at first nerdy today, but with nothing insular there, too avid to be out of it. Waspish, with long nose, hair parted way on the side, Norman had the imperturbable assurance of somebody who, as you were still puzzling some (for him, only too obvious) complexity, was biding his brainy time, waiting for you to get there. It was Fred

Fishman, with thinning blonde hair and glasses, poised, methodical, who graduated with the highest average—just short of 100 percent—in the history of Boys High. But Norman, a decimal point or so behind, was the naturalborn genius who knew everything about everything. He was literary and mathematical, and—way beyond Willie and Hymie, my schoolyard Communist friends—he had done his reading in Marx, and in spontaneous briefings explicated surplus value or, abruptly departing from theory, caught us up on politics, merely scanning the newspapers to know where they were wrong. When I was around Norman, however, I felt a little discomfited by my developing passion for jazz and the ongoing addiction to sports, which nobody talked about better. Whatever else might be going on, I organized touch football games on the street outside, usually at lunch break, sometimes after school, and my major fantasy still was, with varsity football too forbidding, that with a bank shot in the gym I'd make the basketball team. As we were playing full court there—or after hours, sneaking into the gym, I practiced layups alone—a passing look from Mickey Fisher, the best coach in the city, was of more immediate consequence than a critique of political economy. Actually, there was no disdain from Norman, he even rather liked it when I went on about a ball game, and while he knew about classical music, as I didn't, he wasn't indifferent to jazz, or—as he'd alwaysPage 59 → remind us, but upping the ante on what it meant—its indebtedness to black musicians. The fact is he would conceptualize whatever you talked about in political, economic, or psychosocial terms. In Norman's running discourse, there may have been my first exemplary instance of what's meant by demystification, but we also had something in common, and that was a habit of doubting. Or, in my case, maybe more than Norman's, ready-made instincts for an “ethos of suspicion,” the collective name for the habit in the poststructuralist generation, though mine, past doubting, was rather acquired from my father. The ethos was such, however—in the years of the Depression, out on the streets themselves—that in the various attempts at meaning through an early cloud of unknowing I might very well have been moving through a hermeneutic field. If the instincts were there to begin with, the habit of mind developed with an energizing distrust, which eventually made me susceptible, not only to Marx, but with shadows around his history, or a shape-shifting historicity, also to Nietzsche and Freud, both of whom more than suggest that livable lies and illusion may be in the order of things—unless you want to call it, like Freud's late book of mourning, Civilization and Its Discontents. Among the discontents—what we weren't quite prepared for, even through the forebodings at a school like Boys High—is that there would appear to be no future except the future of illusion, which Nietzsche might have told us, not discontented at all, with his high-powered faith in illusion as “the eternal begetter of all things.” Whether that's so or not, I came to believe in time, from that early exposure to Marx to my theoretical engagement with current revisionist versions, that all ideological critique or debate is, in the final accounting, about the shape of illusion's future. And while they're determining that, I can attest to this: that there's an exhilarating effect at some perceptual limit where you're not quite sure what you're seeing, and you have to think it out—and you're likely to do that better with some chastening self-distrust. Norman could probably have put that in mathematical terms, but if he certainly knew what he thought, and could be exacting about it, there was nothing even approaching an ideological fix, nor what in recent years, with race, ethnicity, gender, might be called a “subject position.” In his versatile mind, the ideas kept moving, and so it was through the school, as my own were formed and being tested. It was when politics came up at Boys that I found myself regretting my father's reticent socialism, and what we never discussed. Norman's Marxism began at home, as it did for other students, but if he could move at ease from The Communist Manifesto right into Capital, he wasn't the only onePage 60 → who was reading Marx at school. If it wasn't in the curriculum, and probably taboo there, our history teacher, Bernie Schulman, was with his leftist leanings more than sneaking it in. Nowadays, even in universities, the most distinguished professors might be called by their first names, but then you couldn't do that in a high school. Still, we did call him Bernie, and he was the first teacher I'd ever known who would have us over to his house, where Norman might, even there (with Bernie's tacit assent), dominate the dialectic. But after graduation—as if Marx were surplus value, or ideational backup—Norman went to Harvard to study mathematics. And then, with no equations, perhaps, for what concerned him in human behavior, he went through a series of changes, from a new major in social relations to a psychological crossover with cultural anthropology, and thence into medical school, with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist.

I caught up with all this at the time of a brief reunion, quite unexpected, at least it was for me, given where it occurred. One afternoon, at the Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center, during a setup for a production that David Hays had designed—the two had remained friends since they met at Harvard—I was moving from the wings up the red slope of otherwise empty seats, and there on the aisle was Norman, enjoying my surprise. I recognized him immediately, with a slight old charge of challenge in that always quickening look, and the two of us embraced. As the technicians were doing their thing, we had some time to talk, and after some questions about our situation at Lincoln Center—hard not to be defensive, with the critics after us—he filled me in on what was, with another change of focus, a critique of his own thought while still in medical school. With a compelling interest in the extremities of the mental, and the neurological mechanisms of certain bodily disorders, he had decided against psychiatry, and shifted instead through neuroanatomy to what is still-determining research in epilepsy and aphasia. And had he not died prematurely, twenty years ago, his work in behavioral neurology—cerebral dominance, language and brain, dyslexia, and aphasia—would probably have won a Nobel Prize. Cerebral dominance: that was certainly the term for Norman in the world of politics at Boys High. It was Benjamin Skor, however, who was the exemplary figure at the behavioral level. Ben was the only politician I've ever known—and over the years I've known a few—who when running for office was just what he seemed to be, and what he seemed to be was not a politician. He was really warm, he was really good-humored, he was really generous, and he was really smart, and he had a way of saying what hePage 61 → meant, even if you didn't like it, without your taking offense. Relaxed, boyish, unathletic, he was not into zoot suits, nor much on jazz or sports, but we spent a lot of time together, on projects, with girls, in and out of school, and then ran on the same ticket when Ben became president and I was elected secretary of the senior class. I'd developed credentials by then and made a good case for myself, but when he won that election, as he did everything else he ran for by “an overwhelming majority,” as the Senior Recorder says, he might have carried me along in the wake. Given the pollsterized politics of the media today, with its mock-deference to the American public, its collective good judgment, my remembrance of Ben Skor would seem to have come from an age of innocence, with the jaundice now unavoidable. All through the Depression and after, in proletarian literature, and in the activist theater that I did not see, there was, along with the Marxist idealization of the wisdom of the masses, the desire of artists and intellectuals for communion with the workers, who were not merely audience to the act, but even more than participants, the virtual act itself. When the jaundice set in, however, as with John Dos Passos or Edmund Wilson, there were still those who, like Sol Funaroff and Edwin Rolfe—among the unremembered, whose work I came to know—went to their graves believing it. Because what I saw on Pitkin Avenue, despite the soapbox exhortations, never seemed like that, I didn't quite identify with the working class when it came up at Boys. Nor did my father, despite his early union membership, ever buy into the notion that “a new type of human being” would be its apotheosis. It may have been just as well that I never saw Waiting for Lefty, because there could have been even then, as there certainly came to be, a dubious view of what happens to ideas, not only in the bourgeois theater, with its digestive tract (what Brecht called “culinary theater”), but in the participatory as well, where in proportion to the numbers participating the best thought may be diminished—that is, if it's there to begin with—or with a belabored vacuity even go down the drain. During any campaign, there are “real issues,” I know, and since I'm not exempt from illusion I keep telling Kathy, as I did with Kerry against Bush, I'd love to write the speeches for the candidate I favor, and direct her in delivery, as I also wanted to do for Hillary. But given the daily ad nauseam—and discounting the difference in scale, Boys High, the White House—I'm particularly conscious of Ben Skor, his modest way of saying it straight, though his popularity was such, even before he said it, that there wasn't much worrying about an undecided vote. We saw each other sporadicallyPage 62 → when we went our separate ways to college, and for some regrettable reason I haven't seen him since, nor does it appear, though it seemed predestined, that he had a career in politics or in something otherwise public. I've been looking for him on the Internet, where I've located others from Boys, but he seems to have disappeared, or when I've put out queries there—what was once unimaginable—nobody seems to know him. Whatever seemed destined for Ben, the future seemed vaguer for me, not that there wasn't ambition, but it went in competing directions. If I could have trusted my instincts here, putting sports aside, who knows what it might have

been, if not writing or politics, something that straddled them both, because, as the yearbook said, that's what I was doing at school, having “inspired many of the social affairs” that either focused upon some issue or, like that Ambu-Dance for the war, raised money for a cause. I didn't think of myself as a writer, but I was nevertheless doing it, and if it turned out to be journalism, it could have been in other languages. For by this time I had edited a French newspaper, Le Courier, and La Voz, a Spanish magazine. Here, too, Bernie Schulman was a guiding force, for aside from the social sciences, he also taught Spanish, though he seemed to be more concerned about what was going on in South America than in General Franco's Spain, which began a forty-year dictatorship the year we entered Boys High. The Lincoln Brigade was already mythic by the time we graduated, though I remember a night on Eastern Parkway—before Boys High—when, under the lights from Dubrow's, four big guys on a platform were recruiting for it, and I hadn't any notion of what that was all about. Unfortunately, one or another of them might not have known either, as many in the Brigade were pathetically unprepared for the fighting they had to do. It wasn't until For Whom the Bell Tolls that I picked up on the myth, after which I was looking for articles on Franco and the fascists in the newspaper PM, which started publication in 1940, the year Hemingway's novel was published. Without advertisers, and with contributors like Max Lerner and I. F. Stone, PM was certainly the most provocative, if not the best newspaper New York ever had, and while I still read the back pages of The Daily News, it was probably PM that really wised me up politically. (I saved every issue of it, as I'd done earlier with Famous Funnies, the first comics, which I used to buy in the drugstore—if I'd kept both collections I'd be a wealthy man.) It was through George Orwell, however, that I later became aware, in an unromanticizing contrast to Hemingway, of a crippling divisivenessPage 63 → on the Left, as the Stalinists disrupted the presumably heroic alliance of Socialists, Communists, and anarchists who joined the peasants, workers, and other loyalists in their vain battle against the fascists, who were backed up by landowners, industrialists, the Catholic Church, with aid from Germany too—considerably more than the token the Soviets gave to the other side. It was Orwell's Homage to Catalonia that made me appreciate Trotsky, who had foreseen the Stalinist bureaucracy's internal subversion of communism, and its counter-revolutionary practices on an international scale. If the killing fields of Spain were a premonition of World War II, into which we graduated, my own thinking, prompted by Bernie, had meanwhile turned south of the border, and in my junior year I won the Pan-American Medal, for which I received a congratulatory letter from Vice President Henry Wallace. It was Wallace who tried, without much success, to get the Roosevelt administration to see that the European brand of fascism would probably endanger us most in the postwar period through the spawning dictatorships in Latin America. As he saw it, fascism was not limited to Europe, but really a worldwide disease, which included, here in the United States, the contemptible demagoguery of the Ku Klux Klan. Wallace was, indeed, already foreseeing World War III, as a function of what the fascists denounced (somewhat differently than in our age of globalization) as Yankee imperialism, while colluding with American corporations, chemical firms, and developing technology, to give the Germans access to Latin American markets, which would then become a base for fascist expansionism. Both paranoid and prophetic, Wallace was my political hero, and I was disconsolate when Roosevelt dumped him, though the profusion of politics at Boys took my attention from that, especially, too, when I was elected to office. Whatever I did there, it wasn't really defining what I'd be doing after graduation, or what I'd choose to study. Nor, really, were the languages I had acquired. While I learned much from editing Le Courier and La Voz, what I couldn't have done was to interview anybody for an article or a story, because in those days, adept as I was in French and Spanish, it was mainly in reading and (with editing) writing. They didn't teach conversation then, or they couldn't get students to talk, which is why our daughter Jessamyn, who speaks about seven languages, and is utterly native in French, still laughs at me in Paris, because I sound to her there as it did in Brownsville when I heard an immigrant Jew. In any case, despite the languages and the medal and the letter from Wallace, which impressed even my teachers, I never really thought seriously of doing anything international. As for thePage 64 → drift to engineering, I must have had that in mind when I took the Regents exams (and there were different types you could take, in addition to that in English), in plane and solid geometry, trigonometry, advanced algebra, physics, and chemistry too. Yet, despite the grades in science, I had no real sense of what it was, and good as I was in math, the eventual choice of engineering was, most probably, out of the need to be practical, what we heard

over and over—even with the Depression receding, and my parents not really pushing—an inescapable refrain. There were other refrains around it, or riffs, vibes, rideouts, which came as if from a jam session, out of an unceasing devotion to jazz, then swing and the big bands, and especially—up there behind the ensemble, keeping the beat for Goodman or James, or taking over the rhythm, sly, witty, enraptured, exploding beyond belief—Gene Krupa at the drums! It was actually very early on, in the syncopation of desire, or “Sensation Rag,” or through Krupa's incredible (was it thirteen minute?) solo in “Honeysuckle Rose,” that even the ballplaying seemed to forget itself in my wanting be a jazz musician, though by the time I was in high school there was so much happening at once that I couldn't sustain music lessons, even if I had been taking them, which I never did. When we were still on Atlantic Avenue, even if we could afford it, there wouldn't have been any space for a set of drums, for though I might mimic a saxophone or blow on some tube as a trumpet, that's what I wanted: to be Gene Krupa. And I'd often spend the evening, after a game, before homework, with a record on or the radio loud, fingers, toes, heels going, the whole swinging libidinal body, subtle as a metronome or accelerating the rhythm or, hands instead of drumsticks, beating out an insuperable solo, there in my mother's living room (this was her one allowance), on a leathery ottoman (which we otherwise kept in the closet), and punctuating with cymbals—by plosions of the lips, with a shifting of tongue in the mouth. Yet all of this was an accompaniment to other inclinations, while being sublimated into other activities having to do with music, such as my becoming a high school correspondent for Downbeat magazine and, as president of the Swing Club, organizing Saturday afternoon dances at the Hotel Pennsylvania across from Penn Station. One of these dances was the setting for Glenn Miller's “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” and there he was on the bandstand, making it look easy, but a tough taskmaster, Major Miller in the war. Before his plane disappeared over the English Channel on the way to a victory concert in Paris, he had patented the Miller sound, which, even as I say it, is a kind of humming memory: “Moonlight Serenade” or “In thePage 65 → Mood,” swinging through “Tuxedo Junction.” Artfully constructed by an array of fine arrangers, it was really hard to resist it, that swaying bricolage, “Mixin’ hot licks with vanilla,” of the bygone lyricism of a vanished time—borrowed blues, vagrant songs, a certain discrete dissonance, no less melodic for that—what just about defines, like “A String of Pearls,” the most consoling swing music for those of us who grew up with it, and danced to it, as I did at the hotel that has also disappeared. As for the writing I did for Downbeat, that had certain dividends, like covering a concert in Prospect Park, and the singer coming down from the bandstand to dance with some lucky fellow, which, because I interviewed her, turns out to be me. Imagine, dancing with Peggy Lee! Or being around Fifty-second Street at two in the morning, when Roy Eldredge burst out of a tavern and sashayed up the street, tooting his horn. Or far more seductive, even awesome, sitting at a bar with Billie Holiday, “Queen of Fifty-second Street,” but then in her heavier, sometimes out-of-it, heavily drinking, “mother-fucked!” druggy persona, the voice all the more moving, because inconsolable, though she was, whenever I saw her, very warm, indulgent, to embraceable me. After she sang she'd be back at the bar, and reminisce while answering whatever I asked her, that is, except for one time, when I should have known better. I'd noticed people going in and out a door near the bandstand, where she went herself now and then. And so I asked, “Billie, what's back there?” She took my glass and put it on the bar, then took my hand in hers, as if she were fortune telling. “Young fella,” she said, “that ain't for you.” And since what was back there was a drug scene, that was the definitive end of it. But as to the question of what was for me, that was—as I graduated with the forebodings—really just beginning.

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THREE From Entropy to Galilee THE INDETERMINACY PRINCIPLE I've always had mixed feelings about Wernher von Braun, who developed the V-2 ballistic missile at a forced labor factory in Mittelwork, and put himself in the service of the Nazis before bringing his expertise on rocketry to the American army and NASA. Yet he might have been speaking for me when he said, “Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.” It takes a while, however, before you can learn to live with that, and in the theater you have to live it with others who, at some nervous crux of rehearsal, may be looking for direction, never mind the quantum jumps and discontinuities of the Indeterminacy Principle. It may very well be that the activity of perception changes the thing perceived—and that Heisenbergian notion is still beguiling to me—but as a beginning director, when something felt uncertain or the actors' raised eyebrows made it feel worse, I might find myself doing instead what I didn't want to do, or abandoning out of embarrassment, if still ill-formed, some promising intuition of a really good idea. As I eventually acquired, however, a searching perseverance (or call it a stubborn aesthetic), there were times when I've literally said to the actors after weeks of work—or once, with the KRAKEN group, more than six months into a project, all of us anxious about it—that I'm not at all sure what we're doing, but let's stay with it, because I think we're on to something. As it was in the theater, so it's been in theory, where I've almost come to believe that being baffled is a virtue. And there may be method to that: thePage 67 → overcoming of distress at not knowing where you are imparting a heuristic energy that wouldn't be there without it, as if redeeming the aporia (the impassible, in theory), which is not only baffling, but leaves us at a loss. Maybe I'm merely deluded, but as I've been telling my students, it's at the extremity of thought where thought escapes us that inquiry really begins, with no alternative but to pursue it, if it's really worth the thought, which is what keeps it going, with the concomitant risk of its going into “the mad abstract dark”—that phrase encountered in Yeats, though it might have been particle physics. As it was, I may have been in the dark, and close to some mad abstraction when, shortly after classes started at NYU, in the School of Engineering, I pondered the empty spaces at the end of the Mendeleyev table, that colorful chart of the elements, up there behind the professor in the chemistry lecture hall. I'd learned in high school that an element's atomic number is the number of protons in its nucleus, and that if I knew the number and its atomic weight I could diagram the probable structure of a fluorine atom, which is what they asked us to do when I took the Regents exam. Yet I'd never really thought much about those white empty spaces before, or, if anybody had talked about them, it somehow passed me by. So, out of a sudden impulse, I asked why nothing was there, and what's going to happen when and if there is. That the professor looked startled, no wonder. Speaking of quantum jumps, that was a disjunct inquisitive distance from what he had been talking about or—since I didn't quite know what I was asking about or, from some uneasiness, why—it was maybe a garbled question. There were only 92 elements then, those presumably “natural, ” but I had a premonition that when those empty spaces were filled there was going to be some trouble. For the last one on the chart, number 92, was the fissile material uranium, seemingly there in abeyance, awaiting the “unnatural,” as the artificial elements were created by means of nuclear reactions—the word nuclear not yet, however, with any intimations of dread. What exactly the professor said I can't really remember, only that he had a German accent, and whatever it was he said, it wasn't quite radioactive. If subcritical masses of plutonium were not around to create the sort of excitement they did at Alamogordo—what caused J. Robert Oppenheimer to intone (in Hindi) from the Bhagavad Gita, “I am death, shatterer of worlds”—there was for me an expanded worldliness in being at NYU, eye-opening in other ways. For one thing, I was commuting on the Nostrand Avenue line of the IRT from below Crown Heights in Brooklyn to University Heights in the Bronx, with its splendid Gould Memorial Library,Page 68 → modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, and serpentine behind it, embracing the Hall of Philosophy and Hall of Languages too, the outdoor colonnade of

the majestic Hall of Fame. With its winding red-brick walk and Mediterranean pinkish ceiling tiles, this awesome site—with its bronze busts of Great Americans: presidents, statesmen, soldiers, inventors—is on a high-rise promontory overlooking the Harlem River, with the Washington Bridge in the near distance, and across from the Palisades. At evening, sometimes, after leaving the library, or in respite from a lab, I might stroll there for a while, fingering the faces of the famous men (no women or people of color), as if to decipher an inner life; or I'd gaze through the columns flanking the busts, and the network of trees beyond, at the sunset's commensurate grandeur or an orchestral downpour over the Hudson Valley. While I had to get up before dawn to make my morning classes—almost as my father did when he went off to a job—I didn't even mind the hour-and-a-half trip each way. By the time we passed Yankee Stadium it was elevated, but most of it was by subway, and in those days, going or coming, no matter what hour, you could do your homework or fall asleep, without any sense of danger. You could hardly imagine that today, especially when the subway is not crowded. No calculators then, but there I'd be with my slide rule, working through square or cube roots or logarithms, or even managing a compass and triangle to prepare a graph on my lap. So far as my studies were concerned, since I had no idea it could be different, I liked what I was doing when I was doing it, with no sense at all that I wouldn't continue to do it, despite that early uneasiness about the Mendeleyev chart. But if my thinking at some extremity has become, through the repertoire of reflexes, another habit of mind, it wasn't really developed through my courses in engineering or what felt for a perplexing moment, when I asked that question, like a serious turn to science. I spent a lot of time in the laboratories up there at NYU, but what they called experiments weren't what I came to think of as experimental, nor in von Braun's sense, as if I were doing research, even when in one or another assignment, I didn't know what I was doing. Not five minutes after I wrote this, off to the kitchen for some coffee, I happened to look at the science section of The New York Times, in which David J. Gross, who had just won a Nobel Prize for work on quantum chromodynamics, was quoted as saying to a gathering of physicists: “The most important product of knowledge is ignorance.” I suspect, however, that the ignorance I was feeling, in the labs and in my courses (rather good grades aside), was not exactly that. I could deal with ion exchange,Page 69 → enthalpy, liquid extraction, or with fluid flow laminar or turbulent, I could follow its course through a Bernouilli equation or, in working out a ratio of forces within the flow, determine what kind it was, expressed by a nondimensional Reynolds number. In everyday hands-on practice, I could hydrogenate a compound in the presence of a platinum catalyst and, with Bunsen burner, filters, and test tubes, otherwise keep up with assignments. The trouble was, as with the absence of a period to the periodic table, that I had no real idea of what was at stake conceptually. Nor, if what they now call “superheavies” were around, those new chemical elements of enormous atomic mass, would I have been able to imagine the weird landscape of the undiscovered beyond, where in a fraction of a second, what was, isn't, having decayed radioactively, because—though “a working piece of art,” as a physicist said of 115, which became in an instant 113—it lacked the “magic number,” that is, the right proportion of protons and electrically charged but neutral neurons, which would have kept the new element stable. Whether atomic or galactic, as with a black hole, there's a fascination to the magic, which was no doubt there in the science, as I see it now at a distance, but through some delinquency of the time, either my own or the teaching, I wasn't feeling it then. The chemistry lab at University Heights was right across from Ohio Field, where late afternoons the NYU ball teams practiced, and under the knowing gaze of Emil Von Elling, a legendary coach, runners circled the track. We could use the field, however, when the ballplayers weren't there—and we did that rather frequently. While heating a mixture at reflux under nitrogen for half an hour, or waiting out a distillation, we'd go out to toss a football or, if Von Elling was gone, follow his runners around the track, or take some pitches at home plate. My best friend at NYU was homespun, freckle-faced Henry Morris, whose left arm stopped at the elbow, as if amputated at birth. Yet Henry could handle a beaker, clamp a tube, or do titration with an eyedropper, with what you'd describe as grace under pressure, except that he did it with such facility that you'd think he was ambidextrous. So, too, on a baseball field where, out there shagging flies, Henry would catch the ball in a glove on his right hand and in one continuous motion throw it up enough to switch the glove to his left armpit, then with the ball in hand throw it, a perfect strike back to the batter's box. He could also tie a shoelace with his one hand and his teeth. Henry was multiply skillful and meant to be an engineer; he thought in functional terms, and in practical situations how to get

things to work—not that I didn't, but without the patience for it—and since then I'vePage 70 → become, if a faucet or a doorknob or an appliance has to be fixed, conscientiously inept. Even then, my instincts were theoretical, and I'd be aroused by the kind of questions that, when I brought them up to Henry, didn't bother him very much—no more than The Chemical Engineer's Handbook, that massive text with a green cover that we were told to purchase early on, and which he couldn't quite, like a glove, carry long in the one hand or manage under his arm. What bothered me, however, was how our courses seemed designed not searchingly in themselves, as a mode of inquiry, but in accordance with the Handbook, as if to guide us as expeditiously as possible through its encyclopedic content. There was, in the process, very little about it that was theoretical or conjectural, though I was hardly aware at the time that whatever restiveness I may have experienced was due to a questioning disposition, not only inclined to speculation, but rather drawn to ideas when they seemed at loose ends. While I admired proofs for the seeming certitude of their articulation, and was rather proud when I learned the proof for E = mc², what may have appealed to me even more were things that couldn't be proved. Nor was I aware that the problem-solving curriculum had not always been like that, or if so, that the approach had been intensified by the gearing up for the war effort, and particularly the Manhattan Project, for which chemical engineers did, among other things, certain transfer operations determined by fluid mechanics. That was, indeed, the specialty of the professor I most admired, Robert Treybal—bespectacled, judicious, suggestively reserved—who actually went off to the Kellogg Company some time during the war, when they were converting grain to something more lethal than cornflakes. When I asked him what he'd be doing there, he said he couldn't say. As for the problem solving, I had no problem with that, though there was something inadequate in the balancing of method and mystery, or what seemed like mystery to me. Since we knew virtually nothing about it, I don't mean the Manhattan Project, with which Professor Treybal was apparently involved. The sort of mystery I had in mind, and maybe more than most, was the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which led to a chapter in The Impossible Theater called “Growing Up with Entropy.” As I said there, while I could work with its “tricky ratio” and the equation I still remember, dS = dQ/T, I never really knew what entropy meant, or had no feeling for it, until I began to think seriously of certain dramatic figures, like Orestes or Hamlet, who in his “ratiocinative meditativeness” (as Coleridge described it) is aPage 71 → measure of the unavailable energy of the universe. If that, too, was merely misinformation due to disorder in the system—since there's no way, analogy failing, to personify science—it was better than feeling in my own thought, instead of a measure of creative randomness, the unthinking symptoms of compliance with an equation, as if the entropic were taking over with each of the problems solved. I've often wondered where I'd be today if, instead of engineering, I had taken a degree in theoretical physics, which—though it was hardly the practical thing I was supposed to be doing in college—was taking off at the time, with ingenious fissionable guesswork, through the abstract dark into a mushroom cloud. As for my thinking seriously about Hamlet or Orestes, that had to wait its turn. There wasn't much chance of that in engineering school, because to speed things up in the curriculum—or to expand it technically for the war, with premilitary and emergency courses—they cut out virtually all requirements in the humanities and social sciences. That was not only true of literature, philosophy, history, or anything in the arts, but all languages too, even the study of German, which had previously been unavoidable, because you really needed it then (Nazis notwithstanding) for access to the best journals on the most advanced work in chemistry. As a result, I had only three humanities courses in my four years at NYU, one in speech, another in composition, and just before I went into the army—not sure why, or how I sneaked it in—a course in Romantic poetry. Until a recent move, when I was giving books away, there was still up on a shelf the text we used, with not imperceptive scribbles around Xanadu, the West Wind, and the Grecian Urn, and somewhat more blushingly, inside the back cover, a handwritten sonnet, stilted, Miltonic, with dutifully metered iambs and heavy-handed rhymes. If that was better forgotten, what is especially memorable now—aside from Keats and Shelley, both of whom I memorized in long passages still remembered, as if countering the entropic with “the white radiance of eternity,” thus teasing it out of thought—are the texts from the other courses: S. I. Hayakawa's Language in Action, and one of the earliest literary anthologies, Patterns for Living, edited by O. J. Campbell, Justine Van Gundy, and Caroline Shrodes. As it turned

out, when I was teaching years later at San Francisco State (College then, University now), Don Hayakawa was convivially in the office next to mine, while Caroline Shrodes was head of the department, and Justine also a colleague. Before he veered to the righteous Right against the dissidence of the Sixties, aligning himself with Governor Ronald Reagan, who appointedPage 72 → him president of San Francisco State—where he thwarted a faculty union, which helped qualify him for election to the United States Senate—Hayakawa had been a charmingly acerbic liberal with populist inclinations and a strategic pessimism. “Why Is the World a Mess? One Theory.” That was the title of a section of Language in Action, in which Hayakawa wrote about language in terms of “maps” and “territories” and—before Saussurian semiotics with its slipping signifiers led to “the death of the author”—the concern of general semantics with denotation and connotation, and the “delusional worlds” that are likely to grow up between them, given “The Word-Deluge We Live In.” Back in 1939, when the book was first published, and I was entering Boys High, the deluge was not yet that of our computerized age of information, although there was a sufficiently voluble plenitude, in everything from political rhetoric to sales pitches and Sunday sermons, and while waiting for television, radios tuned in all day, that the maps were inadequate to the proliferous territories, “with words being flung about,” so heedless of “social consequences [that] we cannot do otherwise than run into error, confusion, and tragedy.” I'm not sure, really, how much of this rubbed off on me, nor—though World War II was under way when I read it—whether I was prepared to understand it as some “infectiousness of savagery” in the failure of language. There may have been more melodrama than theory in Hayakawa's own language, but there was in the word-deluge, far exceeding Hitler's rants, a disease of its everyday usages, not at all homeopathic (like the pharmakon of Plato: cryptic poison, ghostly web, the curative tissue of deconstruction), but rather unthinking abstraction or prejudicial speech, verbal hypnotism and presymbolic talk, or talk for talk's sake, chatter, gossip, or on the edge of silence (pre–John Cage), just plain noise, etc. etc. Which, Etc., was the name of the semantics journal that Hayakawa had been editing in Chicago when Caroline Shrodes hired him for San Francisco State. I recall using the words map and territory for some time after I read the book (or did I read it all?), but if I was aware of the horrors brought into the world by Germany and Japan, I doubt that I especially absorbed the passage which saw the future as a linguistic mess or crisis of logorrhea, an already global scramble or scandal of words, with the world “becoming daily a worse madhouse of murder, hatred, and destruction.” If it hasn't yet been relieved by semantic improvement, or “the almost miraculous efficiency achieved by modern instruments of communication”—no less Hayakawa's collaboration with Reagan, the Great Communicator—all thePage 73 → disheartening evidence is, from fair Fox News to Al-Jazeera, that “the better the communications,” the harder to trust it, and however they map the territory, “the bloodier the quarrels.” Amid the globalized quarrels today, there's been some cultural self-reproach about the West's delinquency in learning about Islam. And if we're starting now when it's maybe too late, it couldn't be expected then, when I was reading Patterns for Living, that there'd be selections from the Koran, or among the patterns, religious fundamentalisms. Still, that text for freshman composition—conceived so that the student's ideas would be jostled “out of stale inertia into articulate expression”—had a section on “The Appeal of Religion,” where I read, against Cardinal Newman's “Knowledge and Faith,” Bertrand Russell's “A Free Man's Worship.” If not at all evangelical, prescribing “moral values,” the material on religion (followed by “The Good Life”) was distinctly Western, and if in the Judaic-Christian tradition, it always seemed to me far more Christian than Jewish. That was certainly true of the religious poetry, from John Donne's “Hymn to God the Father” to Francis Thompson's “The Hound of Heaven” and—after a beauteous evening in Wordsworth, “God being with thee when we know it not”—no doubt about it, “like shining from shook foil,” the world charged with “God's Grandeur” in Gerard Manley Hopkins. I might have awakened to it, but the problem was that they either didn't assign the poems or—maybe vision failing, with my aversion to God-talk—whatever impression they made receded until, far from engineering, I found myself studying literature for a doctorate at Stanford, where even without faith I was drawn to metaphysical poetry. We'll eventually come to that, but though there were utopian prospects too, by way of Thoreau and Whitman, in Patterns for Living, the initial priority of that remarkable anthology was to prepare the student for getting on with

life after the Depression, and despite the fact of war. And while O. J. Campbell was a Shakespearean scholar, Justine and especially Caroline were already into “bibliotherapy,” on which she wrote her dissertation, convinced that reading the right things, more or less prescriptively, could really shape us up. Yet, had I known her back then, I'm not sure what course the therapy would have taken for what was still troubling me, as I sometimes looked out of the window of the chemistry lab and saw the teams practicing out on Ohio Field. As if some turbulence in the fluid flow defied a Bernouilli equation, old reflexes about being a ballplayer came up. I'd watch those guys out there, or sometimes go down to the gym and, beforePage 74 → a practice began, with the varsity warming up, shoot a few baskets or get them into a play—and when I did, ahh, with no bright wings, the pity of it all. I was still shifty, tricky, heads up—sure, I had the smarts—but those lucky bastards! they were just too big and fast. Or really special, like Sidney Tannenbaum, the team captain, who in a flash could take the ball away, but let me dribble past him. Sid could do just about everything, play defense, pass off, jump ball, and in the days of the set shot, loft it to perfection, becoming the greatest scorer in NYU's history, selected All-Met in every one of his varsity seasons. He and I became friends when, after practice, we'd walk down Burnside Avenue and take the train together, though he would wave to me, as he got off still in the Bronx, before it went underground for that long trip to Brooklyn. (I was shocked, nearly forty years later, when I read that Sid had died, for all his adeptness, stabbed to death in a robbery.) It was maybe watching Sid, no less trying to outplay him, that made me take the smarts, and all those years of desire, over to the Lawrence House, the student center below the Hall of Fame, where I became a reporter for the Heights Daily News, compensating for the pathos by writing mostly about sports. When I showed up, looking for the newspaper office, I was asked by Mr. P. A. Porteus, solicitous host of the Lawrence House, who had inquired about my major, “You're sure you want to do this?” Always a gentleman, P. A., he was offering gentle advice. “It takes a lot of time. Where do you live?” “Brooklyn.” “Brooklyn? That also takes time.” He smiled and pointed upstairs. What he didn't say is that engineering students didn't last very long. They didn't say it upstairs either, as I quickly took on assignments, including the coverage of sports I knew next to nothing about, like competitive wrestling, fencing, and cross-country running, way up in Van Cortlandt Park, from whence I'd return near dark to the Lawrence House to write the story, then down the long hill on Burnside Avenue and back to Brooklyn late at night, doing my own cross-country on the subway—then getting up in a few hours, down the subway and up on Burnside, to make my classes at the Heights. As if energized by exhaustion, I kept it all going, and it took only a few weeks before I was one of the rare students from the School of Engineering ever to be invited to join the staff. Was that therapy? Maybe so. But one thing for sure: in unexpected ways it changed the course of my life. What changed it first, however, was that—having enrolled in the ROTC, but feeling guilty about deferment—a widening draft took over, and after a quick induction at Camp Upton inPage 75 → New York, I was a private in the air force (not by choice, they didn't ask me) heading with a busload of others to Truax Field in Wisconsin. As army camps go Truax was hardly the worst place to be, and for basic training not as arduous as I expected. Nor was there much to do with weapons or any foxhole semblance of the grit of a dirty battle. There were wake-up calisthenics, long marches with a lot of shouting, and a muddy obstacle course, for which, though I had eased up on the ball playing, I was in reasonably good shape, and then—what might have been ironic if I'd thought of it through the Word-Deluge of our already delusional world—the unit I was assigned to was Communications. What we learned there, in another kind of lab, were various ways to send messages (speaking of basic training, starting with the Morse Code), but mainly what was high tech then, an FM radio transmitter, which we had to know, literally, inside out—crystal control, switch/button, every connector—because, despite my indisposition to fixing things, we had to be ready to repair it. Our mission would be, by whatever means and repetitive practice, if necessary by semaphore, to assure contact on the ground for the planes aloft, the exemplary model being the Major Blake at Pearl Harbor who, alone in the control tower, directed unarmed B-17s away from enemy fire, talking them down to safety, and there for future revenge. But whatever it might be in combat, it was soon rather boring at Truax, though with much relief on weekends, since there was something other than your usual army town nearby. A quick bus ride or an easy hitchhike brought us to Madison, where there was, above the taverns all over town, the State Capitol on an isthmus, with its Old

World granite dome, and for me the main attraction, the university campus. Not as in the Sixties vociferous about Vietnam, students were very hospitable to the military. They greeted us on the streets, in the taverns, and when we showed up at the Wisconsin Union, high above the splendid lakes, more recreational and sumptuous than the Lawrence House at NYU. Dates were easy, beer abundant (so, too, the local breweries), and down the hill from the campus we could go boating on Lake Mendota, which oddly enough reminded me of summers in the Catskills, though the immigrants that settled in Wisconsin were another breed entirely. Nor was the vast serenity of Mendota anything like the lake I was most familiar with, small, shallow, muddy bottomed, dug from a slope in a grove of trees, at Arsenuck's Farm in the Borscht Belt, where we rented a bungalow in the Depression, when my father was doing better. Arsenuck's wasn'tPage 76 → much of a farm, but it was the little lake I loved, where I swam much of the day or floated on a makeshift raft, going off to help the farmer milk his pathetically few cows. Bungalows were rented all over the Catskills because the farmers needed the income. So far as I could see, however, that wasn't necessary for those out there in Wisconsin; on the way into town from Truax, there were only the grazing cattle in a landscape that looked pristine. Agriculture suffered during the Depression, and I don't know whether FDR's subsidies worked especially well in the Midwest; but the farms around Madison were, at least by World War II, not ramshackle like Arsenuck's. With large freshly-painted barns and fertile fields, rich pampered herds, fish hatcheries, poultry and perfect eggs and cheddar cheeses, there seemed to be a thriving dairy business. As it happened, the one girl I dated regularly, slim, leggy, blonde—her name was Nancy Smith, but her family, she said, was Norwegian—came from one of those farms. She was not a student at the university, but I met Nancy at the Union, where she was one night at a dance. After a while, too, we went to bed regularly, for which I took a room at a hotel near the Capitol building, though she could only stay for a few hours because she had to be back on the farm, where I actually had dinner one evening. There was nothing like an appetizer, only a meat stew and mashed potatoes, but for dessert, gigantic, what I'd never tasted before, a maple rhubarb pie. Nancy's mother remained sweetly at the stove, anxious to see if I'd like it, while her father eyed me suspiciously, maybe about my intentions with his daughter, maybe because (though I didn't say it) he knew I was Jewish, or maybe only a stereotyped farmer, silent in overalls. All told—farmer's suspicions aside, or the radio transmitter, repairing it over and over—there was something idyllic about the time I spent in Wisconsin, with only an afternoon of potential danger, but not in the course of training, that might have ruined it all. I've never been much of a beer drinker, but in town with a couple of buddies, making the round of taverns, we decided to rent a car to cruise around the lakes, and we took along for the ride more than a case of beer. By the time we came back to Madison, we were all pretty high or acting so and, with me at the wheel, speeding up the hill toward the State Capitol, when a policeman shouted for us to stop, and we just kept going, going faster, laughing back at him, squirting beer out the window, and then a police car was chasing us as we circled the Capitol, went down into a side street, and then back up the hill again, with a sudden U-turn down, which we thought was even funnier, and the chase continued out to the countryside, and with siren going they finally pulledPage 77 → us over—and when we sobered into the prospect of something like jail or a court martial, the police were decent beyond belief, if not derelict in duty, because we were soldiers. They didn't even give us a ticket, but told us to return the car and never to be seen driving again anywhere in Madison. We didn't have much chance to do that, because very soon after, from a far more threatening distance—where we sometimes forgot we might go—the Wisconsin idyll was interrupted by the Battle of the Bulge. After General McAuliffe's famous “Nuts!” to the German demand for surrender, we suffered severe losses, and with reinforcements increasingly needed, there was a shifting of troops back in the United States from wherever they were to the infantry, not only while that fighting continued, but to rebuild our forces afterward. And that's how I suddenly found myself out of the air force on my way to Camp Howze, Texas—in a desolate area called the Panhandle, near the Oklahoma border, where real basic training began, infantry style, with bayonets, grenades, mortars, simulated firefights, crawling in muck under an unrelenting stream of real machine-gun bullets, and a week out in a bivouac, with rattlesnakes and scorpions, which might be there in your tent. The bivouac was so dangerous that they eventually closed it down, but not before numerous serious wounds and more than rumors of deaths.

Aside from the snakes and scorpions, and even because of that, there was something exhilarating about it, but I was pissed off too, because just before it all happened, back in Wisconsin—wanting to be an officer somewhere in the service—I had applied for the Coast Guard Academy, expecting to be interviewed and admitted, because I'd certainly aced the exam. But my suddenly leaving the district in Wisconsin made me ineligible and put an end to that, the effect of which I couldn't have guessed, for it seemed like an aberration, though my friend Irv Frankel says that what happened was because of him, when he was over there in combat. “I saw by looking in his eyes / That they remembered everything …” What E. A. Robinson said of “The Wandering Jew,” I've often thought of Irv, who seems to have total recall, but in this case I'm not sure. According to Irv, he had advised me in a letter, from somewhere in Germany during the rapid Allied advance, to sign up for something that required a lot of training, because the war might be over by the time it finished. Maybe it was that, or maybe that instinct for extremity which I later brought to performance and my writing about it, but after a recruiter showed a film of guys jumping out of planes, and the awesome display of chutes billowing out, I volunteered for the paratroops, and—nauseous on the flight, as I always was in airplanes, andPage 78 → throwing up before we landed—next thing I knew I was in Fort Benning, Georgia. Jumping then wasn't quite what it is now that it has become a popular sport, with custom parachutes, Sidewinder harnesses, tandem skydiving systems, and rigging services too. It was actually in the Soviet Union that it first became a national sport, which kept enlistments high, with jumpers young and old, as an airborne army developed. As for the Germans, they almost immediately saw the radical potential of paratroops as an instrument of warfare, and indeed the blitzkriegs of World War II were, with fire bombings by the Luftwaffe, initiated by troops coming in from the air. These were things I learned when I began to write, after jump training, for the Fort Benning newspaper, and was curious about the history of the paratroops. It wasn't until 1940, with America still shaking off isolation, that the prospect of an Air Infantry or Marine Corps emerged here, and a test platoon was organized, without jumping, however, until after further training in New Jersey, where they had moved the parachute drop towers from the 1939 New York World's Fair. A minor note of American history: I first saw those towers when my cousin Milty and I, with a friend of ours, playing hooky from high school, went to the World's Fair at Flushing Meadows in Queens, and were interviewed by the newspapers when we bought our tickets, as the first students to be admitted to the Fair at reduced prices. (I liked seeing my name in the newspapers, but worried if my teachers would see it too.) It was there we saw “The World of Tomorrow,” with its Trylon and Perisphere, and futuristic designs, like those sleek-finned high-speed cars on envisioned super-highways. I sure as hell wanted to go on those towers, but we didn't have enough money for that. I did get to go up, and drop, however, in what they called the third stage of jump training, for by that time, with the Parachute School established in May 1942, two of the towers from New Jersey had been purchased by the army and moved to Georgia. Because of the experience from the towers, the test platoon was confident that they would be landing safely when, in August 1940, they finally jumped at Lawson Field, holding a lottery before they went to determine who'd have the honor of going first out the door. So far as I was concerned, the third stage was like a joy ride in the training, the soft fall from the towers just like that which I had again for kicks when, after I was out of the army, I dropped from the towers at Coney Island. Who went first out the door, crying “Geronimo!” (that airborne war cry,Page 79 → now, probably, politically incorrect), was not subject to a lottery, few wanting to go first, most not, and even before any jump from a plane. Far more terrifying was the second stage of training, where at the door of a thirty-foot mock tower, we were supposed to exit correctly, head tucked and legs together, in a graceful free fall counting, in case you had to pull the reserve. With no prop blast to divert panic, most of us leaped or flopped or tumbled into silent space, before being caught up on the “lateral drift apparatus” for a wild dangling ride to the landing area, where you learned to buckle your legs as boots touched so that a fleshy thigh or buttock would cushion the shock on the ground. The worst landing I ever made when I actually jumped from a plane occurred when a strong wind caught me swinging just as the ground approached, so that I hit straight up, unable to shift knees and fall, thus standing there like a tuning fork, the whole body vibrating in pain. As for who in the platoon or “jump stick” went to the door first, most of the time I did, not because I wanted the honor, but because the order was alphabetical. “Stand up and hook

up!” Once, way up in the air, that call came and something happened that—those many years later, with the stage manager calling “Places!” and the curtain about to go up—I've remembered backstage when, unexpectedly with the best of actors, there was a serious case of stage fright. There was a redheaded guy in our stick, who in every part of the training was way out front—more push-ups, more sit-ups, more chin-ups, way under the standard time in the daily two-mile run, louder than anybody in the responsive chanting in the course of a forced march—and with a “Fuck you, let's do it!” in the most challenging instant, ready for anything. This guy could really perform. From the mock towers, where he might have been a high diver, he could have, if they'd let him, do back flips into the perfect position. We'd already made the five jumps required for the paratrooper's wings, and after an interval of additional infantry training, we were to make a refresher jump in the Alabama area over the Chattahoochie River. As usual, I was first in the stick, and in the psychology of a jump, it's really only the first man who, after the hook up, standing in the door, has to make an instant decision as the jump master taps his behind—and when he goes, the rest of the stick follows, as if involuntarily, in the momentum of the fall. I can't recall the redheaded guy's name, but as we took off he said he'd be good for a Saturday night dinner in Columbus, and all I wanted to drink, if I let him go first. Be my guest, I said, and moved over. First, last, whatever, I couldn'tPage 80 → have cared less about eating or drinking, because with the usual nausea coming on, soon as we left the ground, sometimes in anticipation (a curse which, fortunately, disappeared with age), all I could think of was just getting out of the plane. When we reached the jump area, I was sick and ready, but when the commands came, the redhead was in the door, the jump master tapped—and he didn't go. The jump master tapped again, and he didn't go. And expecting a push, the redhead grasped with his fingers the ledge above the door, and so the jump master kicked him in the butt so hard his legs went out the door, though he was still clinging to the ledge, and swinging back he grasped the side of the door with one hand, the other up above, as the jump master took a snap fastener and smashed it on his hands, but the redhead still wouldn't go, holding on so hard they couldn't get him out the door. Were we in combat, they would have shot him and thrown him out. For the time over a jump zone is limited, and sometimes really dangerous if you overshoot it too far. Since we had already flown over the target area, they stopped trying to get him out, the jump was canceled, and the plane circled around, returning to Fort Benning. And when we landed, the redhead was put under guard, orders were loudly given, and what seemed like the entire battalion assembled. Then he was led in front of it, another order was given, and a sergeant came out with a knife, knelt down, and cut his boots!—those fetishized paratroop boots, virtually sacred objects—and then he was ordered to run around the assembled troops, I don't know how many laps, but we were there for what seemed an hour, and though he always had plenty of stamina, they kept him running until he dropped. The word was afterward, since we never saw him again, that they had reassigned him to a kitchen detail, where he'd be cleaning out grease pits through the rest of his time in the army. Why did it happen? Who knows? Certainly he didn't, no more than the actor does when, out of some unconscionable stress in the psyche, stage fright—existential, ineliminable, even impelling performance, which is always contingent upon it—is so severe it incapacitates. As for my war stories, that's about as far as they go, which used to be an embarrassment, since prepared as I was for combat, the fighting went on without me, and I avoided it after all. Friends of mine, guys I'd trained with, had lost their lives abroad, but what really kept me from going overseas was the writing I'd been doing for the newspaper, of which I became one of the editors, assigned to duty at Fort Benning. Aside from jumping and writing about it or other activities on the post, the staff more or less emulated or adapted stories from StarsPage 81 → and Stripes, with its graphic accounts of what was happening abroad, but it wasn't exactly the publishing venue, with the army's oversight, for the sort of muckraking story I'd occasional try to do, about the army post or local politics. An opportunity for something like that occurred, however, one late afternoon in Columbus, when I was there at the printer, putting the paper to bed. There was a wiry, voluble guy named Art Rhodes, a civilian with a New York accent, talking to the printer about starting a newspaper in his wife's hometown, LaGrange, Georgia—about midway between Columbus and Atlanta, and with which, as it turned out, I was more than familiar, since I had a girlfriend there. Actually, Betty Lou Wallace was more than a girlfriend, because about the time I was discharged from the army

we were talking of getting married. My naïveté was still such that I thought she'd return with me to Brooklyn and, sharing my room in the Maple Street apartment, live there with my parents, while I was still finishing my degree at NYU, going up and down on the subway. My father and mother thought I was crazy, with Betty a Deep South shiksa, and me in school with no job, but when I persisted—informing them that I'd have $20 a week for fifty-two weeks on the GI Bill—they still thought I was crazy, but waited to see what would happen, and maybe guessing it wouldn't. Betty seemed committed when I said good-bye in Georgia, but came to realize the whole idea was absurd. I may have had some similar sense myself, but still hoping she'd follow and we'd somehow work it out, when she wrote me a tearful letter, as if from a broken heart, saying she'd thought it over and over and that it was really impossible. I'd met Betty one Saturday when, hitchhiking to Atlanta, a truck left me off in LaGrange. Before thumbing another ride, I decided to get some lunch, and went into a diner at the edge of town, near a sprawling textile plant, known as the Callaway Mills. I must have been destined in those days to the presence of leggy and blonde, for there it was again, but in a bosomy white blouse, and with a ready vivacity that seemed to enliven the place—and indeed Betty had been the cheerleader in high school whom everybody knew and loved. She was ordering some apple pie when I sat down beside her and asked, with a suavity out of the movies, if I could buy it for her, and with hardly a pause and a why-not smile, she let me, and we right away started to talk. To hell with Atlanta then, it disappeared from the map, LaGrange was far enough. Betty showed me around town, where there wasn't that much to see, though everybody we passed was delighted to see her, and they'd look mePage 82 → over meanwhile—whatever they may have thought, the jumper's wings a saving grace. I hitched back to Fort Benning that night, but was there in LaGrange the following Saturday, and after walking around again and going to see a movie, where things got more complicated, she said—again without a pause, when I wondered about a hotel—that I could stay at her place. The house was directly across from the Callaway Mills, where her father was a foreman. Barrel-chested, with huge hands, he seemed like a good-natured guy, though I didn't see much of him, because he was always in the back room with Betty's mother, whom I actually never saw, because she was—though they didn't quite say it—seriously disfigured by what may have been cancer. Gradually, I learned something about the culture of LaGrange, whose major power was the Callaway family (a descendant of which, Howard “Bo” Callaway, became secretary of the army under President Ford). We went to football games at the high school, for which the whole town turned out, and Betty would be transformed, no longer out on the field, but leading cheers in the stands. And one time—though I don't think her family belonged—she took me to the country club, where there was a dinner dance. It was the only time she made reference to my being Jewish, warning me not to say anything about it, because Jews were not admitted there. As for other bigotries of the time, even as we went through town I didn't see much of blacks, though they may have been keeping their place. One day, however, I happened to be outside with Betty's father, watching him tinker under the hood of an old Ford. To get a conversation going, I asked some questions, first, about his work at the mill, which apparently converted cotton dregs and other waste materials into a whole range of products, from mops and towels to cords for auto tires. What I was really curious about, however, was what I'd see out on the fields, coming there from Columbus, not very far from LaGrange—what appeared to be homeless people in corrugated shacks or squatters' tents. When I asked who they were and what they were doing there, Mr. Wallace looked up with a satisfied smile: “Them bastards? They wanted to start a union. We fixed them.” Art Rhodes and I talked about that, and the rules at the country club, after he invited me to assist him on the newspaper he was planning for La-Grange. His wife was a schoolteacher there, and I'm not sure where his money came from, but he appeared to have enough to put a few issues out—which would be distributed at first for free. I was excited by the prospect, because Art was considerably older and, compactly dark, with aPage 83 → volatile wit and gambling instincts, a knowledgeable activist. What he gambled on, to begin with, was actually my idea, which seemed at first like a wild one, for the lead story in the first issue: a satiric take on what already seemed satiric, a chewing gum scandal in the high school. The students had somehow organized a campaign to attach wads of chewing gum under every desktop in the school, including those of the teachers, and I can't quite remember how I twisted it, but I made of it a sort of allegory of a sticky local politics, with reference to the union

busting and the squatters out in the fields. The paper was printed in Columbus while I was working on the other, and when that was ready to go, and I went back to the barracks, Art drove off to LaGrange to distribute the first edition. Beyond our expectations, it really received attention, and when I showed up at evening a couple of days later, stopping first at Betty's, she'd been waiting anxiously, and said as she opened the door, “You've got to get out of town, right away. Art's been beaten up.” Whoever they were who did it, they were also out for me, with my name up there on the masthead. Betty went out to look around, motioning for me to go. I sneaked away in the dark, making a circle around the town, to a remoter part of the highway, where I worried about a ride, and who it might be, but eventually a car came up and, no questions asked, took me all the way back to Fort Benning. I talked to Art once on the telephone, when he was back in New York, but I never saw him again. And I had to let things cool down before I dared to see Betty. When I did, coming in off the highway and not leaving the house, I worried about her father, those big hands—though he seemed not to know what had happened. Relieved that I'd come to my senses, and with no southern belle in a bedroom, my parents soon had the Maple Street apartment to themselves, because it was just impossible for me, with additional labs in electrical and mechanical engineering, to keep commuting up to the Bronx. Aging in the service was hardly something I could claim, but with the late hours and little sleep I was either becoming exhausted or simply impatient with the long ride on the subway, which seemed more crowded than before, with more standing than before. What made it all harder to manage, with courses tougher, more advanced, was my returning as sports editor, becoming managing editor, and then editor-in-chief of the Heights Daily News, for which I was writing a three-day-a-week column as soon as I came back. Being an editor not only meant longer hours at the Lawrence House, but also the tedious job, familiar as it was from what I'd learned in Georgia,Page 84 → of putting the paper to bed, which happened not up there at the Heights, but down around Astor Place, where they had the famous riots. That's where the printer was, in a large loft of a semi-industrial building, and I'd be there till one or two in the morning, before returning to Brooklyn and, up again in a few hours, groggy on the train, no compass on my lap, but circling back to the Bronx. I must have been so bleary-eyed when he saw me one late afternoon that good old P. A. Porteus suggested that, instead of going to Brooklyn after finishing at the printers, I might think of coming back to the Lawrence House and sleeping there in the attic. He put a quilt on the floor for me, with a sheet and blankets too, and a couple of days a week I took advantage of that. But it wasn't exactly convenient, and eventually—since the $20 on the GI Bill wasn't much of a bounty—I asked my father for some help, and he gave me enough to make up the rent for a small room near the campus, where I stayed until I graduated, with an occasional weekend in Brooklyn. If, as things went, the occasions were more infrequent, it had less to do with busyness at school than some irritability or growing antipathy toward my parents. I'm still not sure why that was, but maybe through all I was doing I was really down on myself, as I still tend to be, even when most productive, wondering as I do it, over my head already, taking on more commitments—even now as I write—why in the world so much? Whatever the cause, I was suddenly put off by my mother's self-indulgence, the mirroring, the fleshiness, the makeup more repellent, and though he was still not saying very much, I said even less when my father was there, as if in mimicry of his silence when he used to sit at the window. Mostly I stayed away from the apartment, coming in very late so they'd be asleep, or staying in my room with homework, so I wouldn't see either of them. What confounds me to this day, and appallingly so, is the degree of unaccountable vehemence in my attitudes toward them, about which, as discovered later in a journal—blanked out for some years, what I wrote on a flight across the country to my mother's funeral—I can hardly bear to read. What was it all about? And could it have been anything so commonplace as my gradually coming to live another kind of life, with interests far from theirs, though what I found myself complaining about is that they had no interests at all, or beyond my father's still muttering about the newspaper, nothing that mattered much. Vanity of vanities, not at the level of what I was writing for the Heights Daily News. I don't even remember now whether I even bothered to show any of it to my father, who—even if “they” were there—probably would have been proud. Page 85 →

Well, for all my lousy behavior, the writing was getting on. And even on sports, in the column initiated before I went into the army, what I was writing about would have made Art Rhodes happy—if, as I should have, I sought him out and sent him copies. For much of it was political, indeed, far more so than I recalled, though the evidence is in the archives at the Bobst Library near Washington Square, where I recently went through pages I hadn't seen in sixty years, brittle as I touched them, and what might have been bits of memory flaking over the table. The political animus moved or rather oscillated from intercollegiate sports to the nascent United Nations, about which I remarked, in criticizing the university's failure to develop a policy about big-time football, that the United States was undermining, not long after it started, the international organization that it had originally sponsored in San Francisco—behaving then, in 1946, very much like the Bush administration. As a preface to an assault on the NYU Board of Athletic Control, I wrote that “the great fault with … United States foreign policy” and, in the stillnameless cold war, “the ultimate cause of our differences with Russia, was the simple, unobtrusive fact that we had no policy.” Here I was picking up on a controversy over a recent speech by the principled politician who, as vice president, had commended me for winning in high school the Pan-American Medal, the marginalized Henry Wallace. While the editorials, when I came to write them, had a certain sobriety, since I was representing there the collective view of the staff (which stylistically, or otherwise, I sometimes overruled), there was an ironically selfdeprecating, other times scathing humor to the sports columns, or a no-holds-barred playful outrageousness. That was because the column was my own, where I could even mock, as in the first one I wrote, the journalistic protocol of the plural “we,” which I twisted referentially, in the same satiric vein as the chewing gum scandal, but as a precursor to an insistence on saying it for myself, the way I want to say it—sticking it to the issue or elliptically stretching it out, that vanity too—in all I've written since. The name of the column was, and now I blush to say it, “As the Wind Blaus” and even then I must have been blushing when I changed it to “As the Wind Blows”—and blow I did (as if the North Wind I had played in grade school had grown up politicized), more often than not on what might have been ignored if I didn't. Which is what others might have preferred, like the Athletic Manager who, content with minding the store, kept complaining of “bad taste,” which every time he said it I always dutifully quoted—while the charge of bad taste later followed me into the theater. Page 86 → There were a couple of things I didn't ignore that I sometimes wish I had, and one of them had to do with the return of big-time football. NYU had been a collegiate power in the Thirties, its season-ending rivalry with Fordham making for the really big game in the city, and one of the most awaited on the national scene. Despite that, for financial reasons, varsity football had been discontinued, and when it was restored—after a blistering campaign in my columns, and pressure from prestigious alumni, with whom I appeared at one session before the Board of Athletic Control—it was a sort of low-level operation that couldn't recruit top-notch players, and with a schedule including schools like Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. (I did a riff on the Gettysburg Address, in reflecting on how, against that formidable power, NYU lucked out with a last-minute punt return.) The man who coached the Violets (named for the school color) was Jack Weinheimer, gray-haired, good-hearted, a fine human being, who had been an assistant coach in the glory days, but was teaching phys ed since, waiting for his chance. When he finally got it—I was an advocate for him, and he was avuncular with me—things didn't go as we wished, and very far from the prospect of a revived “Battle of the Bronx” (where Fordham was too, before Lincoln Center) or an invitation to the Rose Bowl after a face-off with Notre Dame. After a meager win against Brooklyn College, with what I described as “poor tackling, missed blocking assignments, and a man in motion that could have used a road map,” I asked Coach Weinheimer how we'd do against the somewhat stiffer competition coming up, and he said what he always said: “I think we'll do all right, Herb, I think we'll do all right.” But when we repeatedly didn't, I started in a minor key to go after him in my column, and then in a sort of crescendo “As the Window Blows” became “A Play in One Column,” with a transplanted Marxist rhetoric in the dialogue, ending with a student chant about “starving for victory,” and a final exit with the chorus singing, “ARISE! YE PRISONERS OF STARVATION.” Whenever I mentioned Weinheimer, I was still deferential, but when he was forced to resign, he was furious with me. He may have been, as we'd say today, too nice a guy to be a head football coach, but I liked the man so much I really regretted what

happened, as I might also regret the columnizing for big-time football, though the overlooked vices that go with the sport today, from recruiting bonuses to dubious eligibility, weren't then on the scene, or not anywhere to the same degree. As I drive past the huge floodlit stadium at the University of Washington in Seattle, where the football coach was recently fired (after other abuses in the program) forPage 87 → betting on basketball games, it's hard not to think of the huge unconscionable budgets, sprawling real estate, and unrestricted investments in state-of-the-art facilities. Yet, as a major source of income, it might be redeemed by diverting funds to what's been neglected, the always impoverished humanities—while turning the floods then on the university presidents, provosts, deans whose speeches are full of banalities about why the humanities are essential (with not a penny more to support them) if we're to have a better world. What was being taught, and how, by whom, was high on the agenda when I took over as editor of the Heights Daily News, the aftermath of the war having brought that into focus. “But as the wood of a violin is a determinant of the quality of the notes it plays, so are the abilities of teachers determinants of the quality of instruction.” There may have been some banalities of my own, including that wooden aestheticizing, in the first editorial I wrote, but instead of the traditional welcome to incoming freshmen, advising them on what “to glean from college life,” I was addressing the issue of readjustment among returning veterans, and the assimilation into the academic world of those who'd not been there before, or never thought they would be, though they now had access through the GI Bill. With huge registrations and overcrowded classes, there was also the matter of readjustment among the faculty, who were not quite prepared for “the not too simple task of lecturing to diversified groups, whose composition may range from young high school graduates to mature, sometimes married, veterans.” As I reflected on the “post-war turbulence” in the university, classroom shortages, awkward hours, insufficient staff, inadequate advising, and curricular changes too—including the restoration of courses dropped during the war—the word globalization was not in the air, but I did refer to “the roles we are asked to play as ‘citizens of the world community.’” And here I was writing consciously of a generation that—having seen the war ended, when the barbarities of the enemy were countered by Dresden and Hiroshima, and Nagasaki for good measure—had to realize that our evolution from a creature in the jungle to one with an “advanced brain” had brought us to an unsteady state, as if in destined regression, where there is only a fine margin between “survival” and “extinction.” If that margin appeared to be (as it surely does now) the imperiled site of the “world community,” was there another conceivable politics beyond the politics of survival? And what really should we be learning that might deal with any of this? If my own vision, maybe congenital, was already inclining toward thePage 88 → tragic, I was also trying to believe, as in the last words of the editorial, “that there is a purpose to it all, that education is more than a book, that government is more than a vote, that the earth is not merely another star.” From such tenuous thought, at the edge of apocalypse, I turned to various issues in more specific political contexts. There were editorials on low-rental housing for veterans, instead of a token bonus; on corruption in the labor unions, and the Republicans seizing upon it to threaten the closed shop; and while commending Mayor O'Dwyer, during a transit strike, for protecting the five-cent subway fare, I went after conservatives in Congress for refusing to confirm David Lilienthal's appointment as chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, because of “‘Communist’ tendencies, which, in this day of slur and brand, has become the most vivid description of a liberal.” There it was, an incipient McCarthyism, of which there appeared to be an inversion in attacks by liberals on the right-wing American Youth for Democracy, for circulating leaflets on a college campus in Michigan. Opposed as I was (or “we” were) to the AYD “in all form, shape or manner,” calling students “fascists” seemed as reprehensible as calling them “Reds,” for “some obviously warped totalitarian conceptions of restraint.” To this day I can't stand, in ideologized academia, a certain repressive vigilance that comes from the Left, but as it came then from the Right into national politics, there was a rumbling of accusation that would lead, as I put it, to “more catastrophic tempests.” If that seems overstated or melodramatic, we might remember, too, that in the year I was writing this, 1947, John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Albert Maltz, and others of the Hollywood Ten appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. It was before that committee, too, that Bertolt Brecht gave his artfully devious testimony and took off for East Germany—protecting himself at that end by taking out Austrian citizenship and putting his money in a Swiss bank. Other editorials ranged from red-baiting at University Heights to the hiring of Jackie Robinson by the Brooklyn

Dodgers to the German peace treaty (the French wanting demilitarization, while enrolling former Nazis in the Foreign Legion) to my own haughty castigation of the imperious Winston Churchill, who had condescended, with “a literary pat-on-the-back to a naïve nation,” the United States, with its amateur politicians, who had plunged “into world politics without first estimating properly the experience and intentions” of their more seasoned colleagues. And then, round-robin on red-baiting, I denounced the attempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee, going all the way back to the Logan Act ofPage 89 → 1799, to silence Henry Wallace, who had “been particularly vehement in his criticism of American foreign policy.” Years later in San Francisco, I would be involved myself in the first significant public protest against HUAC. All that said about the editorials—and what I didn't at all remember, the degree of social conscience and assertive political savvy—perhaps even more significant for the future was the fact that, in the sports column starving for big-time football, I had written that little play, with “Dramatis Personae,” a telltale sign that, somehow, theater had come into my life. And here, again, the one thing I do remember is that before I began to write for the Heights Daily News I had never been to the theater, which just about took over my last semester at NYU. Since I still intended to do advanced work in engineering, with designs on MIT, I found a way—how, I'm not sure, but I'm sure with minimum studying—of keeping up with my courses. Somewhere in here, too, I had my first and only job as an engineer. It was in a factory out on Long Island, where they made jellies and jams, and my responsibility was to work through procedures for sustaining the consistency and low pH (the acidity or alkalinity) of the boiling mass of sugars and flavors in a row of monitored vats. It wasn't quite at the level of Los Alamos, but up on a raised platform I was the one exceptional male—and they seemed to admire my expertise—in an assembly line of factory girls, who might also joke about my being there or, as several of them did, proposition me after work. Sex had never been so readily available, but there were other urgencies then and, never mind the money either, I soon had to quit the job. For, along with writing for the newspaper, I was seeing plays, reading plays, studying books about plays, talking to anybody who knew anything about the theater, asking what I should read, what I should see, and with all of this having written, not merely that mock-play in one column, but two attempts at the real thing, one of them called When Death Is Dead, and that portentous one-act in verse. How did this come about? The cause of it all was Leonard Heideman, who preceded me as editor of the Heights Daily News, and later became fairly successful as a screenwriter, better known, however, as the co-creator of the TV series Bonanza. Lenny was about to go into the playwriting program at the Yale Drama School, and one afternoon at the Lawrence House he let me see the play that got him accepted. I read it and liked it, but said to myself, I could do that. And so I quickly wrote the two plays—When Death Is Dead and, more like Lenny's, another, whose title I forget (no manuscripts in existence)—and asked if Lenny would read them. He did, and was impressed.Page 90 → And he urged me to send them, as he'd done his, to Yale and Stanford (the two major theater schools at the time), on the good chance, he thought, that one or the other would offer me a fellowship. So I sent the plays, for kicks (with an application), and had more or less written them off when, sure enough, I was accepted at both schools, and with fellowships too. And then it occurred to me, why not? MIT was still pending, and—though diverted into journalism and still hung-up over entropy—I had every intention of continuing with engineering, but what the hell, I was not long out of the army and, with the degree finished, still only twenty-one, could certainly spare a year. So why not do it, something entirely new, and then go to MIT. But which one, meanwhile, Yale or Stanford? Enter Jules Irving—who eventually became my partner for nearly twenty years. Jules was head of the Hall of Fame Players of the liberal arts college at University Heights. Blue-eyed, boyish, winning, with curly black hair, he would turn up now and again at the Heights Daily office, wanting publicity for a production. Even when dead serious, really, and often you couldn't tell, he was funny and disarming, already adept at a sort of ironic banter that could, putting you on or putting you off, also make you laugh. I'd heard that he'd been a child actor on Broadway, and indeed he'd been in the Kaufman and Hart spectacle The American Way, stirring up patriotism with Frederic March. During the war he traveled around Europe with the USO, directing and acting in shows to entertain the troops. As I was thinking where to go, I met Jules one afternoon (I knew him only slightly, so he wasn't Buddy yet) on the steps of Gould Hall, the library, and since he knew about the theater, asked his advice—whereupon another coincidence: he had been at Stanford before he went overseas, studying Russian in an army language

program, and he was going back there, into the Drama Department. “Why don't you go to Stanford,” he said, “it's like a country club.” And indeed it was when I went, those golden hills behind the campus, the groves of eucalyptus on Palm Drive, and for a mile each side of the entrance, before El Camino Real was developed, rows of fruit and vegetable stands (I'd never seen an avocado or artichoke before, or anything like those melons, honeydew or casaba) in front of a fence of roses. For me—forget the farmland in Wisconsin—that was utopia. But with that prospect there before me, as if utopia comes through panic, this was the period when I was suddenly frightened at not having seen a play, nor read any plays I could remember, except Lenny's, and (the one they always taught: “Friends, Romans, countrymen”) Julius Caesar in high school. It was then that I went quickly, first, to see Jules, in anPage 91 → on-campus production of John Patrick's The Hasty Heart, and he was so adept as the Scotsman Lachlen, a dying pain in the ass, he might have been in the movies; then to a show on Broadway, The Moon Is Blue, with Barbara Bel Geddes (soon damaged by McCarthyism but, after Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, later known for Dallas); and next, because Burgess Meredith was in it (and I'd seen him in the movies), Playboy of the Western World—which was, when we started our theater in San Francisco, the first play I ever directed. Some years later Burgess actually performed at The Actor's Workshop, one of the few “stars” ever invited, against my usual resistance. Jules wanted him for a new play, then regretted every minute, since he had the task of directing an actor living off his reputation, more inclined to drink than rehearse, and who would blame it on the script when, showing up late for rehearsals, he couldn't remember his lines. What I must have preferred to forget, but was reminded of in a picture from the period at NYU, was my playing the small role of Mr. Chisholm in Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest. Jules must have persuaded me to do it, and I'm not sure how, because the notion of my being on stage would surely have petrified me. They must have had to prompt me, if I remembered my lines. What needed no prompting, though, was to prepare for Stanford, and with all the asking around, I had started on my reading: first some Shakespeare, then the Greeks (amazed by the Oresteia), then some Ibsen, Chekhov, O'Neill, and others more contemporary, Clifford Odets and Elmer Rice—and a play I really liked, Maxwell Anderson's Winterset, in which, when it was staged at Stanford, I had a bit part, no lines at all, as a mustached organ grinder. Still feeling unprepared, however, when I did get to Stanford, and in the graduate program, no less, it took a while to realize it, but in my anxiety I had read more—since I kept reading, and about the drama too, Barrett H. Clark, John Gassner, Joseph Wood Krutch—than most of the students there who'd presumably been majoring in drama, though many were there for acting or directing, or even technical theater. And some of them, indeed, were very talented, with a certain maturity among the men, those back from the war on the GI Bill—like Roy Poole, smoking-jacket professorial, yet heroic or dashing on stage, who went on to Broadway; or Richard Egan, a judo instructor in the army, who was discovered at Stanford by a Hollywood talent scout and who, touted as “another Clark Gable,” seemed to be making it as a leading man when we started The Actor's Workshop. Had they been around at the time, we'd have done everything to persuade them to join us, but there was little chance then, with nothing to offer Page 92 →but an idea, that we could have lured them to San Francisco, which was in those days, whatever its cultural past—touring companies, local poets, and even the Great Earthquake (renowned from a musical movie, with Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy as a priest)—a beautiful backwater by the Bay. It was, with what they called “brown money” (in the bank, and not for the arts), a city on hold, lovely to live in, wonderful views, but nothing much of consequence happening, until our theater developed, stirring things up, and with the onset of the Sixties, the Beat Generation. After that, to be sure, San Francisco became something of a mecca, but it wasn't time yet for the continental tilt. It was early summer, 1947, when I arrived in Palo Alto, and I wasn't prepared for the weather, which was as usual perfect, as if an eternal spring. As I went up Palm Drive to the arcaded campus, I was enchanted by the eucalyptus, tawny with full bark, languorous in the sun, or bark-shedding, voluptuous, like a Titian woman, revealing through its drapings what I apparently never forgot: cream-colored, nubile, the femininity crossgendered with the look of thickening semen, which years later in San Francisco became part of a startling image in the staging of King Lear. With the Spanish-tiled roofs of the quad ahead, I passed the Frost Amphitheater, which I didn't yet know was there—a pastoral performance space, with sloping grass for an audience—and then, crossing in front of the Hoover Tower, 250 feet high (no Depression there, but that Hoover indeed), with its research

library below and otherwise awesome archives, I went directly to the dormitory, Encina Hall, where they checked me into a room. Without at all unpacking, I left my bag on the bed, asked downstairs where the Drama Department was, and went out immediately, diagonally across the street, to that other incongruous building in the mission architecture, Memorial Auditorium, the imposing front of which was across from the Hoover Tower. But I wanted more than anything to go backstage, which I'd never had a chance to do—at NYU, there was a Green Room, but not much behind the scene—so I went around to the rear of the building, where there was a costume shop, its door open, with fabrics on the tables, and puffed spindles of needles and thread, and down the empty corridor a row of dressing rooms. It was midafternoon and nobody seemed to be around. I went into one of the dressing rooms, the smell of makeup there, and sat down for a moment, the table a little sticky, and in the mirror ringed with lights, turned my face from side to side, studying it for a role, though I didn't know whatPage 93 → it was. I might have tried another door and found myself in the Little Theater, but instead I went out into the sun again, and around to the front of the building, and into the lobby there, nobody in the box office, or anyone else to ask; so I tried one of the doors, and there it was, the main theater, dark, except down on the forestage an unshaded bulb on a stanchion, drapes off to the side and deep high space behind. I went warily down the aisle, impressed with the size of it all, and no sooner did I climb on the stage when a figure came out of the wings, a really attractive woman, with a sort of swaying grace, and a little boy following after. She regarded me for a moment, then held out a book and said, “Would you cue me?” I knew about cue tips in the pool hall, but so naive about the theater, I didn't know how to begin, and if a little nervous about that, she not only put me at my ease, but turned out to be my first wife. Not then, of course, I had to cue her first, for the role of Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It, for which I also ran the lights—an assignment in technical theater—when some weeks after it was produced there on the main stage. Nor did I go with her then at Stanford. That was inconceivable. I was still a kid, she was a mature woman, five years older than me, and given the difference in our experience, you could more than double that. With a promising career on Broadway already under way, she was brought to Stanford as an artist-in-residence (in what was the first such program in a university). Her name was Beatrice Manley, actually Mandell, and her father was a butcher in the Bronx; but she had also gone to NYU, its theater program downtown, lived in Greenwich Village, next door to W. H. Auden, had studied with Michael Chekhov, and was with soft aquiline features, now regal, now demure, poised and modestly witty, with a maybe veiled anxiety to an easy sophistication, and a casual sense of fashion that, with long scarves and wraparounds, and coats to the ground in colder weather (not there at Stanford), knew what elegance was. She first appeared on Broadway at the age of twenty, in Maxwell Anderson's The Eve of St. Mark, when Aline MacMahon, whom she was understudying, graciously played sick one night, letting her go on. That led to her being in Eva Le Gallienne's The Cherry Orchard, in which years later at the Workshop—in the second play I directed—she also did Madame Ranevsky. And just before coming to Stanford, she had appeared with Beatrice Straight in Eastward in Eden. These were names I didn't know, though I was certainly impressed, as I was by the rumor that she was just ending an affair with the actor Jack Palance. As for her son Dick, awkward, often sulky, maybe spoiled, then lively and bright, he was about five yearsPage 94 → old, his father Albert, a painter; and so too—though the marriage was miserable, and she was divorced—Bea was attuned to the art scene as well. Which meant back then—no Soho, no Tribeca, no Chelsea, and not a dream of it over in Brooklyn—what was happening down in the Village. That was, for all I was catching up with, something else I knew nothing about, though I had gone now and then to the Museum of Modern Art, to see the impressionists, Cézanne and the cubists, in those irrecoverable days when you could go in the afternoon and, not standing in line to get in, there'd be virtually no one there. Imagine! being alone in a room with Matisse or standing in front of The Bather, with nobody in-between, and no hordes around the Picassos. I'd remember a painting and talk about it to Bea, or for that matter, because I always wanted to engage her, at some break in rehearsal or when she was making up, whatever came to mind. She was always gracious, attentive, and seemed to think I was smart, but at the end of the summer she was gone, back again in New York—not around long enough for all that was coming to mind, not only in the plays I was writing, but in a course I was taking in theater history, called the Development of Dramatic Art. Here, the recurring pattern, right

brain, left brain, or maybe another reflex out of the ethos of suspicion: the subject matter had changed, but as in thermodynamics, the entropy syndrome, I was disturbed by something missing. For whatever the development, there wasn't much sense of art in the way they talked about history, nor, aside from chronology, any concept of history either. About that, to begin with, I was having only premonitions, since I had no concept of my own, having read no Hegel or Marx, nor anything from Ranke or Dilthey to the Annales school of Braudel, nor were any of the new historicisms yet on the scene. Nevertheless, in the text we were using, I'd find myself puzzling over curious things, like: the Romans invented the curtain, which they called the auleum … That was it. As to why they invented the curtain—a rather strange phenomenon when you think of it, or by historical, metaphysical, scenographic contrast, the open-air theater at Epidaurus, with nothing hiding the stage—why in the world, by what increments of revision or perversion of value, or specular cover-up, would you want to separate the seers from what's to be seen, when it hadn't been done before? But when in class I'd pose a question like that, it made me feel a little peculiar, because nobody wanted to talk about it, or though he might indulge me, not much either from Hubert Heffner, the owlishly weighty godfather of American educational theater, who regaled us, however, with stories about the Carolina Playmakers, and his friends atPage 95 → Chapel Hill, the dramatist Paul Green and the novelist Thomas Wolfe, whose books by the end of high school I knew from cover to cover. That didn't take care of history, but I was fascinated with the tall tales that Heffner brought to class, as well as what he had to say, with down-home eloquence, about probability and necessity in Aristotle's Poetics. That was, through a semester's close reading, the dramaturgical rule book for the seminar in playwriting, and I can recite to this day the six parts of a play (plot, character, thought, music, diction, spectacle) with plot as formal principle, or the definition of tragedy as an imitation of action in the form of action which, by the arousal of pity and fear, purges those emotions. Yet that was in other respects not quite cathartic for me. For there were other things they wouldn't talk about, like a book I happened to come across, Eric Bentley's Playwright as Thinker, which went against the grain of what was taught about the drama of modernism, though modernism itself as a concept was not, as I remember, talked about at all, no less anything like the modernist avant-garde. (Nor did I ever hear of Ubu Roi, which caused Yeats to say when he saw it, “After us, the savage gods.”) And while I loved watching rehearsals or even the technical setups in theater, and was much enamored of actors (and even with Bea gone, the lovely women among them), sometimes seeing them in a production over and over again, I was perplexed when I tried to discuss the play itself that I was getting little by way of response. And it soon became apparent that Bentley was onto some instructional fault when he wrote about a production of Ibsen at Yale, in which the students there would talk about the lighting, the costumes, the sets, the acting—everything except what the play was about. One of the people I could discuss this with, or at least sound off to, I also met on that first propitious day at Stanford, when I returned to Encina Hall. Slender, amusingly diffident, with a sly southern accent to the selfeffacing humor, O. G. Brockett was in the room next door. Eventually known for his History of the Theater— the standard text still, of which I have the first edition—he was also a new graduate student in what was then actually called the Speech and Drama Department, where theater (synonymous then with drama, as theater was with performance) had achieved not too long before, in what was then the Speech Department, a somewhat belated legitimacy. Brock and I would usually take meals together, or with the drawling, laconic, flaccid-seeming Wendell Cole, the unpretentiously gifted scene designer, who was actually on the faculty. Wendell's sets could be sumptuous, but in other ways self-denying, he also lived at the dorm. The irony of Brock's now-venerable status as a theater historian is that hePage 96 → was when we started at Stanford into technical theater, and under Wendell's supervision he was actually the scene designer of my play Out of the Rain, written as a master's thesis. What I remember with abiding affection was Brock's quiet generosity, demonstrated only a couple of days after we met, when—seeing students parking their cars—I realized you could really use one at Stanford, and that it was otherwise going to be hard to get around on the Peninsula, no less to San Francisco. Somebody on campus was selling a two-seater Ford, but I needed about $300 more than the little I had to buy it, and when I happened to mention it, Brock simply lent me the money. He was usually whimsical in responding to questions I'd raise about something Heffner had said or what was going on in rehearsal, and it wasn't quite his disposition to fuss over what troubled me; but he'd listen and take it in, as he also did with my plays, including the one he designed, and I'd find

myself wondering what he really thought. As when he showed up years later at our productions in San Francisco, there might be a quiet comment, approval, disapproval, you sometimes couldn't be sure, as if criticism wasn't in his repertoire, no less the sort of historicizing that, in the wake of Marcuse and the Sixties, came with cultural critique. I was moved some years ago when, at a lecture I was giving in Ohio, Brock—who was about to retire from the University of Texas at Austin—was unexpectedly there, as if somehow he were still taking it in, though I had by more than implication written critically over the years of what passed for theater history, and while I never mentioned his name, it was unavoidably with O. G. Brockett in mind. If back at Stanford we weren't next-door roommates long, that was because I was only at Encina temporarily, while waiting through that first summer for Jules Irving to arrive. Although we still hardly knew each other, and I was surprised when he told me, he had arranged for us to share a room at the house of F. Cowles Strickland, head of the acting/directing program, who had apparently been impressed with Jules's talent when he was in the army at Stanford. It was actually as small as a room in the dorms, with twin beds, and not much else, but it turned out to be another upscale move for me, since the house was in Menlo Park, a single-level ranch-style structure when those were still new, with surrounding vegetation, and a living room opening onto a lovely garden, a small pool with a fountain there, with jasmine, rhododendrons, jacaranda trees with lavender blooms, all of which when I first saw it seemed like dreamland to me. As for the names of flowers—of which we didn't see much in Brooklyn, and mostly I can't name them—those in the garden came memorably from Edie Strickland, aPage 97 → petite blond with fastidious tastes, whether in setting a table or in clipping a hedge, and whose humming presence outside in the mornings seemed part of the natural ambience. With Jules and me, Edie was in every way welcoming but for all that curiously impersonal, even when she gave the impression we might confide in her. Always smiling, often singing—she loved opera, and trained for it, but the voice was insufficient—she seemed at one with the brightness that seemed to come with the house, and the mood of it was a constant unless there were the slightest inflection of anything negative about Strick (which is what we called him), or even when not intended, maybe only a question—as to something he was doing or not doing in a class or a production. I was awed by Strick at first, who had, with Alexander Kirkland, founded the Berkshire Playhouse, one of the first summer-stock companies, though my guess was that with some experience in New York, that's really where he wanted to be. When he didn't quite make it there, he became instead director of the St. Louis Little Theater, and either because of St. Louis or the caliber of the acting, he turned then to teaching, with theater departments still new, and brought a certain professional authority to the Stanford Players. With Broadway still the standard, there were also the anecdotes about his experience or familiarity with highly regarded, even legendary performers, from Ina Claire and Leo G. Carroll to Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, most of whom I hadn't heard of until he talked about them, their acting techniques or idiosyncrasies, or in the case of Madame Nazimova, the effortless power of emotion derived from a conscious sense of form, with her maybe inimitable genius. When it came to getting something on stage, there wasn't anything Strick didn't seem to know about what makes the theater work. But as I became less certain that I wanted it to work that way, little by little I took the measure of Strick, who sometimes struck me as patronizingly pedagogical in a rather unctuous way, though that hardly did him justice. One can see that, too, from the opening exercise on, its meticulous variations, in a book he eventually wrote, The Technique of Acting, where he gives advice on everything from making an entrance to phrasing, timing, pointing, and how to build a climax, and with “correct rhythm,” “correct action,” in Shakespeare, Shaw, or Chekhov, matters of voice and style. In those days, there was nothing like revisionist performance on the American stage, nor (except for Bentley) any awareness of Brecht, and if there were I wouldn't have known it. But in some incremental or intuitive way, even with my dedication to a perfected technique in sports, I backedPage 98 → off from Strick's usage of that word correct, no less the persistent talk of the “right way” to do Shakespeare or the “right way” to do Chekhov, as even to this day the “right way” to do Beckett. Strick was smart and quick in perceiving that there was some resistance in me, and did what he could to assuage it, what I should have taken, perhaps, as a sign of recognized promise. What I couldn't quite take, however, was his own technique, a way he had of telling you something by taking your hand in both of his, as if assuring you, in any doubt or anxiety, that there'd be no problem whatever if you simply did what he suggested. If he mostly knew what he was talking about, it was what he was talking about, his idea of

theater, that I really came to doubt. I really wanted to respect Strick, but he came to represent the sort of attitudes toward theater—even when he later directed at the Arena Stage in Washington, associated with The Actor's Workshop as an early exemplar of decentralization—that I excoriated in The Impossible Theater. Even more problematic for me in the Strickland household, really strange, was my being there in that small room with Jules Irving. However we drew together over the years, we were at the outset a really improbable pair, as if across those twin beds we were in different quarters of the universe. What we may have shared was ambition, but aside from the writing of plays mine was indistinct—even the writing like a pretension, the tug of science still there—while Jules knew quite well, or thought he did, what he really wanted in the theater. As with Strick, the theater he had in mind was where he'd been before, back on Broadway, whatever the anomaly of his being in California to get there. Years after, when we were at Lincoln Center, I lived in a building, the legendary Apthorp, whose rear entrance was on West End Avenue, which is where Jules had grown up in Manhattan, his family able to afford it because of a direct mail marketing business. Once again, but in other ways than Bea, he was sophisticated as I wasn't, and in this case, now and then, I'd find myself resenting it. He didn't quite put me down, but he wasn't listening either, or that's what I felt at first, so much so that, though he could still make me laugh, my ongoing sense of belatedness thickened the resentment. The fact is I didn't like him. Nor, through his boyish good looks, a quick reflex of practicality. My attitude changed, however, when he read a play I had written, and starting off with a joking criticism that for a moment made things worse, he was full of praise for it, and insisted that he should play the lead. That play, A Prayer in Galilee, was the first of mine produced at Stanford. I had written it in a couple of weeks after reading an article in TimePage 99 → magazine about the Irgun Zvi Leumi, the radical underground group in Israel, which split off from the Hagganah, organ of the Jewish Agency, over the question of how to react to Arab terrorism. I was not all that preoccupied with the politics of the Middle East or the prospect of a Jewish state; it was rather the strategic violence of an insurgency that really stirred my interest, after which I was caught up in the momentum of history. The Irgun had been sabotaging British government property and, despite mass arrests, attacking its occupying forces, because of a British ban on immigration; and it also refused to accept any policy of constraint or diplomacy in reclaiming land for Jewish settlers. When I was still at NYU, Menachem Begin became the leader of Irgun, and with revelations then of the Holocaust—more than two and a half million Jews exterminated by the Nazis—the Irgun broke a truce with the British and went at them again with a vengeance, because European Jewry required first a place of exile, and then a homeland too. I'm not sure how much of this was in the play, and I say that because—having destroyed the text, and most of the plays I wrote at Stanford—I have only a blurred memory of what exactly was. It must have had something to do, however, with that period after the Irgun's devastating attack, in 1946, on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where I actually stayed when first invited to lecture in Israel, but which was then the headquarters of the British Palestine Command. It was the ferocity of the British reprisals that aroused further resistance, and that's probably suggested in a picture I do have of Jules, looking heroic, with his arm in a sling—but I can't remember the name of the character he was playing. It may have been modeled on Begin, but probably not, because he had been really underground, a long time in hiding, disguising himself as a rabbi. Nor was it Yitzhak Rabin, who was not a member of Irgun Zvi Leumi, but rather of Hagganah, which at the birth of the state of Israel refused to join forces with the Irgun. And indeed it was Rabin who gave orders that, taking Jewish lives, killed off that radical group—as he was finally killed by a fanatic orthodox Jew who, earlier on, might have been a member. As for what was killing off my enthusiasm for the theater program, that continued despite the play's reception, which gave me some status at Stanford. That was gratifying for a while, but my critical instincts were such, and other dissatisfactions, including some with myself, that I was soon thinking again of returning to engineering. The absence of ideas in the program was one thing, but with any blank day at the desk I began to worry about mine. The fact is that now I had to take the writing seriously, and once that started I was almost never satisfied. I recall a talk with Jules—IPage 100 → was now calling him Buddy—in which I was sounding out what he thought my prospects really were in the theater, and when I suggested I might be leaving Stanford, and perhaps trying again for MIT, he did what he could to dissuade me. Through the quarrels and innumerable crises we survived over the

years, this wouldn't be the only time he'd try to keep me in the theater, but my disenchantment then was such, and some adhesive doubt about what I was doing there in the first place—was this for me, really? with that lateness, accidental, I would never know enough (a self-assessment that continues in whatever it is I do)—that I was soon back in Brooklyn, living with my parents. Once more, as about marrying that southern girl, they may have thought I'd come to my senses, though I didn't talk much to them, sullen there in my room. What in the world to do? I'd stopped writing for a while, then started in again, not really convinced of that return to engineering—all the more as I heard from Buddy that Hubert Heffner was sorry that I'd left Stanford, and was going to be in touch. The writing sputtered on and off, and I spent much of the days reading, not drama, but a medley of novels (some I'd read before), from Look Homeward, Angel to The Brothers Karamazov, and from my collection of Doc Savage—that protean genius with glittering bronze skin and golden eyes, a superhuman scientist with a cohort of brainy types, who might have disapproved of my stalling on getting materials from NYU for the application to MIT. And then it occurred to me that there was someone I might actually ask for advice. Not that I hadn't thought about it: there she was in Manhattan, a solacing possibility, her number in the phone book—which I looked up shortly after coming from California. Well, why not give it a try. She wouldn't mind if I called. I could maybe see Bea Manley and tease out my troubles with her, and the dilemma of life in the theater. Page 100a → Page 100b → Page 100c → Page 100d → Page 100e → Page 100f → Page 100g → Page 100h → Page 100i → Page 100j → Page 100k → Page 100l → Page 100m → Page 100n → Page 100o → Page 100p → Page 100q → Page 100r → Page 100s →

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FOUR Rehearsing the Impossible THE WIDENING GYRE They want to put up a fence now, and lock it, to keep out the vagrants, the druggies, the dealers, the homeless ready for sleep, on the benches or withered grass, the late-hour couples making out, or even the midnight strollers, but when I first entered Washington Square it was as in Henry James, on an autumn afternoon, with pigeons and hawthorn foliage, honey locust and ambered maples, but hardly anyone there, not even the chess players, now juxtaposed with the dog run as part of a daily spectacle. It was Bea who took me into the park, down from Fifth Avenue and through the triumphal arch, and we sat on the rim of the fountain, where there was once a potter's field, and then the site of a public gallows. The history came later, with the reading of Henry James (who didn't like the square). There were no high-rise buildings behind us, nor anything much aloft on the Greenwich Village side except the square belfry of the Judson Memorial Church, not yet the activist center of the performative counterculture. We had actually done a little tour, from where Bea lived on Cornelia Street, across Sixth Avenue, then above the park to East Eighth Street with its bakeries, pet shop, shoe stores, dress, lingerie, fabric, and bauble shops— and the upstairs studio of one of her friends, aristocratic, brilliant, gay (not the word for it then), a painter who made jewelry—over to the numbingly overstocked bookstore, which in its attention-deficit disordering catalytic surplus seemed to have everything, the new poets, experimental prose, the offbeat books and journals that I knew I ought to be reading. Page 102 → When I made that first call to Bea, there seemed a moment's surprise, then even before I asked, an invitation to come and visit, to which I said without a beat I could come that very night—of course, if she wasn't busy. And then I couldn't believe it when she said, sure, she'd be there. When it came time to go, I put on a jacket, took off a jacket, and settled on a sweater, but instead of taking the subway I borrowed my father's car, that aging blue Pontiac—yet still devoutly washed, simonized, cared for like an heirloom—and drove it to the Village. She lived in a slim three-story building, with brick and mortar front, and a chipped-brick inscription, a rather dysgenic flower, between the iron grills on her windows, there on the lower floor, a narrow flight up from the street. (That Auden was a window over, in an adjoining building, didn't quite impress me yet, because I barely knew who he was.) As for her apartment, it was really a tiny space, a living room where she also slept, on a convertible couch, with her son Dick in the bedroom, and a smaller than broom-closet kitchen. Still, it was Greenwich Village, and there was an aura to that, attested to, moreover, by an abstract landscape over the couch and another beside the door, somewhat Cézanneish paintings in an enshrouding light. “Albert's,” she said, when I asked who did them, which was the first time, actually, that I'd heard anything about him. Small as the living room was, it hardly diminished her, or those qualities I'd felt at Stanford, in part through her presence on stage. And while it made her all the more appealing, and I barely intuited it then, there was through all seeming assurance a self-doubting reserve which—even that first night in the Village, in that ill-lit shadowy room—instead of subtracting from it, brought out the elegance too, in what she said and didn't say, as a penumbra of containment. She had her trials over the years, but even then, though she could be vivacious, outgoing, and funny—even surprisingly clownish, Laurel berated by Hardy, scratching her head with a grin— the repose came back at will and she knew how to hold her peace. I hadn't seen the red greatcoat yet or the voluminous scarves, but even when simply dressed she was very subtly in fashion, although I'm not quite sure that I caught it when she opened the door that night, because Dick came out of the bedroom and, as she was reminding him that we'd met, took something off a shelf in the kitchen and then, as if I weren't there, disappeared again. Her smile was wanly amused, assuming I'd understand, though still uneasy myself, she might have been smiling at me. “When I'm rehearsing,” she said, “he mostly stays with my parents, up in the Bronx. They spoil him.” No

doubt. And sooner than I could imagine, utterly unprepared, I'dPage 103 → find myself dealing with that. Meanwhile, I gathered she wasn't rehearsing, and with no part to study at night, and not apparently dating, it was also why we could meet. The fact was that, whatever the promise on Broadway, there'd been a dry run on casting, and she'd only been doing scenes, with an acting group she had joined. What I did understand, as we talked about my writing, and why I was back in Brooklyn, and then about her acting, after growing up in the Bronx, is that whatever it was she'd become, if she wasn't so to begin with, all of it was hard-earned, and so far as there was anything like the glamour that appeared to be there at Stanford, there weren't that many jobs to sustain it now she was back in New York. And that, for the anxious actor, was the way of the world. Even out in California I was becoming aware of that, but the degree of it and the implications, the humiliating effect of it on those, not only around Broadway, but all over the American theater—what impelled the opening outrage of The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto—all that I began to see, not only as we talked, but as I became more familiar with what she had to contend with, feeling thwarted in time because I couldn't spare her from it. But before it came to that, there was a night when, in my father's blue Pontiac, we drove up the West Side Highway and into the countryside across the Washington Bridge, and that was the romantic beginning of what, incredibly, even as it happened, I could still hardly believe—though it was Bea who was giving me the confidence to somehow make it happen, and in the theater eventually, too, even more than she thought. Quick as it all seemed, there was a learning process. Before I was utterly jaundiced about what was happening there in New York, so much of it was still new, and some of it seemed exciting, even flattering, as I moved through the scene with Bea. I was meeting other actors, and in going to plays with her, seeing them as she saw them, with more attention to the acting, and what below the surface I might otherwise miss: when it was tense, when relaxed, some indiscernible pulse justifying a pause, or something wrong with the breathing—with breath being what, as she eventually taught, really does the acting. Avid as I was to see what in the most nuanced acting might very well still escape me, none of this kept me from sounding off about what I thought of the play, what it meant or pretended to mean, what it was doing and was it worth it. And I'd sound off all the more because Bea liked to hear what I thought, or if for some reason I didn't say it, would ask me questions about it, though more than once, when it came to a judgment and I didn't like the play, she was rather taken aback. So was Teddy Post, one of the two directors who had organized the group that shePage 104 → was working with—a group then rivaling the Actor's Studio, with certain dropouts from it, because they couldn't take Lee Strasberg, as Bea couldn't either. The other director was Sidney Lumet, who made it in Hollywood with The Pawnbroker and Dog Day Afternoon. Of the two, I came to know Teddy, compact, dark-haired, a dynamic, left-leaning, promising whiz of a director, who didn't do much on Broadway before making it big on TV and going to Hollywood too, with great adventures there, from Beneath the Planet of the Apes to Clint Eastwood in Hang ’Em High and as Dirty Harry in Magnum Force. It was Teddy who, at Bea's urging, read one of my plays and, since he also grew up in Brooklyn, he really got with it, proposing that he might stage it at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research, where Teddy also taught. But he'd have to show it first to Erwin Piscator, founding director of the Dramatic Workshop, where there were students ranging from Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis to Harry Belafonte and Shelly Winters. I must have seen one or another of the now-famous when Teddy took me there, but it was the productions themselves that I remember, nothing else like them that I saw in New York. Rather forgotten now, Piscator was prominent for experiments with a proletarian theater, uniting Communist workers with the Berlin Dada movement, and was the actual creator of Epic theater—with ideologized spectacle and political lectures, legends, passwords—before his collaborations with Brecht. When he was forced into exile by the Nazis, he brought elements of that tradition, its visual and acting techniques, including the Verfremdungseffekt, over to New York. When Teddy gave my play to Piscator, I was astonished that he read it almost immediately and summoned me to his office. I say summoned, because that was, for all the socialist politics, his imperious Germanic way. I didn't really know who he was, except what Teddy had told me, but having seen several productions at the Dramatic Workshop—including a doubly alienated version of Pirandello's Tonight We Improvise, with schematic improvisations in a scathing social critique—I was only too anxious to meet him, and hear what he thought of my play. When I came into the office, he dispensed with all courtesies or small talk, and as I sat on the other side of

his desk, he launched into a forty-five minute dissection of the text, never asking what I thought, so swift, detailed, unstinting, that I could hardly take it in, though I'm sure it was, if anything, politically correct. Anyhow, I was so put off by a certain Stalinist assurance that, without a word when he finished, I reached over and took the manuscript and simply walked out ofPage 105 → the room. I never saw Piscator again until he was back in Germany, much honored after the war, and directing the Freie Volksbühne, but this was somewhat later, one night at Wagner's Bayreuth, where I'd been invited from Lincoln Center. As we were being introduced, I mentioned having met him when he was still in New York, and how much what he'd done there had meant at the time to me. He was very cordial. Jules was right about Heffner, who wrote me a letter suggesting that I return to Stanford, to continue the good work I'd started there, and to complete an MA. He was looking forward, he said, to seeing my plays on stage. I'd never, of course, received a letter like that from a teacher, no less one as formidable as Heffner. That may have done more for my ego than he intended, for when I did return, I refused to take any more courses, but aside from the play for my thesis, there was no pushing about requirements, and they virtually gave me the degree. Even so, I probably wouldn't have gone, staying adamantly in New York, had Bea not urged me to do it, all the more because it was apparent to her—though she'd been surprised by my background in science, and beguiled when I'd talk of theater in terms of thermodynamics—that the prospect of advanced work in engineering was by then, if not entropic, a rather misty vision. For all that, there was a muddle of emotion and another misty vision, that of her coming with me, since she was still the major contribution that the Drama Department at Stanford had made to my life and career. There were certainly moments after returning when I was ready to go back to New York, but a few things happened to deter me, one accidentally academic (which I'll come to shortly), but mainly Bea herself, in her much-awaited letters, where she was trying to keep us reasonable. There were, with measured or intemperate frequency, the subtle and not so subtle petitions from me, in my own raveled letters, and the occasional costly phone calls, which she really tried to avoid, the talk breeding confusion, and then the stupefying occurrence one day, her telling me over the phone—in a drawn-out rehearsal of all that made it impossible, how could it make any sense?—that she and Dick were coming to join me. And then, on the dreamscape of exhilaration, the real with a touch of panic. Where, to begin with, were we going to live? And where, to support a family, would the money come from, except from Bea herself? The fellowship that brought me there, with its cavalier inception, was a pretty big deal when it came, but bare bones beyond tuition, and was anyhow running out. That was why, even before the return to New York, I had a job waitingPage 106 → on tables, while living in several places after leaving the Stricklands, and then when I came back. Nor was I sharing a room with Jules. His life had also become complicated, but in ways that he'd forseen, except for the blizzard in New York when he married Priscilla Pointer. She had acted with him in The Hasty Heart that I saw at NYU, but Buddy had met her in Paris during the war, when she was touring abroad with the USO, entertaining the troops, and they had performed together then in a production of Brother Rat. I wasn't at the wedding, but was there in California when, with those golden hills behind the campus, he and the bride arrived, the blue-eyed winning boy in his new convertible, top down and red plaid seat covers, and Priscilla there beside him, beautiful, vibrant, a former Conover model, the two of them materializing as from a dream's promise, like characters out of The Great Gatsby in their most pristine appearance—indeed, with all the blessings on a resplendent afternoon. And sublime as that was, idyllic, it was surely more realistic than what was impending for Bea and, with Dick there too, what she'd invested in me. About the time Bea came out to Stanford, giving up her career in New York, I had already wandered over to the English Department to see about a course in poetry. The curmudgeonly man teaching it stood behind a lectern and, rocking obdurately on his heels, literally read his own essays, from a book called In Defense of Reason, with some mumbled metacommentary. The referents mostly escaped me, but he couldn't care less for the paradoxical “tension,” verbal icon or “well-wrought urn,” or the factitious “ambiguity” that others took as determinants of quality in a poem. Speaking of tension, it was the first time I'd ever felt in a classroom that this was a matter of life and death. Each idea was a moral issue, and you found yourself at risk if you didn't take it seriously. I hadn't the faintest notion of who he was, but it turned out to be Yvor Winters, the most unyieldingly rigorous of the great

New Critics, with whom I eventually did my dissertation. That also came about accidentally, after the head of the department, Richard Foster Jones—with whom I took a seminar in (of all things, and I'm not sure why) Ciceronian rhetoric—came up to me one day on the quad, and said, “Mr. Blau, would you like to teach?” How he became aware of my background in engineering, I don't know, but he wanted me to do a freshman course in Scientific Writing, which I did, with the very best students at Stanford, in chemistry, physics, neurology, micro this or that, and those preparing for medical school. As for a PhD, I didn't even know what that was until I started teaching, and was admitted into the program, whereupon I had to confront, in Ciceronian fashion, as an epistemologicalPage 107 → and ethical matter, what it was I didn't know—and that was still abundant, in life as well as literature, with Bea and Dick on the scene. About the time they came, I was completing the MA project, a play called Out of the Rain, set on Atlantic Avenue in the Depression, with a central character, first seen as a teenager, who was a retrospectively discovered version of my own poetic sensitivity, but tormented by a deeply-felt capacity for violence, inherited from his crazy father, who was gassed in World War I—here, of course, the lineage from cousin Maxie and my Uncle Jake. The play was staged in the Little Theater, and for better or worse, with some impact, because of an off-the-street intensity not the usual thing at Stanford. There was nothing yet, however, like the indirection or strategic difficulty I was learning about in poetry, which might have averted the insipid lyricizing that, in one or another scene or character, was in the wrong neighborhood, or coming from something other than a tenement mentality. Not long after, another play of mine, By Definition, was also produced, more violence there, but set in Greenwich Village, a bar like Louis' Tavern, off Sheridan Square, where—after Bea had shown me around—I'd sometimes hang out with Eddie Bezozo, an old friend from Boys High, a star athlete there, who had also been a student at Stanford. There was usually, at the corner of the bar, a reclusive crowd of lesbians, mostly dykie types, with whom we became friendly. But what touched off By Definition was a late night there, when Eddie, nearly drunk, was going nowhere with two whores at the bar, while I was sitting at a table, discussing immortality with a guy who wrote for a religious magazine. His wife, quite beautiful, but hysterical with gaiety, was singing college songs with everybody else in the place—not their thing, but even the lesbians joining in. This gave me the idea, and a possible opening line: as the woman was carried away by a high note, about to stand up on her chair, her husband leaned toward me and said, “She's going to die”—as if some fatal illness meant she were going to live forever. As I don't any longer have a copy of the manuscript (that early stuff discarded), I'm not at all sure that it did start that way, nor that it even picked up on the theme. What I do remember, however, is that the play—with competition from a visiting fellow in the Creative Writing Program, who had just had a production on Broadway—won the Margery Bailey Prize in Drama. The play was staged by lanky, uptight witty, genteel Allen Fletcher, and while it may have been a stretch for both of us, across very different perspectives, the rehearsals must have gone well, because we came through them as rather good friends. Allen later became artistic director of the Seattle RepertoryPage 108 → Theater, and after that directed at ACT in San Francisco (started by Bill Ball, after we left for Lincoln Center), where he was also head of the actor training program. As for Miss Bailey herself (who'd have hated the use of Ms.), she was still teaching when By Definition was done—a formidable woman, rotund, authoritarian, the resident Gertrude Stein, but a Restoration scholar who, despite the licentiousness of that period, found the play too “raw” and wrote to the campus Daily about “the Brooklyn School of playwrights” at Stanford, though so far as could be determined I was the only one there from Brooklyn. No matter, Bea loved me. And it was on April 18, 1949, a week after I finished the preface to Out of the Rain (that text, as a bound thesis, still survives), that we left Dick with a friend and, having decided to get married, and quickly, drove to Reno, Nevada. It was not an auspicious occasion, because by the time we arrived nobody was there to marry us, all the agencies and chapels closed, unlike Las Vegas, where they were apparently open all night. So we decided with no stayover to go down there, with no sense of how long a drive it would be. It was still dark, but near morning, when we arrived, lights still on all over, but mainly for the casinos. We drove around, with no luck, until I saw a dim light through the window of a chapel, and instead of waiting for it to open, knocked on the door, and knocked again, until somebody woke up finally and said they'd do it. I forget where and how we got the marriage license, perhaps administered there, but remember being asked a few brief questions about how fancy

a ceremony we wanted. When we said, irritably, simple, they gave Bea a corsage, rounded up a couple of witnesses, and with a few brief words—and my additional irritation about God's presence in the pronouncing—that was it. We went to a hotel, exhausted, and the marriage wasn't consummated that night. Before that trip to Nevada, the three of us had settled into a space no bigger than the apartment in Greenwich Village, with Dick up high on a bunk bed, in a cabin in Mountain View. In what was then a pastoral setting, the outside made up for the inside. There was a walnut tree on the lawn, with a bounty of nuts in season, and you could reach outside the window and, an orchard right beside us, tinged orange, flecked with white, pluck an apricot. With the ranch across the road, there was for Dick the added attraction of horses that came to the fence, where he lingered with sugar cubes, and up the gravelly road Bea and I would take evening walks toward the hills in Los Altos, turning around with the sunset. If it seemed for a few weeks or so as if we were on vacation, reality soon set in: forPage 109 → myself, trying to write, correct papers, and do the reading for my courses; for Bea, wanting not to rush it, but restive about not acting, she had to think of where. She should have known it before she came, but things were not that promising. Aside from the Stanford Players, there was up and down the Peninsula a circuit of “little theaters,” the best of which, in San Mateo, was the Hillbarn Summer Theater, which avoided Broadway schlock with an unusual repertoire of classics, but mainly amateur actors. San Francisco was off there in the middle distance, but that wasn't feasible, if affordable, what with the encroaching pressure of her depleted bank account. So for a while I took a job at a French restaurant nearby, the only one in the vicinity of Stanford, on El Camino Real. I had waited on tables at another restaurant, but in Palo Alto, when in my first round at Stanford I left Encina Hall and rented a room at the home of Antonia LaComblé. A tiny French woman, with eccentric ways and a maternal heart, Antonia would now and then prepare several-course dinners for the two of us on weekends, and as I watched her slicing meats or vegetables, kneading dough, or selecting spices, it was a long cuisined way from my mother's kitchen. And it was with Antonia, too, that for the first time out of school I heard French spoken and tried some conversation. I wasn't, however, either speaking French or waiting on tables at the rather posh restaurant on El Camino Real, nor was I working in the kitchen. I was, rather, a sort of doorman, or window-man, a lookout watching for cops who would show up asking for driver's licenses and identity cards from likely underage drinkers. I'd signal the manager if I saw a patrol car, and he would go from table to table warning the students and gesturing waiters to pick up glasses. The pay was not much at all, but it was supplemented by the fine cuisine there: virtual full-course dinners, food prepared but unused, from hors d'oeuvres to certain entrées, with royal desserts as well. I would take it all back to the cabin for late dinners of our own, or more often to store in the fridge, and used for regular meals. Before long, however, since I was into the PhD, and she insisted that I continue, it was Bea who took a job. She worked in Palo Alto, as a sales-woman in a dress shop. Things were so dire at one point that she was, with mop and Lysol, even cleaning houses—and I'd sit there on the steps of the porch, cracking walnuts from the tree, or smashing them in a rage, while trying to read Chaucer or Milton, or maybe Pope's “Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady,” with feelings somewhere between irresponsibility, foolishness, and outright humiliation. Not to mention the fear that she'd leave me, since again and yet again this made no sense for her. NorPage 110 → did my behavior with Dick make up for it, since I was hardly the model stepfather. Impatient with myself, I'd lose patience with him. As he was used to being indulged, that only doubled his confusion, or brought out the animosity, and he'd start to shout at me, and I'd swat him then and there. If that was mutually infantile, the tone would change on certain days, and we'd be laughing like kids together, grabbing apricots from the trees and lobbing them at each other or wrestling on the grass. With a light-skinned body lean as pine, but always a little stiff, his instincts were not athletic, but here I was really patient and we also played ball, and in playing he wanted to please me. I'd pitch to him, with the fence as a backup, out on the road, waist-high, slow, making it easy to hit, and one strike, two strikes, and strikes we wouldn't count that would drive him to tears of frustration, he was elated when he did. Or, with a toy store ball and a wooden hoop, which I attached to the walnut tree, I'd teach him to shoot fouls or make a layup, never mind the dribble, running around me to do it, or I'd grab him as he went, and we'd tumble to the grass, as if we were playing football. We couldn't wrestle or tumble, though we could pretend to fish, in the declivity across the road, with its rock-

bottomed shallow creek, when we managed to find an apartment at the shabbier edge of Palo Alto. We had moved there because it was easier for Bea to go to work, and because Dick was ready for first grade, and he could walk to school as he couldn't if we'd stayed in Mountain View—that rural site displaced into what the landlord, Mr. Shelton, called The Shady Lawn. The apartment was, with some loose, uneven floorboards and suspect electric fixtures, actually spacious, the lower floor of a square old building with peeling gray and green paint, fronted by a dry patch of the eponymous lawn with three surviving trees: an acacia, a palm, and a balding pine. And though it took another form, it was that pine I remembered, along with Mr. Shelton, when those characters impacted with history, or wasted by it, came to the leafless tree in Waiting for Godot or, with the untellable story of a memory that never forgets, to the hollow wall in Endgame. On one side, near the driveway, was a stone slab with The Shady Lawn encrested in chrome letters. In the back was a circular driveway with a barbecue pit in the center that was invariably filled to overflowing, with garbage. Nearby was a concrete island with an oilcloth-covered table littered with an ever-changing assortment of junk. Outside our kitchen window was a sort of lumberyard, with split boards and clumps of wood, some of it decayed or mildewed, which Mr. Shelton picked up at wreckings, which he must have been doing for years. In the rear of the yard was aPage 111 → shack crammed with old and broken tools, battered chests, a rusty filing cabinet, the moldy springs and stained mattress of a Hollywood-type bed, sundry frames, drawers, and chairs, and an unframed chromo of the turn of the century depicting the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, with two goldenhaired, fair-faced, beatific lovers. You came to them through a woodpile of broken stumps, sawed-off branches, and some sticks that had been scorched in fire. We were permitted to use as much of this as we wanted for the fireplace in our apartment, though no reason to use it much because of Palo Alto weather. As for Mr. Shelton, he didn't live in the empty apartment above us, but on the other side of the driveway, in a one-room cottage in which at night he'd sit before a blazing fire, in a caved-in armchair that was strikingly luxurious compared to the other furniture. It was the sort of Beckettian armchair in which, with the fire burnt out or dying (“What dreams! Those forests!”), you might imagine Hamm. There was, however, an alternate space, over the garages behind the cottage, which could have been the setting for another play which, later at The Actor's Workshop, we also eventually did: Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, which opens on a stage-clutter of properties, hardware and utilities, with no dramaturgical function, except the clutter itself: “a kitchen sink, a step-ladder, a coal bucket, a lawn-mower, a shopping trolley, boxes …” There was no kitchen sink, but otherwise, with ladders, boxes, lawn mower, and scattered gadgets besides, a similar accumulation, an unaccountable assemblage, in Mr. Shelton's garret, where he slept and also cooked, and where you could see on the gas range—no refrigerator either, but that mightn't have made a difference—a days-old ham bone with slivers of rotten meat, and a stack of dirty plates. How did he do the dishes? Maybe with sand or not at all. There were odors you wouldn't like. Yet if you came upon it today, you might think of it, with its slovenly plethora as an index of time, as one of those hyperdetailed, quasi narratives of installation art, the site of a chaos of memory (Kabakov merged with Beuys, “total installation”), implicitly diaristic. There was for all that—and Bea and I both felt it—something immensely moving about the man, and a certain mystery about which we wanted to know more. Certainly he hadn't lived that way all his life. Mr. Shelton's hands were always crusted with paint and plaster, and tiny white granules spattered his face. Even when he was working he sometimes looked mummified, or like an alabaster statue, which would suddenly come alive. One time he was fixing a wall switch in our apartment, and he asked me what I was reading, which happened to be Coriolanus. I may have saidPage 112 → something about its being a Roman play, which set off an association, and there he was reminiscing, the artisan in him with an aesthetic drift: “I couldn't figure,” he said, “how they did it. I stood in that there Colosseum, you know—beautiful, full of marble, all those big statues, and I wondered how they managed to get all those chunks of stone way up to the top of those steps. Thousands of steps. Well, you know, I got a book and read about it, and all they said was the Romans by manual labor just dragged them stones up. Manual labor, hell. What they used was rollers, like castors. They knew about the inclined plane in those days.” He went back to fixing the switch, then said in what was almost a reverential tone: “Marvelous civilization, them Romans. We could learn a lot from them.” I was about to say we did, but nodded my head unmeaningly and waited for his next words. There weren't any. He merely gazed at me, wearily, and—was he

remembering or forgetting, or trying to blank what out?—it was like looking into the eyes of a blind man. He turned and tried the switch, then quietly passed out of the door, in that silent passage leaving more than he meant behind. So too, more than once, when I saw him above the garage, watching Dick from a distance, and then, as if from the inclined plane of memory, turning away inside. I've become rather good over the years at getting people to talk about themselves, but it might have been in vain if I had tried that with Mr. Shelton, whose junk-and-garbage habitat, the very perplexity of it, seemed a tithe of revelation, as if he had to do it—and about anything personal, as much as we'd ever know. Bea and I would discuss him, and with her psychological acuity she would try to parse him out. She had a quick eye for behavior, and I wasn't far behind, but what we saw wasn't seeing him in the same way, which was normal enough, of course, though this difference led to that, sometimes more about us, or otherwise deflected by my instincts of speculation. Those instincts appealed to Bea, who said she loved me for them, though they led away from Mr. Shelton to a myriad of other questions, becoming in turn a pretext for our parsing each other out, in that psychic space between us that even with further intimacy still felt as if we were strangers. I still find myself asking, even about those one would think exempt from otherness, why aren't we—even with the greatest intimacy—transparent to each other? Multiply the estrangement by what we think of as community, and that psychic space becomes the defining space of theater. If that hardly occurred to me then, as it did much later in theory, so far as the questions did carry over to what I thought about theater, there were those who spoke of it,Page 113 → when I started directing, as being too intellectual. I was pissed even then that, whether indifferent or threatened, those bastards didn't see it as a passion, that implosion at the nerve-ends that I felt as blooded thought. But Bea saw it and had to live with it, as well as the doubts they'd never see, about this idea or that, or questions of authenticity, which ideas were mine, through all the belated reading, and the doubts I had for years, feeling empty this day, ashamed the next, as to whether I ever knew enough. And though she wrote in a book on acting, published many years after, that “the malicious angel” of performance is “mental interference,” Bea would never have gone for the banal distinction between a feeling person and a thinking person. She liked ideas, and however they accrued—improvised, borrowed, inspired—the fact is I had plenty of them, and sometimes she'd keep me thinking about what was possessing her, which might be a line from a play, crucial to a role, or something out of a dream, all the more important because it seemed so trivial. Among her dreams, by the way, were those which are common among actors, but which also, for all her attractive presence, attested to insecurities: the dream of always losing her place in the drama, or everybody laughing at her in rehearsal when she forgets a line. Or going back to adolescence, the dream of playing basketball at camp, everybody cheering for her, but she can't move her legs—which was, indeed, and I'll have more to say about it, something more than a dream. Bea's mind was always surprising; it could be one day insistently empirical, then almost surreal or Zen-like, given over to chance, and sometimes, too, pensive, painstaking, even long-suffering, as if that were the moral condition for being reckless and scrupling at once. And for her, morality was an instinct. Her compassion was extraordinary, but if she could be warmly sympathetic, she could also be severely puritan, and through the years, sometimes tortuously, I felt that severer judgment. Unsparing as she could be, it was apparent from the beginning that, with all my own incertitudes, there was in her faith and devotion a kind of gratuitous offering, nothing that I could match. And early on, whatever she took from me, an important thing I learned from her is what she had learned from acting, while aware she was not exempt (no actor is) from having to learn it again (some never do) through a lifetime of rehearsals. It is a learning curve that intersects what I should have known from sports, that in critical situations you can only play the moment, what's there, not there, putting the questions in abeyance, thus letting the instincts work, without cutting anything off or making anything up. What's there, of course, may be illusion, the distressing reality of it,Page 114 → which is why the questions return, sometimes with a vengeance, all the more as provocation, thus widening the context in which the acting has to occur: what's there not there, and what to do about it. That has serious consequences: it may not only change the course of action, but what we mean by acting, an often neglected question, with subplots of its own, which also need parsing out—act why? where? how? for whom? according to what disposition? or on what ideological grounds? As for Mr. Shelton, whatever he may have been, or not, he was a provocation, at a time

when everything was being absorbed, from scholarly books to an actress wife, into how I was thinking of theater. As the years went on I became all the more concerned with the activity of perception, what you see and what you don't, and what perhaps you'll never see, never mind what you want to, but every sensation gathered, the particularity of it, what for all the fastidious looking you can still only imagine. There were, to be sure, other things going on with our lives at The Shady Lawn, but the figure of Mr. Shelton was, if not a mere distraction, a perceptual exercise, arousing my desire to know, with a studied awareness that, even when you think you do, you're probably still guessing. That, for me, is still the crux of identity politics. And if, in a Freudian sense, it was learning to live in doubt, an objective over time was to make a theater form of that, though it was not exactly the going thing—no doubt about it, something I learned quick—when I did begin to direct. An immediate objective, however, was working things through with Dick, who rather liked The Shady Lawn, all that junk around to play with, Mr. Shelton didn't mind, and to substitute for the horse ranch, sliding down to the creek, and as if wading in a riverbed going barefoot on the rocks. Things were better with us, until it came to his schoolwork, when the tension came up again, and with it ambiguity. He was smart enough, to be sure, but as his teacher told Bea one day, he either forgot to do this or couldn't care less about that, and as if to put us on he'd mispronounce words or seemed to be slow in his reading. So I'd have him read to me, and asked him questions about it. And I'd usually have him do it, sitting him next to the sink on a stool, while I was washing dishes after dinner (which Bea mostly made, even when she'd been working). “I don't want to read,” he'd say, out of the litany of resistance. “I don't want to wash dishes,” I'd say. “Read!” And that went from bad to worse, as it carried over to Bea, who with the guilt trips leading to arguments didn't know how to deal with it either, or for that matter, with me—and something resembling, but not quite, an onset of depression. Page 115 → I'm still not sure what it is, a morose self-absorption inflicted on those I love, but if that became over the years congenital for other reasons, a virtual necessity of my work—never what it should be, but what would it be without it?—it was attributable then to the simple fact that, with Bea giving me all the benefit of the doubt, I didn't know what I was doing. There I was at twenty-three with a wife who was five years older, and a kid who was going on six, unable to support them and, also insupportable, worried about doing my homework. How long would she be able to take it? And there were times when I wished she wouldn't. What proved to be a saving grace was again beyond expectation, this time, however, not initiated by some whynot-try-it impulse or wayward propensity of my own. On the contrary, academically, I had never been so focused. Despite worrying about money and losing my wife, the PhD was progressing, and it felt like a privilege (and still does) to be reading canonically, from Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon to Virginia Woolf in Bloomsbury (with that subliminal room of her own), or yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm, by way of the four humours up the Great Chain of Being. As for Shakespeare studies then, before the hegemony of the New Historicism, it was Christian humanism that prevailed, while being the source of moral consciousness in most of the New Critics. He was not a New Critic, but pudgy, jolly Virgil Whitaker, at the first session of his Shakespeare seminar, propped his two chins on a stiff collar and, with a scholarly rigor, distributed a bibliography of collateral readings; collateral, not optional, the assumption being that you'd do the reading. And thus I found myself, a faithless Jew from Brooklyn who'd never read the Talmudic rabbis, absorbed beyond belief in St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and with the hardening of religious arteries through the anticlericalism of the Reformation, Luther and Calvin too—all of which, despite my unregenerate atheism, turned out to be some of the most memorable and useful reading I've ever done. Does God exist? It's a baseless question to me, but there was a powerful lesson in the Summa Theologica, as Aquinas, outdoing Cicero's pros and cons, went through every known argument in the world, Arabic, Western, wherever, against the existence of God, and then—restating the arguments even more persuasively, to the succinct limit of logic irrefutable—went on to refute them one by one. The metaphysical scruple was also remarkably cunning, but it taught me to be attentive without reflexive judgment, and to understand even better, even to say better, the best that can be said forPage 116 → the other side, where at some dubious limit of what you'd prefer to think (not quite Aquinian here) the answers don't come easy, and you're assessing your own ideas. But moved to

that by theology, what of the saving grace? With coursework still going, getting ready for exams, dissertation not yet started, I was offered a job in the Language Arts Department at San Francisco State. And that, removing us from the creek, moved us into the city. How it came about would be unbelievable today, and I utterly lucked out then: no ads for the job, no application, no resumé, letters, writing samples, no student evaluations, no trip to the MLA, just an interview at the college, which had been arranged—and without the narrowing down of hundreds of candidates—by a guy I knew from a couple of seminars, another Herb, who had just about finished his dissertation and was already teaching there. Herb Shore was one of those graduate students to whom I definitely felt inferior. That was not because he was any smarter, more profoundly intellectual, but because he'd been reading books when I was solving equations, and he knew the literature as I didn't, though in the zealotry of catching up what I said of it in the seminars must have caught his attention, in particular when I'd risk it and take issue with Winters. There was also the matter, for Herb, of something like class distinctions, and I think it rather helped that I had a Brooklyn accent (and still do, though considerably less, except when I'm excited). This was a time, by the way, with Stanford then establishing itself as “the Princeton of the West,” when the expectancy was in a seminar that you'd be there properly dressed, and in the department's seminar room, scholarship furnished in rosewood, lined with leather-bound books, there might be classic blazers and ties, especially among those who came from Ivy League schools. Mark Linenthal, who later became head of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State, was one of those who did, with a bachelor's degree and MA from Harvard. If I more or less conformed, and usually wore a tie, Herb Shore wouldn't on principle, as he also resisted the stringent formalism of Winters, which he might call “elitist” today—though I didn't think of it so then, and I wouldn't think so now. And indebted as I was to Herb for the job that saved my marriage, I always had some trouble with his ideological disposition. Both of us were on the left, which at that time meant liberal, and there were ideas and judgments we shared, even when we argued, the fervor of which I rather enjoyed, while still admiring through all difference not only what he knew about literature, but the breadth of his political knowledge, charged as it was by Marx. Where action had to be taken, he had apparentlyPage 117 → paid his dues, having done what, in the scholarly ethos of detachment, presumably objective, apolitical, few of us were bothering about. As to why he started the PhD, there was the often repeated puzzle of his not quite joking question: “What am I doing here?” Now and then we'd go off to muse over that at a local bar, or on the downslope of the city, near the Marina, the Buena Vista Café—good ham and Swiss sandwiches, and all kinds of beer, including Herb's favorite, a dark Carlsbad from Denmark. But the place was rather artsy, maybe too much with it, or more than Herb liked; so we'd abandon it for the Longbar, with its hootchie dancers and inept quartet, the singer with a sexy grind, the bar half empty, mixed white and colored clientele, an occasional sailor in the corner pecking his head to the music; then the one-legged dancer, and off-key, the Danny Boy song—all of us tossing coins at him as he steadied himself with muscular dignity, and made bad jokes. We'd order a pitcher of beer, and the waitress kept pouring it, bringing another as it emptied, almost contemptuous that we were not drinking faster. Herb thought she was great, tough, with pride; we should have been waiting on her. Smoke-stained, smelly, with spilled beer, and sex-sweating bodies, the atmosphere of the place thickened through the evening. But the tawdrier it was, the more Herb felt a sense of belonging. And the more compromised he felt the more he thought of it as a rite of passage on behalf of the oppressed. In this regard, Herb Shore was really a lesson in the psychodynamics of commitment, which at some perverse or hubristic level, if it doesn't get all the credit, wants it kept to itself. As for the possibility that we might on our own understand an issue as he did, maybe sometimes better, he'd look upon that, at best, as an unearned epiphany, with nothing like his experience behind it, whether on a picket line with striking workers or—before the civil rights movement was a dream on the Washington Mall—side by side with the Negroes. It was as if in our late conversions some academic logic were displacing the earned distinction, even exceptionalism, of his own radical passion. And the irony was that he was harder to talk with. Or, in some ensnaring mimicry of revolutionary zeal, he wouldn't talk at all, as if the ideals that really escaped us, what he was once determined to share, were now imprisoning him. One of the last times I saw Herb was during a hearing at City Hall of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. He looked different—aspect, attitude, as if he'd had it, or deliberately gone to seed—hair overgrown, disheveled clothes, more ostentatiously so, however, than anything he'd have worn at Stanford. He

was amiable enough with me, but his smile was a shield forPage 118 → resentment, eyes scornful, superior, as if he were about to tell somebody off—but who would be listening then? Not even, if he were called, and he wasn't, by the imperturbable HUAC. In his warped zeal, really, Herb was a prototype, for there is a vanity to radical passion, as there was during the Sixties, which left in its disillusionments others quite like him. There is in a similar warp another version of this today—I mean the vanity of it, with premature disillusion—among young academics who, in the security of a college campus, know all about the quadrivium: race, class, gender, ethnicity, and are ready to enlighten us, instruct us, while thinking of themselves as oppressed. More than twenty years ago I wrote an essay called “(Re)sublimating the Sixties,” explaining how, as the dissidence of that period receded here, it went over to Europe, with the Living Theater, rock music, and blue jeans, was highly theorized there, and thus doubly sublimated, the activism repressed, but reified in repression, coming back to the USA, like the Freudian fort/da, in the guise of deconstruction, then trickling down into cultural studies, where oppression rules the day: race, class, gender, ethnicity assuming dominion in the curriculum. If this suggests that our respected younger colleagues are hardly being ignored, the liability now is that the position-taking is predictable, whether Foucauldian, feminist, queer, critical race or identity theory, its ideological sameness, as they continue to inform us about the depredations of power, never mind the talk of subversion. And if in this recycled history you've had any history of it, not only the critical theory, when it was still fighting conservative backlash, but activism, controversy, in and out of the academy, with an equivocal view of power, there are times you want to say (at least I do), been there, done that, and go back to Beowulf. I do go back every time I think of Kelly, who could, and did, instruct me, Robert Glynn Kelly, an imposing presence at Stanford, insular, almost reclusive, keeping his politics to himself. And though I was again commuting for courses—not the subway this time, but Skyline Boulevard, a mountain road among the redwoods in my little Ford—I regretted not seeing him more when I went to San Francisco. I might quarrel with Herb Shore, but had to defer to Kelly, because with an entitled arrogance he seemed to know it all, the first graduate student I'd met who, though he was also writing fiction, really felt like a scholar. In a seminar, he would sit cross-legged, elbow socketed in the arm of his chair, chin on a taut palm, an incisive look shifting to whoever might be speaking, brow creased in readiness if he was about to raise an objection. Whereas the rest of us read papers in the seminar, Kelly spoke from a few well-organized notes. Gesticulating sharply,Page 119 → he knew at all times exactly what he wanted to say, and I envied how he'd say it, not a word wasted, but no dearth of them either, in his expressive power. Even his metaphors, and they were surprising, seemed like Pound's Image, direct treatment of the thing. Over at Kelly's house, to which I was invited after a while, I soon realized there was an unwritten law: you didn't sit in his armchair. That was backed against a bookcase, where even with one person Kelly held court, taking apart a text, which he did with perfect ease, or propounding critical precepts. There was nothing unintentional, even in everyday life. His hair was growing inordinately long, and when he shook his head in a negative it draped itself along his temples, as if—and with no Intentional Fallacy—that image was designed. If all of this was forbidding, we became friends, I think, by taking positions toward Winters. Both of us were respectful of his unrelenting mind, and if put off by the absoluteness of his judgments, ready to defend him against others who thought he was too extreme—not only his dismissal of most of Eliot or begrudgingness with Yeats, but the devastation of Hart Crane, who really valued Winters's opinion, divided as it was, but the worst of it coming first. And then, after the suicide in the Caribbean, there was also Winters's suggestion, more like a conviction, that through “minstrel galleons of Carib fire” the poetry brought Crane there, to the “vortex of his grave” and “The seal's wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.” If we backed off at times from the certitude of his criticism—and Kelly too was impressed when, at one seminar, everything stopped and I actually debated Winters—the redeeming touchstone for us was the almost pristine forthrightness of a poem he wrote about poetry, as if with us in mind: The young are quick of speech. Grown middle-aged, I teach Corrosion and distrust, Exacting what I must.

A poem is what stands When imperceptive hands, Feeling, have gone astray. It is what one should say. Few minds will come to this. The poet's only bliss Is in cold certitude— Laurel, archaic, rude. Page 120 → As I came to know Winters, nothing moved me as much as the rudeness, and there was in Kelly an aspiration to something like that, along with the inclination to cold certitude. After we began meeting regularly, we'd read our essays to each other, or passages from poetry, and now and then, too, something from one of my plays or from the novel he eventually published, A Lament for Barney Stone. Our most strenuous time together was, however, in preparing for our doctoral exams—those five-day, eight-hour, period by period inquisitions. In coordinating the preparation, we started with a tennis match at dawn—he was taller and faster, and tennis was never my game—then each of us took on a designated territory in successive literary periods, studying all day, and then coming together at night to pose each other questions. The deference disappeared as I held my own with Kelly, and when I now and then outdid him, I could think of myself as a scholar. Outdoing Winters was quite another matter. My sense of him began to change when I was teaching at San Francisco State, in that hybrid English Department, renamed Language Arts, with its heterogenous faculty and—way before they surfaced anywhere else—its diffusely therapeutic, pedagogical, cultural studies inclinations. I realized then, though there were brilliant people on that faculty, the degree to which Winters had determined not only what it was that I taught, but how I went about it, the style my own, but with an insistent rigor, I mean I could really be tough. And if you had something to say—which, no matter, could be off the wall or deep end, maybe better so—you had to be ready to defend it, and no bullshit either, forget the vague psychologizing, refer it back to the text: this line, that phrase, this syllable, this collocation of consonants or insidious metric shift. As for the authority of the text, there may be perceptual slippage, but what we now think of as metonymic is still a moral issue; so think about it, think! interpretations may differ, but there's something inarguably there, those words, not others, take another look. I was teaching a lot of poetry, but the same with fiction or drama, even when I started to question, as I did in the staging of plays, the authority of the text. My obduracy in this regard was itself a moral issue at a time when, with SF State in advance, the insidious shift was toward student participation, and what some worried about, for good reason or wrong reason (and there was plenty of that) as a lowering of standards—and there's nothing whatever elitist in saying that's no longer in doubt. If Winters wasn't elitist, as I said before, he hardly looked it either. He'd come to class wearing a plaid tie, thin horn-rimmed glasses, and a darkPage 121 → woolen shirt. He had two suits, one navy blue, one gray, the former added to his wardrobe when he went off to Kenyon College to bring corrosion and distrust, at their invitation, into a colloquium with John Crowe Ransom and other critics—actually one of the rare occasions when Winters, who disliked traveling, agreed to lecture somewhere else. His ears, long and thin, pressed against his reddish face, which seemed to have taken on the (somewhat diminished) color of Stanford's tile roofs. The face was almost square, with a high brow, straight nose, and sandy hair, rather boyishly cut. He wore his belt low, because of an upswelling stomach, but he was otherwise compact at the waist and hips. His chest was wide, however, and his characteristic posture consisted of spreading his legs solidly about a foot apart and bobbing up and down on his toes, fists clenching, then fingers extended. In this way, after disposing of Poe or Whitman or Emerson, and the unfortunate romanticism in American thought and poetry, he'd stare belligerently at the class, ready for any challenge. And he knew about boxing too, if you wanted to put on the gloves. That's just about how he read it when the left-wing critic Robert Gorham Davis, writing in The American Scholar, included Winters in an indictment of the New Criticism as sharing fascist tendencies with T. S. Eliot, Charles

Maurras, and l'Action française. Winters came into class furious, waving the article that almost none of us had seen, and said, if anybody wanted to know about his politics, he'd voted four times for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and belonged to no organization except the Southern California Airedale Association. What he didn't say is that when, in Redwood City, a black family was threatened for moving into a white neighborhood, he took his trusty shotgun and sat on that family's doorstep in case an attacker should appear. And when the head of the Stanford Press was accused of murdering his wife, in what seemed to be an open-and-shut case, it was Winters's close reading and exacting analysis of the evidence that, confounding the prosecution, led to a hung jury. Acute as he could be, with a text or his own poems, Winters would walk with a light-footed lumber to class, carrying half a dozen books or more, rocking from side to side like a baby elephant. And if we sometimes joked about that, the weightless way he'd set his feet, there were also times we felt that he had to be indulged, as he grumpily made a point, then smiled with the self-righteous defiance of a diffident adolescent. It wasn't that, however, that made me take him on. Winters was also down on metaphor, in favor of a poetry of direct statement, but with rational grounding of any emotion. In a sense, too, the less said the better, as he moved over the yearsPage 122 → toward epigrammatic condensation or the brevity of a couplet. Early on, Winters had written imagistically, on a level with Pound or Williams, but in defense of reason he stopped doing that; and when his Collected Poems was first published, it was a very spare book, with only those poems that conformed to his critical principles. Meanwhile, in the more ex cathedra moments of his criticism, he might say, naming two or three poems, that these were the greatest of a given period, or for that matter, in the English language. In a seminar on the English lyric, including the metaphysical, he did that with Ben Jonson's “To Heaven” and George Herbert's “Church Monuments.” Whereupon I did a paper that set out to prove that of the two—and to be sure, they're both superb—”Church Monuments” is the better poem, precisely because it is metaphorical, while “To Heaven” is not. When I read the paper, Winters was incensed, but I didn't back off, and there was a sustained argument between us, with the rest of the seminar as avid spectators, quiet but urging me on, as I was getting the better of it, when Winters suddenly said, “Mr. Blau, the trouble with you is, you don't have a good ear.” And that was the end of the argument. I mean, I stopped—not because I was insulted or it was unfair, but as I told the others after class, when they said I should have stayed with it, that I was winning, I had to think it over. The fact was, going back to the Swing Club, I had a pretty damn good ear, and still do, but his was pitch perfect, extraordinary, and while to this day I think “Church Monuments” is by some unspeakable fraction the better poem, I'm still not sure that Winters wasn't hearing something that I missed. And that was, among other peculiar reasons, why I asked him shortly after to supervise my dissertation. He was dismissive of Eliot and condescending to Yeats, and whenever Winters was critical of something, I'd choose to write about it. When I told him that I wanted to do the dissertation on Eliot and Yeats, he was hardly enthusiastic, but resigned himself to it. And though he never thought much of the drama, no less a poetic drama, since it suffered from “the fallacy of imitative form”—the mimetic corrupting the poetry, even in Shakespeare's greatest plays—he also went along with the dissertation's theme: “Modern Poetry and Poetic Drama.” That he objected to what I was doing, no matter, Winters's objections were always a motivation. In this regard, he was the archetype of what I've come to value even in certain people with whom I disagree entirely, who may be more discerning, more germane—about, say, a political issue—than those I happen to vote with. And of course he was discerning when he did readPage 123 → the dissertation, to which he objected hardly at all, saying with grumbled acknowledgment that it was one of the best he'd supervised. As for my dualism about Winters, it also led to a couple of my earliest publications. In a seminar on criticism, Kenneth Burke was on the reading list, but Winters said nothing about him in class; so I decided to do a paper on Burke, which was published in American Quarterly in 1954. Though he was known in publications like The Nation and New Masses, that was the first article on Burke in an academic journal. After he wrote thanking me for the article, we met and corresponded—and later gave talks together at a conference on the humanities. Before that, in a seminar on early American poetry, Winters did talk about Edward Taylor, the Puritan metaphysical who (“Infinities fierce firy arrow red”) did write metaphorically. Winters admired Taylor, with reservations, and it was the reservations—along with my reading of Calvin, and Puritan theologians—that determined what I wrote about. That seminar paper was published in The New England Quarterly in 1953, one of the earliest pieces on Taylor.

Though I've done nothing on him since, the essay is still being cited, and was even reprinted by Harold Bloom in his series on literary criticism. Not bad, really, for a presumptuous graduate student. I say that, by the way, because graduate students then were not encouraged or expected to publish, and rarely took the initiative to send off papers. Nor did they give talks at the MLA, its convention a lot smaller, and hard even for faculty to get on the program—one or another a little dismayed when I did. But not Winters, possibly for the wrong reason: his disdain for most professors. But then, he'd had his share of disdain. There was not, as in some programs today, any big push for curricular change, but what was radical then at Stanford, with its legacy of philologists, grammarians, and editors of period texts, was criticism itself, no less what Winters was doing. Up into the 1940s, among literary scholars, it was considered bizarre bad taste, even irresponsible, to criticize the work of their contemporaries. It was John Crowe Ransom's book that had named him a New Critic, but Winters never really liked the label, because he was always in contention with the others, none of whom was even remotely as harsh in judgment. And now that the New Criticism is out—as reactionary, formalist, not merely elitist, but phallologocentric too—we tend to forget how hard it was for those as distinguished as Allen Tate and R. P. Blackmur to get a job on a college faculty. Winters may at first have been a little luckier: he entered Stanford for a doctorate in 1927 and was retained there as an assistant professor. But he was soon told by the chair of the English DepartmentPage 124 → that the kind of books he was writing, along with his interest in experimental poetry, were a “disgrace to the profession.” When I came to Stanford, Winters was nationally known, more prominent than anybody on the department faculty, but he had only been made a full professor about three years before. Actually, there was one other prominent person on the faculty whose influence upon me was more considerable than he knew, and once through an embarrassing incident. That was Wallace Stegner, the novelist, who directed the Creative Writing Program. I was in Stegner's course The Rise of Realism in American Fiction when the competition for the Margery Bailey Prize in Drama took place. One morning there was a note in my mailbox saying that the judges had made their decision, and that in the hour before class their comments would be available in Stegner's office. When several of us who had submitted plays were gathered there, Stegner held up a letter from one of judges, the theater scholar Kenneth McGowan, and said that the other guy (can't remember his name, but the one who made it to Broadway) had won the prize, which Stegner had already told him. And since it was expected, that seemed reasonable enough. But when I read through the comments by the other judges, Paul Green and Clifford Odets, I blanched and didn't know what to say, because Stegner had been mistaken. McGowan's own choice was the other guy's play, but the summary on the next page showed that he'd been outvoted. “Mr. Stegner,” I said, still hesitant, but holding out the page, “I think I won.” He looked, flushed, swore, grabbed the phone on his desk, apologized to the other playwright, while calling Public Relations to cancel a news release, and then the department secretary to hold off on the check, which was a sizable $500. That's when he turned to me, though not about the money. We wrote a paper each week for his class, on each of the novelists studied, and in the first several weeks he'd read a couple of mine aloud. And he read them as exemplary, to initiate discussion. Which may have induced him to say, “Herb,”—the first time he called me that—”could you go and start the class. I'll be there soon as I can.” What he wanted me to do, when I asked, was just that, to get a discussion going. Now, this wasn't a seminar, but an upper division class, with graduate students too, and while I was doing fine with freshmen, in Scientific Writing, I went across the quad, wondering how to begin, in a running confusion of questions. Assigned for that day was Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence—which, speaking of innocence, was all I knew of Wharton. I kept waiting for Stegner to show, but was up there on the podium through the entire class, and no essay to readPage 125 → this time. There were about fifty people there, to whom, after some rambling around the questions, I found myself lecturing, high on nerves and eye on the text, and from what some of them told me after, and also told Stegner, I must have had things to say. It was Stegner's class, too, which contributed to how I'd gradually come to say them. While Stegner is probably better known today for Angle of Repose and The Spectator Bird, which won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, his major novel at the time was The Big Rock Candy Mountain, which opened up consciousness to a Western frontier that, despite the cowboy movies, was really foreign to me. It also made me aware, through the

wanderlust escapism of the narrative's main character, of something else I hadn't thought about—a theme also explored in the class—which I've thought about much since, and written about as well: a life without history, no sense of history, nor what it is that makes history. Indeed, I've very recently published an essay, “Thinking History / History Thinking,” which with other frontiers in mind, subatomic and astrophysical, is still concerned with that, not only what makes it, but how to write it, as in “the spaced-out fractures of modernity,” digitized, diffused, “the speeding up of its scattering bewilders our sense of history, what's coming so fast it's already past.” If the rise of realism in American fiction seems, in “the globalized network of electronic textualization, … with its circuitry of the immaterial,” almost like ancient history, there was nevertheless some higher form of consciousness almost exceeding history, or escaping in subjunctivity, yet in the cadence of every sentence virtually haunted by it. And I became especially aware of that when, with Stegner, not with Winters, I first studied Henry James. We were actually reading The American, but Stegner wanted us to broaden out, and when it came to the weekly paper, the one to be done on James, the book I chose to write about was The Golden Bowl. Well, it was not exactly a choice, but rather an accident of what was left on the shelf in the library as I looked for more of his work. What made it required reading was its being a trial to read. The elliptical in poetry was one thing, but in fiction something else. I'd never encountered a narrative like that. It dazzled as it baffled—and thus in the grain of things that arouse me by confounding. What's more, if there's any notable influence on the way I've come to write (some speak of it as “density,” others “opacity”), it's the prose of “darkest James,” where nothing is but what materializes in the perceptual slippage, with its dilatory, circuitous, worriedly parenthetical (have I really said it? or even vaguely seen it?) delaying of predication, requiring an interjection, because you want to say it all, in a syntactical anamnesis,Page 126 → hypostasizing ifs, before you come to it (what it? “it all, it all,” as Beckett would later say), though it wouldn't be what it is (it wouldn't even exist, not that it) if I didn't say it as I did. Or as Wallace Stevens would say, in the highest modernist vein, poetry is words about things that wouldn't exist without the words—even the “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is” (where Stevens merges with Beckett)—a notion I found exhilarating, as with other new directions. But immersed as I was in literature, with the cast of characters at Stanford, what about the theater? If there were new directions there, they went through various stages, though at its last extremity not unlike what I've said of writing, which has its performative bias. But then, if no two performances are alike, the kind I have in mind is itself a form of inquiry, putting out, as James once said, “interrogatory feelers,” circuitous too, self-questioning, dubious after all, which at the vanishing point of thought is precisely what keeps us thinking—though it would take some equivocal years, wondering if I was suited to it, even while trying to change it, before I thought of the theater like that. The uncertainty of those years was a virtual mode of being, and with deplorable lapses of confidence, writing, not writing, delaying the dissertation (was I an artist or a critic? or faking it as a scholar?), with all that I was doing, accusing myself of procrastinating, doubting my credibility, most uncertain about myself. I came to San Francisco with a new literary sensibility, and very anxious to teach it, but this, too, burdened by that other sensibility, the still-familiar recurrence of an embarrassing sense of stalemate, with a bad day at the desk meaning that I was never doing enough. Which at the vanishing point of thought I'd just as well forget. But inescapably in the circuitry, some perverse energy there—out of which came our theater—the fact of family life. Things improved, of course, with the teaching at State and the fact that I was earning some money. That was good for pride, if little else, because if salaries for beginning professors are still not much these days, they were, even if the dollar went a lot further, pretty laughable back then. Still, I was glad to get it: $3,000 for the academic year, with a teaching load of four courses each semester, two of them freshman comp, with all those papers to correct. The college when I started was not yet out in a suburb, toward Daly City, but in a cluster of converted army barracks just off Market Street, over toward Castro, above the Mint, with the Dolores Mission below. Students came and went, no campus, no hangouts, and none of the gay action around Castro that made it notorious through the Sixties. Page 127 →

Nor were we living in the vicinity, but over on California Street, up the incline from the Marina and San Francisco Bay, with Chinatown through the Stockton tunnel, North Beach just beyond—not yet the home of the Beats, but some action brewing there, and enough theater around, we hoped, with possibilities for Bea. The apartment was small and barely furnished, the walls a perfunctory off-white, with dull blue drapes in the living room, and hardly color-coordinated, a pinkish coiled-rope carpet, so clumsy, if not outlandish, it might have been a gift from Mr. Shelton. Still, we liked living there, or being in San Francisco, which seemed as we moved around like a kingsized Greenwich Village, but hillier and with views—there for the reimagining, romantically through the fog. And so with its history too. Land's End: a gilded boomtown grown urban on a fissure; the landlocked harbor overlooked by Mt. Diablo; small enough to be embraceable, while becoming metropolitan (with the highest incidence of alcoholism and suicide in America); below its splendid bridges, a city with a nervous graciousness, and a worldwide reputation for a culture it didn't quite have—if not the consummate Golden West, a city that was a myth, with the golden opportunity to live up to it. If we were living at midcentury, as one cultural theorist put it, in “the nagging realm of maybe,” San Francisco seemed the perfect geographic setting—the nagging not unpoetic, and the maybe a rather good bet. As summarized then in The Impossible Theater, “There was a kind of weird Keatsian ‘negative capability’ in that prosperous postwar town, with full employment expected, medical conquests in the offing, rocket engines nearing perfection, and Space looming before us, while across the Bay they were developing an anti-proton.” As with the periodic table, out of my futurist past, that anti-proton in particular stirred the imagination, as if the particle physics were the primal site of theater, which is the art of (dis)appearance: And sure enough, some years after the Workshop started, a distinguished scientist—husband of one of the women in the company—was summoned to run some tests (he usually worked on cosmic rays) to certify the isolation of the new particle. His wife told the story of waiting for him to return, which he did several hours later. “Well? Well?” she said. “Well what?” he said. “I couldn't see the goddam thing.” And so it was, then, in that city of ambiguities, where prospects were defined by looking through the fog—now you see it now you don't. That might have enhanced my negative capability, but however it shaped my vision of theater, when we first moved to San Francisco it may have obscured some practicalities we should have been thinking about. Page 128 → There was, for instance, the problem of where Dick would be going to school. What we hadn't realized is that we were living on the edge of the Fillmore District, which a neighbor tried to warn us about: that it was a black ghetto, and we should consider sending him somewhere else. Despite those Atlantic Avenue years when I fought with blacks, or possibly because of them, we sent him to the Fillmore anyhow, not because I wanted him to have the same kind of experience, slugging it out on his own, but long past calling them niggers, no prejudging blacks, it was by then a matter of principle. What worked for me didn't quite for Dick, who couldn't be faulted for not trying. When Dick showed up in class he was the only white kid there, and before we knew it he was walking home crying. And it happened more than once. So, what then about principle? Never mind the fighting back. I actually went, first, to see the principal at school, who was white himself, and sympathetic, but since there was not much he could do about it, indirectly suggested that we transfer Dick to the other side of California Street, over near Broadway, one of the best districts in the city, with one of the better schools. He didn't say, however, that a transfer wasn't going to be easy, which I discovered when I went to the other school and, told what I already knew, that we were out of the district, couldn't see the principal there. That brought me down to the Board of Education, then to the mayor's office, as if I were going to reform the entire system. I talked to everybody I could talk to, with no satisfaction, then wrote letters to city officials, protest escalating with each letter, until I insisted on seeing the principal at the more privileged school and threatened to picket and make a public issue of it if they didn't let Dick in. Somewhere in all this they didn't want me rocking the boat. So Dick was finally admitted, with both schools maintaining their integrity, one almost entirely black, the other entirely white. Those were the days! As for the civil liberties movement, it was still in abeyance, even in San Francisco. Dick, by the way, was disappointed in the school, from the moment I took him there, and he looked at the books in

the classroom, most of which he'd read, and the rest of them too easy. I'm not sure he was disappointed, but a couple of months later, with Bea already pregnant before we moved up to the city, he was confronted with the charm of his baby sister Tara, blue eyes, round face, a sort of amused pout on an expressively forward lip, who seemed to know from birth, whimsically out of the womb, exactly what she wanted. And even if she shouldn't have it, the joy was in her, and you'd find yourself wanting to give it, to hear the squeals of delight. WherePage 129 → it all came from at this familial juncture was hard to say: I was morose, Bea was intense, and Dick could be alternately withdrawn or overwrought, parading, mimicking, whining, even baby-talking, if not overeager to work out an identity not only between our moods, but between the missing father and the one that had taken his place. One day in Palo Alto, when we were feeling especially close, he suddenly said, “I don't care a single tiny penny.” “For what?” “Albert … I don't like him at all.” And when I said that wasn't so, Albert was nice to him, “And when you see him again, you'll be nice.” “Yes, I'll be nice,” he said. “But you're my real daddy.” And if so, Albert receding but not forgotten, Dick was not only alert to my moods, but picking up on the literariness. He read as much as I did, and when Bea was busy too, which was just about incessant, except when the baby was sleeping, he'd ramble on without a listener, conducting dialogues with himself. But when we were there to listen, he'd discovered a charm of his own, with an artfully mixed vocabulary, “Thou art a knave and a rug-u.” “Pop is an earnest sage.” Or if I'd enter into a dialogue, teasing him with the archaic, he'd say with composed hauteur: “A man of your influence should not imitate a little boy.” Or now and then he'd ask his own metaphysical questions, dead serious, perhaps, or with a maturely veiled humor: “Why do we have to die? I dreamt last night that God had a telephone. Why don't we call him up and ask him why he makes us die.” Then something would touch it off, and there'd be a childish regression, after which—as if it came up from the crying—a counterpointed awareness, sometimes so acute we could hardly believe it, especially when he tried to relieve some long muted tension, usually due to my self-absorption. “Be nice to her, Daddy,” he'd say, as he did one time when, coming out of a dream, Bea had asked me to comfort her. And if he'd done something wrong, and lied, which aroused me at my worst, he might in some surprisingly astute phrasing forgive me for punishing him. None of this, obviously, not with the baby too, was easy going for Bea, who hadn't yet found through the worries about mine the solution to her career. There had been positive signs. After we'd moved to the city, she became almost immediately the most promising actor there, but while she'd have been welcomed on stage in any of the little theaters, there was no professional work except with the poorly directed San Francisco Repertory Theater, in which she became the star, though in short order very dissatisfied with that. When the theater itself soon disappeared, there was, for her, nothing going in town. What partially saved the day, and again our marriage, was that Jules Irving and Priscilla Pointer were also in San Francisco,Page 130 → because—even before I went into Language Arts—Jules had been hired at State by the burly Fenton J. McKenna, ward-heeler genial, hard-nosed, who might have been a football coach, but was developing the Theater Department, in the customary vein, with token academics and a costly production program. They had an instant rapport, and Buddy soon became the prodigy in the program. As for the two of us, there was still an estranged togetherness. While I couldn't match his experience, I wasn't deferring to it either, as I belabored in speculation, with phrases like “artistic value” and even “spiritual satisfaction,” other prospects for the theater. These were in part defined, along with things of the spirit, by the work I was doing on Yeats, who, though he created the Abbey Theater, was in his elitist Noh-drama plays incompatible with it. Here in America—virtual site of “the widening gyre,” this vast “free market” (the term already current)—it was unimaginable that we might be unified by anything like the mythic tradition that came with Yeats's earlier dream of Ireland. Yet there are dreams and dreams, and those hard-nosed realities too, which, if “the best lack all conviction,” didn't deter what was becoming mine: that “if politics is the art of the possible, theater is the art of the impossible.” It took some time, however, before this meant very much to Buddy, not because he couldn't get it, but because he had other things to do. And whatever he thought about me, which he'd almost never say, even when bewildered he came to take me on faith. For all his unpurged expedience, so I eventually did with him, and there was nobody I trusted more. Outgoing, disarmingly funny, he could give an impression of intimacy (which some who didn't, thought they had), but he was actually hard to get close to; yet over the years we worked together, in San

Francisco, at Lincoln Center, we became through all disagreements very much like brothers. That's why it's embarrassing to remember how harsh I could be in judging him, for being commercial-minded, and if not antiintellectual, or insusceptible to ideas, not particularly looking for them. Or when I first started conceptualizing, no less being visionary, what felt a little dismissive. Nevertheless, fearful that she was getting restive, and that I might lose Bea, I suggested to Buddy that we should start our own theater. And when he, and Priscilla, and even Bea, were skeptical—they were all, and why not? still oriented to Broadway—I would draw again, naively, upon my reading of theater history and literally say things like two guys sit down at a tacky table in Moscow, talk for nineteen hours, and the next thing you know they've created the Moscow Art Theater—why can't we do that? I sayPage 131 → naively, because I wasn't entirely joking. They may have sidestepped or condescended but eventually went along. Of course, Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko had a lot going before their talk, but then Irving and Blau had wives who acted, and because not only Bea, but Jules and Priscilla, too, had some reputation in the city, we could probably attract others with professional experience who would be willing to join us. Nor would we overreach to begin with. We would begin as a workshop for actors, and then we'd take it from there. So, I kept saying to Buddy, let's sit down and talk. If when we did the rest is history, of course I've written about it. And if it was not impersonal history, I want to rehearse it again, as we move to the next chapter, in an even more personal vein, as if offstage or between the lines, where there were significant things happening in other parts of my life—while all of it intersected, through the Balance of Terror (no balance to it now) in the cold war, with its immanent Fallout (not bioterror yet), through the McCarthy period and the politics of the Sixties, which even in the counterculture had its quotient of paranoia. As a matter of hard fact, I actually walked into that at San Francisco State. When I started there in 1950, that was not yet one of the places where the action appeared to be, but no sooner was I in the classroom, aside from the teaching itself, there was plenty of action too—unfortunately the wrong kind, when we were suddenly confronted with the Levering Act and, for the state of California, a double loyalty oath. That suddenly fractured a faculty with which I was barely acquainted, and was the first institutional controversy in which I've been involved, not merely academic, but with real material consequences, and your future in jeopardy, depending on what you did. How I wavered in principle, though I alienated others by fighting the legislation, was one of the more shameful things in my life, doubled over by the fact that I also signed the oath. There were reasons only too obvious, that first job coming when we were bottoming out, the marriage already in jeopardy (my feeling, not Bea's) and the baby about to come, and Bea—who left the decision to me—having sacrificed what she did. When in our theater we did Arthur Miller's The Crucible, it might have reflected on that, but with its factitious stuff about witches I never thought it complex enough to deal with degrees of guilt, or residual guilt, which is still no justification for what I'd never do again. One never knows, of course, though I've had the benefit of subsequent crises to test and verify that.

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FIVE Clear and Present Dangers THE NOTHING TO BE DONE It was shortly after my eightieth birthday when I first started this chapter, and because of several detours, so much of the life before me, what to write about, what not, it could take some aging time before, or if, it's finished. I am no longer directing in the theater, but I am still teaching. I have no intention of retiring, after doing it now for nearly sixty years. There were periods in the early years when I was teaching full-time and directing full-time, and I'll be writing about that shortly. I didn't sleep very much, but there was no reason to, the energy was abounding and necessity provided more. Things are different now. And that's not because I'm sleeping a lot more; actually, I'm not—nor is it because that burden of aging, an enlarged prostate, gets me up a couple of times each night. That takes a few annoying minutes, and then I'm asleep again, but even without an alarm, I'm up early, constantly working, not only teaching but writing as well, and quite productively so. What's different is that I don't say to my wife Kathy, as I used to do—the first time, before we married, in the teasing revelations of our first romantic dinner—that I fully intend to live forever. If that resolve was an impulsive fantasy, a way of turning myself on through a significant difference in age, there was an enlivening humor to it, and Kathy was certainly charmed. Yet she was soon puzzled, and still is, as I've always been myself, by the darker downside of the drive that has always kept me going and, so far as anyone knows, hasn't abated over time. Page 133 → Yet here, too, there is a difference. If, as I've already said, I've been guilty in the past of brooding too much and never being satisfied with anything I've accomplished, I am almost always irritable now, not out there with students and colleagues, but unconscionably so at home, though I think for other reasons. With all that I'm remembering here, there's a sense of memory failing, and sometimes I've thought, after my brother's death, that I'm heading towards Alzheimer's too. Whatever the paranoia, the irony is that Kathy—though considerably younger, a recognized authority on aging—hasn't the faintest idea, should it happen, like a parody of forgetting, dribbling nonsense or pathetically struck dumb, what to do about that. Kathy has written a book called Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions, but what really bothers me, as I've said to her more than once, is the prospect of being humiliated, and it certainly feels like a fiction when any therapy comes up as a way of dealing with that. I've written before about dying, but since I've so far lucked out, it is mostly about the deaths of friends, about whom I've given memorial talks, more than I care to remember, though in a recent essay I did remember a few, as a way of confronting myself with its outrageous inevitability. And I'm uninspired to think of it otherwise. Banalities aside, the chastening coda might very well be what Wallace Stevens wrote in a poem: “Death is absolute and without memorial.” Stevens was writing about a soldier in World War I, who does not, fallen in anonymity, “become a three-day personage / Imposing his separation,/ Calling for pomp.” These lines were omitted, but the other, about death being absolute, was quoted recently by W. S. Merwin—from whom, years ago at Lincoln Center, I commissioned a translation of García Lorca'sYerma— in a review of a book called Dominion of the Dead. That death has such dominion, Lorca's life might testify, because when he was still a student he would rehearse his own burial, the posture of the corpse, the closing of the coffin, and with every bump in the road the funeral procession itself. Unfortunately, what he had conceived was never realized, since Lorca was apparently executed by Franco's thugs in the Spanish Civil War, his body never recovered. Written by Robert Pogue Harrison, the book about dominion doesn't say much about an elitism of the dead, but with its necrocratic notion that culture itself is sustained by the almost magical, immeasurable authority of those below the ground, it explores the rites and powers of burial, while arguing that the practice marks the beginning and defines what we think of as humanity. But there's the fractious rub: whateverPage 134 → that does for humanity, it doesn't do much for me. And that's not only because, despite a family plot on Long Island, with a space reserved for me, I happen to have chosen cremation.

I can see, of course, that this presumed communion of the living with the dead, in which we inherit their voices, so that they appear to be governing life, may seduce the imaginary; yet I'm not exactly consoled that some lingering imprint of my will, or some sense of what should be, will make itself felt indelibly in the disposition of the unborn, like some mysterious gene of perpetuated power. If this redeems what Harrison calls “the scandal of death,” it might also be thought of gratifyingly, since I can't believe in the sacred, as a secular afterlife, a godlessly untainted way of living forever. But meanwhile, still, as with Lear and the blinded Gloucester, there remains the stink of mortality. For that inexplicably intolerable debility of being, even eternity seems insufficient. And this is something I began to feel even before I directed King Lear, and it's come up again in directing other plays, or teaching certain books, as it did in that recent essay, “Astride of a Grave; or, the State of the Art,” where, still mourning Jules and other friends, including Samuel Beckett, I felt—through his “exhaustive enumeration of an ‘infinite emptiness,’” along with the unappeasable sense, the less said the more said, of a dying before birth—”an overwhelmingly imponderable source of rage.” The more I ponder it, however, if birth there had to be, the idea of dying still puts me into a rage. Which is what I felt at my brother's graveside when it was my turn, during the ritual performed by the closest relatives, to throw dirt upon the corpse—not with the front, the young rabbi said, but the backside of a shovel, which he had placed in the ground before us after a solemn demonstration. I was so furious at the ignominy of it, for no fathomable reason my brother there with the worms, that I suddenly grabbed the shovel, wanting to throw it at the rabbi, but slashing instead at the dirt which spattered down on the coffin. Nor did I feel appeased by anything like the irony of the narrator in Beckett's First Love, with his jaundiced musing on a “genuine interment,” and “that charming business with the dust, though in my experience,” he says, “there is nothing less dusty than holes of this type, verging on much for the most part, nor anything particularly powdery about the deceased, unless he happens to have died, or she, by fire.” Speaking again of some who did, if they're mostly kept out of the photos in the reporting on Iraq, there's still a fascination with cadavers on television these days, whether for dissections in CSI or when Six Feet Under was up and over in the ratings for HBO. But to ward off further outrage in these mortuary feelings, and restorePage 135 → some temporal order to this assemblage of a life, let me back up again to where and how—if memory serves, or doesn't, or sometimes more than I'd wish—these habits of mind were formed, with now and then in the aging forgetting as a relief. There is, to be sure, that time of life when all of it seems before you, and aging time out of mind, but then there's always history with its ominous prematurity, if maybe disguised by politics, encroaching as if it were destined—or is that what destiny is?—at the wrong time. After the first storm of the season ascended from the Pacific, spraying San Francisco, the Bay Area relaxed into the afternoon's sunshine, the storm swerving down toward the San Fernando Valley, where that night a mysterious object, illuminated with “eight, bright lights,” dived upon an airliner, banked right and disappeared. According to the airline pilot, the object had no fuselage. This was some years before Ronald Reagan became governor of California, but two days after what he might very well have approved, that is, the signing by Governor Earl Warren—later chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, when loyalty oaths were disappearing—of a second oath for California, swearing into it himself, though under the Constitution elected officials are exempt from any oath other than the one prescribed there. That the one oath was insufficient Warren seemed to be saying in an exemplary way, though why it was insufficient, if not exactly a mystery, had about as much substance as that missing fuselage. This was just about what I felt when at a faculty meeting, the first I'd ever attended, I diverged from the agenda and asked President J. Paul Leonard, who was presiding, what he intended to do if he were ordered to withhold pay and dismiss those who refused to sign. That was less than a month after I had started teaching at San Francisco State. At the end of the meeting I was approached by Eason Monroe, then the chair of Language Arts, who asked me to come to his office, where I first went for the interview which led to my being hired. I thought I was in for a lecture, if not with loss of a job, but though he questioned what I'd done, with some wise words of caution, he also seemed to admire it, and as it turned out—though he didn't tell me that he would—Eason was one of the eight faculty members who subsequently refused to sign. Since he'd kept his own counsel, it was actually surprising when, with customary understatement, nothing dramatic about it, Eason made his decision known. It was then that he went public with his opposition to the oath. Eason was tall, slender, with straight thinning hair, unexpected badPage 136 → teeth, and an undertaker's face, but a smile both wry and frank, below

shaggy brows the modesty taking over. There was a slight intoning urgency to his voice, eloquent but halfquizzical, which made it all the more surprising when, once responding to a question, he was suddenly blunt and decisive. Otherwise, given some of the questions, I tended to feel he suffered from an excess of tolerance; and Bea, seeing him at a forum at which Eason and I both spoke, said he looked saintly. And indeed he was, if not pious, endowed with biblical patience, and almost incapable of vindictive thinking. Once only did I hear him speak harshly of another person: after another forum, we were having coffee at a drive-in, when he told me with the quiet scorn of an ex-disciple how he had been betrayed by President Leonard, who, with a reputation as an educational innovator, had only three years before recruited Eason to shape up Language Arts. But when Eason asked him for an affidavit testifying to his “moral character,” Leonard refused, diplomatically, of course, saying that he would so testify if the investigating committee asked him. It's not clear that Leonard ever did, and there were colleagues of ours, too—presumably liberal types, but with the anti-Communist virus—who accused Eason of being a traitor. And since I was speaking out, there was guilt by association. That, by the way, since I was new and very junior, is how to begin with most of my colleagues came to know me, though that may be hard to believe given what happened in the Sixties, when San Francisco State was scholastic home to the Beats and then the hippies, and seemed for a while—till Reagan took command and appointed Hayakawa college president—to be taken over by the Black Panthers, with the faculty unionized. It's also hard to convey today, even with the Patriot Act, the paranoia at the time of the oath, not only among conservatives. Given his background it might have been expected that Eason would be among them, disturbed perhaps, but acceding to the justification for the Levering Act. Born into a family of Hoover Republicans, a navy veteran of World War II, and far from a political activist, Eason nevertheless found the oath objectionable because, in its legislated redundancy, enforced by the duly elected, it contradicted the Constitution. And while he couldn't imagine advocating overthrow of the government, he simply couldn't accept the notion “that anyone has the right to prevent me from advocating any damn thing I pleased.” That's what he said to me in his office when I went to see him, just before the deadline on signing, and sounded him out on the chances of the law being repealed. He said that he thought it would, but as to what IPage 137 → should do myself, he left that to me, yet not before he sounded me out on my personal situation. Then he gave me a way out by suggesting, with a certain moral generosity, that it would be harder for them to dismiss a tenured professor than somebody who hadn't yet been teaching for even a full semester. When I did sign, he helped me deal with remorse of conscience by drawing me into the formation of the Federation for Repeal of the Levering Act, of which he became chairman. Here again my experience with newspapers, at NYU and in the army, was a factor. When at that first interview Eason asked me what I could teach, I said that in addition to literature I could also do courses in journalism, and was actually doing one that semester on the politics of impartiality, analyzing the newspapers for lapses from it, or those gray areas where it lapsed between the lines. Needing somebody to deal with that, and because of our rapport in the forums, he appointed me director of public relations for the Federation, in which capacity I tried to get at the legislators, mostly in vain, then at civic groups with more access to them, setting up meetings for Eason or city officials on our side. Mainly, however, I was turning out news releases, hard to place in the major papers, though easy enough in People's World, the San Francisco equivalent of New York's Daily Worker. What did receive some gratifying if quite limited attention was also written on behalf of the Federation, “The Inhumanity of Conformity,” the first essay I ever had published. That appeared several weeks after The Actor's Workshop started, on January 16, 1952, without any inclination, not even yet my own, for some merging of theater and politics. That's why it hardly made sense, if it occurred to me at all, to distribute the essay to the group when it appeared in the Humanities World Digest, a little journal edited in Berkeley. The issue itself was a preface to the various countercultural beliefs that later surfaced there around the Free Speech Movement. My own sources went back to Socrates and Milton's Areopagitica, then approached the present through Thomas Mann's famous letter to the dean of the faculty at Bonn, testifying “to the dangers of a universal abeyance of will.” As for the McCarthy period's “configuration of fear,” that was introduced by Lord Bertrand Russell's view of it as America's incipient “Reign of Terror,” and concluded with Supreme Court justice William Douglas's warning about “the Black Silence of Fear.”

That Black Silence was, against Eason's prediction about repeal, absorbed into democratic process when, as I wrote, the citizens of California, with “the most comprehensive program of repressive legislation in the country” were given a chance “to decide how much repression they [could]Page 138 → stand”—which is what had prompted the essay. For the Levering Act had been reformulated as a constitutional amendment to be voted on at the next general election. We worked hard in opposition, and did arouse some protest, but the “sponsors of conformity” were more than reassured when the public, with its resounding silence, decided overwhelmingly that they needed the oath's protection. Nor did Justice Douglas prevail when, a year after the Supreme Court in Sacramento upheld the Levering Act, the United States Supreme Court also dismissed a challenge. By that time our anti-oath Federation had dissolved, with Eason's firing unreversed. There was, however, an unexpected compensation for it all, of considerable benefit over time to the state of California. That was when Eason, stigmatized by not signing, and wondering if he could find another teaching job, was appointed executive director of the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, that affiliate in Los Angeles having been started by Upton Sinclair. Eason served there for twenty years, starting with a secretary and a part-time attorney, and making it, with an appropriate staff and exponential increase in membership, into a powerful instrument of social justice: from upholding the rights of the Hollywood Ten to warding off police censorship on the Sunset Strip to continued defense of the right of advocacy, not only by leftover Communists but also by the American Nazi Party. Oath-taking as forced disavowal is as reprehensible as abusing the Koran at Guantánamo Bay, and certainly Eason would have been outraged at that. But with the surreptitious reign of unforseeable terror, there is the distressing question of degrees of tolerance, and when it might be justifiable to impose some limits on speech. Depending on where you're living there are likely to be differential answers, as after the Tube bombings in London, when Tony Blair called for stronger countermeasures against hate sermons in the mosques and the preaching of jihad by Muslim clerics. With the nervous interregnum after 9/11 (and continued arguments as to which administration has made us safer), what seems inevitable sooner or later, the first suicide bombing in the United States—if not in the New York subway or a casino in Las Vegas, but a shopping mall in Idaho—will shake up a lot of attitudes about the allowable in Homeland Security. After the second bombing attempt in London, the clear and present danger was something else again than the American Nazi Party, but my guess is that Eason would still have objected to the vigilance demanded by Blair as un-warranted repression, carried over to searches on the subways in New York. I also think those measures were too quick and ill-considered, but ifPage 139 → Eason started a Federation on behalf of those being watched, there might be some deviation between us, and we might differ, too, on ethnic and racial profiling—which doesn't mean, since these extrapolations are made, I would have favored internment of the Japanese in Seattle during World War II. None of which minimizes the clear ongoing injustice in Eason's own case, which seemed to have been forgotten. But not at the ACLU. After it filed suit against the state oath, the California Supreme Court ruled it invalid. That wasn't until 1967, sixteen years after he'd been fired; it took five more years for the Court to rule that the college had to rehire him. I was then at Lincoln Center, and we were no longer in touch, but I heard that Eason wasn't at all sure that he wanted to teach again, nor at San Francisco State, and he might have stayed on with the ACLU in Los Angeles. But it was again a matter of principle; he felt he had to do it. So he was back in the classroom again, thinking he'd teach about five years and then maybe retire. He didn't quite make it. Eason had his moral victory, but died three years later. Although The Actor's Workshop started when Jules and I were at San Francisco State, Eason had already left for Los Angeles and never saw anything we did—nor, so far as I know, did he and Jules ever meet. Actually, while the idea of a theater was still a mote in the mind's eye, Buddy and I for the most part went our separate ways. We were not only in different programs, but quite differently occupied in what we did after or around our schedules at school. I don't recall talking with him about the Levering Act, and there were times when I had some misgivings about his cultural politics. As he acquired a reputation for his productions at State, he was sought out elsewhere, not so much for theater productions, but through Fenton McKenna, with the chance for extra money, for advertising spectacles at a downtown department store, and the staging of corporate events, including an affair honoring Richard Nixon, who'd been elected to the United States Senate a month or so after the loyalty oath was

law. That was the notorious campaign in which Nixon proved his expertise in deploying guilt by association, with the publication of an attack against his opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas (married to the actor Melvyn Douglas, with his equally suspicious politics), listing all her left-wing votes in the House of Representatives. The attack was published on pink paper, and it was for calling her “the Pink Lady” that Nixon was rewarded with what followed him through the presidency into Watergate, the name of “TrickyPage 140 → Dick.” Buddy psyched out what deserved it, and would have named him worse, after working on the event for Nixon, who came in during the preparation, complained about everything, and with a humorless insistence supervised its restaging in just about every detail. Buddy would joke about it, but he hated that son of a bitch. I was meanwhile put off by what seemed to me opportunistic, as when he talked of the directing he did for a couple of San Francisco's most exclusive institutions, the Bohemian Club and the Family Club, both of them exclusive in a double sense: membership only male. Buddy and I kept talking about starting a workshop, but then one day I discovered that he'd also been talking to Strickland about their becoming partners in a theater venture in San Mateo. I hadn't said anything about it, when he invited me to a dinner at the Family Club, not at its home in San Francisco, but in a densely wooded grove, an estate on the Peninsula, between the very posh communities of Atherton and Woodside. We drove down slowly on a beautiful summer evening, and there, among majestic, Olympic redwood trees, were king-sized cabins and festive halls, where the power elite could, with the one-night vow of celibacy, relax all other discipline and thereby renew their souls. Whoever was keeping the books, economy was no object in transforming these woods into a Paradise of whiskey bars, poker games, sideshows, banquets (and if folklore has it right, as in the Bohemian Grove, perhaps unnamable pleasures). The guiding principle seemed to be that even nature can be bought if there is enough money. With the world now a website, and the media omnipresent, we have come to say of capitalism that its manifest destiny is Image, and indeed what was out there in the woods might have been the pastoral embryo for the Society of the Spectacle. As this was the fiftieth anniversary of the Family, the occasion was called “Midsummer Dream Night,” the culmination of which was a symphonic tone poem accompanied by the music of lights, projected in brilliant colors on the foliage overhead, with recitations of poetry by some of the most elderly “children,” about the rapture of the evening, the radiance of friendship, their God-given good fortune, the joy of the world, the wonder of summer after the blight of winter, and the warmth of an open hearth at which all strangers (with sufficient portfolio) are greeted with open arms and the embrace of the Family. I'm not sure if it still exists, but the organization of the Club was, indeed, that of a family, with the Mother, however, as president, and the Father as vice president (a reversal in jest, perhaps, but the pun not unimportant for what, in that beneficent dreamy night, was indeed a libidinal economy). All other membersPage 141 → of the Family were children, and all of course talented children. Or if there were some deficiency, well, money to the rescue, compensating for absent talent with adopted or “step-children” who, rewarded with associate memberships, were brought in to entertain. That's why Bud Irving was there, to make up for the less gifted. As a privileged voyeur, I was alternately amused and aghast at how artfully he did it, the smile, the chatter, the deadpan, the self-mocking mimicry, turned on them with a joke, how could they resist? The whole thing was fascinating, but then, suddenly, I didn't want to watch, not sure if embarrassed for him, or embarrassed myself for feeling it. Or with an aversion to them—old feelings about the rich, as if from a double Depression—not liking how I saw it (and still there, in a journal), this image projected on him: blue-eyed, obligingly funny, he might have been playing the baby, rolling over on his back, hands drawn in, ready for the doting parents, the hierarchy of the Family, to indulgently tickle his belly. Some never learn, some do, lucky if not too late, and I'm speaking now of myself, and the years we worked together. There is a certain onerous business that goes with running a theater, no less a theater like ours, even when it grew, and grew acclaimed, always on the edge of bankruptcy. Negotiating contracts, soliciting a board, raising money, dealing with the unions, foundations, civic officials, scrounging, cajoling, raising money, doing whatever had to be done, even faking the balance, to make the budget work—Buddy spared me that, while also permitting me, as if he needed the balance, to maintain high moral ground. But watching there that night, the ground was a little sticky. He knew what he was doing, but what was he doing it for? Even when I knew better, that remained a question I often asked about Jules.

I was not the only one, by the way, given to switching his names. Even in memory we do it. It may have been, as now, a means of keeping him in perspective or, in going from Buddy to Jules, like an Alienation-effect, seeing him critically at a distance. When the two of us were compared, I was the one who was said to be distant, while he gave the impression of an easy accessibility. Yet even up close with Buddy, with all that disposable openness, the distance could be there. He was, with his sundry talents, a first-class poker player, and within the Family he'd taken advantage of it. That night, however, glancing at me for a moment, it was as if reading my mind, he passed, and folded his cards. “Let's talk,” he said, and we did for an hour, reclined on a lawn encircled with redwoods—though Buddy was not a drinker, sipping Scotch there—with some children playing dominoes and others dancing amid the trees.Page 142 → He started with the San Mateo project, and told me about a quarrel between Strick and Heffner, who felt it would damage the theater program at Stanford, and we agreed that it would be foolish for Strick to endanger his security there. (When he later left Stanford anyhow to work at the Arena Theater in Washington, it may have been with some bitterness that we'd never asked him to direct at The Actor's Workshop.) That aside, what Buddy wanted to do was convince me that Strick's overture had not tempted him much. They'd have to raise the money, about $20,000 (which seemed like a fortune then), and it would only be a stock company, with the usual run of comedies and musicals, and if San Mateo was up to it an occasional serious drama. Still uncertain that he wasn't doing it—if not envious that I wasn't involved—I said that we didn't need the money, that we could start on next to nothing, from the ground up, and create a better theater. It may have seemed another fantasy of that enchanted night, but if I wasn't quite sure what I meant, nor what in San Francisco such a theater would be, Buddy assured me again that he was still solidly with it. “But look around,” he said, as if pricing out our future around what had troubled me, “some of these guys, who knows? may turn out to be useful.” They were, they weren't, and that was off in the distance. As for guys like that, they came in varieties too, good guys, bad guys, sometimes you couldn't tell, not only in San Francisco, but in New York at Lincoln Center, and then back in California, above the San Fernando Valley—where they saw that mysterious object—at CalArts, which some thought almost as strange when I worked there for the Disneys. The Actor's Workshop started in a loft over a judo academy on Divisadero Street, with rat shit under the stairs that I'd clean out before rehearsals. That loft is now the vestry of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and thus properly hallowed. For let me say it straight, what I haven't said before: The Actor's Workshop of San Francisco, evolving as it did from that impoverished site, with no real model before us, not in this country, became and perhaps remains the greatest single accomplishment, at the institutional level, in the history of the American theater. Whatever else they may have done, especially at that time, no other established theaters have even approached—and through resistance, derision, condescension—the surprising articulation of its innovative repertoire, including the first or early productions in this country of various playwrights, then unknown or controversial, who have since been canonized, from Brecht, Ionesco, Beckett to Pinter and Genet, as well as Whiting, Arden, Dürrenmatt, Frisch,Page 143 → the Noh plays of Mishima, and (back from France, but born in Cuba) Maria Irene Fornes, her first play ever produced. Nor has any other theater, around an ill-paid, nonpaid nucleus, developed and sustained a company, with whatever delinquencies or transients, from eight actors in that loft to nearly 150 people, in two theaters playing simultaneously (at one time three, with tours, children's theater, and rehearsals for other productions), in what became, in the interaction of the new with classical plays, exemplary offbeat, revisionist, or radically sumptuous stagings. This was the period of Happenings, Action Events, light shows, and (after Ampex tape recorders and makeshift mixers) space-creating music from the earliest synthesizers (Moog, then Buchla), from which there were resonances in the stagings, as there were from other visual artists, painters, sculptors, preinstallation types, who also contributed to design, in eye-opening ways that if you traveled then around the country you couldn't see in other theaters. We spoke of it when it began as a “studio for actors,” and in the workshops that continued within the Workshop, encouragement was given to alternative modes of performance that led, with internal critique and dissidence, to the formation of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Mabou Mines, and other risk-taking work. Among our assistant directors were Lee Breuer, Ronnie Davis, Ken Dewey, and André Gregory. If none of this happened overnight, all of it was achieved without any money to begin with, never sufficient for all, the actors

paid variably, always inadequately, even when there was some money, some utterly committed who, like the two directors teaching at the college, also held full-time jobs, and still others working for nothing—which is how it came to mean something. Yet, what meaning could there be in the nothingness that seemed, in the psychic atmosphere of the time, a frozen conceit of the cold war, where we saw in the larger stalemate a Silent Generation, with presumptions of awareness, but increasing loss of self, and a diminished capacity for action. This is discounting, of course, the heresy hunters and character assassins against whom, as over the loyalty oath, we'd been fighting a losing battle, since Senator Joseph McCarthy waved in his hand the names of 205 Communists in the State Department, with General George Marshall on the list to stress the high-level danger. That occurred ten days after President Truman had ordered work to proceed on the hydrogen bomb, despite Albert Einstein's warning about total annihilation. One might say these were the two crucial events which initiated the 1950s, along with the Balance of Terror that came with the cold war. The balance could be a pendulum, with failures at the Summit or Krushchev banging his shoe, but if the H-bombPage 144 → was the superemblem of diseased energy and internal chaos, there was in those first discussions, initiating our theater, no fallout from any of this, nor from what Bea referred to, when I stayed away from rehearsals, as my “other work.” Which was unfortunately also a euphemism for what caused more than tension between us, an increasingly hermetic, abstract, even sinister solipsism. Secreted in my study, I saw the terror of the present through the despair of the ages, as if it were an apocalyptic extension of Original Sin. That was not for me, of course, a doctrine of faith, but something more than a metaphor of what seemed my own condition, self-sealed, cerebral, in a particle physics of guilt, like that cosmic reduction into hiddenness, a breathing abstraction, in Kafka's “The Burrow.” It took some years before that structure, with its mania for the memorable, like brain waves in a grave, became the source of method, the cognitive “burrowing,” of the KRAKEN group. When I think back, however, to what I was reading in my study, I might have been burrowing there, for I was surely becoming intimate with Yorick's skull and the grievous melancholy of the atomized soul—redeemed, if at all, by the “gay science” of Nietzsche or, even when reading Freud, seduced by the impossible, some conjectured semblance of “the will to power.” But when the will was going nowhere, as it was then in my writing, with doubts about being in theater, there was the only too familiar self-recrimination, along with unbearable days when again she needed me, and with a demeaning cruelty, impossibly puerile, I was just not there for Bea. “Comfort me,” she'd say. “I had dreams.” “Oh, Bea, stop it! What kind of dreams?” “About my past, I had a terrible past.” (And what beside Albert was that all about?) “Forget it, the picking! You're always picking at yourself.” “Oh, Herb, comfort me, comfort me.” I couldn't. Stupid bastard that I was, I couldn't. I hated myself for it. And everything I was reading exacerbated that, picking, picking, as if eternity were in judgment through the nervous system. “Down in the depth of mine iniquity / That awful center of infernal spirits…” If anybody had it right, it was those metaphysical poets. But then, in a tortuous instant, modernity came upon us, the center couldn't hold, guilt dispersed in all directions, Bea miserable, fatigued, some trauma—my fault?—registered in her body, that lovely swaying grace becoming a lurch or perplexing wobble, and she'd feel guilty about that, at which point I'd embrace her, needing to make up, to be forgiven, the willfulness turning elsewhere, and sometimes with a vengeance. Meanwhile, the reading continued, like a bequest from Paradise Lost, an apocalyptic vision, not unmessianic. Nurtured through history by the bestPage 145 → that had been thought and said—sometimes with a morbid delicacy, from “a bracelet of bright hair” to “zero at the bone”—there was nothing of that vision, however, when we gathered around the fireplace in the loft that very first night, with Banzai! shouts below, and somebody hitting the mat. I was discreet enough not to rehearse the accumulated disinheritance of modernity itself, or the monomania of estrangement, at what was meant to be a productive gathering of relatively experienced actors who were looking for some alternative to where they were used to performing, with local amateur theaters or maybe at one of the colleges. It was an affable group, well educated—a couple of others taught at State—and whatever they felt in their secret hearts, it was in the rhythm of the time to bide it. Indeed, as I discovered in directing, it would be hard to get it on stage. I may have been, existentially and politically, already rife with outraged melancholy, but for all the improvised certitudes that might have persuaded Jules, there was something in the atmosphere that

muted my sense of mission. So, whatever it is I said, and it wasn't very much, there was nothing decisive, nothing manifest, and nothing at all like the explosive manifesto I wrote about ten years later. There was, rather, in that room—the inside reflecting the outside, as if in the grimy “fire-exit” window onto a blank alley—the still-befuddled distance between those often intimidated, acquiescent, depoliticized years and the dissidence of the Sixties. And if you look back over the period you'll encounter archetypal figures and images, like the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit or the Lonely Crowd, which if not wholly symptomatic of the Human Condition were not exactly activating presences. Nor was anything to be expected from the condition of the American theater, nor the woebegone, impaired, anesthetized people in it, even there at Land's End, a continent away from the dark backward and abysm or glittering vacuousness of Broadway, where instead of creating alternatives most actors longed to be, like some of our actors later when there clearly was an alternative. This may explain why, in this metahistory of The Actor's Workshop, rehearsing it over again, I am preoccupied to begin with, as unavoidably as before, with what almost kept it from happening. Here I'm not talking about money, but inertia, apathy, disbelief, even the loyal equivocating, and for all the sacrifice within the theater, the friction of the factitious, the supercilious know-nothingness of those claiming experience, who'd say it couldn't be done, impediments at every juncture whenever we tried something new. Even today, unforgiving, I feel they ought to have been ashamed, and if there's nothing quite like that in the American theater now,Page 146 → that's mainly because it can't claim a want of awarenesss: travel is easy, everyone does, everything does—performance from just about everywhere, if you want to see it, it's there. And while it might be undone by fashion, or the omnipresence of the media, experiment is pretty much sanctioned, off-Broadway, here in Seattle, and if feeble or not at all, the only excuse now is the same old thing, some unregenerate, existential paucity of imagination. That may still be supercilious, but what determined acceptance then, as it did with the audience (and some things never change), is how it fared in the newspapers, which had with ordained authority their critical knownothingness too. When by begrudging degrees that managed to come around, it was always with suspicion about what might be coming next, and with unabating hostility to what they took, from me in particular, as an arrogant indifference to what they had to say. What can I say about that, except that it was even worse. I couldn't care less what they had to say, but it was impossible to be indifferent, because even intelligent people, in the company, in the audience, even my colleagues at school, though sometimes in denial, believed what they read in the newspapers. “Let's face it,” said Buddy, “that's where they think it's at.” If it took a while, however, before we made it there, there was a certain discretion to that, as we tried to develop a mind-set independent of the critics—or at least, with that visionary gleam, that's what I had in mind. Actually, those who came to our first production were for the most part theater people personally invited by those in the group. The critics weren't invited, except for one, Luther Nichols of the Chronicle, who found out about it; a decent guy, he was asked, and agreed, not to review the performance. That others may have wanted to come was due to a certain curiosity we'd aroused by the circulating secretiveness, along with the congregation of this select group of eight actors, under Buddy's direction, his work becoming known, Bea's already from the Rep, and several of the others, mainly Priscilla, with some professional experience, off-Broadway, summer stock, enough for a little status beyond a little theater. In the earliest meetings, we considered the possibility of a series of scenes from a spectrum of plays, confronting the actors with various styles, but decided instead to do a showcase performance of a full-length play. After a disappointing tryout session of Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife, I then proposed Philip Barry's Hotel Universe. About a coterie of neurotic Americans gathered for psychodrama on the Riviera, it was a departure, if still urbane, from Barry's high-toned comedy of manners into aPage 147 → mystical Freudianism, its uncanniness including, along with a jesuitical residue from Barry's Catholic faith, good roles for each of the actors. At the outset, that was the major criterion. With conceptual purpose in abeyance, and no design yet for a repertoire, nor a dialectic between the plays, the keyword was ensemble, that responsive togetherness mythicized by Stanislavski. We were not yet, however, into his technique or others; indeed, aside from hand-me-down Stanislavski, there wasn't much Method on the scene. And several of the actors distrusted it anyhow, that self-regarding inwardness

which was really untheatrical or even ignored the audience with dialogue that couldn't be heard. The countercredo was this: you're acting, remember that, and whatever you do, speak up. Still, with a disparate group of actors, and some griping about the direction, Buddy orchestrated a performance with the right vocal texture and intimacy for the loft, and the audience seemed really moved, the talk indeed being about the ensemble playing. Yet there was only a single performance. Despite the enthusiastic response, we refused to do it again, stressing that we were a workshop, and we wanted to move on to other material that would be challenging to the actors in this formative phase. There was certainly truth to that, but the refusal was also strategic, and we kept reminding ourselves that we were committed to “slow growth.” Thus, when we did our second production, John Van Druten's I Am a Camera, also received well, we did it only twice, and refused to play it again. Actually, I didn't want to play it again because, though the camera's eye was on the aimless decadence of a period faced with the diabolical specter of Nazism, it was without the redeeming ghost of a politics essentially made for Broadway, and very popular there (some years later, as the musical Cabaret). What disturbed me about it was hinted at in a program note, but it wasn't the kind of issue I'd raise with Buddy yet, no less with those in the group, slow growth including my learning when to say what, to some who had already felt—about the program note, and the critique of the acting next time we met—that I was saying too much. I didn't say it then, but to the degree I could justify either of the two plays we'd done, it was by a kind of default, in that they seemed to characterize the spiritual drift and vague apprehension that seeped into the loft from the impotency of the Fifties. Yet the effect was what we wanted: with the audience by invitation and the reviewers not reviewing, there was considerable word of mouth, and an attractive mystery spreading around the city. Everybody interested in theater wanted to see what they couldn't see, while other actors wanted to join us, sight unseen. As for the reviewers, itPage 148 → became harder to hold them off, but we'd managed to assert our identity as a workshop until we were ready for them, with an aura of the exceptional. It was a strategy with antecedents, and a possible slippery slope. Even in the history of the avant-garde, and we were hardly that yet, the issue of publicity, and with it reviews, has always been complicated, and ironically so, as with Marinetti's launching of futurism with a manifesto in Le Figaro. Not an obscure or insurgent journal, and not Italian either, but the major French newspaper, it spread the word in Paris, cultural capital of the world. While there's the avatar of an art-form in the attention-getting collusion, there is an inescapable ambivalence when, after scandal, controversy, or sneering rejection, without which it wouldn't be news, the press begins to support the work, which thus suffers the now-familiar fate of systemic appropriation. For us, it was a little too early to be worried about that, or the perils of commodification. If our intention was to emerge as a theater, in a more public space, my own concern was to sustain within it, by preserving the attitude of a workshop, an exploratory reflex. As the theater grew and became widely known, there was pressure to change its name, but even with several productions going at once, and in the two theaters a pattern of repertory, we remained The Actor's Workshop, with that apostrophe to the singular, remembering the actor's craft—though even in the workshops, with close-in critique, we were more or less remiss in really defining that. Or what in our productions became a troubling issue: even with stagings more distinctive, not consistently so, as in theaters I came to admire, like the Berliner Ensemble or the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, which had the cultural history and the ideological grounds for an identifying style. This didn't quite bother Buddy as it did me. As for the gradual intensification of my own ideas, in the earlier days of the Workshop, they were easier thought than achieved, because of resistances within the theater. To begin with, there in the loft, Buddy was the director, I was a sort of dramaturg, with what they acknowledged were interesting things to say, but academic, intellectual, not really a theater person, and what did I know about acting. Even when I started directing that remained a problem, and later despite productions with some of our better acting. And the same with theatricality—sotto voce, perhaps, but they'd say it: ideas are fine, but a drag on stage. Which is why, at one pissed-off point, I chose to direct Tennessee Williams's Camino Real, not because I thought it was what we should be doing, but because it might prove I could be, in the staging itself—spray, splatter, drip-blob, ideas as in Action painting—wildly theatrical. If reception was the measure, what more could anyone wish: the reviews of thePage 149 → production were wildly enthusiastic; nobody had seen anything like them for years in San Francisco. That helped for a while, but not long. An intellectual is an intellectual, and when there was, in the

choice of plays or what I said about them, or how they should be done, an ideational leap, then the burden of proof was there, which meant I had to convince the critics, and of course the audiences too. We spoke of “the right to fail,” and Buddy joined me in that, but very few really believed it. With all his wideeyed innocence, he had been in Camino Real a natural as Kilroy, but then, back to the Real in the office, an eye on the bottom line, only a scrawl upstage: “Kilroy was here!” then gone, and the innocence shifted to me. At least, that's the way they saw it, and sometimes venomously. Whatever I did to spur that on, by what I said in critiques, it seems I dealt with my own grievances by reading even more books, bringing to bear upon our work, when I wasn't trying to forget it, that other insular work in my life outside the theater. Which from my family's point of view still wasn't much of a life, since—except for Bea in rehearsals—they didn't see me very much. For two of those difficult early years I was not only teaching, but also with some resistance (and the persistent question: did I want to be a scholar?) writing my dissertation, from Yeats's Celtic twilight to Eliot's The Cocktail Party. Whatever my misgivings about him, I shared, at “the still point of the turning world,” if not Eliot's faith, the doubts persisting through it, or what seemed undeniable through the infirmities of disbelief, that “humankind cannot bear very much reality”—especially when they have to create it. Which on better days, damn the adulteration! I felt we could do in our theater. As for that other turning and turning, in the widening gyre, what really impressed me there was when it came down to earth and, no metaphor, no image, Yeats really got it straight: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” If that sums up the period which, with McCarthy in the ascendent, was the inhibiting matrix of the Workshop, in the theater itself, with passivity among the best, the worst were the merely cynical. As for the rising intensity of my own conviction, I'd soon be saying what Yeats had said before, what had to be said if he never did: “Not what you want but what we want”—which is what prefaced his conditions for what would be the Abbey Theater, “the first modern theater that said that.” Though there were skeptics, of course, in his theater, he meant it for the audience. And that's how I wanted to see us, setting forth the same conditions, the first to do that in San Francisco, sometimes called “the Paris of the West,” whichPage 150 → turned out to be, however, about as provincial as Dublin, where the audience rioted at Playboy of the Western World and relegated Yeats' Noh-like chamber drama, outside the city limits, to Lady Gregory's drawing room. Not what you want but what we want! I kept insisting on it, and the doubters backed off when it worked. But however we tried to set our own standards, for the plays we did and how we did them, the old adage persisted: the audience has the last word, that is, until the reviews come out. Then, aside from the box office, you have to deal with another complication, or what is, if secreted or unadmitted, another form of doubt. Let me preface that by saying what I've long felt, and still do: that actors require an immediacy of courage beyond that of other artists. If it's a play you wrote, and poorly reviewed, you can go and hide. Write a novel, and it may take a year or more to get it published, and by the time it's reviewed, if badly, however that may hurt you're at some distance from it. So, too, with paintings you've done by the time they're exhibited, and even then, you don't have to show up at the gallery the day after the drubbing, as actors do on stage (at least until the play closes, which is not always mercifully quick). And think of what that must be if the world's been told not only that the performance is inadequate or inept, but also, as once happened to an actress I know, that to begin with she'd been utterly miscast, since (by implication) she was not even good-looking enough for the role. Get up there and be radiant then. That worst-case scenario aside, since actors as much as audiences, maybe even more, are susceptible to the newspapers, they are most assured of what they are doing, not by what the director says or how they feel in rehearsal, but if the work is unsettling or strange, when approved by the critics. And that's true, too, for many of them, of the quality of their acting. Here, indeed, though mostly denied, is a clear and present danger, reversing what I said above, and an irony that disturbed me until the day I stopped doing theater: if a really good performance can be injured by negative reviews, a poor performance may really improve, or appear to, if the reviewers say it's good. If these reflections on the Workshop, then, appear to be starting with reception theory, there was from the outset a tug-of-war between what, ideally (which means, of course, as I saw it), we ought to have been doing, and what, according to those in the know, would “work” on stage or “play” or be “what the audience wants,” or surer to

please the critics. That a few of our worst productions managed to do that, with the audience and the critics, while some of the best were simply ignored, dismissed, or otherwise devastated, not only bears upon standards in the theater, its aesthetics andPage 151 → politics too, but in our new age of “moral values” on what, with punditry and opinion polls, to make of public judgment—assuming you can talk of public judgment in front of a television set. Since the theater is more likely to be attended by those on the liberal Left, and this was certainly true of our theater, I'm not merely talking here about the conservative Right. If all of this accounts for the fact that through many years of the Workshop I was contending with disenchantment, saying to Bea more than once that I wanted to leave the theater, it also induced this ending to the first paragraph of The Audience: “Today when there is the semblance of a gathered public, it is usually looked at askance by the most seminal practitioners in the theater, as it was by Brecht and Artaud, and by social and critical theorists. Such an audience seems like the merest facsimile of remembered community paying its respects not so much to the still-echoing signals of a common set of values but to the better-forgotten remains of the most exhausted illusions.” And then, to be sure, there are the necessary illusions. Or those so strangely felt they seem plain fact, in one incredible instance leaving me with a question I could never conceivably answer—so moving, in fact, why would I want to? So it was one night when Bea said, out of the long silence between us, after a terrible argument, the children having heard it, but probably then asleep, “When I read a book about a girl who has fallen in love, it's funny, but I have trouble believing it. I can't imagine anyone wanting to be married to anyone but you. It stands in the way of my believing the book. Is that wrong?” What was wrong was my inability to match, or vaguely express, anything like that devotion, which sustained when it seemed exhausted some sequestered faith in myself. As for my faith in the theater—or in what I had insisted, to Bea as to Buddy, we could really make happen—from the very beginning that came and went, though when the passion for it returned, as if from exile in my books, I could work off some guilt by remembering that I was also doing it for her. But then her acting was also doing it for me, as when in the mumbled wake of critique the actors more or less asked me to put up or shut up—stop talking like a director unless you can really do it. So I chose a scene from Synge's The Tinker's Wedding as a sort of workshop audition, which led to the production of Playboy. I didn't have to do much, because Bea's experience and inventiveness virtually took over rehearsals. As it turned out, really, she was doing the auditioning for me, surprising everybody, including me, as the rollicking, irreverent, tipsy old Mary Byrne, drinking her fill,Page 152 → and singing, with an uproarious pathos—the drunkenness served by, while disguising, that alarming lurch in her body. This, to be sure, was quite a contrast to what we'd just seen in Hedda Gabler, which Buddy had directed as the third production in the loft. If Bea was as regal in the role of Hedda as the day I first saw her, an imposing presence in the bourgeois parlor, assuming mastery there, she could also be, as Alma in Summer and Smoke, that fragile foreshadowing of Blanche DuBois, only too openly vulnerable, chatty, giggly, quaintly charming, and at the cutting edge of the psyche, sensually and otherwise, loving, needing love, with nothing to protect her. To nobody else but me would Bea appear like that, but with a stubborn passion as well, she did have similar qualities, and all the more so, it seemed, in that curious weakening of her body. And as I directed her in Summer and Smoke, also there in the loft, that perception of her probably accounted for my first indulgence of a subtle cruelty, the tempting sadism of rehearsals, call it what you will, but something almost illicit, what may bring a performance, provocatively, insidiously, to where it couldn't go without it. Taking advantage of what I knew, and feeling guilty about it, I solicited precisely the weakness, the nervous laughter, the anxiety, and with it, too, as her body sagged or stumbled, the willed recovery to a pretense of self-possession, which made of Alma the painful inversion of Hedda, and what was perhaps, in its hysterical grace, the most heartfelt performance in those early days of the Workshop. As to what was wrong with her body, that was soon to be diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. With that grimy window in the loft from which there was no exit came another kind of guilt, for once an audience was seated, partially blocking the narrow stairs, the place was actually a fire trap. In jeopardy, then, from the start, it wasn't exactly the setting in which to encourage community, though in short talks to the audience before each performance I might even have used the word, as I described the bearing of each play on the potential of the group—and what they could do to help, contributions accepted. Aside from that, however, with no identity of our own, it was certainly premature to be concerned about that of a public. Even so, before the actor's workshop was

capitalized, when it was still a workshop, there was always a propensity for expanding the context, not only to eventual prospects in an actual theater, or as in imaginings later, breaking down the proscenium or “risking the baroque,” but as if all the possibilities were right there in the loft. Since at the outset, conceptually, we had no context at all, that mostly occurred, as I've been suggesting, through the decisionsPage 153 → and revisions in the privacy of my own mind, where it acquired through the burrowing, with an amplitude unforeseen, something like a metaphysical dimension. “O God,” said Hamlet, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” Site-specifically, Buddy and I also had them, from the moment we suspected, standing behind the audience for Hotel Universe, at the dirt-encrusted window of that fire-trapped loft, that we were “totally liable, ” as a lawyer subsequently told us. When we tried to do something about it, forming a “business partnership,” nobody would insure us, not even Lloyd's of London. Yet, along with all forebodings, if there was still a precipitous feeling for an imaginative expansion, it also brought the metaphysical down to questions of craft. To put it in a nutshell: if the workshop was, as we said, a studio for actors, study what? I might ask, what for? and how to go about it? There was talk, of course, of Stanislavski's “inner life,” and I was picking up on concentration, focus, affective memory, but if I was curious about the gestural system of Delsarte or Meyerhold's biomechanics, we had no grounding whatever for a stylized form of theater. As for all the subsidiary things an actor might study, dance, mime, whatever, why this rather than that, and what dance? whose mime? was beyond any superobjective. These were questions that accrued to my own interior life, but I was hardly yet ready for them, nor the overriding question, perhaps too metaphysical, why make theater at all? With that in abeyance, but with a notion of technique as inquisition, its motive and impelling source, technique as discovery, I'd refer now and then to the nexus of vision and method in the poets I'd been studying, from Eliot's sensuous apprehension of thought or Pound's vorticist image to Stevens's abstraction blooded, in a world made out of words, to Yeats on his way to Byzantium, with Mallarmé having purified les mots de la tribu. That the actors looked at me puzzled, or winced, was certainly so, but sometimes the words worked well among themselves, and when the ideas took off they were also beguiled. And then I'd up the ante into the seemingly antitheatrical. To purify theater at the level of craft, I'd be inclined to say, forget the audience, or it makes no difference if there is no one there, and when the plays became more peculiar it sometimes seemed there wouldn't be. Among the indignant or baffled—and no packed house to begin with—there were those who walked out, and for the few who stayed, they were caught up in the watching, in seeing and being seen, audience to the act. If that specular moment, for the actor, is something more than “building aPage 154 → character,” so it is, for the spectator, a challenge of indeterminacy making the perceptual participatory. As in the play within the play—who is seeing what ?—there's a complexity of theater as well, at the Hamletic heart of which remains the dilemma of presence (which, with all the demystifying, remains at the heart of theory). And indeed it started with that: “Who's there?” “Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.” In that unfolding, the ontological question: seen as being or being seen?—what we later encountered in Beckett (in the urns of Play or the Mouth of Not I), though it wasn't until years after, not at The Actor's Workshop, but in the formative work of KRAKEN, that this became not only the basis of method, but (as with the burrowing) method as a mode of thought. Now back to the wider context and, because it persists, the notion of collective identity, with a sense of redemption there, especially in the theater, with its inheritance from tragic drama, and maybe a burden too, catharsis as wish-fulfillment. Among the conundrums of appearance—not exactly Aristotelean, but as if picking up on the ironies from Euripides to Genet—we've had more than ample evidence, in a world where the media, the markets, globalization compound theatricality, that collectivity is hardly a painkiller, and the public that seems to be there is itself a dubious spectacle. This is something I've written about and talked about, here and abroad, in recent years, and since the towers collapsed into the debacle of Iraq, with forebodings beyond the dubious, because now when there is identity, Vox populi, vox Dei, it may be in Arabic and fundamentalist, and if by no means always jihadist, with beheadings on Al-Jazeera. With the deplorable virulence of a divided world, what was once a Balance of Terror is now the terror dispersed, stateless, surreptitious, from the mountains of Tora Bora to Madrid or the London Tube, which does not quite put into perspective what was, and still is, the faith-based-

driven violence in our democratization of the Middle East. I've been trying to imagine how, if we were starting a theater today, this would bear upon what we were doing, as the cold war did upon The Actor's Workshop. For those disinclined to think of theater that way, either politically or psychologically, the unnegotiable anxieties congenital to our work were, however involuntarily, inseparable from the fact that we were always on the edge of survival. That it was impossible for some to relate what we were doing to what was happening in the world was not, as I said at the time, because they were abnormally insular, but rather behaving as people in the American theater were accustomed to behave, as if the theater were a site of evasion, secreting the fear and trembling, muffling indignation, and if there were anythingPage 155 → like outrage, siphoning it off at best, in a one-shot deal of Brandoesque introspection, through a helpless subjectivity. That was part of what I took to be impossible about the theater, where in a kind of dread of anything else, some still preferred to think of it as show business, and “art” (a word I used injudiciously) as merely some kind of pretension. In any case, when we first met at the beginning of the Fifties to form that studio group, it would have been the merest vanity, if we had talked of producing at all, to have placed the art of theater and our own craft (or lack of it) among the symptoms of the cold war. As for an immanent politics, when we did, more than fifty years ago, the American premiere of Brecht's Mother Courage, some in the company had never heard of Brecht, and others were alienated, but not with the A-effect. What they were resisting was either the politicizing of our theater or what was becoming a policy of “experimentation for its own sake.” Buddy himself worried, when I insisted we should experiment, about our being labeled an “art theater.” Which led me to write, even before the virulent manifesto of my first book, that among the ironies of the American theater, including our own, was that some of “its best actors prefer to dedicate their talents to plays that insult their intelligence.” My resistance to their resistance may at times have been excessive, but so far as I was concerned it was impossible to ignore, in those “fail-safe” years, a century of rational slaughter and, with the capacity to “kill and overkill,” the distinct possibility of total disaster, which was the most likely unregistered tremor of everybody's paranoia. Yet if we dealt with this at all, or through the era of test bans and Brinkmanship the existential malaise in the Human Condition—”that cold, abominable half despair,” so acutely recognized by the Underground Man of Dostoyevsky, “that hell of unsatisfied desires turned inward”—it was at first by a kind of default, and not out of any recognition, through the “fever of oscillations,” of the perverse dignity of the buried life. There was plenty of Angst in me, too outraged to really take shelter, but the question always remained: how to get it into the work? Meanwhile I could, with oscillations, talk of it in class, laying the Angst, if it overcame me, right out there for discussion. Once the Levering Act tension receded, being at San Francisco State—even teaching full-time, those multiple courses each semester—was more than a relief from what inhibited me in the theater. About doing too much and never enough, the anxiety never abated, nor “academically ensnared” (as I said in a journal), doing what I shouldn't be doing, the congenital self-reproof. Yet, withPage 156 → students in literature and creative writing, and friends I made on the faculty, the college was an intellectual oasis. And that was despite the fact that I often went there exhausted, with what I thought in the early mornings wasn't an idea left in my head. I was there in the early mornings because, when I was directing full-time too, there was a hurried circuit between the campus and the theater. As soon as classes were over, off I went to rehearsals, working into the night, and way past midnight in technical or dress rehearsals—after which I'd return straight to my office at school, not going home at all, and doing without sleep to prepare for courses that day. By dawn I was dazed, feeling brainless, but the teaching woke me up, kept it all going, those unsatisfied desires exorcised by explication in the searching out of a text, and the creative malaise turning into a sometimes dazzling lecture, not only surprising me, but applauded now and then as if it were a performance. Sometimes, barely prepared, it was really improvisation, but with notes, without notes, nonstop analytical, speculative, ready for give-and-take, making them want to listen, I was soon outdoing myself with a pedagogical gift—behind which was the mortification of not being able to say it, for all the words, words, words, not yet having the language, but wanting to say it all. What was amusing in the momentum was not being able to stop, watching myself talking, all of it insufficient, as if seeking the last word. What I did discover, however, is that, still learning as I went, wanting to know it all, I could certainly know it better by teaching a course about it. Since

you could do it in that hybrid department, not English but Language Arts—and with the open-ended bibliotherapy of the new chair, Caroline Shrodes—I taught across historical periods and across disciplines too, long before that became fetishized as “interdisciplinarity.” In my journalism course, I was already saying worse than what they're saying of the press today, that if not besieged yet by the conservative Right, and weblogged into submission, it nevertheless lacked independence, really honest opinion, because controlled by money. But even if cultural studies had been on the scene, I'd not have bought into the charge that the same is true of art, or the Benjaminian notion that all our cultural monuments are part of the history of barbarism—and even if so, what about the qualitative differences between them, as between the city of Florence and Stalinist architecture, or between the bloodiness of Macbeth and a Broadway melodrama. It's not only those endless tomorrows that creep in their petty pace from day to day, but the quasi-Marxist historicist take, its ideological pettiness, on the poetry of their imagining. Page 157 → As I was beginning to see it, the aesthetic was not only privileged, but more than a privilege for me, including the chance to teach what I was still trying to understand. As for literature itself, I might do a course on Greek drama or Shakespeare, or the Jacobean theater, but I also taught Chaucer and Milton, “the outer sign of an inner grace” from Cotton Mather to Emily Dickinson, the novel through Melville to Faulkner, “The Metaphysicals and Modern Poetry,” or with a deviation from the New Criticism, by way of Kenneth Burke, “Principles of Literary Form”—with the principles informing craft in those other workshops, those I taught on playwriting, and poetry writing too. All of this continued to educate me, while diminishing somewhat that still-obdurate sense of belatedness that I brought to the theater and literature with the degree in engineering. As our theater started, however, to change the cultural landscape in land-locked San Francisco, the students would increasingly want to hear about that, and I must have taught some of the earliest courses anywhere reconfiguring modern drama with the plays of Brecht and Beckett, and later Genet and Pinter. And by the time I came to that, things were turning around in our theater itself. Because of the notoriety of our more experimental work—the controversy over Brecht, unprecedented in the city, or the unexpected acclaim for the production of Waiting for Godot, the sensation over The Crucible (not experimental, and not a good production, but exciting the political Left) and for better reasons The Balcony —the recalcitrants in the company were readier to listen too. That was certainly gratifying, but what I enjoyed as much as anything was another kind of talk, out there on the campus, when I'd have lunch with my colleagues, smart, knowing, contentious, eccentric, on another wavelength—and except when engaged with me, not much interested in the theater. Or when they were, and this a predictable irony, the same old conventional stuff. It was, indeed, The Actor's Workshop that changed how they thought about theater, or induced them to think about drama, though they counted on me to teach it, while they focused on fiction and poetry—which, all in all, I preferred to teach myself, as I still do today. There were, to be sure, the usual doldrums in the department, the slackers, the doubters, the natural-born bureaucrats or procedural vigilantes who made for tedious meetings, and there were, in a crisis, the outright cowards. As for Caroline Shrodes, a lipsticked fidgety listener, but a listener nevertheless, your confidante and inquisitor, as if in the “talking cure,” she was even trusted by those who insisted she couldn't be trusted.Page 158 → Savoring a Camel through a long cigarette holder, Caroline was authoritarian, unscholarly, but with a pedantry of her own, therapeutically antitraditional, turning literature into psychology through those Patterns for Living, which survived any other proposed anthology as the program's basic text. Attitudes toward Caroline fluctuated, but if rabidly resented by some, she was also indispensable. And when things went into a tailspin, she would produce a surprise, an unexpected hiring (never mind procedures, rarely second-rate), an open forum, a party with plenty to drink—and if that brought out the grievances, or an unprovoked attack, displaced from Caroline to a colleague (once Hayakawa, not yet the politician, but the semantic wheeler-dealer), it also kept the energy going, along with what became doctrine, that San Francisco State was meant to be experimental. During the period of the loyalty oath, after the nonsigners left, there was talk that the college would wither as others looked elsewhere for jobs, but very few did, if any, and when Caroline took over she hired even better, the arbitrariness of appointments creating not a party-line faculty, but an often querulous vagrant community with instincts for experiment, even through the bewildering stasis of those disenchanted years.

My earliest best friends at school were the quirkiest people there, the most paranoid, the most difficult, Arthur Foff and Antoinette Willson—their disenchantments quite another thing. From the originary days of modernism, we heard that art must be difficult, and as if embodying that idea Art certainly was, Toni too, with different styles of condescension, but equally gifted in repartee, catching up contradictions or otherwise setting you up. You had to be deft in dealing with them, or needed a certain resilience, which as exercised at school may have carried over to The Actor's Workshop, bringing a more supple patience to the predictable paranoia—and still anticipating resistance, I wasn't exempt from that. Yet I was better at deflecting it, keeping my cool, or simply waiting it out, and not assailing Bea at home with what I should have said. Before a later impasse, I shared an office with Toni, who might seem impersonal, but could be affectionate, if begrudgingly so. Caroline was, Justine was, and I'm pretty sure Toni was lesbian, but though there was an open-door policy in Language Arts, don't ask, don't tell, was the way that she preferred it. For her, as for Art, intimacy wasn't easy, but while I could talk about personal things with him, and imposed them at times on Toni, she was adept at changing the subject, or keeping herself at a distance. This showed up, too, in the no-nonsense ordinance of her teaching of poetry, where she insisted, contra Caroline, that students cut the psychologizingPage 159 → and with a sense of history show respect for the words. For Toni, a metrical substitution or a lingering caesura was, as if she'd been the student of Winters, a measure of moral perception, and prosody more important than the personality of the poet. The Creative Writing Program at State was becoming one of the best in the country, but Toni dropped out when she more or less stopped writing: if she couldn't do it, she wouldn't teach it. Self-defensive, sharp, she'd write long satiric letters, to the newspapers, to college administrators, to Caroline, about the minutest infraction of authority, and the impasse between us had to do with the censorship of a story in the student magazine. What I protested she defended, drawing on legal and ethical theory, Ruskin, Mill, Thoreau, a flashback to Aristotle, and a definitive flourish of Falstaff, in an extended comic diatribe against my “meretricious arguments.” Even then she seemed to trust me, and we could agree to disagree with a sort of wordplay banter between us. With almost everybody else, however, Toni felt rejected, unconsulted, and then she insisted that she preferred the academic tranquillity of the Berkeley campus (before the uproar of the Sixties), where she returned to take a second PhD, in the social sciences. While her students at State admired her, if also intimidated by sharp questions and quick retorts, she made a habit of announcing, even in class, that she intended to give up teaching: “I'm going out to make an honest living. How much are whores paid nowadays?” When the two of them were together, Art and Toni, there was a dueling congeniality, one joke after another, with mutually biting humor. Nervous, thin, roughly bearded, with pointed sideburns and long fingernails, Art might enliven a conversation with an inexhaustible store of ready insults, funny enough to mitigate an antagonistic tone, so that you never knew when he meant it, but if he did, sparing Toni and me. He and I often joked about his being the “meanest bastard on campus.” What was he antagonistic to? You name it, and watch yourself, but even through the insults you'd like to hear him talk. Smoking constantly, though asthmatic, he could in his arbitrariness also be right on, about the department, Caroline Shrodes, the neuroses of other people (surely his favorite subject), the State of the Union, the faults in the later Faulkner, in the orbit of existentialism a misguided deference to Gide, and the more authoritative truth of Mann's Death in Venice. As it happened, Art's wife was also named Toni, reclusive, self-deprecating, but with an only too wily innocence, lissome, blonde, with Hollywood looks, one of the most beautiful women around. And when she spoke up, rarely with others, but alone with Art and me, she'd invariably scold thePage 160 → two of us for sacrificing creativity to “just teaching,” which, because I was also directing, was mostly about Art's investing too much in his courses and not writing as he should. As for me, she'd psyched out my equivocations and didn't care much for the theater, but if I was going to bother with it, she thought I should be writing plays. What I wasn't aware of for some time, because she did it surreptitiously and never talked about it, is that she was writing too, a novel called The Year of August. When it was published, under an assumed, masculinized name, Anton Fereva, it turned out to be trouble at home, because it was better received than North of Market, the novel Art finally finished after delaying it for years. For all the tensions there, I liked being with them, and because they stayed up through half the night, I'd often go

to their place after rehearsal for a drink, Art's gossip from school, Toni's reproving chatter, and after I relaxed, what Art was waiting for, some philosophical disagreement. We might have started that over lunch a week or so before, but Art never let anything go. There'd always be something on which he had another take, including my own confessional moments or—having kept up my defenses at the theater, with that reputation for arrogance—late-night lapses from pride, as with a remark I might have made about being embarrassed at rehearsal, or the litany about not writing enough, or once, comparing myself to Bea, with her awful dreams, saying mine were insufficient. Perhaps I was just improvising, to get him going, but in the always self-accusative turmoil of the done, not done, I may have meant it too. “I don't dream well,” I said. “If you're going to be an artist, you need a capacity for nightmare. I'd like some night to wake up sweating.” With occurrences of sleep apnea I've done some sweating since, but there was usually some literary referent for what we were talking about then, and with nightmare, I suppose, it was probably Dostoyevsky. There was, for me, that old affinity in the family, but if Raskolnikov and the Karamazovs were not prominent on Art's reading lists, I suspect his dreams were a lot worse than mine. In any case, there we'd be at one or two in the morning, entangled in dream-thought, parsing out pride and embarrassment, which for Art, in an odd twist of the Oedipal, was the means of thwarting pride. When this passed on to The Bacchae, with pride, cross-dressing, up there in a tree, then brought to ground, beheaded, a totem for the Mother, my embarrassments were entwined, impaled, with the figures of ancient drama, or perhaps because I was teaching it, disappeared thence into the more purely academic. Speaking of which, it was about this time that I finished my dissertation. If I had already come out from underPage 161 → Heffner's view of Aristotle, not so with Winters's poetics, which despite his critique of Eliot, still shared some turf on tradition; and that may have been the context for Art's insistence on redefining classicism, while refusing, for all his abrupt realities, the demise of romanticism. Back in the early 1950s that issue was still on the agenda, or over with, then replayed, like the end of modernism now, or the death of the avant-garde. Or the deconstruction of Beauty—which, if not a joy forever, is back again in vogue, in art as well as fashion, with theory catching up, after years of being phobic about “the ideology of the aesthetic.” There was an erratic curriculum at State, but with the Renaissance not yet blurred into Early Modern, the literary periods still had some conceptual status, even for those who were focused, as we were, on modern fiction and poetry, as well as newer writings from The Hudson Review to The Paris Review, or the littler magazines. If they weren't in the library, you might pick them up in North Beach on the racks of City Lights, founded a year after The Actor's Workshop by Peter Martin, who'd audited a couple of my classes, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who soon bought Peter out. In multiplex Language Arts, though the canon was opening to other texts, suspect as literature, more like cultural studies, another friend in Creative Writing, the novelist Herbert Wilner—who also grew up in Brooklyn, and wrote a great story called “The Quarterback Speaks to His God”—would return again to romanticism, in a course entirely on Keats, with no illusion about historicizing the “sweet enforcement and remembrance” or the “high requiem” of its empowering imagination. As for my imagination, still teaching journalism and keeping up with the news, I was also “making it new!” in traditions of the avant-garde (which were not studied at Stanford). If that sounds oxymoronic, avant-garde traditions, I also made a point of teaching, with respect for the canonical, the historical periods sequentially, another one each semester, so I wouldn't forget the incredibly valuable reading I had done for my doctorate. I'd go from the medieval to the Victorian, then back again, and once—after a course in modern poetry, with Pound's ingenious mistranslation of “The Seafarer,” its kennings in modern English—even further back, to “Hwaet we-gardena….,” Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf. I can still impress students by reciting from that. Meanwhile, whether I talked about what I was teaching or a scene just done at rehearsal, Art was still defining us, literarily, with his own historicization. Perhaps because of my anomalous feelings for the metaphysical, and the theological too, from the collateral reading on Shakespeare under the aegis of Christian humanism, he was convinced I had an affinity for thePage 162 → Middle Ages, and one day at lunch he said he'd been thinking things over and concluded that he and I ought to exchange points of view. I assumed we were doing that, but he meant something more than a back and forth, since we were caught up in reversed perspectives: I defended the Middle Ages, he said, with the emotion of the Enlightenment, and he defended the Enlightenment with the emotion of the Middle Ages. It was a good observation that led to some impromptu self-examination, which took

off from Art's unmediated subjectivity or admitted paranoia, which extended to the highest levels of government, where any deceit or sign of corruption was a conspiracy against him. For all his imaginative flights, or for the perverse sake of argument, plain exaggerations, Art insisted that he had a stronger need for order than I did. No stronger than mine, I said, priding myself here on that inherited passion for exactitude, like my father installing a pipe, which Art, never athletic, wouldn't have known from sports either. As for the politics of disorder, or intimations of it, I wanted to be sure, first, I was seeing it as it is, if you could, the quality of disorder, or entropic gradations of it—and this without going, like science outgrowing the Enlightenment, to the edge of the chaotic, that is, to the “complexity” research in a universe of disorder, where nobody really knows. Well, then, back to the normal, or the confusing semblance of it. When it appears, in the more immediate chaos of everyday life, that there may be complications, my own inclination, before anything, is to distrust predisposition. And I'm not talking here about the self-evident, but everything from the sort of thing that breaks up marriages, especially when somebody loved and perfectly known turns out to be a stranger (what great plays have been made about that! and with political repercussions), to whether or not, when or how, we should have been pulling out of Iraq. As for ideological debates, there's always that obligation—which true, I'd admired in St. Thomas Aquinas—to take the other position at its very best, before any refutation. If there's going to be a quarrel, it's first of all with myself, which may be a cautionary hangover from the training in science, where it's still a heuristic principle, an impetus to research. And when, as with Art's conspiracy theory, or his medieval emotion, the whole world is under suspicion, who's guilty? how? if anything incriminating, a little Measure for Measure: “Go to your bosom, / Knock there, and ask thy heart what it doth know.” Which, even if you're Brechtian, you have to do in the theater. Especially if you're directing, it has to be second nature. That's because whatever your disposition you're always engaging, psychically, in the body, said,Page 163 → not said, what is uncertain, suspect, recessive, or if out there, available, still possibly factitious, nothing at all transparent—behavior, ideas, sentiments, the multiple forms of resistance, conscious or unconscious—or at some crux of indeterminacy, that reality of appearance, what even if you think you know it, chances are that you don't. And so at some extremity, that's how it was with Art. The greatest difference existed in our appraisal of motives. Art was immediately distrustful. No matter who, everybody was a potential threat. I preferred, however, to wait it out, let whatever it is reveal itself, innocence there until proven guilty—and even then, in the most difficult judgments, guesswork taken to heart. Along with the issue of who's perceiving what, all of this had a bearing on suppositions about power at The Actor's Workshop, as Jules and I acquired it and had to make decisions—while still deciphering each other—in which it was hard to know right from wrong, though there were those in the company judging us, who, if they had to make those decisions, backbiting bastards, couldn't be trusted at all. (That was quite a learning experience, to be repeated in later contexts, with additional lessons about power.) Lest any of this appear too virtuous, the guesswork a grain of modesty in my claim to being judicious, there was no reserve whatever, and quite another emotion, enlightened as hell, apocalyptic, in my pending indictment of the American theater, where motives were not to be trusted and—depending on resistance in the Workshop, or waiting for reviews, possible lapses of faith—my rage-based initiative would be driven by a growing conviction of widespread, often contempible, inexcusable guilt, which is what caused me to end the first paragraph of The Impossible Theater by saying I felt “like the lunatic Lear on the heath, wanting to “kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!” What went with this, however, as it might after rehearsal into the dialectic with Art, was the cathartically impossible promise in that tragic view of things, not from the Age of Reason, but from the grievous fatalism of the classical world (perhaps always already there, inborn with Jewish genes), which also kept me at a brooding distance from the more lenient Zeitgeist of any other period. So it did, too, from Art's addiction to Freud, and his thinking of psychoanalysis not merely as a therapy, but with free association—Art's own instinctive gift, almost too much for analysis—an instrument of discovery. Actually, with unpurged doubt, I had the gift too (in the theater, my teaching, writing, often remarked since, the elliptical nature of it), but the larger vision faltered then into the usual grievance with myself, while comparing on certain nights, as Art made his distinctions, not periods in thePage 164 → tradition, but individual talent. Discover what? I might say, when my writing was stymied by too much self-critique, whereas Art, before I discovered otherwise, seemed uninhibited and productive. This was

all the more so when impelled by what he took to be threatening, about which he could talk unceasingly, though it turned out to be a problem in getting it down on the page—which for him, with eroding pride, took a turn to the tragic. Art was in analysis before I met him, and he was responsible for my learning something about it, though I was not exactly sanguine about what it would do for me. Yet while I'm still put off by therapy, I've taught Freud now for years, as a major figure in critical theory, and without diminishing theory, indeed an extension of it, there have been associations which, if not Art's kind of discovery, would in their passing strangeness have appealed to his imagination. Speaking of passing strangeness, there was a period when Art seemed to proceed, in a peculiar kind of research, from “the dream's navel” to Civilization and Its Discontents, trying to forget his own, while traveling to relieve them—with a Fulbright first to Japan, to which he and Toni went by way of Europe, seeking other civilizations. I can't sort out the sequence, even from our correspondence (orderly Art's often undated), but somehow extending his leave, Art had various lectureships in the Middle East, now and then returning to Europe, while in the acutely facetious travelogues of an obsessive estrangement, still poignant in his letters, favoring Hiroshima. For all the exotic elsewheres—the Mediterranean, Lebanese parties, the labyrinthine souks, the voluptuous Syrian women with whom he tempted me to join him—it was that still-wounded city that suited his temperament. Wherever he was, as if threatened from afar, Art would do or imagine anything to delay returning to San Francisco, where he'd have to contend again with Caroline Shrodes and not be happily greeted by those he may have insulted. Among them was the current head of Creative Writing, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, author of The Ox-Bow Incident, a landmark Western, made into a famous movie. Revising the parochial or romantic formulas popularized by Owen Wister and Zane Grey, that book was followed by The City of Trembling Leaves and The Track of the Cat, each of them altering the dimensions of Hollywood's mythicized West. Walter was a little puritan, but had he seen it, acknowledging whatever truth in the saga of gay cowboys, he'd have been troubled by the myth's persisting, with enlarged dimensions, in the scenic splendor of Brokeback Mountain. Unfortunately, he wasn't around when the KRAKEN group ventured into the West, with a long project about the Donner Party, and its high dream of migration to California,Page 165 → aborted in the Sierra Nevada, and the cannibalism there. I'd have wanted him as a consultant, but by that time we were both elsewhere, and Walter had retired, near those catastrophic mountains, actually in Nevada, where his father had been president of the university. But part of Walter had retired, it seemed, even before he joined the faculty at SF State, having lost track of himself as a writer or wandered into a stalemate, and Arthur Foff wasn't kind about that, nor about Walter's habit, if two people asked him very different questions, of answering both in precisely the same way. Otherwise likeable and principled, he'd absorb almost any question or discussion into what was possessing him at the moment, really changing the subject, and talking as long as anybody was willing to listen, which he might also do in a class, when it was already over and the students ready to go. All of which, as Art saw it, was how Walter avoided writing. Yet he appeared to stay up all night, so it was hard to tell about that. Without much sleep, and without any new work in sight, Walter continued to look, with his handsome rugged physique and horseman's stride, and even if not laconic as a cowboy should be, as if he should have starred in the movie made from his book, instead of Henry Fonda. As for Art's own writing, how was that going? The letters continued back and forth, but I hesitated to ask. One time, however, from Hiroshima, he said that he was working on three novels, a month later two novels, uneasy about both of them, then nothing about that, and then, referring to Toni making progress on something she was writing, “I work, yes, quite in the dark and wait for the light.” Whatever the doubts about myself, for Art I remained, through his enveloping desperation, a long-distance Socratic presence. Whether imagining a dialogue when I wasn't there, or imposing a flattering wisdom that I wished, somehow, I could use on his behalf, he also measured what he wasn't doing by what I may have been doing, as the theater grew, the teaching continued, and I was not only directing more, but with doubts subsiding in the writing, one of my plays was staged. “I want to know,” he added, from out of the doleful dark, “what you are doing and how your multiple and staggering enterprises are going.” Whatever the enterprises, which took me to Europe too, on a grant from the Ford Foundation, I can still feel through his letters what he couldn't put off anymore, though there might be a joke to

disguise it, his sense of failure as a writer, which aggravated the marriage. Even when pregnant with a third child, Toni was about break it off, and after they returned to San Francisco, and Art tried to make amends, she wouldn't change her mind. A day or so after her father died, she filed for a divorce.Page 166 → Somewhere in all this, ever-threatened Art diverted his becoming a worse threat to himself by having an affair, with a student, who also happened to be with the Workshop, and about to end or having ended her own troubled marriage to another actor in the company. When she indicated an interest in writing fiction, I suggested she take a course with Art. Which accounts for a series of egregiously mournful ironies that one hardly expects, for all the rememoration, to be occurring right here, now, as if summoned up inevitably by what's being written about, in the course of the autobiography. And so it's been these last several days with this part of the chapter, and what may follow, for which I've been reading around in various archives, mainly those here at home, long set aside. As I was coming to what was ever more painful with Art, some of it delusional, still spurning his colleagues at State, or feeling rejected by them, but suddenly close friends with unlikely others—Don Hayakawa, when he was off in the United States Senate; or Glenn Dumke, the new college president; or because he knew I knew him, even Samuel Beckett—I began to think of what I might be saying about other friends I really valued. Among them was Herb Wilner, from whom I had a file of letters, though the first one, strangely, turned out to be one of mine. (Many of my letters then were written by hand, but this one was done on a typewriter, and the only one to him of which I kept a copy.) “Dear Herb,” it started, and I had trouble following the first sentence, because I thought he was writing me. What I was saying, however, is that I had already heard what Herb wanted me to know, that Art Foff had committed suicide. It was not exactly a surprise. Even the asthma, which had grown worse the last time I saw him, caused me to say in a letter, “There were times I felt he didn't want to breathe.” But how did I know about the suicide? That was in June 1972, and I was at Oberlin at the time, in residence with my KRAKEN group, after the years at Lincoln Center, then leaving CalArts. I hadn't seen her for some years, but the young woman from the Workshop, with whom Art had that ill-fated affair, had managed to find me in Cleveland (where I was having an affair of my own). She was crying over the phone, about what she'd read in the newspaper. Art had been missing for more than a week, then was found slumped over the front seat of his car. He'd been dead, according to the coroner, for at least three days, from an overdose of barbiturates. As I wrote to Herb, “I suppose I was the only one she could share it with, since Arthur had apparently gone back to Toni,” who ended it, and then he was living alone, refusing to see anybody,Page 167 → in his father's house in Mill Valley, not even seeing his father. The poor young woman he had rejected “had nothing and no one to share her grief.” Now, as I am writing this, there is behind me in my study an embroidered floral wreath in a black frame, with the wreath itself framing the embroidered black letters, repeated, of that infamous word: Kill Kill Kill. This was given to me as a gift, shortly after The Impossible Theater was published, at an anniversary party of The Actor's Workshop, by two young women in the company, Patty English, who worked backstage at the theater, and Mary Waldorf, whom I had intended to keep anonymous (the only one so far) until, as I was approaching the affair with Art, an email came from Priscilla in Paris. She was forwarding a message from Patty, with this disheartening news, about someone whose image is still very young in my mind: “Mary is in an attractive hospice center in the woods not far from the hospital where she was for a month, everything but oxygen, and morphine has been removed, and predictions that she will last a few or several days.” I turned from the message to the embroidery. We'd joked about it for years, whenever I'd see them, Patty and Mary together—the last time in Los Angeles, after the memorial service for Bea, who had died five years before. They always reminded me that the needlework, putting the Kills in the embroidery, was done in order to tame me, whereupon I reminded them that there were only three Kills enwreathed, with three more left from Lear, to serve me in my fury. I'm not quite sure it was that when, while writing about Art's suicide, I received another email from Priscilla, with another attachment from Patty, saying Mary had died. All those with her there at the end, were “so happy that she finally let go, and you would be too had you been with her at this point.” But, since the idea of dying still puts me in a rage, I'm not sure of that either. Nor exactly what I am feeling, with my eighty-third birthday soon, about all the concurrences here—Art dead, Mary dead, and not long after Art, the strange death of Herb Wilner, about which I'll be saying more, and of course Bea, dear valiant Bea—all those associations, including my thinking of

Buddy, whenever I hear from Priscilla, still hard to believe it, boyish bright-eyed Buddy, dead nearly thirty years.

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SIX Revising the Dream A DISCIPLINE OF DISTRUST Journal entry: “I dreamt again that there was trouble at the theater and that Buddy had to ‘protect’ me.” That may not have been the nightmare from which I wanted to wake up sweating, but with some distressing truth it came after what I'd written, with familiar redundancy, about my brain being stressed, taut, and tormented all the more by a pledge I'd made to myself, “to understand my motives as they really are.” I insisted I was doing this for the first time in my life, which seems, looking back, a portentous surprise, since if I could count on nothing else I'd always thought I was doing that, with an embarrassing excess that the journals really confirm. Or my letters to Bea, which she saved, and which Dick, arranging her papers after she died, sent back to me recently. The usual pattern is there, motives shaped by moods, especially in those conflicted years, about the time of that dream. I was ebullient one day, depressing the next, as Bea knew well enough, or searching, searching, for I wasn't quite sure what, with “faith enough yet,” as I wrote her, “to know that tension is still part of the natural order of things and may itself be fruitful.” But what was I looking for? “Wouldn't it be an impossible life if the only thing you could estimate as real remained for always inaccessible. Do you follow me?” I asked. “I don't mean to be ostentatiously pessimistic—this is a literal statement of the fact of my feelings at the moment, part of which goes against what I know I believe.” What I was saying to Bea still feels, just that, substantial fact, but I'm noPage 169 → more sure what to make of it. If there was anything ostentatious, that had less to do with the pessimism than the philosophical terms, like “being and becoming,” that Bea hardly needed, whatever the order of things, though even those terms were, in the reality coming upon me, beginning to acquire substance, the abstractions coming to life—if also a little beyond me, making their way in the world. “Excuse me, my sweet,” I wrote, “I guess I have been trying in this letter to explain myself to myself; and you are the best ear I have.” The explaining still continues, but as to what my motives really are, of course I'm still guessing—and will, no doubt, until I cease to be. To dwell on that, sure, in my eighty-third year to heaven, but why in the long ago were thoughts of my own dying so active in the becoming, and no mere feelings, but existential fact, its happening, but unseen, which was very soon inseparable from how I thought of theater, or what past all appearance I was seeing there. About that seeing, my wife Kathy is disinclined. She also has a good ear, with a normally irrepressible, most salient good nature, but when I'm talking about what's there, inarguably there, the dying in front of your eyes, she's really quite distressed. “How can you?” she said the other night, during our usual late dinner, with classical jazz playing, and through the large view window, airplane lights approaching, like shooting stars, and a nearly full moon behind, over the Cascades, if you could see them in the dark. “Why must you think like that?” She's rarely been so furious. What else could I say? I'll burn my books? Maybe it's worse with aging, but she knows I've been writing for years, perhaps obsessively so, that if you take the theater seriously (and even if you don't), it is always hauntingly there, what we'd rather forget. To which I'll be returning, because even with memory failing nothing is more remembered. And here, we know, there's a darkling faculty at work. Yet, if in that dream of needing protection there was something Oedipal too, it wasn't merely secreted in the mise-en-scène of the unconscious—no, it was right up there on stage, in a production of Sophocles' drama, what I felt at the time was “the only perfectly realized play I had directed.” That may have been, to reduce the tension, what I needed to believe, but there was surely some truth as well, and not bad considering that I hadn't directed much, only two productions before, while still on the learning curve. In the wider space of our Elgin Street Theater—an abandoned Ford warehouse, briefly a church, to which we'd moved from the judo academy loft—there was a stately intimacy to the performance, up on a platform, nearly in the round, with a small Chorus at ground level, clustered pawns of unanswering gods,Page 170 → or in echelons of supplication, exhortation, and with wild lyric cries the sententious inadequacy of lamenting

reason. For even in the horror of it, that sight to awaken pity, “much to learn and much to see,” there was what couldn't be seen, strikingly there, emblooded, at the myth's climactic blindness, as the awesome figure of Oedipus—played by Joseph Miksak, tall, stately himself—loomed over the spectators, with an awful knowledge inscribed. Which doesn't mean that we know it, or that it can be deciphered. For it would seem to be something forbidden, there, not there, the visibly invisible, which since Brechtian Alienation has been doubly suspect, the factitiousness of appearance in the system of representation, recapitulating a present whose plenitude is elsewhere, controlled by absent power. What I've just said may be—the rhetoric, the abstraction—how a director shouldn't be thinking, and I certainly wasn't then. Yet I might very well have thought so if I was really into Brechtian theory, as theater practitioners were in France, after the Berliner Ensemble's first appearance in Paris, with Mother Courage and Her Children, creating a sensation there. That was in 1954, the same year we did Oedipus, which, since Freud, you can hardly think of at all without passing into theory or, since Brecht, theory's critique of the Oedipal theater. Thus, the ravel of language above, Alienation in de-construction, whose refusal of a lost presence, or putting it under erasure (“sous rature”), if foreign to me at the time, was itself acquiring power, at least among intellectuals, at first in France, and then among academics in our French departments, before causing havoc with literary studies in English. This was happening while I was still reading the existentialists, and from The Stranger to Nausea to Being and Nothingness made my way from “a useless passion” to “the desperate encounter between human inquiry and the silence of the universe.” Both Camus and Sartre, not incidentally, also wrote plays, with No Exit from the nausea when they put it up on stage, and the irony in the silence of their assuming a listening Public. That was common enough in Europe, major thinkers writing drama, and even if with intent to reform it, for a cultural institution with national status beyond the boulevards, and often with government funding that you still can't dream of here. In German theaters, to this day, they're funding the avant-garde, and if that, we suspect, as in the art world everywhere, is the death of the avant-garde, having been bought out from the beginning, we might well have prayed then that it should only have happened to us. As we had nothing comparable in America, I was becoming particularly conscious, too, that our best novelistsPage 171 → and poets, no less philosophers, remained indifferent to theater, if not contemptuous of it, like various of my colleagues at San Francisco State. “I am not suddenly going to get nuts about the theater,” wrote Herb Wilner, about a decade later, off in Austria on a Fulbright, when he heard of my going to Lincoln Center, where there was talk of a national theater, “and I will not bullshit you and say that it really matters to me about the dent you can make for all time to come in American cultural life.” He was thrilled for me, however, “as another Brooklyn boy,” who was “a great believer in the basic insight of the streets…., put up or shut up,” and the fact I had chosen to take it all the way, the revolution called for in The Impossible Theater. The Workshop was “gutsy and honest,” but whatever else it did, it “served one great purpose. It produced your book,” and he was prouder of me, he said, for fulfilling its vision of theater, as it should be, in New York, “where the power is, and where the power is is where you ultimately had to go or to get out of it altogether.” About where the power is, not absent, but actual, Herb was speaking better than he knew, and at Lincoln Center, and later CalArts, in my postdoctoral education, it was a more than enlightening presence, by no means under erasure. Now, lessons absorbed, not excluding those at the Workshop, my eyes usually roll backward when people who've never had it talk about power, and to the degree I did, in theater, in academia, there'll be more to say about that. About the genetics of power, Herb and I shared, too, some basic insight from the street. He came to SF State several years after I did, when in the department and out in the city I was getting some attention, which may account for his being cautious, like the new guy in the playground, before we became friends. But often surprised by what I was teaching, no less our unanimity on Keats, he'd always been genuinely puzzled as to why, given my other interests, my complaints, and hints that I might quit, I bothered with theater at all. What could I say, it was impossible, and that was reason enough. A slight complication was a commitment of my pride-arousing book, or in creating a “true theater” its one great purpose: mission impossible consisted of also changing the world. That may have seemed beyond reason, but it came with a certain realism from what was happening in the world. Buddy's realism was of another order, but

gradually, if never entirely, in our economy of exchange, he was buying into the vision. As to what was happening in the world of theater, information didn't travel then as it does now, nor were there touring groups everywhere, including companies ofPage 172 → national theaters, so that you could know what was happening even if you didn't travel. As for theater/performance journals, you look at one today, like those scattered around my desk, and aside from Mnouchkine at the Cartoucherie or a fiesta at Tepoztlán, you can be in Senegal or Kraków or Bangkok, or in the Eastlink Gallery in Shanghai, at Zhu Yu's xingwei yishu— not theater, of course, but “behavior art,” for an exhibition (translated) “Fuck Off.” That's what you might have felt, however, if in the early years of the Workshop you expected a journal to answer the question, what's new in the world? and where? It's really hard to believe now what wasn't known then. I didn't know much myself, but what I had a sense of, from afar, was the ferment over in Europe, and a theater charged with politics, which would eventually have an effect here. I don't want to jump the gun on the Sixties, or the circuitousness after, but when the dissidence here, with blue jeans and rock music, went over to Europe, it was rationalized there, intellectualized, or with the “logics of disintegration,” went Aufhebung (every loss a profit) into poststructuralism, and then returned to us, with a taxing cerebral discourse against the American grain. It was a discourse claiming to be and behaving as performance. When I became aware of it later, in the course of the KRAKEN work, the “unhearded-ness,” the beyonding, didn't at all put me off, nor the textual labyrinth, for conceptually, methodologically, it seemed rather familiar. And as I've joked about it since, it might have been mimicking us, the endless inquisition in the process of our work, with its similar cerebration in the circuitry of thought, that logic of indirections finding directions out. “Always historicize!” we were also being told—all of this germane, the shifting scenes, the back and forth, to the history of The Actor's Workshop, or through the laminated lens of what I've been doing since, seeing it in perspective. So, lest we forget: there was a contentious preface to the exemplary indeterminacies or abrogation of meaning that would, when we came to Beckett, also be confounding on stage. There was in the existential, with whatever useless passion, the dislocation of thought around an earlier politics. It was the recession of the Absurd into the debate over Algeria, when Sartre went further left, into the Communist Party, and Camus—a pied noir, born in Algeria—went silent, then died in a car crash, that created the vacancy for deconstruction. The word/concept came from Heidegger, who was appropriated by the French (since postwar Germans backed off from his Nazi affiliation), along with the phenomenological question that, (un)decidably, made an inciting difference: why is there something ratherPage 173 → than nothing? And this was so despite what Sartre said, across the rift between them, about Camus's sudden death, that it was an “imbecilic negation,” a scandal of nothingness, confirming the Absurd. I'm not sure what it confirmed, but there was another vacancy when, the morning after the car crash, I came down from a hotel in Paris, on the rue Monsieur le Prince, and walking past a newsstand saw that Camus was dead. I had an appointment to meet him, at his apartment, the very next afternoon. Still dwelling on the negation, that startled day before, I had another appointment, with Roland Barthes, who lived on the rue Servandoni, a street bisecting the side of the imposing church of St.-Sulpice, and not far, actually, from where I would have met with Camus. Early sections of Barthes's first book, Writing Degree Zero, were published in the newspaper Combat, edited by Camus and Sartre, though Barthes was about to dissociate writing (écriture) from existential engagement. Or—since he was really responding to Sartre's What Is Literature?—any obligation to social commitment. That remained, around the impossible, a problematic at the Workshop, where, as it grew, there were socialists, closeted communists, the usual cadre of vague liberals, edified by The Crucible, but otherwise not inclined to a politicized theater, of the kind I'd be seeing in Europe. As remarked before, some had trouble with Brecht. I haven't yet explained how I came to be abroad, and will get to that momentarily, but the meeting with Barthes had been suggested by Eric Bentley, whose version of Mother Courage was the one we used in San Francisco. When Eric heard I was going to Paris, he said I must get in touch with a young critic there who was also Brechtian, though by then, after staging Beckett, Genet, and others, I was hardly that Brechtian. I can't say the same for Barthes, though what he was could be complicated. I hadn't read anything of his yet, but what I came to admire about him, from the time we first talked, was not only his intimacy with ideas, but the way in which, even when disguised, there was an intimacy at the source, as in the erotic discourse, “never apologize, never explain,” of The Pleasure of the Text. About my height, soft smile, full brows, an eyelid lowered, the look illegible, and as if a perfect brushstroke, the

arc of an aquiline nose—he greeted me at the top of the staircase, six flights up, with an apology for the climb. As we entered the apartment, there was an easel, with some modest semi-abstractions on the floor and wall, and a piano in the living room, which was just above his mother's. I never saw her, then or after, but long before Camera Lucida, where in his meditations on photography she is charismatically unseen, I had a sense of a deep affection. Reimagined whenPage 174 → she died, as a revelation of history, was what he kept from us, the Winter Garden photograph, which he saw inwardly as a “denatured theater” of death—in its way what theater is, with the “unendurable plenitude” of what has ceased to be. What he said about her came from my own still-prying pleasure in asking about family, and finding more to talk about by talking first of my own, which even worked with Barthes, who then briefly described her, her sweet simplicity, which became a “sovereign innocence” in the withheld photograph. I must have asked, but don't remember his ever saying anything about his father. Despite his reserve, and my hesitant French, conversation was easy. But it seemed to move by ellipses or lexias (his term for writing as reading), brief fragments of suggestion, with something stylish, like an art form, in his unpresuming reticence. Barthes was especially curious, however, when I told him what I had been studying, and also teaching, around the theater work. When he heard, for instance, that I knew something about the New Criticism—indebted to Baudelaire and the Symbolists, but with no currency in France—he wanted to hear more about that, in exchange for which, as a self-described disciple of Lévi-Strauss, whom I hadn't heard of before, he filled me in on structural anthropology, and the desire to perceive a semantic order in the chaos of rules and customs, and in the unconscious of others with whom you can never identify. Something other than identity politics and more alluring than a binary abyss, it accounted when I came to read it for the poignancy of Tristes Tropiques. When I brought up French colonialism and the Algerian war, asking who best reflected that in the theater, Barthes reached up onto a bookshelf and gave me a play by the Algerian Kateb Yacine, Le Cadavre encerclé, published in Esprit, but its staging forbidden in France. In exile after, but living in Paris when the Berliner Ensemble was there, Yacine did a long interview with Brecht. The effect was lasting through Yacine's later plays, which have had a continuing influence in postcolonial theater, and I taught one of them in a recent seminar. As for Barthes himself, he was at our first meeting in his semiological period, an idiosyncratic Marxist, into signs and not politics, and while still respectful, not at all like Sartre. He was rather, as in Mythologies, zeroing in on mass culture's taken-for-granted truths, whether about wrestling, a striptease, the Citroën, or the haircut and fashionable clothes of a Catholic priest working with the homeless. Yet, deft as Barthes was in exposure, while evasive or cavalier about a politics of his own, after the impact of Mother Courage he was almost uncritically devoted to Brecht, about whomPage 175 → he'd written a series of essays in Théâtre populaire—a journal taking its title from the populist mission of Jean Vilar, ordained as it was by Brecht, in the medieval city of Avignon, with its summer palace for the pope. As for my own experience of Avignon, and writing for Théâtre populaire, that came with the grant from the Ford Foundation, one of twelve to various artists—the first it had ever given—and I was awarded the one in theater. Whereupon I begged Jules to let me go abroad, because there was nothing more to be learned in this country. It meant his having to run the whole show himself, administering, directing, contending with the usual hassles, but he knew I had to go. In emergencies we kept in touch by telephone and Western Union, but I sent on long letters, too, about what I was seeing and what it could mean to us, which he would read at company meetings. Meanwhile, there in Europe, Brecht's dominance in theater was such that even Sartre deferred, and though he took issue with him, they also shared a politics. (Or not quite, since Brecht—though he wrote The Measures Taken, where the Communist will is unquestionable—went over the Wall with that Austrian passport, money safe in a Swiss bank, and never joined the Party.) Radical but uncommitted, deconstruction circled around the politics, but when it showed up in the theater, even in the Brechtian gestus, the Derridean view of it was that it made no material difference, and thus, not at all undecidably, was subject to critique. With all else demystified, the gospel was Artaud. Under the jurisdiction of the Theater of Cruelty, what Brecht had warned about—not only in classical tragedy, with its emasculating fate, but even more in Shakespeare, those star-crossed raging figures, for all their presence too subjective, therefore disempowered—was being threatened with closure, and Brecht's Alienation with it, outfoxing the apparatus, but imprisoned by the system, the grimace or rictus of any gestus still a

representation. Of course, Brecht should have known, for hadn't he also warned us that “the theater itself resists any alteration of its function,” the danger being that, whatever you're thinking about on stage, “it theaters it all down.” And if I was becoming aware of that, it was because I was preparing, soon after we did Oedipus—and before that meeting with Barthes—to direct the first American production of Mother Courage. More theater? less theater? In acting, directing, design, or how to shape a production, those are defining questions, as they are, too, about historical periods and cultures, though there's always the complication—or the kind I made for myself, in practice, then theory—what do wePage 176 → mean by theater? As for the A-effect, its Bauhaus matter-of-factness, it might seem that less is more, but only more or less. And then, in a surge of history, the rising turbulence of the Sixties, there seemed to be not only more, but something like more than ever—nor was it quite what I was after in my soon-to-develop temptation for “risking the baroque.” If we were with all vigilance, whatever the form of theater, in the danger that Brecht decried, the way out, it seemed, was the pure libidinal flow that in the “polymorphous perversity” after May ’68 was the headlong illusion of its participatory mystique—in the path of the Living, with naked bodies, theater out on the streets. And soon performance was everywhere, in the arts, popular culture, festivals, sports, sex shows, high and low fashion, ritual and corporate practice, selfpresentation, and the fantasies of everyday life—thus leaving the theater behind, no less the dramatic text. Theatricality as antitheater is part of a long tradition, but this was also the schizophrenic setting for the activist Anti-Oedipus of Deleuze and Guattari, and what they called “desiring-machines.” I hadn't heard of them yet, but they might have come off some autistic assembly line of futurist hysteria and Dadafest delirium, with the “naked sonorous streaming” that Artaud had reimagined from the Eleusinian Mysteries. Unengendered, autoerotic, they could have enraptured Jarry or been designed by Duchamp, with fate down the urinal, and no other gods but desire—or as in a phase of feminist theory, woman as text, text as body, and screw the phallocratic, “desire desiring desire.” Yet, even as theory was, with a hubris of its own, or ecstatic wish-fulfillment, banishing Oedipus from the stage, we were still under the jurisdiction of those mutilated eyes, staring through the ages at what we want to forget or, through the repetitive history of the returning repressed, the always confounding prospect of what may be—but how do we make the judgment?—the more than needs to be known. And that may turn out to be, with power unimpaired, where we don't even know it. Metaphysics, for Artaud, comes in through the skin, but “self-betrayal,” said Freud, “oozes from all our pores,” which became a demonic docudrama in the stagecraft of Genet. And I do mean craft, cunningly so, which we could attest to several years later in the seductions of rehearsal, which could also be distraught, when I directed The Balcony, lured by the illicit myself to make the actors feel exposed. There might be, with everything mirrored, a duplicitous thrill of affective memory or let-it-happen risk, but with a sense of being exploited, the imminence of resentment. Once indeed there was an outburst, that too exploited, turned back into performance, as if it were there in the text. At the perfidious end of true confession in thePage 177 → perverse fantasies of that play, seemingly anti-Oedipal, yet castrating too, we're told by the Madame of the Brothel, as she puts out the lights: “You must now go home, where everything—you can be quite sure—will be even falser than here.” There was, in that, a wicked irony too, because it was Bea, playing Madame Irma, with imperious poise at the moment, who had been fuming through a rehearsal, then burst out in a rage of personal violation, a tirade against Genet, for some derisive truth in the falsehood. “What does he know, that fucking queer! I am not make-believe. I am me, me! Beatrice Manley!” With subjectivity fractured and identity at a loss, the parable is post-Freudian: the oozing metaphysics with a widening contamination that, in those phobic years infecting our theater, moved from the personal to the political, and despite what that meant in the Sixties, still threatening the human condition—what indeed might even define it, as destined to betray itself. For what baffles psychoanalysis is also a moral issue, if not eschatological. From an interiorized self to the infinitely extended cosmos, the irony persists, in whatever revelations, that as we move toward the secrets of the universe we're frightened to death of the possibilities. And so it was in nuclear physics, with the hegemony of the Bomb in the uncertain Balance of Terror; and now, with all our intelligence, wiretaps, radar, data mining, it's there, not there, out of sight at another level, lower case, suicidal, an insidious homemade terror, sneaking up on the nuclear secrets, with sponsoring nations in the news, missiles in the bunkers, uranium being enriched. Distance may seem an instant with globalized information, but in that Einsteinian cosmos turning

back upon itself, how far should we go?— not only in outer space, but still a moral issue below the piously forbidden, in genetic research too. It was on this bewildering scale, far out, far in, that with Oedipus and after I was coming to think of theater, from its genesis to its politics, as if the Bomb were in the lobby, or down the Great Chain of Being to its particle physics. As for the visibly invisible, it may have been in the genes, but whatever the audience saw, or didn't, or refused to see, I seemed possessed by that, in that cloud of unknowing wanting to know more, especially if forbidden, knowing I had to see it, and that may really have been, in my dream, what I needed protection from. This would have been, surely, an impossible burden for Buddy, but with all I might say to him about what was troubling me, none of it yet was so rarified as that estranging specular will, or mental derangement of it, forPage 178 → all we know, not knowing—what the theater was haunted by, the seemingly unseeable, the ghostly thing itself, which is, I came to believe, the generative idea of its creative possibilities. That's why, for all the ideas I was absorbing, from whatever source, what remains with me like a motto was an echo out of the dark: “What, has this thing appeared again tonight?” If it does, there's going to be trouble, if it doesn't, that's even worse, for there'd be no theater without it. I'll be turning again to productions that were erratic in how they thought, but it was near the tenth year of The Actor's Workshop when, in that manifesto defining a mission, I actually made an aesthetic of what I was haunted by: “If politics is the art of the possible, theater is the art of the impossible.” Which I meant at every conceivable level, from the impossible people in it, to its time-serving evanescence, to the vertiginous nothing or mortal fault at its “substantific marrow.” I took that phrase from Rabelais, gargantuan master of the grotesque, well aware of the painfully tragic as it becomes absurdly comic, like Baudelaire's “essence of laughter,” on the edge of a scream, or giving birth astride of a grave, the Beckettian risus purus, the laugh laughing at the laugh. Actually, when things were at their worst in our theater, money short, complaints, delinquencies, a mess at rehearsal, Buddy would proliferate zany jokes about it, even more hopeless, and he and I came together, wading through all the shit, not only protected, but with energies resurrected, by laughter producing laughter, our own desiring-machine. There were, nevertheless, beyond the day-by-day task of survival, questions we weren't asking that had to be asked, about purpose, method, style, repertoire, and around the time of Oedipus, even before we came to Brecht, I had really started to ask them: why this play rather than that? how could this play follow that? and—outside of box office, given the perilous state of the world, or, on either side of the Iron Curtain, its existential condition—was there any principle to it? Even if charged with laughter. In fact, there'd already been an inclination to combine principle with laughter in the play we chose for the first production at the Elgin Street Theater—that too a Greek classic, Aristophanes' Lysistrata. There was, of course, the still unavoidable blurring of principle and expedience, and there were other reasons for choosing the play. First of all, there were a number of new women in the group who were expecting more to do, around scene projects, than painting flats, running props, or even cleaning toilets, while Buddy felt the need for a “splashy costume show” that would also show off how the company had grown. Yet in the program note for the occasion, I was letting thePage 179 → audience know (and as usual the company too), more emphatically than before, that when we did something we really meant it. Entertainment sure, even celebration—after all, we were opening a new, more spacious theater: “it must be expansive; it must be gay” (still the older usage, and though a little staged swish in the Chorus, no gays yet out in the cast), but “it must be pertinent” too. And to underline that cliché, and give it an extra charge, I wrote that Lysistrata “is all three and then some, but if it is also ribald and impertinent, the fault is not in its newness but its oldness,” to which there was, in its faultlessly vulgar, hypersexual, unsparing impudence, “nothing too refined or trivial for its taste,” no modern parallel—certainly not in the comedy you'd see on a Broadway stage, nor in those fail-safe years practically anywhere else. And what we wanted our audience to understand is that what was really timeless in the Old Comedy of the Greeks was its uninhibited scorn, for deceit, demagoguery, political lies, and rake-off lapses of public trust, as in the spectrum of scandals today, from the Madoff investment scam to the foreclosures of value in a bankrupt moral economy. Whether gods, laws, State, individuals, nothing “could avoid its lethal and uproarious criticism”—corruption, thievery, piety, all of it “laughed to death.” Of course, then as now, an audience can screen anything out, and when there were complaints about the play, they had to do with its

obscenity—the first of many times the Workshop would be charged with “crudeness” or “bad taste.” Lysistrata was produced in the twenty-first year of the Peloponnesian War, and though Aristophanes was conservative, it was not the compassionate kind, even for the powers that be. His fiercest ridicule was directed against the “blind partisanship and irresponsible diplomacy” that kept the war going when there might have been peace. Our situation was, if not ridiculous, a little more peculiar, keeping the peace going with a finger on the button, their side, our side—MAD, they called it, “Mutually Assured Destruction.” There were in our production probably more musical comedy impulses than I might wish, but the play was made for Jules, whose instincts of survival came with the comedy of extinction, as when he was being hilarious about disasters around the Workshop. He staged the play in 1953, the same year that the “New Look”—not Dior's fashion, but Dulles's defense policy—was enunciated, requiring a nuclear arsenal; if more weapons of mass destruction than needed for the peace, yet with all the dividends of a permanent wartime economy. With fallout from that as sub-text, the program note concluded: “Lysistrata, with all its buffoonery and licentiousness,Page 180 → is eminently sane, healthy, and democratic. Written over two thousand years ago—before the black market, the Big Lie, and the Kinsey Report—it is perennially and disarmingly modern.” What I also referred to, however, in suggesting how the ancient theater had made “political policy a matter of public interest,” was the improvisational spirit of the fertility rites out of which the Old Comedy grew. I probably took that for granted then, but in preparing to direct Oedipus, I read more extensively what I'd read at Stanford, in the theater histories and the Cambridge anthropologists, about the ritual origins of theater—which, the more I thought about it, caused me to ask questions that I've also been asking since: what's this about origins? which comes first, ritual or theater? Or is it a matter of sequence? After all, with life as a dream and all the world a stage, the insubstantial pageant fading (no less reduced to rubble in a failure of mutual deterrence), is there really nothing but theater? So you might gather from the greatest drama, which has always distrusted theater, from the fate of a text on stage to those fault lines of appearance, which in depriving the real of transparency, in life as in theater, you have to think about. Why aren't things what they appear to be? And worse, as in Chekhov, maybe that's what they are. And if there's nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so, “foh! About, my brain,” maybe thinking is theater. There's a certain unruliness of history in the recovery of a life, when various events, people, concerns, what came after, what before, seem to ignore their temporal order in the same frame of mind. Yet if in the framing of mind—the major concern, perhaps, across this chapter's span of years—I've been getting ahead of myself, I could hardly formulate then, or even yet imagine, what became the precipitous vision that, moving from stage to page, suffuses Take Up the Bodies, that “theater is theory, or a shadow of it.” As suggested before, that materialized in remembrance from the burrowing and ghosting of KRAKEN, no less tactile, carnal, emblooded, for being a function of thought. If there were intimations of this, or maybe a passing shadow, in the tryout years of the Workshop, that might have occurred at some intractable limit of rehearsal when—ideas advanced, taken back, tried again, rejected, turned over and over—a kind of Hamletic madness was about to drive me out of my mind. And yet, with all due respect for emotions, feelings, intuitions, the flesh, and sensory life, it was precisely then I was coming to realize that, like Brecht's Galileo—whatever the liabilities, even more sensuous for it—“I believe in the brain.” Which remains, if you really use it, the most capacious site of theater, where any play may be imagined or reimagined in the myriad ways no singlePage 181 → production can contain. There are always the platitudes in courses of dramatic literature about not knowing a play until you see it staged. Sure, I go to see plays, and when there is something exceptional, it may turn up in my teaching, like when I was still directing, as something to depart from, in sorting out alternatives. But mostly I walk out quick, because there's likely to be, if I've read it, more in the text itself than what's up there on stage. Along with the likelihood of there not being much to see, there's also the liability, even with the finest performance, especially so, of not seeing it in multiple ways, askew, askance, putting questions to it, or as by some inquest in the cortex, otherwise rehearsed. It might be thought of as closeting the drama or resisting theater, but I've been telling students for years that they may engage with a play far more profoundly if they don't go to a production, and then, grasping my head to define it, I'd insist that the brain is the best stage of all, versatile, dynamic, and volatile in containment. Think of it, I'd say, that englobed

space behind the eyeballs, a site of immense confabulation, according to the new “neural” Darwinism, “unstructured immensities,” never a repetition, and with a “value system.” Now that's what a theater should be! inexhaustibly ideational, with a repletion of image, as if the singular brain were fractured, dialectically plural, of untold and variable magnitude, and maybe as antitheater, where (with all the neurons working) you can see it again and again, in some other heuristic form, but not with absent vision. This might seem like a considerable leap, or immense confabulation, beyond a revisionist staging of a classic or Brecht's redactions of historical plays, or his reconstructions of history, whether the Thirty Years War in Mother Courage or The Life of Galileo, where belief in the brain seemed to collapse before the Inquisition. As Brecht contended with that and revised the play for eighteen years, there was in his later Galileo, guilt, remorse, selfdisgust, while endorsing no less the pleasure principle in what, for me, is a still-breeding idea: that thought itself is an appetite or desiring-machine, if subject to reason, with a refusal to cut off what you might not like thinking. Which surely makes for more complexity in theater, if not quite the new science at the systemic edge of chaos, yet an exponential effect of the A-effect, charged with the contradictions Brecht calls for in Epic theater, where “the continuity of the ego is a myth” and—as if determined by the neural behavior of the brain itself, that unstructured immensity—“man is an atom that perpetually breaks up and forms itself anew.” Brecht seems to anticipate here what later troubled him in Beckett, but if not quite atomistic, the complexity was there in his treatment of Galileo.Page 182 → When threatened with silence by the Vatican decree, Galileo might belittle his own theories as “dreams, nullities, paralogisms, and chimeras,” but given the thirst for knowledge and the alacrity of the mind, appetite unappeased, there was an almost erotic excitement to its own inquisition. And there may have been as well, in those dreams, nullities, chimeras, with the seductions of speculation, a more than partial truth—indeed, a new science, with a poetics to the empiricism. Neither dream nor chimera, however, when we started on Galileo, was the adventitious impact on our first rehearsal of an array of events and explosive issues, on the cold war scene—in science, and religion too—as if they were staged by history to authenticate the immediacy of what, heliocentrically, heaven and earth concurring, we'd encounter in the play. The more ominous side of it all was also a family matter, no paralogic there, and nothing left to chance. Indeed, you were given a choice: “Would you rather be eaten by a cobra or an anaconda?” asked Dick, who had his own way with the Balance of Terror. And so, too, as rephrased for the cosmic correspondences, the impossible choice in nature also in the body politic, and very much up-to-date: “Would you rather be blown up by a hydrogen bomb or an atom bomb?” I can't say whether, with the subliminal paranoia endemic to those years, he was imagining Armageddon whatever the choice. As today with the War on Terror, and terror's war on us—jihad spreading in a maze of abominations (yes, including ours), with Homeland Security a facsimile of deterrence—it's hard to assess what's absorbed, what not, by children, or at what incipient levels the traumatic stress disorders. Dick may have warded them off with the brain-twisting questions, and before he finished high school, grades on the upswing, having learned to play ball and swim, he was at the Boys' Club of San Francisco chosen Boy of the Year. About the time he was asking the questions, Bea, whose multiple sclerosis was growing worse, had nevertheless given birth to our second son, large of head and body, with black hair, clouding soon, and a mild, unbothered disposition, as if above it all. We named him Jonathan, because I was reading Jonathan Swift, and to balance that—though there was nothing embryonic like Swift's “savage indignation”—for the Jonathan in the Bible whom David loved: thus, a beautiful mind and a beautiful heart. With the naming as benediction, that infant promise at home, there was in the order of things, in the world, in the theater, plenty of indignation, and aside from my own, which could be savage enough, it was still coming from other directions—as it did one day on a balcony above the rehearsal area in our shop. One of the older actors in the company was objectingPage 183 → again to something I was saying about the need for more experiment, and when an argument started between us, about my not caring what audiences want, my “academic” attitudes, my “stupid idealism,” there was in the round and round another kind of resentment than Bea had expressed toward Genet. “Listen, you son of a bitch, I've been in the theater twenty years, so you listen!” And when I said quietly, with others around, “Twenty years? That's the trouble,” he grabbed a hammer nearby and ran after me, screaming, and might very well have used it if they hadn't restrained him.

Actually, Maury Argent was a very capable actor, and with his manic grouching charm a natural as Willie Loman in our production of Death of a Salesman. While realism was his forte, when he danced at Workshop parties, with a gold tooth showing and an enraptured come-on look, his swaying hips and shoulders were those of a Miami gigolo. And I really solicited something of that when, in directing The Cherry Orchard, he played the ex-peasant Lopahin, unable to restrain a dance of ecstasy, while announcing in the presence of his adored Madame Ranevsky that he had purchased the orchard. But when, with that hammer above the shop, Maury went after me that day—and it wasn't the first time he wanted to—it was with the underworld venom of Miami Vice. That was the worst, others were more repressed, which may be another reason for my needing Buddy's protection, while again explaining the rage, hard to embroider away, in those impossible serial kills. With my life not always at risk, progress could still be slow, and it was a while after The Cherry Orchard before we were into the more experimental work. What Buddy would say to appease me is that we were “creating the atmosphere” for it, with the word always circulating that we were “becoming experimental.” Over the years, however, the becoming was often more promising than the actuality, because all accomplishment conceded, we couldn't sustain the impetus that kept it experimental, as if in periodic retreat from our most searching productions. Yet, even in retreat The Actor's Workshop showed signs of advance, by suffering remorse of conscience, mostly my conscience, sufficiently troubled by what we weren't doing as to make that, too, a creative provocation. Which sometimes caused more trouble than at least Buddy thought it was worth, and that could provoke an argument between us, which would escalate in my journals, and might even determine then how I'd be teaching in the classroom—with the students puzzled there by a residuum of the rage. No doubt, they paid attention. At home, however, the baby proved a blessing, in helping to calm me down. Jonathan remained placid, even wise, and on major issues among us,Page 184 → what to eat, what movie to go to, what dress Bea should wear, was it time to go to school, there was a lot of family humor in asking his opinion, until with a seizure in his body—we thought it was epilepsy—we didn't know what to expect. Once that happened—and I was somewhat guilty about it, as if the pressures in my body had passed over to his—Dick behaved with him like a guardian, and Tara was motherly. She had the instincts, but that was hardly her image then. A constant pleasure, she was always alert and joyful, with mischief on her mind, even when she was reading, as when she giggled and brandished a pocketbook called The Sins of New York. Her own sin in San Francisco consisted of her suddenly discarding her clothes and running stark naked into my study, taunting me to chase her around the desk, or laughing at her indecency, cuddling into my lap. No penitence there whatever, just her own performance art. As for the sins of the fathers, they seemed to converge on that first rehearsal of Galileo, along with other meanings of becoming experimental. That very day there was an article in the newspaper about the publication of a book by the physicist Ralph E. Lapp, Kill and Overkill: The Strategy of Annihilation, which might have caused Dick to rephrase his question, putting it into the plural. After pointing out that the United States had stockpiled “enough nuclear explosives to overkill the Soviet Union at least 25 times,” Lapp said that never before in history did so many people look like so many sheep going to slaughter. In the same paper there was a review of the coauthored novel called Fail-Safe, which dramatized what had been gathered from interviews with scientists, missile experts, and political theorists, “that war by accident is not probable or likely, but inevitable.” The consensus was such, and one voice so plaintive about it, that I sent off, in the vanity of no recourse, a letter to President Kennedy: “At dinner the other night we were discussing a birthday party for my daughter, who is in the fifth grade. She is a voracious reader and had that morning studied carefully newspaper accounts of the Soviet Union's 30-megaton bombs. ‘If I have to die,’ she said, ‘I hope they at least wait till I am ten.’ Frankly, I am not so obliging as my daughter, nor so clinical as my seven-year old son, who immediately proceeded to demonstrate three possible ways of dying by fallout.’” I said to the president that I was speaking to him about it, “because I cannot with any efficacy speak to Mr. Khrushchev, though I shall probably write him too”—which I did, after which they tested a 50-megaton bomb. Not that it mattered, but my conviction then, as I had writtenPage 185 → Khrushchev, was that any further testing had passed into “the realm of crime.” Nor is it a crime that's passed, with the passage of the Balance into the Third World of incipient terror. Which explains my circling into Galileo, and the alert coded there, before returning to Mother Courage, where we didn't quite feel, in the saga of unending war, or that first engagement with Brecht, the

same anxiety about disaster. From “The Song of the Great Capitulation” to Courage aimlessly pulling her wagon on the empty stage, war would seem to be, no matter what Brecht intended, or precisely what he didn't, unchangeably there in the nature of things, what reality is. With Internet threats and jihad blogs, it's hard to say what he would have done with either text today, though Galileo was, when we did it, a more explicit warning about the latencies in mutual deterrence and the liabilities of overkill. In the earlier version Brecht saw Galileo's recantation as a wise move, so he could finish the Discorsi, his treatise on motion, but that became a cowardly act of criminal proportions after Brecht and his son “first saw the moving pictures of the explosion at Hiroshima.” With atomic-age humor, that one was called “Little Boy.” If the “Fat Man” bomb at Nagasaki more than doubled the crime, was there any way to atone? Or can we trust some limiting safeguards on the adventure of inquiry, as a final solution to the unforeseen? That becomes for Brecht, even with Galileo's self-incrimination, the stillfestering question toward the end of the play: will the cheers at some new achievement, some impartial discovery in science, “be echoed by a universal howl of horror”? I don't intend to rehearse all of what I wrote about that in The Impossible Theater, but as the fail-safe fails now into IEDs and computer-literate net.war, with the lethal invisibility of networked cells, guerrillas, insurgents, but no targetable nation-state, the attendant terror still resonates with what we experienced then, that tenuous “peace or else,” in the realm of Brinkmanship. As we gathered for my first remarks on Galileo, and a reading of the play, there was in the newspaper, along with Lapp's article on the strategy of annihilation, a front-page report on Red China's invasion of India, whose nemesis now is Pakistan, America's post-9/11 ally, with al Qaeda in hiding there. Meanwhile, religion shifting, but in the background of all this, as in the next day's paper then, is the questionable use of Latin in the liturgy of the church. When the present Pope Benedict XVI quoted a Byzantine emperor on the inhuman evil of Islam, he did penance and apologized. But what seemed ordained, with this conservative pope, was a reversal of what happened when the late Pope John XXIII convened the Ecumenical Council to reflect upon changing physical and social conceptionsPage 186 → of the universe. As we started on Galileo, the question he posed is whether the church, with its multicultural reach, should replace traditional Latin in the rites of public worship and the Mass. In Brecht's play, this was actually no small matter, as it related to Galileo's desire, even while under house arrest, to give his ideas currency in the marketplace, as the Ballad Singer does before the heresy-spreading carnival with astronomy as its theme. “The argument in favor of the Latin liturgy,” Galileo wrote archly to his spiritual advisor, “namely that because of the universality of this tongue, the Holy Mass can be heard in the same way by all peoples—seems to me less happy, since the blasphemers, who are never at a loss, could object that no people can understand the text. I heartily reject cheap lucidity in sacred matters.” While we're likely to get from the sacred now, through the evangelical Right, cheap lucidity in political matters, what we haven't encountered yet is what was headlined in the newspaper the same day as the report on the liturgy debate: President Kennedy's speech challenging Khrushchev with a “quarantine” of Cuba and the decision to board all ships bearing nuclear missiles, thus gambling with the balance and bringing the terror closer. And so the rehearsals proceeded through a remarkable range of tensions, including the warning by Bertrand Russell, quoted that same morning, that we would all probably be dead in a week. Even if that was overstating the perilous case, it certainly gave, a posteriori (forgive the Latin), further grounds for guilt, after Brecht on Hiroshima, in the conception of Galileo. Yet how, in appraising science, could there be sufficient history, whose “subterranean monsters,” as I wrote of our century of slaughter, “looked as they surfaced more incredible than anything ever submerged in the depths of the psyche”—as J. Robert Oppenheimer also felt in the incendiary vision at Alamagordo, when he recited from the Bhagavad Gita that he had become death, “destroyer of worlds.” To which Kenneth Bainbridge, the test director, was said to have replied, “Now we are all sons of bitches.” What was figured in Galileo, with revised complexity there, was the disinterested virtue of inquiry becoming an empirical vice, like gluttony, with consequences unimagined. What was impossible to assess, however, as in Oedipus, or other fables, was the degree to which there was something illicit in the very act of knowing. And if so, what to do about it? Or even if it were done, like impediments to research now (stem cell, cloning), would that dispose of the potential horror, or the dread that the entire universe was becoming a killing field? The more you thought about it the more demoralizing it could be, but as with tragic drama, from Oedipus to King

Lear, the source of the greatestPage 187 → art seems to be thinking the worst. Or worse. Which we were soon to see in Beckett, from the “Nothing to be done” to giving “birth astride of a grave” to wishing it were “finished” to the “little trail of black dust,” about which Clov says, near the no-end of Endgame, “I say to myself that the earth is extinguished, though I never saw it lit.” From the politics to the appalling, all of this had the peculiar virtue, however melodramatic, of compounding my sense of The Actor's Workshop as a jeopardized work-in-progress, embodying in performance, whether we knew it or not, as we struggled toward an aesthetic, the unnegotiable anxieties and immediate trepidations of the cold war. So, too, with the abrasions upon a dramatic text, or how we should think about it—Brecht's revisions of Galileo having made that issue explicit, as they inevitably led in production to revisions of Brecht, turning his methods upon him. This wasn't the first time that I'd done something like that, for it also happened with Beckett, much less by intention than by intrinsic default of the text, its own undoing there, finished, unfinished, the precision of incompletion, carried over to the staging. Never mind “the death of the author,” predicated by Barthes, if there's any authority for revisionism, it surely came from Beckett, though my suggesting that contributed to a very strained moment between us many years later, when he was just becoming vigilant over production of his plays. It was with Galileo, however, that I not only felt justified in questioning the text, but with a growing distaste for prescription, even from Brecht, or the Ensemble's model books, which followed the plays all over Europe when they passed through the Berlin Wall. I still have the one for Mother Courage, and would have liked it when we did it, because we knew so little of Brecht. Aside from tips from Eric Bentley, there wasn't much around. The more I worked in the theater, however, the less inclined I was to hear how a play should be done, from scholars, critics, other directors, whoever claims to know—and now, if I were still directing, from the Beckett Curia, with his executor-nephew as Grand Inquisitor, protecting Holy Writ. There's more to be said, specifically, about the staging of both productions, but what was important in Galileo, once Brecht revised it himself, was to approach the judgments he made without dialectical prejudice, because there were stranger things in political necessity than were dreamt of in his logistics. While we all wanted social change, even his intuitions told us that “human nature”—an essentialized notion his theory denies, as critical theory does today—doesn't always change for the better. And to attest to that there was, as if Baal were still in the brain (that figure from an early play),Page 188 → the grinning god of the demonic id, but with another name. “Priapus is Priapus,” says Galileo, in the scene with the Little Monk, and the god was there on stage, leg curled lewdly, finger pointing, as a lascivious statue. The statue wasn't called for in the text, nor in what I wrote of it retrospectively, as pointing to a political unconscious, there, but denied in Brecht: “the question remains, as ever, whether the ego can be conquered—even if that were desirable. Where id was, ego shall be, until id restores the balance of power.” On a larger psychic scale, as in Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, that balance was still being played out, in judgments such as Kennedy's on the Cuban missile crisis or our defense secretary McNamara welcoming the day when the Soviets achieve “second-strike capability”—to assure the MADness being continued. With all those tensions going, in and out of the text, imposing upon rehearsal what was happening in the world, what remained a calming influence was the personality of Robert Symonds, a remarkably versatile actor, who was playing Galileo, with an appetite for it, but a congenital discretion. Among younger members of the company who were coming to San Francisco because of the Workshop's reputation for experiment, there was some disappointment about the absence of a system of acting, and because they knew I was inclined to it, they stayed after me about that. Bob knew what bothered me, and was always respectful about it, but he and I differed somewhat through the years about an investment in methodology, and whether the Workshop should have developed, like Brecht's own theater, an identifying style, no less defined by an aestheticized politics. In that regard, nobody was more ardent than Ronnie Davis, who founded the Mime Troupe on a party-line Brechtianism (or what he thought that was), which is why he was ready to be my assistant director on Galileo. But then, while taken with the gestural and scenic possibilities in my relating the play to the hazards of the cold war, he felt troubled, even betrayed, by the more unpredictable politics. Ronnie couldn't understand why I didn't persist in Brecht's methods, to which I'd tried to be dutiful in the production of Mother Courage, so far as the methods were applicable there in San Francisco, with its sophisticated innocence, far from middle Europe, its guilt and scars of war. What we didn't have either, with memories of devastation, from World War I, were those between-war

traditions of political theater. In quite another tradition, there was a review in The New York Times of Mother Courage in Central Park, where people waited in line for tickets, not so much, I suspect, for the play as to see Meryl Streep—who was recentlyPage 189 → in a film about fashion, about which I've written a book. I mention that only because, as I've been writing this book, coincidence seems to abound, like my going to the mailbox, right after I saw the review, and there was a postcard from one of my granddaughters, saying that she'd been to the park and seen the play, after which her mother, Tara—who grew up with the Workshop, acted there as a child—told her that our theater was the first to perform it in the United States. “Is that true? Could you write me about some of your memories from putting on the production?” Since those memories keep going back and forth, full of associations, over those more than fifty years, I'm sending her, instead of a copious letter, a copy of The Impossible Theater, indicating the chapters that I've been drawing upon here. Not only was the play strange then, and the staging, but Brecht himself was mostly unknown, aside from an ingratiating version of The Three-penny Opera, associated less with Brecht, the librettist, than Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, then charmed out of Alienation by Louis Armstrong's “Mack the Knife.” Whatever we did with Mother Courage it was because I had no ready alternative, nor any reason for it, because I was still trying to contend with the binaries in the theory, and the now-famous list of distinctions between Dramatic Theater and Epic Theater, and instead of the integrated work, “a radical separation of the elements.” By the time of Galileo I had done some radical things myself, deploying the elements in conceptual ways, but I was still searching for a way of working, and while it might be alienating, it was going in other directions. After all, we'd already deviated from the Epic to the incapacitated action of Beckett and the obscene holiness of Genet, its activist degradation, and quite other ideas of what the theater might be. And Bob Symonds had been there through it, going along with whatever I was trying, and unless I was sounding him out, keeping his judgments to himself. I'd keep my eye on him, however, as an index of possibility. As for the Brechtian Verfremdung, which we didn't ignore in Galileo, though an effect that's still in question, if I made certain distinctions, as with thought and social being, outreasoning reason, he might like other actors be wary of too much thinking, yet with his own intrinsic distance, and an instinctive tape measure when a play required style. What he could put in perspective as well, and here a meeting of minds, was something crucial to Galileo, at the heart of the scientist's most impassioned research: “Thinking is one of the greatest pleasures of the human race”—what he said at the risky moment when, looking through the telescope, he was about to abolish heaven. What you have to remember, of course, is that if you want that pleasure,Page 190 → even as afterthought, you've got to be willing to take the risks. And Bob was ready for that, as he was when he joined the Workshop, and when with considerable hardship he was committed to staying with it. Actually, I thought he'd be going to New York after seeing him perform one summer at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, which was founded by Angus Bowmer, a friend from Stanford, the oldest graduate student there when I was still in the Drama Department. As I told Angus, Robert Symonds was certainly the actor you wanted to watch in the two productions I saw, Hamlet and The Winter's Tale, where he did Polonius and Antigonus. And though I was tempted to approach him about coming to San Francisco, we weren't able to pay him, and nothing special to offer except the still inchoate ideas that were, as I've been saying, suspect from the beginning. I never expected to see him again, except perhaps on Broadway, when he showed up one day at Elgin Street, during a rehearsal of Oedipus. I don't recall whether Jules was at Ashland when I was, but they had apparently talked, and he persuaded Symonds—who at end of summer was heading not to New York, but Los Angeles, to find work in television—to come and take a look. The acting was uneven, but he liked what we were doing, was impressed with the choice of the play, and volunteered to be in the Chorus. I can't say what he saw then, in those vacant eyeballs or the bloody writing around them, but by the time he looked through the telescope, there was in the drama itself a decisive interaction between seeing and thinking. As for what it means to see, that comes to a focus when Galileo derides his student Andrea, who thinks he sees the movement of the sun: “You ‘see’! What do you see? You see nothing at all. You're just gaping. Gaping isn't seeing.” And here, one might say, Brecht's thought and subsequent theory come together in critique, as they do when the audience, gaping, might just as well be asleep.

There were times, to be sure, when Bob, like me, could have used some sleep himself. For among the exemplary things he did, and I'm still grateful for it, was to go from rehearsal to the produce market, where he lifted boxes through the night, to support a family too. If that was doubly demanding at home, with a high-strung wife there—a talented costume designer, but difficult in the theater as well—it made all the more remarkable the composure in his acting, the ease he brought on stage. That may have had something to do with what we sometimes teased him about, and Priscilla too, their backgrounds as Christian Scientists, and the phrases that came with it, life itself “a demonstration,” so “think good thoughts” and “walk the human steps.” Or for that matter, dance them: “Ginger Rogers was a Scientist,” andPage 191 → look at her with Astaire. Of middle height, sandy hair, reddish tint to his beard, nose slightly torqued, and an almost invisible harelip, Bob could absorb disappointment or frustration with the quick, but reserved intelligence that made him a fine chess player. And when we came to Endgame, in which he played Hamm, he seemed prepared for that, as in the exhaustive enumeration of an infinite emptiness—“Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing”—he could suggest the divine patience that at some memorial limit Hamm couldn't abide. Nor could Bob, not done with losing, when his father died. A Christian Science lecturer, devout, without compromise, he was apparently suffering from diabetes, but refused to be examined medically, and in the Benevolent Home at which he stayed they would administer no insulin—one dose of which might have kept him alive for years. It was hard for Bob's mother to accept his dying, because that was attributed to a wavering of faith. But how, then, to think good thoughts? Bob was bitter about it, but said nothing. Sometime later, however, he did talk about it, and a maybe forgivable lapse in his father's devotion: “When he was dying at the rest home, they gave him tea, coffee, Postum, but he had a craving for Coca-Cola, and asked me to smuggle it in. That was as far as he'd go in sin. With my father, suffering was a matter of pride. I don't really know what he died of. To him, the material was not real, only thought—but we have to walk the human steps.” In walking those steps, it occurs to me now, there must be some material difference between the thought that goes with it and the thinking that's a great pleasure, and there may have been, for Bob, some anomaly of belief in accepting, even enjoying, the belly-rubbing indulgence in the brain of Galileo. It may be playing with words, but he must have taken thought, too, when his brother, a captain in the navy, fell between a boat and a pier, crushed his leg and side, and was apparently rehabilitated by Scientist faith alone. Not entirely so with Bob, when through injurious time he had heart surgery, then wore a pacemaker, and was—as I first started writing about him—being treated for prostate cancer, though it seems amusing or ironic or fated that not long before, while living abroad in Paris, he played the title role in The Faith Healer. With that faith long between them, sometime after Buddy died, Bob and Priscilla married, the two of them in perfect concord over the many years—and with Bob as a loving stepfather to the Irving children, who were also devoted to him. If faith or devotion could do it, he'd have been spared the recurrence of cancer, which had gone into remission, then suddenly reappeared. Amy Irving, who had been married to Stephen Spielberg,Page 192 → arranged through him to get Bob into Mt. Sinai, for the most immediate and best medical attention in Los Angeles. They administered chemotherapy, but he was soon on life support, and only briefly there, when Katie Irving called to say he'd probably be taken off that night. Then early the next morning, Amy called, to say that he had died. As her long-time stepfather, Bob was about to give her away when she married again, the following week, in the garden of the home in Santa Monica, where Priscilla still lives. The wedding was postponed. In another memorial talk (still trying to repress that rage) I reminded those attending—from Hollywood, from New York, some who had been with the Workshop, and others influenced by it—of what Bob had meant to our theater. Any way you look at it, with us he kept the faith, and when there was controversy in the company, he was a healer too, mostly by example—and when he started directing. Even when things went woefully wrong, he worked without complaint. There were, in varying degrees, others we could depend upon, and the scope of Galileo would have been impossible without the growing realization, through the company, that there was, indeed, a pleasure in thinking theatrically—not merely doing a show, as it was supposed to be done, whatever that is and whoever said so, but to do it, too, as if your life depended upon it. And for some it really did, in a profession which could be humiliating, as for Maury Argent—what he couldn't hammer away restoring a sense of dignity. As for those still new to the theater, like Lee Breuer or Ruth Maleczech, whatever reservations they had about the Workshop, it

provided an impetus later, as with the Mabou Mines, to create forms of their own—and for better reasons than those with which we started. By the time of Galileo, reasoning not the need, we had those better reasons, but as I envisaged the play, reason itself was at stake, as it was in the world around us, and when we tried to second-guess history. “Do not be hasty in your conclusion.” Whatever perceptual darkness or, shadowed by illusion, masquerade of desire inhabits the periphery of consciousness, what was center stage in Galileo was the muscular exercise of a critical mind, with the ideological dispersed into the refusal of hasty judgment. For all the exuberant brainpower, an empirical discipline too. What we get from Galileo is a cautionary view of what it means to be experimental: trying this, trying that, not only submitting practice to theory, but when theory evaporates, the willingness to stay with it—so, too, when you think you're onto something but not sure what you're doing, or with more or less desperation, starting over again. As in science, so Epic theater, but whateverPage 193 → the form of theater, such are again the specifications for a really searching rehearsal. Years later, as if a discipline were wrought from my own brain fever, it's what we took for granted in the work of the KRAKEN group. But it's what we should have meant at the Workshop, as we moved past making excuses, when in the “becoming” experimental we spoke of “the right to fail.” That right, and the frustration that went with it, was endorsed by Galileo: “Only after we have failed, after we have been totally and hopelessly defeated and are licking our wounds in utter dejection, only then shall we begin to ask whether the earth does not indeed move!” Because I really wanted to move it, there was the ever-present danger of theatering it all down, and it might have seemed in the staging that I upped the ante on that. There were temptations in the carnival, with heresy spreading like “foul diseases,” infecting the masks and mime, sometimes overdone, seeming like mere commotion, but the monitoring idea was the makeshift of the unprivileged, really privileged in Brecht. (As for his edicts about the theater knowing how to do without, that was not exactly practice at the Berliner Ensemble, which was, even in representing poverty, hardly impoverished.) Yet there was a sumptuous leap beyond that, not only risking the baroque, but Buddy's sanity over the budget, when the action moved to Florence and Rome, those legendary cities where splendor was power. I wanted that on stage in all its exploitative brilliance. More theater? less theater? Nowadays, with the multi-multimedia of Cirque du Soleil, or the swirling digitality of a recent version of The Tempest, endowing the wizardry of Prospero with hologrammatic power, I might very well settle for less, in dialectical understatement. But not so then, in the conceptual testiness of that production of Galileo, initiated to begin with by Brecht's revisions of the play, as well as his conviction, out of mistrust of theater, and the audience too (about which I'd write a book), that “some exercise in complex seeing is needed.” And that's what I was after, and was for years to come, but while questioning theoretically at the limits of theatricality. That might be done in another context with a minimalist austerity, but not with this historical subject and its revisionist history. With no less exactitude in all the theater I could get, I'd have used the highest tech from Las Vegas if it were there at my disposal. Like the “luminous mist” in space seen by Galileo, the most immediate glittering excess was there to define the issue. At the margins of what we know there may be mystery or indeterminacy, but how do we know what we know, and how do we ascertain it? In the Brechtian nexus between science and theater, the case was being made for the powers of reason (a case encountered before, as I was movingPage 194 → from science to theater, but morally, not politically, with Winters on poetry, and his own precise scruple about any luminous mist). That may not be enough, as Brecht well knew, but at what perceptual limit is it wholly in vain? What I wanted in our production, in a complex of seeing, was to leave that an open question. Scenes were orchestrated and designed through graduated sites of meaning, working out from the center, Galileo there, with all his wits about him, taking us by surprise, as we segued into science from everyday life. “Put the milk on the table, but don't shut any books.” How he dressed, what he ate, how he washed his puffing body—the raw material preface to a demonstrative pedagogics. As for the things he used, the books, his charts, a leathered globe, the armillary sphere for the Ptolemaic system, they were precisely that, used, functional, but with the patina of antique objects made beautiful by time, or as if burnished by history with his activating mind. As the eye moved away from the center to the borders of the stage, things became more abstract, as they did too when, in the vicinity of power, they were decorative or emblematic, but also like works of art. And indeed, most of them were, since about

a dozen San Francisco artists contributed to the production, within a visual dispensation worked out with Judy Davis—a graphic artist herself (Ronnie's wife then, now the painter Judy North), drawn into theater design. There was, unfortunately, a liability to all that. As we used to say afterward, it was hard to keep the scenic elements and properties intact, art objects as they were, because they were ripped off in our shop, and this became a problem with other productions. There was a chess set, for instance, on which Galileo, waiting to be received at Cardinal Bellarmin's palace in Rome, startled the secretaries playing with unconventional moves, a quick rook here, bishop there, queen opening up the board, as if with his laws of motion to a coming New Age. Each remarkably figurative, tall, ivory-looking piece was sculpted, which caused Alan Mandell—who had started by assisting Jules, and became our business manager—to ask me whether we needed something like that, because the audience couldn't really see it. Whereupon I said they'd see well enough how those handcrafted pieces, with the sensation of luxury there, worked upon the actors. Well, not this piece or that piece, but a panoply of affects, as if the aesthetic reservoir of the Medici court, and cost-unconscious legacy, had somehow been absorbed into the heritage of modernism—except for the fact that our artists weren't being paid. No consolation to Alan (who hadn't been paid either, or by then some token salary), but itself a historical irony, that with at best a meager budget, even withPage 195 → cost runover, the artists could produce such opulence anyhow, a surfeit of material image for that world that was a stage. Luxury as an aesthetic was the coefficient of Bellarmin's palace. With the worldliness of it, the costumes were doubly so, that is, costumes of costumes, resplendent beyond propriety, velveted, empurpled, reverentially regal, for the men of secular authority who were also princes of the church. They were more than complemented by the women, visually consecrated in the service of that power, their dress abstracted with an extravagance you might have seen in a défilé, or as photographed for Vogue. Indeed, it was about this time I started saying that Vogue, to which I've subscribed for years, was the best theater magazine we had, and what we did with the costumes, a reciprocal derangement of styles, was due to a recent issue. From the fantastic to the grotesque, the most spectacular current fashion had been derived from what was high theatricality even then, in that coutured early period: bulbous or tubular gowns, cantilevered ruffs, and over the starched flutings, faces masked by fans, with shaven pates or green hair, in towering sculptured coiffures, ziggurats bejeweled. Cardinal Barberini, the future pope, points out that these are, indeed, grand ladies of pleasure, while the prelates are, beyond the pedants of the Medici, men of intellect and exquisite breeding, sensuous even in prayer—an aristocratic ensemble, Renaissance Modern, devout in la dolce vita. This marriage of Church and Style is on display in the ballroom scene of an evolving stream of consciousness. Lights up downstage on a cluster of staring animals, collaged on flickering fans, which in a transformative flourish opens on other masks, faces in high makeup, with animal traces there. Above them, descending and slowly spreading, like the web of a gold spider, the tendrils of a mobile, what becomes a chandelier, with the nearly imperceptible motion of mirrored spinning disks. Modernity is there, too, in the passage of sound across the stage, as from some dissonance in the disks, electronic music in a broken canon. Composed by Morton Subotnick, it was one of the earliest usages of synthesized music in a theater production, and probably—as with King Lear, on which we'd collaborated before—never with such tactility. It had the effect, synesthetically, of a spasmodic visual presence. As the space seemed to be vibrating, with a certain density there, the guests passed and stopped, arrested for the moment, as in another dimension, estranged from the more realistic motion of Galileo, who entered accompanied by his daughter Virginia and her fiancé Ludovico. The guests applauded soundlessly as the stage froze. Whoever movedPage 196 → toward the music was absorbed in the stream, as were Virginia and Ludovico, their motion slowed but very graceful. With a mysterious authority, two figures emerge from the sound barrier, the Cardinals, Barbarini and Bellarmin, but masked too—the Dove and the Lamb. Galileo's welcome to Rome is a supremely cordial, guileful battle of wits, on the wonders of astronomy and the inviolability of Scripture, after which Galileo, forewarned, withdraws to that other dimension, the slipstream of silence. Yet even as the atmosphere becomes more intimidating, there are signs that his theories will subvert what is imposing its will upon him. So it is when the Inquisitor finally appears, guiding spirit behind the scene, alone center stage in a pristine white gown, perfectly immobile in his serene certainty. He is unaware,

however, of the motion above, tendrils turning, mirroring disks—Eppur si muove! (And yet it does move!)— as if another Scripture in the surreptitious stars. There was also a certain dissidence in the planned incongruities of the production, the Renaissance properties in a modern idiom, Brecht's consciously naive lyrics in the context of electronic music, and a structure of contradiction like a cosmos in the theater (now the Marines Memorial, downtown on Sutter and Mason, because we had moved from Elgin Street, soon to be run through by a freeway). The curtain itself was heavenly as it rose away from the stage, above the entire audience, in the orchestra, the balcony, its inner lining a satiny blue, suspended till the end of a scene, when it unfurled like the sail of a minstrel galleon, and then settled back on the apron, where it became a projection screen, for filmic and other images, with the story line and lyrics. When the curtain was flown above, we saw radiant abstractions on the back wall of the stage, extrapolated from the scene, and changing from instant to instant, as an aberrant visual memory. Those projections, through a wheel of liquid pigment, were from a special apparatus created by Elias Romero, who became legendary for his light shows, which passed from the jazz clubs, cabarets, and psychedelic scene in San Francisco to rock concerts and discotheques back east. On each side of the proscenium, framing the stage, were two giant tapestries, which were meant to be read as part of a triptych when certain projections appeared on the lowered curtain. The triptych presented three competing visions or mythic options, each compelling and beautiful in its own aesthetic terms: a Ptolemaic universe with Leonardo's Vitruvian man, encircled by perfect geometry; a Copernican universe, sun and earth whirling with the turbulent repose of an Action painting (done by William Wiley); and between them, projected on the curtain, photographic images of Einstein's space,Page 197 → alluring in extension or blank with potential. And when, as if curving in perspective, the curtain lifted like a scroll, to reveal the story of Galileo, it was being played out at the center of a world proceeding through the Baroque, presumably towards the Enlightenment, but which had to accept, for all its braininess, that desperate encounter between human inquiry and the silence of the universe. It was the immanence of that silence, and the desire to convey the desperate encounter—what we dealt with otherwise in Beckett or Genet—that would have accounted for aspects of the production that may have seemed too opaque or indecisive for the ideological Brecht. Yet in the fallout from Hiroshima, and his equivocation about science, the awful forebodings there, Brecht brought it upon himself, if not the Absurd, in its imbecilic negation, its existential uncertainty. Brecht wants objectivity in the Epic form, but when Galileo says he has betrayed his profession there's surely uncertainty, too, about what to make of it, what with Alienation undermined by masochistic self-contempt. In feeling this, did I risk corrupting the form with psychology, or had Brecht already done that? If so, it should also be said—and we acted on this in rehearsal—that to discount psychology as a material factor is to pervert reality too. This may also seem un-Brechtian, but there is in the empiricism of Galileo, becoming a worldview, paradoxical recourse to an aesthetic sensibility, and indeed its claim to truth, what would later be critiqued as “the ideology of the aesthetic.” Thus the scene with the Little Monk, who is distressed that the rationally ordered life of the Campagnan peasants, like his parents, would be severely threatened if he persisted as an astronomer. How could he tell them they live on a mere star, turning through empty space; miserable as it is, their world would be in turmoil, God not out there, watching over them. “Sir,” says Galileo, not unmoved by the Monk's lament, “my sense of beauty is wounded if Venus appears in my universe without phases.” When Venus is there, sometimes brilliantly, out the window here in Seattle, seemingly bigger and brighter in its diminished crescent phase, one might be tempted to say that truth as well as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It may very well have been both, along with the phases of Galileo over those troubled years, the contradictions in the revisions, which caused me to ask questions of that still troubled text—amending Brecht where he needed amending, as he said of Shakespeare, in a dialogue with his assistants about their staging of Coriolanus. There were, as suggested through this chapter, plenty of questions and contradictions in the restive tracery of my own emerging thought, from the wished nightmare of subjectivity toPage 198 → its existential phase to the circulation of theory around the challenging presence of Brecht—where at the limit of rational inquiry, despite the strictures of Epic, last judgment returns to the sanction of the aesthetic. From early on I had some feeling for that, which might have been encouraged by Einstein when he said of a certain proof, he distrusted it not because it was wrong, but because it was ugly.

As for the judgment of Galileo, what we're left with in the end is not a position but a way of arriving at a position if a position is possible. What the drama also conveys is a way of looking at things that makes an imaginative virtue of not being able to know, as when it still impels in science the most far-reaching theory. It's not science, however, but superstition that takes a curious turn in the drama's final scene, where Andrea, following the lesson of the master, shows the little boy that the shadow is not a witch but an old woman ladling a pot. The boy sees and goes on, despite the evidence of the senses, seductive as they may be (as Galileo said, here in accord with Scripture), believing what he believes, crying out, as Andrea crosses the border, that the old woman is a witch! —as if the witch were a “dark energy.” With that term, of course, I'm spacing out again, with astrophysicists now wondering why, instead of the galaxies speeding away from each other, motion accelerating, breaking the law, the universe doesn't collapse. Even with the Hubble telescope, exponentially more powerful than Galileo might have imagined, one cosmologist said, “Dark energy makes us nervous.” As if we've always been on the dark side, where they're tracking that energy now, science falters, the facts change, or there is—as with Einstein, who advanced it and disavowed it—a “cosmological constant” that scientists still use but nobody understands. All of this may seem spaced out, but as in metaphysical poetry, where the heart has its own reasons, the principles of inquiry remain, and who can quarrel with Galileo's admonition to his assistants: “My intention is not to prove that I was right but to find out whether I was right. ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter the realm of observation.’ … We crawl by inches. What we find today we will wipe from the blackboard tomorrow and reject—unless it shows up again the day after tomorrow. And if we find anything which would suit us, that thing we will eye with particular distrust.” Here again, a definition of method, not only for a Brecht play, but for what I came to assume was validity in the theater. Willing to wipe the blackboard, but not entirely relieved at the Workshop from proving I was right, there was an old impetus to erasure in my habit of self-distrust. IfPage 199 → there was a certain humility to it, there was also a growing confidence in imaginative discontent. What I knew only too well, however, is that the habit of distrust is not necessarily the discipline of distrust, what Galileo required, about which I later wrote, “Some of us crawl by inches because we don't know how to proceed. There is no method, and there is no direction.” And even with resistance abating, there were some who didn't want it, or couldn't care less about it, or even if they did—without my own doubting equivalent of a cosmological constant—with other, less conjectural, more commonplace grounds for distrust. Grievances were unavoidable as the Workshop became more professional and the company grew. So it was, for instance, with problems of casting, beginning with the fact that two of our better actors, Bea and Priscilla, were married to the directors. There was no way to avert resentment about their getting major roles, though they also did smaller parts, walk-ons, and understudied too, along with their share (especially Priscilla) of the other duties we required, in the shop or backstage, of everybody in the company. Over time, as expected, there were complaints about that, too, as it became a “class system” (we specifically called it that) where we tried to distribute the work fairly, but giving credit where credit was due, to those more experienced, who were less willing to build sets, sweep the dressing rooms, or do phone duty, or to those who'd already done more than their fair share. It seems appropriate, if again adventitious, that the politicization of labor became a critical matter as we first turned to the socialist Brecht in the production of Mother Courage. We started rehearsing the play, in December 1955, for the Elgin Street Theater, but it opened instead at Marines Memorial, where we'd moved with the extraordinary success of The Crucible—in that production I still thought embarrassing—and where we were, for the first time, also dealing with the unions, after Jules had ingeniously arranged the first off-Broadway Actors' Equity contract outside of New York City. What affected Mother Courage, however, is that there wasn't much of a contract to hold people to, in a company where the actor's options were hardly contingent on salaries. Certified as professional, the Workshop acquired more stature, not only in San Francisco, but also around the country; yet the deal with Equity was such that we were still paying next to nothing, and to many not at all. So when several actors either refused to be in Brecht's drama, or dropped out with pale excuses after being cast, there wasn't much then we could really do about it, because we needed them in other ways.Page 200 → There was, I must admit, the wrong kind of alienation, even boredom, at our first reading, because, after the

witchcraft hysteria of The Crucible, turning on the actors and carrying the audience away, Brecht's long worldweary war seemed rather static. Only one scene was instantly moving, a sure thing in performance, and that's when the dumb daughter Catherine beats her drum on the roof to warn the citizens of Halle of an attack. For the rest, with occasional clamor and song, a lot of disjointed talk. Yet after the several dropouts, for those who stayed with it, Mother Courage was an adventure, no other production before so full of discovery, and nothing so controversial. Even in the absence of political conviction, there was at the turn of the New Year, still deep in the cold war, a surge of enlightenment, through a panorama of ironies with intellectual subtlety—something other than the “relevance” that became the keynote of the Sixties. As for the initial impression of stasis, that was dispelled as the play went on its feet, the activity in the staging manifold and unceasing. Where it appeared to be verbose, the ironies were stratified, overt or unexpected, with countless implicit demands for business. There is the scene, for instance, where Mother Courage, the Chaplain, and the Regimental Clerk are spending a rainy afternoon in a canteen tent, conversing about the war, while Courage and dumb Catherine are taking inventory. The stage, which had previously been rather bare, is now full of sausages, cheeses, linens, belts, buckles, boots, tins, baskets, and shirts, all the salable stock of Mother Courage's enterprise. The war at the historical moment is her good fortune. But the pre-scene projection announces that the great Commander Tilly has died in battle. There are drum rolls and funeral music. A procession is starting, but off in the distance. And though nothing “dramatic” happens until late in the long scene, the predominant impression, contrapuntal to the talk, is one of abundance, a steady throb of counting, checking, sorting, tallying, collecting money for drinks—the business of the actors and the business of war forming a single ritual image, the business of business, giving point and substance to the conscious ironies of Courage and the ingenuous ones of the Chaplain. Set in the framework of great events, the mundane career of Mother Courage—her real name Anna Fierling—is alienated in the various senses that Brecht intends: estranged, put at a distance, made famous (or infamous), historified. The play is now a classic, and the techniques quite familiar, but what felt instructive then was having our critical faculties trained on that part of history which history slights. Tilly wins a battle at Lutzen; Mother Courage loses four shirts. And in the hectic little scenePage 201 → which juxtaposes these two important events, so much happens so quickly that one can hardly keep up with it. Onstage some soldiers are having a drink at Mother Courage's canteen. Catherine is distraught, running up and down on the periphery. Offstage, a fire is ravaging a peasant's farm. There are cries; wounded people are carried on. The Chaplain runs in, calling for linen. Mother Courage, keeping an eye on the soldiers, one of whom has already stolen a fur coat in a nearby town, tries to protect her goods. No more, she tells the Chaplain, she's given all her linen before, and besides, things are getting worse—taxes, duties, bribes to pay. And so it goes, with other complications, including a baby saved from the fire by dumb Catherine, with Mother Courage managing to pull off a deal in the midst of the tumult, free trade, snatching the fur coat from the soldier as he tries to make off with a bottle of liquor. It took us hours to work it out, days to rehearse, yet all of it—and a good deal of incidental business that I've left out, much of it missed in the reading—happens in approximately one minute. And for all the vitality of it, what's exposed is a common shame, the caustically robust power of ineffectuality, degraded and demoralized by the black marketry of war. With Mother Courage, we were trying so far as possible, guided by Brecht's theory, to make the theater a tribunal. But who exactly were we judging, the captains and colonels in the opening song? or the capitulating mother? or if we had been doing the play when “the Decider” was in the White House? Or are such judgments all too easy, like thinking of Mother Courage as merely an antiwar play? As that became the inciting issue in the controversy over the production, judgment itself would soon, in the plays we chose, be going through every subterranean passage of the theater of the Absurd. Whether or not that nomenclature is right for Beckett and Genet, they would as much as Ionesco seem to be opposed to the prejudging, Marxist character of a Brecht play, descended from the Lehrstück, which may not in curtailing empathy have been a model of political correctness. If instructive nonetheless, it was not exactly The Lesson or the textbook babble of The Bald Soprano. Indeed, about the time we were doing Mother Courage, Brecht was being attacked again and again by Ionesco, whose plays we were about to do. Portly and reasonably cordial, Ionesco could also be vehement, except when his wife was there, whereupon he'd recede—her task in life being, in an overly bossy way, to ward off nuisances to his genius. She often accompanied him to appointments, but you could see in his silence, however, that he wished she would go away. Fortunately,

when I first met him in Paris,Page 202 → she wasn't there until later, when it was time to end the appointment. We met in his favorite café across from the Odéon, later occupied by the students in the uprising of ’68, which he probably saw as an inverted fascism. As soon as I mentioned Brecht, he was again virulently at it, as if we'd made some egregious mistake in doing any play of his at all. When I told him that because our production was the first in America, I'd been invited by Brecht's wife, Helene Weigel, to the Berliner Ensemble, he raised his plastic leopard-skin briefcase, as if a defense barrier, and virtually warned me that I'd be brainwashed. The animus was not limited, however, to the politics of Brecht. Ionesco later walked out of a production of Genet's The Blacks. For all the uncertainty of the Absurd, “Je suis un blanc,” he said, and that was decisively that. Perhaps he'd have been appeased by what I did with Galileo, but even while being more faithful with Mother Courage, back in San Francisco we hardly needed the rationale of absurdity to keep my wariness going. For it always seemed an appropriate image of our condition that the erratic dialectic of our growth took place over the San Andreas Fault. Even my brooding sense that some undefined destiny had been betrayed would have been impossible if there were not increasingly a fundamental stake in the shifting ground. Thus, where Brecht urged us to take a stand—and where he took it was suspect on the definitive Party line—various of the plays we'd be doing warned us that it may be impossible to take a stand, that in an atomic world fission is a property of belief as well as matter. That “Nothing to be done” was hardly the way a play should begin. However, a generation of incinerators, devastation, and deterred deterrents had intervened between the raised fists of Waiting for Lefty, as if radicalized by Brecht, and the passive tramps of Waiting for Godot. There's more to say about that nothing (and I will in the next chapter), as if the cosmological constant were really a black hole, but the zero-sum lesson from the tribunal of Mother Courage was what it remains today: beware of ideology, even when it looks like Brecht's. “There is no longer any doubt,” Brecht said (as quoted by Walter Benjamin), “the struggle against ideology has become a new ideology”—as it would in cultural studies with its critique of established power. What was true of ideology was true of technique, here too when it looked like Brecht's, which could be telling or self-evident, and there were, no doubt—in my “radical separation of elements,” or an overdirected gestus—some too-telling moments that we might have done without. When I later saw Mother Courage, directed by Vilar at Avignon, in the courtyard ofPage 203 → the pope's palace, and then Brecht's own production, on the other side of the Berlin Wall, they confirmed what I came to realize: that the A-effect is as provisional as any other technique, and no reliable source of meaning for what might very well be beyond it. And that's still there in the play, as it appears to be in reality, whatever the measures taken. The war goes on, the dead lie dead, the stones begin to talk, as one of the projections declares, even before the mute daughter provides the climactic irony, that testament with the drum, from a dead soldier, before she's dead herself. Before each scene, a banner with slightly wrenched black letters dropped from the flies announcing the place of action: Sweden Saxony Bavaria Saxony Poland. Why? Because war, like the snow settling over Joyce's Ireland at the end of The Dead, is general, undifferentiated—it looks the same everywhere. With the identity politics of sectarian violence in the Middle East, it may now be Kandahar, Al Anber, Kabul, Swat, or Baghdad, but where the corpses accumulate, no less when ripped apart, it may be hard to know where you are. As for the war in Mother Courage, with the corpses kept at a distance, the pitiful horror of it was in the comedy too, and the more's the pity with the Alienation-effect, by no means diminishing the final poignancy of the drama—which Brecht didn't want and tried to revise away. Unlike Galileo, with reserves of wit restrained by science, the comedy of Mother Courage is closer to the inn scenes of Cervantes or the chronicles of Shakespeare, with their garrulousness and gallows humor, their juxtaposition of bawdry, bloody slaughters, and affairs of state. And what can't be revised away, an awareness of the final comedy as the masque of death, passing beyond social criticism into the terrain of human failure, where comedy and tragedy rejoin each other—for all the enterprise of illusion, and past all self-deception—in acknowledging a common doom. It's an acknowledgment that may have aroused, more or less consciously in rehearsals, my own predilection for the tragic—and this shared with Bea, who played Mother Courage. That she should do it was first suggested by the poet/playwright James Schevill, after he'd seen her as Madame Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard, with a poised gravity there, but as he remarked in a letter, “a rare quality for projecting.” He asked me then if I'd read Brecht's Mother Courage— I hadn't, and had barely heard of Brecht—“This, it seems to me, would be a wonderful

role for your wife, and a play to think about doing.” The letter was written in 1954, and we might have done it sooner, though there was a problem in getting the rights, because of competition between Brecht's son Stefan and Eric Bentley, whose version we eventually did, just after the New Year, in 1956.Page 204 → Whatever she projected as Ranevsky, Bea took on Anna Fierling with a raw, gnarled shrewdness, the comedy there too, as from the debilities in her body, with the gutsy stamina of a woman whose father was a butcher and grew up in the Bronx. There were no complaints in the company about the casting here, since nobody else was up to it, the tough, raucous power, willfully going nowhere, at the cutting edge of the pathos. What she was able to convey, too, through the last bleak scenes of the play, perhaps the most memorable, is the aging of Mother Courage, whose energy is hideously wasted, after the death of her last child, into the baleful abstraction of a Chinese mask. As she pulls the wagon in the finale, the musical themes clashing in the blank distance, Brecht's desire for social change is figured in an image of hopeless changelessness. The stage, made to feel more emptily infinite by opening to the back wall, no other properties there, becomes an existential platform. And Courage pulling her wagon, alone against a hostile universe, resembles nothing so much as Sisyphus rolling his stone up the mountain, but even more vainly, blindly, her sense of direction totally destroyed, until her cry after the departing regiments was lost in the twining and imperturbable music, as in a rhythm of nothingness. Still, one can't help being drawn toward an image of even greater isolation than that of Hamm in the twilight of Endgame; for despite the discard of dog and whistle and the complacent terror with which he recovers his face with the bloody handkerchief, Clov remains, however unutterably there. About the fine line between compassion granted and compassion solicited, there had apparently been a conflict between Brecht and Weigel when she played the role, and he rewrote it where she overdid the sympathy. We hadn't heard about that, but were trying to see it as Brecht did, Courage as guilty as the warmongers, the crafty trade around the wagon, following the war at any cost. If there were empathy in the audience it would be there to arouse shame, to make them aware of their complicity too. It might be precisely that which deflected the way they saw it, though it was difficult to prevent compassion for the woman who is meant to be a negative object lesson. In an earlier scene, after the long modulated movement leading to the death of the stupid son, we did everything we could to “cool” her grief—to show how, under any duress, she would beat the war at its own game. But the scene was undeniably moving in a conventional way, and it was hard to measure the degree to which the ironic pipes and drums of the music cut the emotion. Unseeing as you make her, an audience may not believe the evidence of its senses. As for the drama's final moments, if you have the actress square her shoulders and look steadfastly into the future—asPage 205 → Weigel did when I saw her—hauling her wagon like a resolution to survive, that would appear to be the wrong kind of evidence, if not playing into the sympathies, a heroic image out of socialist realism. I don't recall whether it was my direction or Bea's instincts, but Courage in those final moments was by no means indomitable, rather a desperate fool reduced to an unthinking beast of burden—and yet, if not compassion, some complex emotion was there. And I remember the company being moved at the final dress rehearsal, all the more perhaps after the initial doubts about the play. If the melodrama of The Crucible, with edifying social protest, put us on the city map, Mother Courage would be a turning point for the Workshop—out of the alienation, a more provocative sense of mission, the kind of theater I'd been hoping for, if not exactly partisan, charged with ideas, which the audience has to contend with, in that sense really communal. Yet the optimism was tempered one rainy night at our Folsom Street warehouse, when morale was soaring, and everybody was feeling that we might yet change the world. We were ardently exploring some sequence in the play, when suddenly there was thunder, and the rain began to beat heavily on the chicken-wire glass of the skylight. All together as we were, we felt impossibly alone. The discussion stopped. The sense of isolation spread. And our ardor, momentarily dampened, was revived more realistically when I said that, as a minority group in a marginal form, we had to take our chances with an audience that might feel challenged or pretend indifference, if not incriminated, as Brecht meant them to be. As for the prospect of community, about which I was beginning to have my doubts, that was at best “a community of the question,” as I eventually wrote in The Audience, around that always subliminal challenge: “Who's there?” And that question was at the heart of the play within the play, from which we weren't exempt, as the judgment shifted—whoever's there—to them. What wasn't in question for me, even with the controversy, is that Mother Courage attempted to do what The

Crucible didn't, since in the righteousness of it, we're by no means guilty creatures sitting at a play, the other guy is guilty, nor were we left with any issues that were really in doubt. My respect for Arthur Miller was otherwise considerable, and especially his behavior before the House Un-American Activities Committee, though the irony was that John Proctor, predetermined hero of the melodrama, might have been applauded by members of the committee who cited Miller for contempt, while hardly doing justice to a situation that caused Elia Kazan to testify. About our production, Miller had only glowing reports, but hePage 206 → was a little stiff when we first met at Lincoln Center, where, before we took over, Kazan was going to make him resident playwright. Nor was he at all cordial—his Swedish wife Inge was—when I last saw him in England, at a conference in which we were the major speakers. There were a lot of years between, but he never quite forgave me for what I said about his play in The Impossible Theater, which I won't rehearse any further here. Despite my feelings about it all, the rave reviews improved the acting, the sensation was unabating, and whenever some other production had meager audiences, and we needed something to replace it on the Marines Memorial stage, The Crucible would be revived. This made for some comedy between Buddy and me. I'd see him approaching with a smile on his face, and I'd say, “We're not going to revive that fucking play!”—whereupon he'd get down on his knees and beg me. “We need the money.” And of course we always did. He played Proctor, by the way, if not miscast, indicating, with chin up, heroic, not one of his better performances. As for the reception of the two plays in San Francisco, that might tell you something about the city, and why our policy of “slow growth” was slower than it might have been, though the controversy, which I chose to exacerbate by protesting a review, had the virtue of speeding it up. It was understandable that left-leaning liberals, with the advance publicity of McCarthyism, were carried away by The Crucible, but that was also true of some on the farthest left who, through the communist grapevine, knew about Brecht and came out to support him as a tribal hero. But if you come to the theater knowing what you already think, Mother Courage may also confound you. One could say now, that was in another country and besides the wench is dead, but putting aside Meryl Streep in Central Park, she was alive in a way then that kept the play from being appropriated without misgivings by any particular cause. Nor is the play itself reducible to a preachment against war. Brecht is saying, if anything, that war is life, though since he sees life governed by the economic motive, war becomes the widest and most damaging extension of that motive, grotesque and terrible for all the duplicity it really masks. The war, indeed, is not any old war, but rather a sort of hedge fund, and with a maybe familiar immediacy in our faith-based, jihad age, a holy war—“and therefore,” as the Chaplain observes, “pleasing unto God.” But God bless us, what about the controversy, brought on by a reviewer who wasn't pleased? In an unfortunate simplification of our advertising—and I wrote in those days, along with the program notes, the advertising copy too—the play was described as an antiwar drama, and I should have known that afterPage 207 → Buchenwald, Iwo Jima, and Korea it might sound anachronistic. Who would need to be told that war is bad. One might ask: after such knowledge, what forgiveness? And some did ask, for when the reviewer—the guy's name was Paine Knickerbocker, who had just moved over from the sports page, and obviously knew nothing about Brecht—pointed out that in America there are some who still consider war to be the “great adventure,” there was an uproar of disapproval. He also provoked my first letters of protest over a review. Here the plot thickened: there were repercussions within the company. My letters—one to the reviewer, another to his editor—and the fact that we encouraged some protest (most of it unsolicited) caused one couple to resign. The majority, however, united behind the protest, boosting morale. Yet the question of protocol remained, and the strange principle of fair play: that is, you accept good reviews of productions in which you don't really believe, do you have the right to complain about a bad review of a production in which you do? It's a question that won't go away so long as a theater's longevity depends upon the box office. In my letters, it was the issue of protest itself that I tried to put in perspective. The bad review had already hurt us—attendance poor, even subscribers canceled. Sober heads in the company warned us that antagonizing the press could impede the growth of our theater. If that seems overstated, it was also true, and I took note of it in the letter. As for a performance defending itself on its own merits, to this day that's wishful thinking. Once again, a good review might not make a play, but a bad review could very well kill it. Fact is, no important theater of the modern era, committed to introducing new work, could really go it alone, without the support of other

media—especially in America, and especially, too, isolated as we were, without the support of a cultural movement or the collective clamor of other groups. And it was also a matter of scale: the Arena, the Alley, the Seattle Rep were our distant cohorts there, but not given to innovation, nor with a company growing like ours taking the same risks. Scandal might help for a while, and maybe controversy, but one could see how peculiar this situation was in the fact that even Jules and I debated the ethical propriety of encouraging those who wanted to defend our production to send on their letters of protest. I might have had some doubts myself, but when I was in England, on that trip abroad, George Devine, director of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theater, asked me to write a letter on behalf of John Arden's Serjeant Musgrave's Dance— which had been vilified in the press—after I told him it was probably the best thing I'd seen in London. In thosePage 208 → risible days after Look Back in Anger, also mistreated in the press, there wasn't the slightest compunction, nothing shameful, about Devine's asking me to write about Musgrave, or the entire company soliciting others. The play was also controversial, arousing more venom than Mother Courage, when we did the American premiere. In the letter to the editor, which Buddy read and approved, I tried to summarize the cultural problem. We didn't expect it to be printed, but we wanted our position on record; and it made its impression when I read it to our company. I said “the real controversy is of editorial proportions,” and proceeded to give a lesson in history, about the theater having “forfeited its old primacy in the community,” which it never really had in America, with the rise of competing media and a cultural delinquency here, but also because of its own—having “accepted its subordination” as a fact of modern life, it had “forfeited its right to speak out on its own behalf.” Without shrugging off the treatment of Mother Courage by an unqualified reviewer, I wanted “to make it clear that there is more than a bad review of a particular production at stake.” I was referring not only to his flippant response to honest dissent in a Sunday follow-up (which, more than the review, had provoked me), but to the fact that the play, dismissed as dated and commonplace, could be seen as a thoroughgoing criticism of our reigning foreign policy, as if Courage's wagon were rolling through its permanent wartime economy. And even for those who shared its sentiments, or what they expected Brecht to be saying, it was disturbing because it impugned us all, and with no final locus for self-exoneration. It was, rather, an antitrust suit of our commonest emotions, and what, as we went into rehearsals, we hadn't expected either, a social drama with an antisocial vision. Whether or not so, it was apparent after the controversy that the reviewers in the area were less prone to dismiss plays they knew nothing about, and a good thing, too, since they were soon confronted with others more troubling, far more strange or cryptic. They even made an effort to educate themselves, and I must say for Paine Knickerbocker that several years later, after reading Martin Esslin's book, a virtual primer on Brecht, he apologized in a Sunday article for his misguided review. And he even acknowledged, as others did, that the repertoire of The Actor's Workshop was the major source of enlightenment about the newer forms of drama, and potential experiment in the theater (though they were hardly aware of the impetus from the other arts). Instead of being cut down, our publicity improved. While that was a relief to those who'd worried about it, we were also confronted with the reverse problem: indiscriminate praise of certainPage 209 → productions because the strangeness is intimidating, though there might also be a delayed revulsion of feeling that led to outright censure. Since there was nothing like real criticism in the newspapers, I tried to discipline myself to not read reviews; but all I had to do was take one look at Jules, and I knew what the verdict was. (I thought I'd never saved reviews, but actually, in going through archives, I was taken aback to discover some, mostly bad reviews, to which I might have responded, or as if time would prove them wrong.) What nonetheless continued to obsess me was how to make performance itself an activity of critique, with one production reflecting on another, or in some tilted mirror of staging a conceptual adjustment of it, so that what's happening there now, in any new production, would have been inconceivable without what went before. That was, of course, the ideal, with the unfortunate lapses from it—but even those, in due time, had to be accounted for. And indeed I wrote about them, as another inciting kill of The Impossible Theater. The Actor's Workshop did more than a hundred productions from 1962 to 1965, when we left San Francisco, and it would take another volume to deal with many of them, as I've done in this chapter with Brecht. If I've put the

focus there first, that's because his importance to our theater went beyond his own plays into what I've described as the Public Art of Crisis. Over the conflicted years, my view of the Public certainly changed, but not my sense of theater as an art always in jeopardy, and at the Workshop that was based on daily experience. Of course, it can be ignored or covered up, but the theater knows about crisis as other forms don't because it is virtually a state of crisis, ontologically and materially a time-serving form, collaborative, but duplicitous, adulterated by competing claims as by competing temperaments, and that also makes it impossible. Whatever the internal politics, it is inseparable from the politics in that wider world out of which history is made, and as it was in the Balance of Terror, “a world of Realpolitik, sneak attacks, and holy wars,” but even in peaceful coexistence, or thaws in the cold war, often deceitful, perilous, nearly hallucinatory in what we learned to live with, even when asking questions. On which we tried to up the ante in what we put on stage. To be sure, there are questions of all kinds, like “Where are all these corpses from?” not to be buried in Beckett, but what seemed unconscionable after the productions of Brecht was to imagine a theater without a political dimension, though in other work we did that dimension itself was tested or took peculiar shapes. His politics may not have been, as we discovered through the plays, the wholePage 210 → story in Brecht, but without the politics there'd have been less of a story, so much less to be discovered. But while I've been concentrating here on my ideas of theater, where they came from, how they grew and, delivered from the brain, made their way on stage, there's still the personal in the political, however unfathomably indexed, and very soon they'd be saying the personal is political. That might seem self-evident, as when Jonathan performed the several ways of dying from atomic fallout. Still, it depends on who exactly you're saying it about, as with that other saying, politics, no politics, life goes on. For some it does, for some it doesn't, or it may not have been much of a life. But how in the world could I say that of my mother, whom the whole neighborhood adored, and admired herself in the mirror—or was that in another country, as I felt when she was dead? Yetta Blau died on December 7, 1954, almost a year to the day before we started on Mother Courage, and while it hadn't occurred to me then, I've thought with some amusement since that there was a time when, for all her subsequent laziness, she might have been the model for Courage. That was when, amid the Yiddish come-ons at the market, “Yetta was betta” at the bargaining, and carried all the shopping up those five flights of stairs. What wasn't amusing, however, indeed rather mortifying, as I came upon it years later, were some pages of a journal I started on a plane to New York from San Francisco. “Is she dead?” I wrote, because she wasn't when I left for the airport. “Perhaps not a moment ago she died. But this is what we know: about a week ago, a brain hemorrhage, a stroke. On Saturday a phone call from my brother: solemn, funereal, reproachful.” With me in another world, a continent away, his was the burden of my mother and father, who remained a working man—the best foreman in town, but making money for other people. They always said about Joe Blau that he never did what he could, open a business for himself. Not sure how the subject shifted, but after being told about our mother, I was suddenly being reminded (or reprimanded) that our father was not well off. “I know, I know,” I penciled into the journal, “not for him the profit of loss,” though I wasn't referring to business, but how he came to live his life, or not, now sullen, now depressed, and now my mother dying … To everybody's surprise, Joe Blau married again, and even went out dancing, with a younger woman I never met, who thought he had more money than he did, but took what he had when he died, and never saw the family again—nor did they want to see her. When I recently asked my sister-in-law Bea about her, she said the woman was dreck, and couldn't evenPage 211 → remember her name, or so she said. “I think it starts with an E, but who cares,” as if the marriage had been an insult to my mother. It was Bea who called early morning the day I took the plane. She was crying, and said the doctors expected Mom to die very shortly. Buddy drove me to the airport. “We drink milkshakes, I eat, and we discuss the group. Still no feeling except a mild and pleasant pity—the pity of distance. And now, flying home”—home? a rite of return?—“there is nothing but the struggle to understand the no-feeling. When I left the sky was clear overhead, lake blue, an overcast of purple-gray smog near the South San Francisco hills.” It was only late afternoon, and “a full moon already. And now it is dark, the sky inkier, but the horizon … bright-orange red,” where the sun had disappeared. And then a question that may have been there, “What was she like, my mother?” though I thought I always knew, when I gazed at her brushing her hair, with the self-enamored presence of that mirrored triple image.

“She was already dead when I landed. Sid and Dad met me at the airport, and both were reasonably well controlled, except that Dad seemed sheepish and repressed, sick himself. I learned later from Sid and Bea that he had cried a great deal during the night. Later in the morning, when he lay down briefly,” she not there to take off his shoes, “he wept again.” Jews bury quick, and the funeral was that afternoon. My head was “a maze of sensations,” but I didn't like what I felt, the theatricality of it—“How devoted we are to death!”—some of it grotesque, the fact of feeling being that I didn't know what I felt. (As to what I'm feeling now, I wish that journal never existed, consigned with no weird awakening to the rigor mortis of memory.) “A neighbor of my brother had made the arrangements, and for some stupid reason he chose a mortuary on the Lower East Side, nearly 50 miles from the cemetery, which is way out on Long Island…. My mother was in a shiny oak casket on a wheel table covered with a crusted black leatherette. Behind the coffin was a rostrum with two chrome candelbra, and behind this a wall with a shellacked mural of the praying wall in Jerusalem. The panels on either side of this were filled with lacquered shrubbery at the base of a palm tree. (Irv Frankel whispered to me later, just before the ceremony, that it was painted by his cousin's father.) At the head of the coffin was a professional mourner, muttering over a prayer book propped on a large upended drawer. He wore a solid gold wrist watch, a yarmulka, and glasses, and from time to time he stuck his forefinger deeply up his nasal cavity to clear it. Page 212 → “Dad was alternately vociferous and broken. He went into the back office to clear up business terms and to collect the simple gold wedding ring he had that morning insisted be taken from my mother's finger as a remembrance. Before this we all looked at Mom in her coffin. Above it was a lamp with a red fixture. She was in white, her head bolstered by a white satin pillow, and veiled in white lace. She looked like wrinkled marble or a powdered mannikin. Her hair, which had always been thin (and gray the last time I saw her) was almost white. Her eyes were open. The brows were dark and full. Her large mouth was pulled into a neat sweeping arc. She looked stern and imposing, more regal than she had ever been in life, certainly more austere and imperative. Alive, her body was flabby from too much comfort; dead, she seemed clenched by restraint, taut, as though the embalming fixed a terrible energy. She was really matriarchal. I looked at her for a long time, and several times afterward. Yet I was not, except for the total circumstances, moved very profoundly.” We were there first, but when the guests assembled, the talking started and a woman named Goldy (I remembered the name, but not her), “brightened Dad up for a while, made him talk too. She went briskly up to the coffin (she was wearing a Persian lamb coat) and then sat in the bench behind us and leaned over Dad's shoulder.” “What happened, Joe?” “What happened? She wouldn't take care of herself.” “Ah, we each need to improve.” “All of us.” “Yes, she was a stubborn woman.” “She said all the doctors should drop dead. They wouldn't drop dead. She did.” His voice was rising, his speech now punctuated by the “hells” and “damns” and “bastards” which constitute the protest of his life. “Well, she got her wish at least. She said if she had to go she wanted to be first.” “Ah, what else? You were good to her, Joe. You were a good man, treated her like a baby. Who would want to be left alone without a good man to take care of you.” “He began to weep…. “The professional mourner stuck his finger up his nostril, it was a very large finger for a short man. He looked straight at me but kept poking, without embarrassment or question….”Page 213 →

There was some panic delaying the ceremony because my mother's sister was late. “Finally the rabbi, a small man with glasses and appearance of a druggist, lined my father, Sid, and me against the wall beside the professional mourner. He pinned a black ribbon on each of our lapels and murmured a kaddish, having us repeat after him. Then he snipped the ribbons halfway across…. Just before the ritual began, my Aunt Fanny made her entrance, wailing,” nearly collapsing, in an “agonizing litany” of loss, “‘Mama—mama—maaa—ma mee! One shtickel sister I had left and she's gone. Mama, mama.’ I took her gently and sat her down. She didn't recognize me yet. The rabbi requested all guests to take their last look at the deceased, and then the family. I glanced at her from the head of the casket. Then the attendants closed her eyes and put patches over them, and pushed the head down into the casket. The lid was closed and the ceremony began.” The rabbi's voice was “nasal and affected,” and I paid less attention to what he said than to how he said it, pronouncing “‘spirit’ as ‘spitit,’ ‘divine’ as ‘devoin.’” He didn't know my mother, so “eulogized her for as many wrong as right reasons,” but who was I to say—looking from the casket to see if my father was crying, I still felt nothing, as if the lid had closed on a foreign body. “It was not a long ceremony but unbearable while it lasted,” and the ride to the cemetery seemed interminable. Fortunately, the service at the grave was brief. The rabbi prayed, the cantor sang, and my father, brother, and I recited another kaddish, repeating after the rabbi what I would otherwise have choked on had it not been for my father. Dirt was pushed onto the coffin, I suppose (there's nothing in the journal about it), and then we drove back to Sidney's house in silence. “When we arrived the neighbors met us with glasses of water and we washed our hands. In the house, the neighbor women had spread the table with sturgeon, pickled herring, white fish, salad, cheese, plenty of whiskey, candy and cake. Later a minyan was formed and we were supposed to take part in shiva. I resented it. I resented wearing the yarmulke and the slit ribbon…. We sat on stools provided by the undertakers. A candle, also supplied by the undertakers, burned. I managed to sneak away and pretend to fall asleep.” My father was crying. The last time I saw him was at the Urban Manor Nursing Home, after he suffered a double stroke, which left him in a wheelchair, fly open, sucking on candy, and blind in one eye. And here, nevertheless, there was aPage 214 → remnant of the older pride with which in a damp cellar he'd once laid pipes. No solace, no therapy, he refused it all, as if the stroke were a sign of weakness or personal fault. He knew I was there, but stared in humiliation at a television screen. No matter what I said, he wouldn't turn to look at me with his single eye, as if canceling the Oedipal contract. I went away, trying to remember him at Dubrow's on Sunday mornings, where they told me I was lucky to be Whitey's son, or beside his blue Pontiac, in his wide flaring herringbone coat.

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SEVEN Dark Energy AN AESTHETIC OF IRRELEVANCE The Encore Theater was down in the depths. But its lobby, an embedded cable car, might once have been up above, descending from the Mark Hopkins, that exclusive hotel, with its Peacock Lounge, on the crest of Nob Hill. I said that in the years from Oedipus through Galileo, whether foreseeing potential terror in pursuing the forbidden or the possible end of history in scientific research, I had come to think of the theater, from its particle physics to its politics, as if the Bomb were in the lobby. But the civic authorities, who at times of financial crisis seemed indifferent to the fate of the Workshop, were vigilant in this regard, as if protecting us from ourselves. The lobby was designated an air-raid shelter. The theater itself, a flight below, might have been safer, but not if I had my way. “The Best Shelter Is Peace,” said a placard on the stairs going up to the street. Somebody in the company put it there, but “Peace,” that password of the Sixties, wasn't exactly my sentiment either, about what a theater should be. If not exactly a Theater of Cruelty, there'd be no shelter whatever from our more alien and menacing plays. And indeed, though audiences are resourceful in screening things out, they were nevertheless threatened by the absurdist or political drama from the European avant-garde. Nor were they exempt in our other theater, at the Marines Memorial, a short block and a half up from the Encore. The building itself, honoring those who died in the Pacific during World War II, was (still is) a hotel and social club for members of the armed services. The theater was on the mezzanine,Page 216 → but in the passageway downstairs, where our box office was, you'd see men in uniform heading to register in the rear, or going up on the elevators, though rarely into the theater. If the Bomb were in the lobby, it wasn't being defused, except by our own concessions, not to the Public Art of Crisis, but to what kept us from going bankrupt. Or so we thought for the repetitive desperate moment, since we were playing guessing games, or were embarrassed by the concession, when it made us no money either, which was more often than not. The financing of the Workshop, and Buddy's dealings with the Board, the mayor's office, the business community, the unions, the foundations, subscriptions, sale of stock, begrudging donors, his own bank account (including a small inheritance from his father's mail-order business), our paltry salaries at State, not to mention the distribution of next to nothingness, its always sliding scale, to a growing company, with payroll bonds, payroll taxes, health plans, the sometimes laughable auditing of the nightmare of near extinction, would make a dissertation (and there's actually one which documents much of that). The nightmare was hardly relieved by our operating two theaters, and there were times when the intimacy of the Encore seemed a luxury we could ill afford. We wanted it, sure, for experimental purposes, but it was also true that we needed it, in order to maintain sufficient personnel to keep the larger theater going, once the freeway forced the move, and we found ourselves downtown. In order to keep everybody working, and not just on and off, there had to be more productions, and sufficient reason to stay. What we had done in effect, between the upstairs at Marines and downstairs at the Encore, was to create a sort of off-Broadway of our own. Yet, while a second theater opened up the prospects for what we could do, it was also hard to do it, keeping the company intact, with still-limited resources in a culturally stingy city, with its bogus reputation as the Paris of the West. While waiting for the first signs of support out of philanthropic darkness, if somebody threatened to go, it might not be a matter of casting, but the daily enigma, money. So it was with Tom Rosqui, our dark-haired, good-looking, leading young man, who eventually became the enforcer in The Godfather films, though long before that with an explosively punitive temper. With a selfdemeaning slouch, he'd mostly turn it upon himself, for a direction he couldn't follow or not holding onto an action or, as he put it once in a letter, “for some piece of shit I picked up from Olivier or Brando—or just as bad from myself!” He would insist, as he tried to believe, that “when I'm at my best no actor can top me,” but if he wasn't at his best, or didn't knowPage 217 → what it was, Tom might erupt, cursing, stalking himself, then

mumbling into remission with an apologetic smile—which was also there when it came to his leaving the Workshop. He had been with us from near the beginning, after auditioning at the Divisadero Street loft. He was still in the navy then, stationed at Treasure Island, below the Bay Bridge, and while it was quite a trip to rehearsals, he was always dutifully there, grateful for the chance, when he played opposite Bea in Summer and Smoke. No question, he'd be an asset to the group, but no sooner released from the service Tom was off to New York, for a startup career. It started well enough, soon with an agent and prospects, but even while performing in a couple of shows off-Broadway, he'd write me now and again that he really liked what we'd been doing, and that if we could pay him a living wage he'd come back. The reply was simple, self-evident: “If we could pay you a living wage, we wouldn't need you.” Shortly after, Tom did come back, to do the leading role in a play of mine. Yet it was a kind of shuttle arrangement, and we knew he'd be off again, since there seemed no way to keep him, though one very late night after performance, I decided to give it a try. I had come downtown by car and offered to take him to his apartment, but while driving around, circling the subject, we found ourselves way out in the Sunset District, and with nothing else open, in a fluorescent-lit doughnut shop, a flickering dismal place. No matter, big doings. Or a kind of ace in the hole. I had a newspaper clipping with me that said the Ford Foundation, with accumulating dividends, and nothing spent on any program up to then, had forty-nine times more money than it had when it began. “The continent is tilting,” I said, putting the clipping on the table, “that money is going to pour out of those fucking windows in New York, and we're going to get it.” And indeed, we eventually did, well, first the grant to me, which got me to Europe, then not that much money, and it came with strings attached. But when it happened it was an endorsement of those theaters—the Workshop, the Alley, the Arena, the Seattle Rep—which W. McNeill Lowry, head of Ford's program in the arts and humanities, called the “backfield” of the “regional theater movement,” the vanguard of what became the hundreds of “resident professional theaters” all over the country now. As I've suggested here and elsewhere, I'm not exactly thrilled by the existence of all those theaters as a measure of cultural development, and back in the 1950s, nothing like that in sight, we had to be resourceful in taking our chances, while extending our domain to a theater which, parabolically, happened to be underground.Page 218 → Whatever the risks, we were feeling more professional in being downtown, with special advantages there (aside from David's Delicatessen), like the Encore's proximity to the Geary and Curran, right around the corner, those redoubts of touring musicals and schlocky comedies from Broadway. We could see them if we wished, getting in free, as with the beginnings of celebrity status in San Francisco, Buddy and I became known to the owner /managers of the theaters. And that turned out to be instructive, as I was still trying to catch up with his comic know-how as a director. Up at Marines, I might talk to the actors in their dressing rooms before the curtain, or check out the action onstage, and then go down to see one of the road shows—not taking a seat, but standing in an alcove on either side of the orchestra. Sequestered there, I'd not be watching the actors but the audience instead, with an ear to what was happening on stage, waiting for a cue, whereupon I'd turn away, snap my fingers, one, two, three, then point at the audience, and sure enough, they'd laugh. After all, they had laugh meters back on Broadway, keeping track of the number expected, and if an actor missed a laugh, the stage manager would remind him not to turn upstage so quick, or not to take a drink on the line, but after she said the line, or might even correct a gesture, like take your elbow off the table, and the next night the laugh would be there. I watched and learned my lessons, the required mechanics of it, with rhythms keyed to what the audience wanted, what they came to the theater for—and little different from what you'd see, or hear, on a sitcom today. One, two, three, laugh. I hated it when they did. Same thing in a classroom. Jewish jokes, army jokes, there was a time when I had a repertoire of jokes, and could liven up a lecture with a punch line. But the more expert I became at doing it, the more I detested it. And it's very rare now, though there may be laughter in a class, that it comes from my telling a joke. It was the sickening predictability of audience response that put me off, and still does, and that's why it was a psychic relief when Beckett first came on the scene, and though they might have sensed it was funny, they didn't know where or when. Now, of course, the going thing in production, especially Waiting for Godot, is the staging it for laughs, which you can mostly see coming too. That wasn't so then, but I remember particularly one occasion which summed up for me, when we first did it, that half-century ago, what really made it different.

At the Marines Theater, Jules and I could watch a performance from right behind the last row of the orchestra. I was there one night, standing behind a very tall man and a rather short woman, sitting beside each other,Page 219 → maybe man and wife. Responses as usual were erratic, desultory, a laugh here, now there, sometimes all together. The tall man, however, was laughing all the time, the woman almost never. I couldn't see her face, but she seemed grimly focused on the stage. Then one time there was an eruption of laughter, by almost everybody in the audience, and the man loudly too, when she turned to him suddenly in a whispered rage, “Shut up!”—a moment close in its hissing difference, funny, not funny, to the risus purus, that laughing at the laugh, the doubled affect of the play: “Silence please, at that which is unhappy.” We had the first reading of Waiting for Godot at our house on Frederick and Clayton, just above the Haight when the Haight was still straight, a middle-class shopping street, two blocks south of the Panhandle and heading toward Golden Gate Park—idyllic before the Diggers, in their benevolent anarchy, encouraged the squatting there. On the two blocks sloping up from Haight, there were houses mosqued and gabled, with stained-glass clover, fig leaves, roses in their dormer windows, but our house up at the corner, with beige peeling paint, was still the most imposing. We didn't think we could afford it, but were lucky to rent cheaply from a lordly gentleman, Colonel Marcus, who was worried about our three children, but who, after a brief interview, impressed more by Bea's elegance than my being a college professor (not sure we mentioned the theater), trusted us to keep it up. Built in 1894, two high stories with an attic above, and a slanting green-slate roof, there were Doric columns beside the door, a ceramic-tiled entry, and just inside, large bay windows of stained and beveled glass, with v-grooves refracting light onto a cushioned seat, an intimate space secluded by a red spindled mahogany frame. The curved staircase, darker, was mahogany too, as were the sliding doors to my study, and the wood-paneling on the walls. For the reading of Beckett's text, that peculiar no-drama, we gathered in the dining room, at a large octagonal table below a crystal chandelier, and bookcases all around—not exactly the bleak landscape with its forlorn tree. If the setting was congenial, the tension was immediate, not within the play, but about it, particularly with the actor cast as Didi, though Buddy was nervous too, not about playing Lucky, but about whether we'd lose an audience. Here fatality ruled: lamenting the choice as he did with his own dark humor, he was going along with Beckett's because I insisted we had to do it. As for the difficult Didi, he was one of those in our theater with a fulltime job, in this case, however, not at the produce market, but as a lawyerPage 220 → with an active practice. The oldest person in the company, Hal Haswell might have been the maturest, but there were other liabilities. When his hands shook and body quivered, we could tell he was drinking too much, and even though with AA, he was occasionally at rehearsal out of step with the twelve steps, and resistant to direction. Actually, Has was devoted to the Workshop, and as one of those, too, who rather liked my literariness, he might very well have been responsive to what I'd be saying about the play. But then, even when sober, he could also be perverse. Bob Symonds, cast as Gogo, had apparently discovered the play on his own, but was doing what he should, waiting to see what I had to say. And so was Joe Miksak; actually a colleague of mine at State, and a speech pathologist there, he had—as earlier for Oedipus—the voice and physique for Pozzo, whose pathology was pretty strange. If there was any way to explain it, Joe was willing to leave it to me. And I may have been perverse myself in what I chose to say that night, or maybe with some defensiveness, how I said it, contending with their doubts, while still sorting out my earliest impressions of Beckett, and my own misgivings as well. Those misgivings, surely, would be embarrassing now, but there they are in The Impossible Theater, as they were when I explained them to Beckett over a drink in Paris—in brief, that there was something about the play that was essentially un-American. That he took it seriously, somewhat disturbed by what I said, was not a matter of his usual courtesy, nor his own uneasiness then about what he was doing and why, and whether he should do it in the theater. What he'd done, however, in that era of the Absurd, was to make me all the more conscious of the oceanic difference between postwar Europe and the American scene. I'll return to that again, while remembering Beckett and our earliest meetings together, but as somebody said at the time, when few knew much about him, Waiting for Godot was the play that Jean-Paul Sartre should have written. “On this soil of Europe,” André Malraux had asked, “yes or no, are men dead?” To which, before the question was asked, Sartre responded in Nausea: “They did not want to exist, only they could not help themselves.” The italics were mine, in notes I brought to the reading, and indeed Sartre would appear to have been prominent in

what I said to the cast. It's also apparent that I was reading Beckett's novels. I'm not at all sure which of the notes I used, but attached as a kind of preface, in a file I still have, are some scribblings on a stained envelope. If there's any logic there, it comes just before the image (from Molloy by way of Descartes) of man as an angel on a bicycle, in a question not from Beckett, but from Sartre or someonePage 221 → else: “what is mortality for?” And then a remark of my own: “We owe our existence to our irrelevance.” After which, this unconsolation from Watt: “Well, perhaps not quite in vain, but very nearly.” With vanity an irrelevance, there's a reference to L'Innomable (did I read it in French?), about not seeking meaning, because the meaning is in the waiting. And to corroborate that, affinities there from my more canonical reading: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” “Teach us to care and not to care, / Teach us to sit still.” I'm not sure, if I quoted them at all, that those lines from Milton and Eliot did much to assure the actors that the audience would be prepared or, indeed, that they'd really sit still. And of course it's a hallowed part of the history of Waiting for Godot that, in San Francisco as in Paris, and even worse in Miami, people did walk out. Or contributing to open discussion after performances at Marines, there were members of the audience who wondered aloud, quite loud, why they bothered to stay. There were several who stayed to tell us that they came to see a play, and this wasn't a play, and to demand their money back. Some did it through the mail, including a few who dropped their subscriptions because, after a drama like The Crucible, and even Mother Courage, they expected “relevance” from the Workshop. All this about a play that in less than a generation not only entered the canon but was possibly, outside of Shakespeare, the most-taught text in American universities, not only in drama and literature, but in psychology, philosophy, social studies—with GODOT the name now of an open-source link in libraries, with another link in microbiology, where as a recent article put it, two wayward microbes on “the parasitology stage” are waiting to be recognized, like Vladimir and Estragon. As for irrelevance, and owing our existence to it, once again there would be appear to be a conspiracy between what I'm remembering here and the chanciness of history—in this case, universal history. Earlier on I made reference to the “dark energy” that may go down in history, or disappear from it, as the ultimate vanity of cosmological research. Or since “dark” has less to do with the distant or invisible, but rather what's unknown, and possibly forever, name it as you will, some ultimate failure of language—what Beckett might have foretold. For, as a major theorist recently said, at a public forum on cosmology, about our presence here, “We're just a bit of pollution…. If you get rid of us, and all the stars and all the galaxies and all the planets and all the aliens and everybody, then the universe would be largely the same. We're completely irrelevant.” If he sounds like the blinded Pozzo or the apocalyptic Hamm, there's no consolationPage 222 → either, as Beckett understood, from the magnitude of those earlier plays through the abbreviated Breath to the later Texts for Nothing, in being prophetic. Nor will I claim that, though tempting, for my scribblings on the envelope, and what I said to the cast. The hermeneutics on Beckett is a virtual industry now, but the fact of the occasion then was getting past our naïveté. There are pages of notes in that file, in pencil, ink, typed, some orderly, some random, and they remain a revealing template for what I had to construe myself in the act of convincing them that, as if at the crux of all the arguments of the twentieth century, it was important to do a play that “strips away everything but those questions which cannot be answered.” Freud had said we must learn to live in doubt, and while that was in the brain cells or synaptic terminals of Beckett's acrostic text, I felt it had to be there in rehearsal as if it were second nature. That there was an activist side to this came, I suppose, from the doubting around nothingness in an existential period, which is why, in those initiating notes, Sartre figures often. So, too, Albert Camus, who had posed the question that opens The Myth of Sisyphus: “Why not suicide?” Why not, indeed, and not a mere enigma. Compounding the doubts was “the project of being,” which the waiting appears to be, where being is nothing but—doubled up in the tramps, who only exist in and for each other, and panic when it seems they don't. “We're not tied?” asks Gogo, as they stand motionless, arms dangling, volitionless, full of velleities, and “habit … the great deadener.” If man is a useless passion, so be it, there was nevertheless a passion in the futility of it all, or with some providence at the abyss or residue of being, irrelevance next to godliness—call it Godot if you will. Wary again, however, of being thought too intellectual, I was trying to convey how Beckett, more disarmingly than Sartre, had theatricalized the philosophical, not only making the ideas actable on stage, but merging there with ideas of acting. Thus with the notion of “L'être-pour-Autrui (Being-for-Others): the other exists as a system

of possibilities,” as actors do for each other, or should, with the inclination, however, “to make an object of the other with a fixed meaning.” According to Sartre, “the effort is in vain.” Maybe so, maybe not. I'm still seeing performances, in and out of the theater, where the meaning is pretty fixed, but it all had implications for the art of acting, about which there was still debate in the company over the absence of method. About the other, however, as a system of possibilities, auratic with nonmeaning, that seemed to be what was happening inPage 223 → Waiting for Godot, where the prescience was such, or its kinesthetics, that the text itself was telling us how to do it. If bewildering to begin with, method in the madness. And by that I don't mean what they said when Beckett started directing, that Sam knows best, and there's only his way to do it. Any way you do it there's quite another subtextual level at which you don't want to diminish the madness, as with some “deadbeat escapement,” like that of Pozzo's watch, tick-tocking over “Damnation!” And whatever it is that's coming that makes Didi “go all queer,” there's more than a hat trick, taking it off, nothing inside, when he exclaims “AP-PALLED.” The appalling may be in the nature of being, or some sin in “Our being born,” but if “One daren't laugh any more,” that's because of the still unpurgeable history, its appalling immediacy, in which laughter seems the last resource. “Dreadful privation”—how to get on without it? “Dread, doubt, anxiety, indifference, lethargy, disgust, filth, directionlessness, nausea, nostalgia, anguish”—not his words, these words, strung out in my notes like a liturgy of despair. And I can see myself reading them off as a chanted text for nothing, about the miscellany of unmeaning around that leafless tree. Abstractions they might be, but from dread and doubt to anguish, all of that in the play, they had to sink into performance, however Chaplinesque. Distracted from distraction by distraction, even the buffoonery takes its turn for the worse, subject to it, and the more you think about it … perish the thought. “We're in no danger,” says Didi, “of ever thinking any more.” “Then what,” says Gogo, “are we complaining about?” “Thinking is not the worst.” Which appears to be a quite different state of alienation than we encountered in Brecht, though if Alienation means to be made strange, causing us to think again about what looks or sounds familiar, we'd soon be discovering that Beckett was the exemplar. And what follows is an exchange that—mere banter, sure—more than historicizes: What is terrible is to have thought. But did that ever happen to us? Where are all these corpses from? These skeletons. Tell me that. True. We must have thought a little. At the very beginning.Page 224 → A charnel-house! A charnel-house! You don't have to look. You can't help looking. That you can't help looking of course raises the question of what you're looking at. And as we thought a little ourselves, with the tramps moving laterally across the apron of the stage, looking at the audience secreted in the dark, the charge was as severe as anything in Brecht, both as a cultural diagnosis and an incrimination of theater, haunted by specularity, for the accusative moment reversed. As for the diagnosis, if that seems overly misanthropic, no mere Beckettian joke, it was only a few years before that we might have heard another voice, renowned for grandeur and hope: “What is Europe now? It is a rubble-heap, a charnel house, a breeding-ground of pestilence and hate.” Thus, the atmosphere out of which the play came, defined by Winston Churchill. As Beckett didn't invent despair, so he doesn't indulge it. His favorite parable: the two thieves, one of whom was saved (“it's a reasonable percentage”). I didn't know it at the time, but he had been in psychoanalysis, and it was if he were dramatizing what Freud, in the disenchantments of his science, thought it might do as a last resort: transform “your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.” As for that polysyllabic word on my list, directionlessness, that would still be guiding direction, with something exacting about it that, like the later “Lessness,” really identifies Beckett. When a drama is literally much ado about nothing, the nothing is something

other than a vacuous antiaesthetic. What I wanted the actors to see, in the exactitude of the text, was that even the verbs that seem passive are actively not, and so with the empty nouns. “Nothing happens, nobody goes, it's awful! ” And when they come, they go, having brought nothing with them, except a return of the Same. But as Nietzsche well knew, there's an infinity to the Same, and as I talked about it ideas were coming from everywhere, from memory, association, and reading prompted by Beckett, including those philosophical texts that Sam knew well, though often in denial, as with the subterfuge in the tramps that they haven't the faintest idea. The fact is, however, that even in forgetting they remember too much, because of the terrible burden of having thought, no past perfect but the possessive present. About thought and being, or being thought, Heidegger was there too, with the apprehension of a Being behind all beings, which may be there in the vagaries of Godot. With the tramps, it was “Being there as existing,” or a sadPage 225 → facsimile of it. “We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?” The impression is one thing, but how to authenticate it? And first things first, never mind what they're living for. As the notes say, Vladimir and Estragon, in their aimless repartee, “are trying to discover not the values by which they live; they are trying to discover if they live,” and if so, is there anyone there who might testify to it? “You did see us, didn't you?” says Didi to the little Boy, and then the second time around, “(With sudden violence.) You're sure you saw me, you won't come and tell me to-morrow that you never saw me!” Many years later, with the figure in the urn of Play—“all this,” and enduring pain, could it have been “just play? ”—there's that “closing repeat” without closure: “Am I as much as … being seen?” Being seen or seen as being: either way, no being without being seen. As for the objects in the play—the objects other than bodies struggling for subjectivity—we see them, they're there, each with its own protocol: the boots wait to be worn; a hat is a must for thinking; eat a carrot and try to carry on a conversation, and you'll see quite materially that a carrot is a carrot. The tree is there to be done, but try to hang yourself upon it—go ahead, try it—and you will see the extent to which the tree is useless. Where did Lucky's second hat come from? It was there, but luckily there. At least that was so down at our Encore Theater, where we did a second production, with a radical change of design in a diminished space. When Didi and Gogo were terrified by the invaders who never invaded, Gogo hid, so far as he could, behind the inadequate tree, and Didi jumped into a ditch cut into the front of the stage. Then—and the idea came from the cowboy movies I'd seen back in Brooklyn—he tossed his hat in the air to test the enemy. No shot, all safe. One picks up his hat and proceeds. On opening night, Didi threw his hat up in the air. No shot. But nothing came down. Perfect! One picks up Lucky's old hat and proceeds. Thus the stasis is proactive with a ceaseless virtuosity. “You're right,” says Didi, “we're inexhaustible.” And that, rather than exhaustion, is Beckett's real subject. But lest we still think the universe too inscrutable to bear: the hat thrown up by Didi (in this production played by Ray Fry, dark-eyed, tensile, adept, with normally infallible timing) had accidentally stuck in the light pipe above. “So much the better, so much the better.” It's the proceeding that counts. On the physical level, the inexhaustibility of the play can also be exhausting, while taxing the actors' resources—all the more when, for all the wordplay and misconstruals, missaying and aporias, you have to take things literally. To have thought is one thing, to think another.Page 226 → “Think, pig! … Stop! Think!” Even thinking is a physical task, not only for Lucky, in the whoroscopic outburst of his history of Western culture, from the personal God uttered forth in the quaquaquaqua to the cataclysmic skull the skull the skull in Connemara, alas abandoned then resumed, the end of the world unfinished. Eschatology be damned, “The essential doesn't change.” Look at Didi's face agonized with the effort to use his intelligence. “One is what one is.” But in the act of histrionic juggling in which they perform no-action, the two tramps are caught up in living one-life. Between them—pulling off boots, scratching the head, urinating, chewing carrots (“the more you eat the worse it gets”), getting used to “the muck” as they go along—they compose an identity, as through the great mystique of modern helplessness, or the rubble-heap of history, they may not complete the project, but summon up a semblance of what Simone Weil (also there in my notes) called the “courage-to-be.” Because of the dread, doubt, and anxiety about what it might do at the box office, and because we had another production going—Clifford Odets's The Flowering Peach: a parable of Noah's ark that, out of the darkness of Hollywood, where Odets had been exiled, redeemed its feeling of hope by making us some money—Waiting for Godot played at first only on Thursday nights. That might have seemed appropriate, part of the hopeless waiting,

before it surprised everybody by becoming a sensation, not only in San Francisco but in the now-legendary performance at San Quentin Prison and at two World's Fairs, in Brussels and then Seattle (my first time in the city, with the Space Needle going up). But before we come to that, another reality check, for even those achievements, and Buddy's ingenious wheelings and dealings, didn't provide the security of a stable bank account. If fear of survival in our theater was always behind the scene, requiring the courage-to-be, it was at one rehearsal vividly there on stage, but with a dark energy, or impulse not-to-be. This was up at Marines, where we were working on behavior that, almost without transition, went from the natural to the antic, when Bob Symonds, as Gogo, in a face-front, shoulder-to-shoulder burlesque routine, broke away from Didi and, as he'd never done before, ricocheted over the stage, not knowing what he was doing, and then, throwing his entire body into it, struck the proscenium and cried: “I'm hunn-grry!” It was as if his entire life were rolled up in his fist: fatigue from the market, marriage failing, and the always unspeakable protest, what was he doing there? and for a trivial paycheck, when he might have gone to Hollywood or with morePage 227 → than a chance to Broadway—pure outrage, then, at a probably screwed-up career. His pain, for me, came with a seizure of insight, and as if in a theater of Cruelty—or the secret life of directing, whatever the cost to him—what I wanted to see again. If the motive was deeply personal, it was utterly theatrical, at the very limits of style and stage, like a biological urge becoming the aesthetic question, validated there because unanswerable. The proscenium had, in our production, no real place in the environment established around the tree, but it was an immoveable fact in the topography of the stage. Striking it was, for Bob, a criticism in extremity, encapsulating years of frustration, as if he'd be less hungry if the proscenium didn't exist. The character's problem, the actor's problem, the theater's problem, the philosophical problem were rolled into his fist. Needless to say, solid concrete, the proscenium didn't fall. There was another occasion when calm and steady Bob, the one we counted on for restraint, more than lost it. That took place several weeks before the opening when a sense of disaster circulated, not in rehearsals, but around the company, and Buddy even asked me if I really wanted to go ahead. Aside from Hal Haswell, however, who was on-again, off-again, the doing was getting to us, and with an upswing of elation at being involved in something rare. For all the talk of the text's opacities, they began to feel mundane, with references to the Gospels like buttoning up a fly, faults of aphasia or cerebration (“I must have made a note of it”) taking on the peculiar intimacy of what you do without thinking—though, incited by the text, you had to think about that. Indeed, when it came to rehearsal, nothing was taken for granted, that nothing to be done, even obsessing about it, so that even the most ordinary, simple activity might become—since “it's the way of doing it that counts, the way of doing it, if you want to go on living”—an agonizing decision. Familiar defamiliar, it was not only seen as estranged or, as in Stanislavski's technique, “as if for the first time,” but as if with a layered history or the rigor of ritual, now austere, then baroque, thus turning the functional moment into an aesthetic event—as you might see, in tying a shoelace under water, the serviceable beauty of the manipulable thumb. Much that happens, or doesn't, the play's amnesiac panic or knockabout farce, depends on breaking the rhythm, and we also worked on that, an aesthetic of dysfunction. If nothing goes right for the tramps, it still had to be done right. There was in all this a methodical commitment to otherwise purposeless tasks, though there were times when Haswell, with his own grumbling view of the purpose, was lethargic about doing them. And to this therePage 228 → was a climax, when for some unconscionable reason, not about the play, Has was baiting me at a large company meeting. I was so furious at how he did it that I told him to get the hell out of there and dropped him from the cast. And as he ambled off with a triumphant air, that's when Bob erupted. He ran after him, pinned him against the wall, and shouted, “You bastard! it's like running a knife through a painting. You hear, it's a desecration!” What followed may have implied that method was meaningless, but all that zealous work was a unifying force. We made a quick replacement, and in about a week I talked him through the play like a catechism, directing by hypnopaedic suggestion. Eugene Roche was a Catholic, and suspicious of the play's despair, but we were so devout ourselves that he succumbed with simple faith—the reward for which was that Godot, even after he left the Workshop, seemed to bless his career, which included (and is this Beckettian?) “the Ajax Man” on television. How could our theater compare to that? I tried to persuade him to stay, but Gene, with his high-shouldered, burly

body and ready jocularity, if sometimes defensive, a winning Irish wit, went on to Broadway and film, and on TV, when he wasn't cleaning the kitchen with Ajax, was there with All in the Family, as Archie Bunker's pestiferous neighbor. With us, Gene had played the Cook in Mother Courage, Hickey in The Iceman Cometh, and other substantial roles, but it was that experience with Waiting for Godot that, as he settled into the play, seemed to psyche out what he was, making the best of his acting, for which he was always grateful. At least that's what he told me again the last time I saw him, many years later, after Bea's memorial, and what his wife and children told me, when, recently, I attended his. “Astride of a grave and a difficult birth.” Nor was Gene's the only career with a debt to our production, or its perdurable image of the grave-digger putting on the forceps. As it turned out, our doing Waiting for Godot not only aroused more courage than we'd anticipated, but gave life to some from whom it had almost been taken away. That indeed happened at the California State Penitentiary at San Quentin, just after Thanksgiving, in 1957—a really historic event, almost without precedent anywhere, a performance coming from outside to a maximum security prison. What we were really surprised to learn, for it sounded like a myth, was that early in the century, on her last American tour, Sarah Bernhardt had appeared before the convicts at San Quentin. That may have been so, but when we were invited to perform at the prison, and thought of doing a play of mine, we were told we couldn't, because there were women in it. There was some trouble, however, when we proposed Waiting for Godot, because the prisonPage 229 → psychiatrist raised objections: aside from the play being weird, he thought it might be traumatic for the inmates. There was some debate about it before Warden Duffy, who listened to the back and forth, then tapped me on the chest and said, “Seems like a nice guy, let ’em do it.” There are theater groups today in prisons all over the world, and several years ago, at the Volksbühne in Berlin, I gave a keynote address at a festival of productions by former inmates from around Europe. I was then asked to meet at Tegel Prison (where Rudolf Hess had been interned) with inmates there who were rehearsing Endgame—conceived, because so many wanted to be in it, with seven Hamms and seven Clovs. Recently, for the Beckett Centennial, I was invited to give talks in various parts of the world, from Canada to South Africa and even Tblisi, Georgia, all the invitations still induced, beyond my writings on Beckett, by that performance at San Quentin, memorialized by Esslin in that book on the Absurd. It was the reception there by the inmates which led, soon after, to the formation of the San Quentin Drama Workshop, under the leadership of Rick Cluchey, who at the age of twenty had been sentenced to life imprisonment, with no possibility of parole, for a botched robbery that led to charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. Rick didn't, I later learned, actually see the production, because he was confined to his cell that night, but heard of it after from those still high on the experience. There in limbo, it made some lasting connection, and he tried to imagine the rest—that imagining, it seems, shaping the course of his life. As he wrote of the production later—when he was paroled, in large measure because of his work with the drama program—we came to the prison that windswept night with “a dead tree, a large stone and a bull whip.” Crossing the bay was spectacular, but the prison ominous as we approached—high up there on the landpoint, that huge barrow of eroding granite, built during the Gold Rush, on what was then the Bay of Skulls. Gates clanged, doors locked, we'd all been searched on entry, our hands stamped with invisible ink that showed up in black light when we left. We could take in nothing metallic, and if it were up to the prison guards they'd have banned the bullwhip too, lest some convicts manage to grab it and strangle their way out. It was cleared by the warden, but one of the guards was assigned to keep an eye on it offstage. They'd also kept on eye on our young designer, Robin Wagner, who was there the night before, deciding where and how we'd be setting up the scenery. After a certain hour, he couldn't leave the prison, and had to sleep over, though they put him in a safe haven away from the cellblocks. The guards also worried about SpikePage 230 → Miksak, Joe's son, who was playing the Boy, lest someone grab him and hold him hostage or because of some pedophilic type—and we couldn't tell it was that or something satirically sadistic when, during the performance, Didi took him downstage with an arm around his shoulder to question him about Godot. As Gogo watched (Symonds in character, on hyperalert), sitting on the stone mound, there was absolute silence in the audience, the men still and staring, then some beckoning hisses, before a voice from the back growled, “C'mere, boy!” As for Joe himself, as soon as he entered the prison he'd just as well not have been there, not as Pozzo. “Is

everybody looking at me?” Yes, they were and he wished they didn't, as he started to rush the lines, while softening the contours of the character, lest they yell, “Get the big guy!” Even so, there was enough abuse in his treatment of Lucky—for them, the psychopathology of everyday life—that for all the runaway confusion of Lucky's speech he was the one with whom they most identified. Almost the entire issue of The San Quentin News was devoted next day to articles and comment on the performance, and while appreciating the relevance of a drama in which nothing happens, it was Lucky again they especially favored. As one reviewer said: “In juxtaposition with the other characters, Jules Irving made this neuter sounding-board more real than life, or as nebulous as Godot. The frenzied monologue at the end of the first act brought a spontaneous demonstration from a hypnotized audience.” That audience before the hypnosis was, it would seem, as intimidating as they get, about 1,400 felons, rapists, murderers, in a vast mess hall with a stage erected at one end. While the cast was nervously there in the wings, I was somewhat uneasy myself as the warden introduced me to say a few words about the play. As I was about to start, I looked at the jazz combo below the stage, which had been playing as the prisoners assembled. Knowing that many of them had never seen a play, no less anything like Waiting for Godot, I told them not to look for a story or worry about what it means, but to go with it like they did—then pointed to the musicians—with “that crazy jazz music,” whereupon the drummer struck a cymbal, “Yeah!” And that was it. I walked off stage, and they seated me in the audience, surrounded by convicts, who were lighting cigarettes, and the matches still lit, throwing them in the air—a flickering luster as the play began. As for Rick Cluchey, who said he'd been waiting for Godot and didn't realize it, the realization caused him to write while still in prison his own play about being there. In the next decade or so, that agit-prop drama, The Cage, was produced across the country and in Europe, with other ex-conPage 231 → actors in his Barbed Wire Theater. The name was changed back to the San Quentin Drama Workshop when, relocated in Chicago, they started doing Beckett, and those productions were toured to festivals, forums, and cultural centers abroad. Some years after that night in the mess hall, Rick finally met Beckett, who in a crisis helped him out financially, then took him on as an assistant, and over the years directed him in his plays. I was particularly conscious of this remarkable story when, in celebration of Beckett's eightieth birthday, the Centre Pompidou in Paris (the Musée de l'Art Moderne), invited me and Rick—who might still have been imprisoned were it not for the coming of Godot— to have a dialogue about the iconic figure who became a life-sustaining friend. Another such friend is Alan Mandell, our imperious business manager, who had humbly gone back to the prison as the drama group's advisor, and brought actors from our Workshop to help them develop theirs. When they began to perform on the outside, Alan acted with them and for them, and later with resources he didn't have to begin with. Nor, to begin with, was he ready for Beckett. For him, too, the experience of Godot was an illumination, though as he reminded me recently, when he first read it he couldn't believe we'd do it. When we did, he understudied Buddy as Lucky, in time came to know and was also directed by Beckett, whom he still reveres, and his story, too, is one of unexpected good fortune, that word used judiciously, given where he came from and how he started in our theater. Alan arrived in San Francisco, a young actor from Toronto—as he would say, “one of its better Jewish ghettos”—and despite the regal manner, always already there, with hardly a penny in his pocket. He had apparently started, or was thinking of starting, a theater in Toronto, but heard about what we were doing and felt he had to see it, then decided he would audition. He also had or quickly developed a business sense, and was soon assisting Buddy, often staying up most of the night, while living behind the office in our shop, a cubicle bedroomkitchen, smaller than Clov's in Endgame. It smelled of stale food and urine, from an adjacent toilet (though stacked along the wall, with the detritus of past productions, sets of books I'd bought at a house sale, including the collected works of John Ruskin and Hazlitt's multivolumed Life of Napoleon, which we'd use in a staging where we needed some background culture). With his long, pale, macular face, crinkly blonde hair, and available Yiddishisms, there was also an English accent, with a supercilious burr, which thickened for somebody who screwed us—and Alan never forgot—but sometimes at his own expense. Alan knew what's what, and sufficiently so that Buddy found him invaluable,Page 232 → which didn't mean he didn't exploit him, with the poker-faced banter and joking, and the extraordinary largesse of that token salary.

Blessed as he was by that, Alan persevered in his near poverty; but even then, if somebody in the company needed help, he was there with whatever he had. And with old friends or their children, the same is true to this day, though with little financial duress, since he married Wells Fargo—which is how we've kidded him about it. As for the quietly intelligent woman who became his wife, Elizabeth Heller, she was attracted to the Workshop by the production of Waiting for Godot, and my controversial program notes. Consciously reticent, slender, frugal unto herself, in dress, appearance, she was otherwise widely generous, to the arts and education, and when we were at Lincoln Center she worked in one of the city's agencies rehabilitating people on welfare. Bea always wanted to take her shopping to liven up her clothes, but Liz wouldn't even take a taxi lest she seem pretentious by suggesting her wealth. Yet her remarkable family did owe its fortune to Wells Fargo Bank, of which in the 1890s her great grandfather, a pioneer banker in Los Angeles, became president in San Francisco. With a sprawling estate in Atherton and a family resort on the finest property at the northern edge of Lake Tahoe, Liz's father was a major financier in the Bay Area, and her mother, Elinor Heller, was the first woman to become chair of the Board of Regents of the University of California. With my own experience of McCarthyism, and the loyalty oath at State, what I especially admired about Ellie was that, in the period of student unrest, she gave Governor Reagan a hard time, especially when he connived with the FBI to conduct investigations—one of which led, through its nearcriminal “Security Index,” to her removal from the Board. For Alan, however, the security index went over the top, with sudden access to more than millions, in stocks, bonds, and civic connections. (And the resort at Lake Tahoe, to which in the summers Buddy and I, and families, had an open invitation.) Yet even with all that wealth, he continued at the Workshop, upscaled to general manager when we went to Lincoln Center. By then the pattern was set: with all the administration, he acted when he could, understudied when we needed him, watched our backs, Jules's and mine, kept an eye on the schemers and doubters; and while he's always been frugal too, even stingy with himself, about clothes or restaurants, and cheap if he takes you to dinner, even letting you pay the bill, there's a secret generosity that persists from the more impoverished days. Alan still acts around, in a wide range of roles, classical plays, off-Broadway plays, and he has also been directing; but except for an occasional Beckett,Page 233 → on whom he's consulted now (about what Sam intended), rarely in anything that evokes what he first experienced at the Workshop. With all he's experienced, if he's acting better with age, he deserves (to use his word) the nachas that comes with it, as it did recently for a performance in L.A., a play with the title Trying, which has brought him celebrity there, with awards, tributes, and movie offers. When he sent me, however, one of the rave reviews, it could have been a put-on, since he knew what I was going to say: never believe reviews—though with an old laugh between us, better good than bad. Aside from that and tap-dancing—still taking lessons, and ready to demonstrate—his only real indulgence is what he learned from Liz, to collect and treasure ceramics, hand-blown glass and fiber art. There's a virtual museum of abstract and mythic forms filling every available space of their capaciously windowed home in Brentwood, where Liz—having suffered a heart attack on a plane to San Francisco, for a meeting of the family board—died in her sleep about ten years ago. These codas with someone's death seem to be a habit, that great deadener, which I'd much rather forget, but with others imminent, or occurring as I write, the resonances of Beckett's play, which I directed when just in my thirties, are still here with me, though with a ruefully aging take on what I might have heard differently then: “We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries.” Or with Didi looking at the sleeping Gogo, the ghosting in the gaze: “At me too someone is looking, at me too someone is saying, he is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on.” With the time somewhat contracted, and the debilities of age, I suspect I'm thinking otherwise about the unimpeded concurrence of impairment and possibility that, along with sleep apnea—waking dreams of suffocation—I've come to share with Beckett. As I've said, we did a lot of productions at the Actor's Workshop, and there are many I'll have to neglect, but I've been dwelling on Waiting for Godot because it was critical to the legitimation of experiment in the history of our theater, within the company, in San Francisco, and to our spreading notoriety, which soon brought the likes of Harold Clurman and Robert Brustein out from New York to see what we were doing—and both of them attesting to there being nothing like it in the country. What I've been trying to convey, however, is how it was before, not so much as Beckett came to be known, but in working past

the resistance in that first encounter with him, and to what I insisted on bringing, however abstract, into the orbit of our rehearsals, and into the nothing happening in the acting itself. That may not have established aPage 234 → method at the Workshop, but there were long-term repercussions, evolving from there in my own work to that of the KRAKEN group, which was very conscious of “the fact,” as I wrote in Take Up the Bodies (what's been much quoted since), that “he who is performing can die there in front of your eyes; is in fact doing so.” Visibly invisible. And I wish I could leave it at that. Death has its dominion, in life, in theater, the unborn with the dead in the most indelible memory trace—the ghosting of which returns me to my colleague at San Francisco State, who at the end of a previous chapter was in that litany of the dead. Herb Wilner, who was born about six months before me, died three days after my birthday, thirty years ago. A novelist, with a strict moral sense and the acute oversight of “subdued indignations,” Herb despaired of the cultural mess, but despite his natural jaundice there was always the obligation to “go running back into the mess, unarmed, unprepared, and again despairing of the company you have to keep.” This was from a letter Herb wrote when I'd been away from the college for some years, and he was about to go to a meeting of the American Federation of Teachers, the faculty union which he didn't want to join, but did, in reluctant support of the Black Power movement and student insurrections that brought havoc to the campus, and Don Hayakawa to the presidency at State, appointed by Ronald Reagan—a combination in itself that made Herb want to retire. “I often wonder,’ he wrote me, “what you would have been doing now were you here.” What he wanted to act out himself, “as madness and tyranny appear[ed] from all sides,” was there in his “mind and heart—a plague on both your houses.” But as he did in a Brooklyn schoolyard, Herb hung in there, even without a paycheck when the faculty went on strike; and then he collaborated with another colleague, Leo Litwak, a philosopher turned novelist, on College Days in Earthquake Country—a painfully conflicted report about the radical seizure of power in that clamorous, nonnegotiable, Eldridge Cleavered period. Adage was: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, but with the college as a battlefield, bomb threats, classes invaded, and students taking over, the solution was the problem. It wasn't the only time that Herb had a sense of being caught up in the delusional. I had a sense of that myself, not long before leaving San Francisco, when he called and said he wanted to see me. Bea and I had moved to Alpine Terrace, just below Buena Vista Park, sylvan then, with footpathsPage 235 → and secret vistas (but not, as later, furtive figures there), where a kid might play untouched. And Tara and Jonathan did, with friends or alone, running, climbing, hiding, eagerly after school. The incline from which it rose was still known as Red Hill, the name it was given out of the politics of the Thirties, when—with Bloody Thursday down on the waterfront, stevedores rioting, clubbings and shooting by the police, causing a general strike—its residents inclined to the Left. More or less, however, the mathematical center of the city, there was from the rear of the house, even down in the basement, where I had my study, a magnificent view, past the steep hill toward the bridge spanning the bay. Herb didn't know the area and hadn't been at the house before, so I showed him the view, which caused an exchange about perspective, what he saw, what I saw, and as we sat down in the living room he remarked in a wry follow-up that we should have seen each other more. If the work at the theater cut down on my socializing, that wasn't why with Herb, but rather some awkwardness between us, which neither could quite explain, though we did better when I was in New York, or he abroad, corresponding from a distance. It wasn't because of his indifference to the theater, nor that I was doing so much, and publicly, while he was closeted with his writing. There were times I actually felt, even through disagreement, that we saw with similar vision, and were very much alike, the trouble there being, if I'm reading Herb right, that he thought I'd be judging him as he was always judging himself. Little did he know about my doing the same to myself: “not a day / But something is recalled, / My conscience or my vanity appalled” (like Yeats in “Vacillation, ” which, naturally, I'd copied into a journal). Nothing like this came up, or at least not yet, as we discussed where he was on his novel, and I told him that I was anxious about publishing The Impossible Theater. Why? he asked, surprised. Because it would commit me to staying in it—really a sorry thing to say, since by then I was committed. (No sooner thought, then vacillations.) But what had he come to tell me? He said he had been told, after being examined for some discomfort in his chest, that he had an encysted growth, which was evidently a vestigial twin. That was strange enough, but even stranger was his having imagined, as if it

had been recovered, back in encysted time, that I was that twin. I was dumbfounded and flattered. We might have laughed a little about the newly discovered kinship, but whatever passed between us there was more than amusement to it. After leaving San Francisco I wasn't entirely aware of what was really happening to that growth, but can't understand why itPage 236 → didn't come up in our correspondence. So I recently asked Leo about it, and he gave me the awful story, with the imploded matter-of-factness still there in his fiction. There had indeed been surgery, the growth removed and the chest flooded with radiation. That seemed to do it for a while, but sometime later there was shortness of breath and exhaustion. It was then determined that the membrane around the heart, the pericardium, had been scarred by the radiation, with Herb's symptoms getting worse until he was incapacitated. Surgery again seemed promising because it would be done by Norman Shumway, the heart transplant pioneer, who urged the operation to remove the binding scar tissue and free the heart. “A piece of cake,” he told Herb, which Leo told me just before George Tenet's defense of his “Slam dunk” about WMDs. Shumway, too, had to eat his words. As soon as they'd opened the chest, he came out, shaking his head, to explain to the family—Leo was there too—what the reality was, then returned to the surgical team wondering how to proceed. The effort to cure cancer apparently had its liabilities. The chest scarring was so thick they couldn't reach the heart, and Herb died on the operating table. Some years ago, before Shumway's own death from cancer, he and I were together at Stanford, in a crossdisciplinary conference on “The Limits of Performance: Sports, Medicine, and the Humanities.” It was surely the most unusual conference I ever attended—Herb would have loved it—world-class physicians with world-class athletes (some with Olympic medals); a sports clinician from South Africa, who monitored the training at high altitudes of marathon runners from Kenya; Jim Ryun, then a member of Congress, who when still in high school was the first to run a mile under four minutes; the head coaches at Stanford, in all the major sports, and a former coach there, (the now late) Bill Walsh, who with the San Francisco 49ers made himself eligible for the Hall of Fame by winning three Super Bowls. He and the other coaches were particularly engaged by a sequence in my talk—the only one at the conference with a perspective from the theater—that referred to those high-pressure moments in a practice or rehearsal when, to bring out a surpassing performance, you encourage, solicit, or with more or less cunning, demand, things of which you're almost ashamed. I've done it, and did it again, urging the actors to take physical and psychic risks, really dangerous, wanting to go all the way, which may be next to immoral. So be it, blood-knowledge. But whatever it takes to win, the athletes have it, the coaches do it, and while they may not call it winning (malpracticePage 237 → suits aside), the surgeons know it, the bioethical risk, and may very well have to take it, at the limits of performance. Had I known then about that “piece of cake,” I might very well myself—as the designated voice of that vestigial twin—have been tempted to bring it up. But with all the implicit peril, probably better not, because you could sense they were sufficiently penitent about the inadmissible. I remember especially a distinguished opthamologist, from Germany, with whom I was having breakfast, reflecting on what I'd said, and seeming troubled by it. Then, reaching out, and talking me through it, he circled his fingers around my eye, its hypothetical partial blindness, advancing a fork in the other hand to suggest how the slightest incision could, if he wavered, lead to loss of the eye entirely. With fork in the same hand, he resumed his breakfast. He didn't say it, but my guess is he knew from sad experience what he was responsible for, though the best doctors too—as in the treatment of memory itself, the neuroscience of it, unsure what it should be, how far it should go—had to practice how to forget. With a missing neuron or so in the left-side temporal lobe, you may not have to practice. (They actually call it “autobiographical amnesia.”) There are, in my journals, portraits of people I've known, rather good portraits, how they dressed, what they said, first name, second name, quirks of behavior too, but I can't for the life of me remember who they are, or how exactly I knew them. As for those I can't forget, among the dead, or still living, there were others at SF State that I ought to be writing about, and more about Leo, too, whose latest collection of short stories, Nobody's Baby (not about the encysted growth), gets a lot of conceptual mileage, as I told him he always did, from a straight brief declarative sentence. What I also had a chance to tell him, in the recent exchange about Herb, is that of all those I've known in all the years I've been teaching there's been nobody comparable to the two of them, give-and-take whatever difference, for honest good sense and wisdom. What exceeds all wisdom,

however, is not only what life inflicted on Herb, that homunculus within, like an alchemical figure or image out of myth, but the ancient scandal itself, no good reason for death. I wish I could come up with a straight brief declarative sentence about mortality—or what Lear called the smell of it—which insists on claiming awareness before it claims our lives. Things are born, things die, but damn the thing itself. From the mystery to the media, but still in the mortal coil: in the cop shows on television, to which I have an addiction, they'll invariably say, before the crime scene investigation, “I'm sorry for your loss.” In the onePage 238 → short hour, with unraveling complications (and interrupting ads), there's not much time to grieve, but you're confronted by moral dilemmas that—with criminal minds profiled or cold case closed—remain insoluble, and with all the demystification, fit for tragic drama. Or back in the real world, with the tragic haunting us: after 9 /11, Katrina, Virginia Tech, or the disasters of Iraq, we keep hearing about grief and the need for closure. Around unconscionable deaths or killings, with unspeakable loss, the word closure is also a platitude in the politics of evasion. Mourning there may be, but there is no closure. Or only the illusion of it, and maybe not even that. “The whole place stinks of corpses!” And indeed on a global scale, with the promised end becoming the image of that horror. “Finished, it's finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished”—with the “must” a pitiful wish and the “nearly” more like “never,” those sempiternal nevers, with the unappeasable counterpoint of the howls upon the heath. Which is why King Lear is so appalling, and why Endgame is surely, in a reality without catharsis, one of the most daunting (“No more pain-killer!”) and greatest of modern plays—and the two of them, perhaps, the most memorable productions I directed in San Francisco, or so far as memory serves, at least for me. More of that later, however, with Endgame as preface to Lear, while I stay with the grievous present, and without the cosmetics of closure. When I started writing this book I expected to come in some temporal order to those important to me, but time as ever betrays, and whatever its claims may be, with priorities of awareness: somebody there with Alzheimer's, another with Parkinson's, which also afflicted another, dead but not gone, a friend who also betrayed me, but changed the course of my life. I have written of him before, and will surely do so again, but of the many more remembered, those who are past or passing, choices are narrowing down; or even in the forgetting, the depth of memory there, aroused by who knows what. If I'm struck again, as before, with the vanity of what I'm doing, there's a solace in it too, even in the amnesia a kind of survival factor, born again in the posthumous; but then, such is life, astride of a grave, and a difficult birth. “Why must you think like that!” Kathy might say again, but if there's any morbidity to it, the question might rather be, when did I start to think it? And why, a good engineering student who'd never seen a play, did I write a first one with the title When Death Is Dead? Requiem or prophecy (manuscript gone, so I don't remember), it was certainly long before I heard of Beckett, or went through the sort of turmoil, or multiple midlife crises, with spiraling vision and promise, but “inPage 239 → the end, the shadows, the murmurs, all the trouble, to end up with.” Lamentable, sure, but with gratitude in the cadence, that was a testament to Ruby Cohn, to whom I dedicated Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point, the book itself started when I was about to leave the theater. The quotation appeared just below the dedication, with no indication of its source, because Ruby—already acknowledged as our foremost Beckett scholar—would surely know where it came from, as she also knew the trouble, not only the shadows, the murmurs, but through expedience, hypocrisy, and the clamor of public controversy, also the very worst. And that included the behavior of some, presumable friends, major artists, from whom you expected the best. I'm referring here to what we experienced together at CalArts, where there were a lot of famous people, those you could trust, those you couldn't, but not a whisper of doubt about Ruby, who was—from the time we first met at San Francisco State—what she appeared to be, rectitude in her body, a posture without pretension, straight, no nonsense, good as her word, and better, and more than reliably there, when beyond consolation you needed moral courage. The courage was already evident, and perhaps the posture as well, during World War II, when Ruby was one of the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, and wore the uniform of the WAVES. After the war, she married a biochemist, who was in Paris, doing research on infectious diseases, while Ruby, who had studied mathematics, acquired a doctorate there. That was about a year before the premiere of Waiting for Godot, which she happened to see and has written about as if it were a revelation. And indeed, though she's published widely on the drama and would see anything new in the theater, which she attended religiously (sitting even through the

unbearable), Beckett remained the enduring focus of her adamant scholarship—recently halted, however, by that degenerative disorder, Parkinson's disease: stuttering body, posture bent, so Beckettian you'd think she'd be writing about it, since it's hard to imagine anything keeping Ruby from her work—no less the nearly immobile figure, now in assisted living, and barely able to speak. What she's known for really began at Washington University in St. Louis, where, completing a second doctorate, this one on Beckett, she edited a special issue for the journal Perspectives, the first collection of essays in America by those who knew anything about him. That was in 1959, the same year in which our production of Godot went to the Brussels Fair, and it was because of our mutual interest that we were assigned to the same office when, about the time of her divorce, she joined the faculty at SFPage 240 → State. Fact of the matter is I didn't take to her easily, because for all her devoted attention to the inconsecutive movements of a Beckettian text, Ruby was otherwise impatient with loose ideas or mere speculation, as if there were no such thing as a casual thought. I don't know what I was thinking, one of those mornings at our office, up all night, having gone there after rehearsal to prepare what I'd be teaching, when Ruby came in early. To my brainless misfortune, in the blur of a brief exchange, I said I know not what, to which, quick response: “What do you mean by that!?” That was, of course, just what I needed, enough to wake me up—though ready for another roommate. But as I understood, with deepening friendship, that she really cared what you thought, so Ruby adjusted, if reluctantly, to my incurable idiosyncrasies, the ellipses or dyslogistics, especially when wide awake. If she was eventually committed to, even chronicled, what I did with them in the theater, she's never gotten over an aversion to theory. Nor has she ever quite forgiven me for ending my theater work, which in the shadows, the murmurs, to end up with, had moved from stage to page, but with the same obsession, as I wrote years later in a festschrift for Ruby, “to get as close to the thought of theater as theater would be if it were thinking about itself, crossing the critical gamut and teasing us out of thought.” I might have been teasing myself, when—having committed myself to the Workshop, the naysayers in retreat, or acceding to my idea of what our theater should be—I was actually thinking of leaving again, just before the invitation that brought us to Lincoln Center. Here, too, the reasons differed, increasingly determined in my constant reimagining by what was happening in the other arts, some of them unnameable, but far more advanced than what was happening in the theater. This was somewhat upsetting to Ruby when I talked to her about it, nor did she much like my habit of walking out of plays—or what seemed to her later, along with the sellout to theory, a growing indifference to theater. I'll have more to say about Ruby when we come to CalArts, an environment that utterly materialized what was, in those equivocal middle years, affecting me at the Workshop. That was the era, as I've said, when Happenings and Action events—visual, tactile, constructed or chance behavior, not yet body art, but with words, in silence, or a random plenum of soundings, full throttle or Fluxus minimal—were creating another scene, located who knows where, North Beach, the Mission, in the vicinity of our shop, with leakage into the workshops back at the Encore Theater. Underground, over the top, struggling through regression, there's still much to say of the accomplishments of The Actor's Workshop, the plays we did,Page 241 → how we did them, and remarkable people there, of which at best we'll have a panoramic view. There's something like that, actually, in a large photograph above my desk, taken at the Encore, the company massed on stage (or only about two-thirds of the nearly 150), with the curtains swagging above, because of the soffited ceiling, and a flat barely visible, from the first production of Pinter in America, his acerbic The Birthday Party—that done, too, when Pinter was almost unknown, barely then even in London, where the critics assaulted the play, which closed right after it opened. Jules and I are in the center of the photo, seated on a couch, with actors, technicians, and others ascending upstage, or seated on the apron, among them not only those later known on Broadway, movies, television, but some who became important to major regional theaters, including several who preceded me here in Seattle: young Danny (now Daniel) Sullivan, who was also with us at Lincoln Center, then directed the Seattle Rep before returning to New York, for numerous Tony Awards; Liz Huddle, a buxom ingenue then, who later directed Intiman, the other major theater here in Seattle; and gangly Glenn Mazen, who acted in both of them. (Much admired as he matured, Glenn died before I came.) Way back in the last row, there's Paul Gemignani, a promising musician then, but better known in the company as the husband of Rhoda Gemignani—her first role with us,

innocent Anya in The Cherry Orchard; later, divorced, on TV as Mama Mia, and then in Who's the Boss? Paul has since conducted not only operas and symphony orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, but from Sweeney Todd on, as musical director, most of the Stephen Sondheim shows, and other long-runs on Broadway. Some of them were designed by Robin Wagner, who from the love-rock hippie Hair to Dreamgirls and The Producers acquired a similar status. Robin hadn't yet turned twenty—and I didn't know who he was—when he showed up with the first of several designs before the one I finally used for Waiting for Godot. I won't name all the names, and as for those who made it big, I regret that the American theater didn't use them even better—hierophants as they are of a defective institution—but no matter where they went, what they did, many of them later acknowledged, and some still do, what the Workshop meant to their lives. So it is in a letter I'm looking at from Paul, which he sent to console me when I'd resigned from Lincoln Center, and he was still in San Francisco. It begins by saying that when Jules and I left for New York he was very bitter. But what he wanted me to know is that, young, ambitious, confused, he'd “never been an artist” until the Workshop taught him to think as he'd never done before. “How? By making mePage 242 → believe in your ideas about how an artist should operate. How he should think. What he is all about! … Then pulling the rug from under my feet. You, without realizing it, started my life.” Just off-center in the photograph, a couple of rows down, is somebody who almost ended his life, by drinking too much, which may have brought on a heart attack, in the basement swimming pool at the Marines Memorial. I'm speaking again of Hal Haswell, considerably older than Paul, and far more sophisticated, but who said in a confrontation with me and Jules—when I was about to direct Sean O'Casey's Cock-a-Doodle-Dandy, and refused to give him a role he'd expected and really wanted to play—“I'll be with you guys for the rest of my life. There are plenty of parts.” He said it so gracefully I almost changed my mind, and indeed, when we went to Lincoln Center, Haswell was there with us. There are those in the photograph who'd not only made a good start, but were really quite advanced, including two writers, among the best in the country, the novelist John Hawkes and the poet Donald Justice, who were in residence at the Workshop under the auspices of the Ford Foundation. Disenchanted as I was with most of American drama, this was a program I lobbied for with the Foundation, in order to get our major writers to do what I've said they didn't, to start writing for the theater, by bringing them into a context to which they wouldn't be indifferent. As for my own vacillations about being there, which persisted even then—with nagging evidence in my journals that the symptoms could be miserable—I probably should have been in analysis, but as Freud himself said, about the solution of conflict by symptom-formation, which threatens “one's best and highest powers, the more honorable choice, if there be a choice, is to go down in a fair fight with destiny.” And thus the fight continued—the trouble being, however, that I couldn't help feeling, as in the Oedipal struggle with destiny, that you couldn't be in the theater without a predictable plot, no mystery to it, not even the “master narrative,” which is also misunderstood. There's a passage in Georges Bataille, his Visions of Excess, when speaking of poetry as loss or expenditure, he might have been speaking of theater, where “poetic expenditure ceases to be symbolic in its consequences,” while “the function of representation engages the very life of the one who assumes it. It condemns him to the most disappointing forms of activity, to misery, despair, to the pursuit of inconsistent shadows that provide nothing but vertigo or rage.” Well, shadows be damned, misery had itsPage 243 → uses: in the rage of impossibility, change it or leave it. With Brecht, and then Beckett, I'd tried to usurp the plot, or otherwise shake it up. As for that warning given by Brecht, about the theater as we know it theatering it all down, the fair fight was justification for my theatering it all up, not only in the way-out aesthetic of risking the baroque, but in taking on public controversy and turning it back on the critics. If there was in that risky process a kind of antitheater, which made the company nervous even while coming round, it also brought artists into the theater who, before the Workshop, couldn't care less about it or didn't like what they saw. What was also gratifying, and unusual for a theater, is that we were becoming part of the art world, or being adopted by it. For poet/activist/mystic Kenneth Rexroth, who once performed himself with a jazz ensemble at the Hungry I—as a warmup for Lenny Bruce or when Mort Sahl was not onstage—The Actor's Workshop was a phenomenon contributing to the growing rumor of “this notorious San Francisco sophistication. Maybe we are creating the basic patterns of mid-Twentieth Century culture here.” So he wrote in his worldly column, with its hip

pedagogical voice, for the Examiner, the more conservative local newspaper. Father-figure of the Beat Generation, though he later disavowed it, Kenneth presided too over frequent soirées at his house, with artists, writers, eccentrics, luminaries from abroad, to which—especially after the controversies which certified our presence in the rebirth of the city—I had an open invitation. And then there was Hassel Smith, another symbolic figure in the Bay Area, mentor to younger artists, including a few of those who worked on Galileo. Hassel was experimental, and impatient with the bogus in art, but when he did like what he saw, Beckett at the Encore, wrote me a note saying it was “just the way the theater can and ought to be—fascinating, and free of all the god damn junk and crap….” An abstract expressionist, immersed in theory and history, there was an affinity between us, and he may have been one of those responsible, before we left San Francisco, for my giving the Commencement Address at the California School of Fine Arts. The painter Robert LaVigne wasn't a student there, but for a while at SF State, where in one or another of my courses he was drawn to Ezra Pound's vorticism/imagism, and especially the ideograph or pictograph, as derived from Fenollosa on the Chinese written character. What turned him on to the Workshop, however, was seeing The Crucible at Elgin Street. If there was anything vorticist there, it was in the witchcraft hysteria, but he was nevertheless carried away, like the rest of our liberal audience, by its rousing anti-McCarthyism. That paled, however, when he saw Waiting forPage 244 → Godot at Marines Memorial, after which he sent me a letter, saying he was so excited by the performance he almost fell off his front-row seat in the balcony. Could we somehow use him, he asked, if only for painting “the Workshop's bathroom walls,” on which he would attest to Godot‘s having been a really transforming event. Aware that it might sound like “rapturous ravings, ecstasies, etc.” (to which, by other means, he was susceptible), he went on to describe a “new configuration” in his thinking, about where he was in history, but like a conceptual wound, making visible what had been “buried in the electrical scars of our nerve cells”—what he'd seen on stage in Godot. As to newer configurations, no telling what they might be. “I am the thief in the night,” he later wrote. “Beware my shifty voice.” Not yet forewarned, but passing from the waiting to Endgame, its conceptual wounds, I invited him to design it. As to where he was in history, if he never did paint our bathroom walls, there was in our shop, suspended above the rehearsal area, a large horizontal canvas of Bob's, with most of the not-yet-known figures of the Beat Generation, mirrored at the tables of one of their hangouts, Foster's Cafeteria on Polk Street. Over at the right edge of the canvas, alone at a distant table, there was somebody facing in, regarding the others with an unreadable gaze. That somebody was me. I was not a Beat and didn't want to be, and Bob and I rarely discussed his being among them. As for my image there, it was hard to discern whether it was in longing or disapproval, or his own perplexity about what I thought. (Unfortunately, the painting can't be studied for that anymore, because like those other art objects from our productions, awaiting a thief in the night, it was stolen from our shop; and though it would surely be of considerable value today, it has never been recovered.) Whatever I thought then, I've often said since of Bob LaVigne that he was the single most versatile artist of the Beat Generation, and Allen Ginsberg might have agreed with that, not only because, as it turned out, I was an “expert witness” at the Howl trial, and testified on its behalf. Allen has written magniloquent tributes to Bob, and was especially grateful for his having painted the now-famous portrait of the naked Peter Orlovsky, with whom Bob had been living, in the Gough Street apartment where, not long in San Francisco, Allen first saw it. “I looked in its eyes & was shocked by love.” And he and Peter lived in tumultuous happiness after. As for Bob, he could write, he could paint, he composed in assemblage, he could sculpt on stage, as on the body with costumes, and at least in several productions, Endgame, King Lear, The Balcony, he was the most brilliant scene designer in the United States. Bob described his painting and designPage 245 → as “art-poetry,” with a science of its own, though with his Jesuit education a spiritual disposition, as in the series of sketches he once made of the bloom and death of an iris, which he studied in a bottle sanctified in his room. It was the sanctity of the art, also given to desecrations, as it showed up on our stage, that was the paradox of an essay, “The Black Art of Robert LaVigne,” which I wrote for an exhibition, in which the blackness absorbed the Zeitgeist, the “bleak anguish” and “monstrous mutations” that for Bob and other artists still pervaded the cold war period, from the un-purged horrors before, and the unthinkable yet to come. Shortly after leaving the remote Four Lakes region of eastern Washington, where he was born, to live in San

Francisco, Bob studied maps in a newspaper, showing the Bay Area overlaid with concentric circles of clotted lines, each circle a measure of obliteration from an atom bomb, turning the bay to steam. For the three miles completely flattened, they also listed the number of deaths. While others were leaving the city for a seemingly safer elsewhere, Bob stayed and kept on painting, but with catastrophe pending, he wondered whether it was possible to conceive a work that would last. “The Atomic Age,” he wrote, “gave the lie to permanence.” Yet it was an irony of those years that the lie he deplored became a “breakthrough,” the going term for art, or nonart, following on abstract expressionism. In the bygone days of the avant-garde, Louis Aragon said that the best art might be produced by juxtaposing a cathedral and a stick of dynamite—and so, artists who were with it, connoisseurs of the rubble, let nothing go to the junkyard, thus redeeming the prohibitive past. Or in the perverse logic of a new logistics, with gouge, slice, muck, and slime, they cultivated an aesthetic that might have come from Artaud's plague—or where “love has pitched his mansion,” salvation by excrement. Which is not to minimize the impetus of social critique. With Bruce Conner, another Beat, LaVigne was garbage-collecting—the waste of consumer culture, salvaged in assemblage—but amid the scraps and tatters, with classical taste and formalist instincts, he remained severely troubled. “How then to make durable works of art, when there is no future for them to endure. I was paralyzed by the question,” he wrote, “pacing my small apartment in the age of anxiety.” With that question absorbed, too, into the art of disappearance, the unthinkable remained the urtext of our theater. Yet what of those rapturous ravings, and ecstasies, to which I said, parenthetically, Bob was susceptible? If more than latent in his apartment, they went public in the Sixties at the Fillmore Auditorium, with light shows, strobes, the Grateful Dead, soundingPage 246 → like celebration, but compensating for the anxiety, no less the unthinkable—if not mere ravings, a wild forgetting, or with ecstasy as deterrence, like a mimicry of MAD. For that intoxicating scene, Bob did some early designs, and though he wasn't a hippie (the Beats maturing, hippies were kids), they shared not only the threat of a nonexistent future, but for depression or panic, hallucinogenic relief, delusional maybe, senses deranged, but with the euphoric benefits of consciousness-raising. It might be laid-back to begin with, but psychedelically taking its course, a countercultural therapy, LSD for TSD, what wasn't yet known as “traumatic stress disorder.” Trauma, like the future, moves in mysterious ways, and after returning to Washington to care for his mother, Bob is now living here in Seattle, with a breakthrough into the art scene, but after a heart attack, needing some care himself. Portly now, memory going, insisting on the name Robert, he was mystic-ready, nimble then, free enterprising and soulful, with a dark energy at the source, and whatever the Beats called him, we knew him at the theater as Bob. What we didn't know about Bob was what he knew about drugs—from his spiritual side, of course—and to attest to that (gifts he gave me, years ago) there's a series of drawings near my study, with hallucinatory figures, and an eerie blue painting downstairs, of a ghoulish face (Kathy can't bear to see it, so it's hanging in the garage), which he'd done on LSD. That was before many of us ever heard of it, or Timothy Leary either. But since we're into consciousness-raising, one of the untold stories of The Actor's Workshop was the discovery that our Folsom Street shop was linked to drug traffic in the city. Jules was about to fire all suspects, including Bob LaVigne, and though I calmed him down, we had to clean it up quick, because he was sure we'd all go to jail. As for my own take on drugs, fact is I didn't take them—not that I wasn't curious, but if somebody showed up at rehearsal stoned, or nearly, I'd go out of my mind. “Get the fuck out of here, and never show up like that again, or you're out of the goddam company!” Away from rehearsal, some of the younger people might quiz me about it, and it became a joke among them: “Herb, you're so experimental, why not try it?” I might laugh too, still tempted, but if I went to a Workshop party, and smelled marijuana at the door, I'd turn around, and that was it—with an unregenerate puritanism, only one drag in my life. If that kept them straight at rehearsal, the spacing out was such that, in one or another instance, a life might seem utterly ruined, as with anPage 247 → ingenue born, precocious, who started acting with us in her teens, and not long after turning twenty, was pretty much a basket case. “Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there's a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.” That's not fallout from the drug scene, but another form of consciousness, at the impasse of Endgame, where the dreadful

thing that has already happened, “this … this … thing,” is happening from the beginning, protracted, nothing forgotten, impossibly without end. “Something is taking its course.” Something or nothing, being or becoming, it may be ontological or conjectural, but with Beckett's paranoia about pronouns—the duplicitous I, the damnable it—also a matter of grammar. “Me—(he yawns)—to play.” So with the awakening Hamm, the infinitive burden there, for a majestically dubious subject, in the objective case. Never mind ecstasy, then, “Can there be misery—(he yawns)—loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now?” And if the misery is no loftier, with others there suffering too (in the ashbins? in the audience?), “as much as such creatures can suffer,” there's surely an art to suffering, which Beckett imparted to Hamm, misery irremediable, what may certify that you're living, but inarguably more than enough. “No, all is a—(he yawns)—bsolute.” Somewhere in that yawn, like a sough of history in the Cartesian abyss, there's a movement of consciousness between apocalypse desired and some originary masochism, and with the absolute fractured, a landfill of biblical reference, from the Gospel of St. John to the Book of Revelations. With Clov's five staggered laughs before his toneless “Finished,” a maybe elliptical mockery of Christ's five wounds, there's an accretion of sadism too, indeed, a virtual aesthetic, an art to the infliction of suffering, as in the relentless tauntings by Hamm, driving the nails in, what Beckett himself described as “the power of the text to claw, more inhuman than Godot.” But in the anguish of unmeaning, at the dark root of the scream, unbearably humane. About the unbearable in Beckett, however, the more's the pity since he's been canonized, and if not being played for laughs, the clawing can be cloying. “But we breathe, we change! We lose our hair, our teeth! Our bloom! Our ideals!” For the elders at the Workshop who were down on Beckett before, the change wasn't all that rapid, nor was it ever ideals that accounted for the resistance. But with Godot having been a sensation, and the discomfiting Beckett on the way to a Nobel Prize, our doing the play, if still forbidding to an audience, hardly needed justification within thePage 248 → company, where even the once all-knowing cynics, when it was about to be cast, were eager to jump into the ashbins. It was not a commemoration, however, of that momentary triumph, which caused me to tell Bob La-Vigne that the ashbins or garbage cans (what I actually had in mind) should be those with a fluted surface and, when brand-new, a glittering, aluminum look, which might appear, sulfated, with an abrasively subtle painting, like the stumps of Corinthian columns from the ancient world. More to come about the design, drawn to the ruins of time, while the staging itself was determined, at the presumable end of history, by the awakening into play, soon to be fetishized, however, with a freaked-out indifference to history, as “polymorphous play,” in the New Age of Love-Ins and Be-Ins. Deep play, however, that was something else again. Thus it was, before the veiled ferocity of the unveiling of Hamm, in the bizarre mathematics of the opening mime, with the derisive punctuation of Clov's five laughs, the proportioned countdown of his “stiff, staggering” steps. Otherwise, a sepulchral silence, which could take (and not from the stage directions) anywhere from twelve to fifteen minutes before a spoken word. What made it seem, moreover, like an eternity in the theater, was an excruciating stasis, already there as the audience entered, down below at the Encore, and then as they took their seats. No curtain there on stage, but in the gray light, not enough to distinguish objects. As abstracted by LaVigne, only gray shapes: Hamm's shape under a sheet; the shape of ashcans under a sheet; Clov's stooped shape in the rear, barely seeable as a shape. You looked, you wondered (as I had to do myself), when will it begin? Nothing really discernible, yet the master there on his throne, and under his filigreed sheet, suffocatingly so. I mean that quite literally. Bob Symonds was playing Hamm, and he was not only covered for about half an hour, but with a “blood-stained handkerchief over his face,” making it harder to breathe, he sometimes thought he might faint. Nobody in the audience had ever experienced anything like the almost unconscionable duration—nor the actors either. I might have restaged things to reduce it, but when we started rehearsing, I'd said that Endgame was a play with a tenacious memory, about what you'd rather forget, which like a capricious amnesia, forgetting the unforgotten, becomes a redemptive elegy at the limits of endurance. So the actors seemed willing to bear it, and acceded to the harrowing time. Or perhaps they felt like Clov, through the grainy cadence of the impossible heap, when he said with a solacing “(Pause.) I can't be punished anymore.” There were, to be sure, ingenuities of punishment during the course of rehearsals, as with Clov'sPage 249 → climbing a ladder to reach the curtains of

two small windows above. “The legs, the legs,” I'd whisper to Tom, and then he'd punish himself, with decisions and revisions, the laugh becoming a rasp, in the agonized up and down. Or each time he'd reach for the curtains, attached to rings on a brass rod, I'd tell him to slow it more, and as that became second nature, it seemed they'd never open. Catatonically slow in rehearsal, but compacted in performance, he grasped the ends tightly, compelled against his will, then reached up, winced, and suddenly pulled, as if wanting to tear not only the curtains, but the universe apart. For the audience, silence broken, that scrape on the rod was a shock. We worked for about four months on Endgame (not yet the Berliner Ensemble, but rare in the American theater), and it was probably the indeterminacies around the “nearly finished,” which became the methodological ground of the KRAKEN group, where the work was not finished until it was finished, or we'd exhausted everything we could think about it—which usually took more than a year. It was with Endgame, however, that I started asking that series of questions, act how? act why? act where? and what do we mean by acting? while stirring up the metaphysics in that old familiar direction, for the actor to take time, by shifting stress on the words. And this was especially so with Clov: take time, I'd say to Tom, take time, which might confound him at first, and then my own impatience, as he really took me seriously, simply standing there, the mover unmoved, then all the time in the world going up the ladder, and who knows how many minutes before, inch by laborious inch, the curtains were finally open—the suddenness in performance an infuriated condensation of some long revulsion of feeling, about why he was doing it at all. And so, after his first stirrings, with the unveiling of Hamm. If Clov uncovered the ashbins with the reverential motion of some untraceable canon law, lifting the sheet like the cloth from a chalice, Hamm's was removed with all the grace of a matador in his moment of truth—and indeed, if Clov had a blade, he might have driven it in. The task perfected in rehearsal, arms extended as in prayer, was to remove the sheet in one swift gesture, without disturbing by more than a dove's breath the handkerchief on Hamm's face. The delicacy was grueling, the detestable duty of it, and so, too, with each painstaking fold, the devotional gathering of the sheet. Lifting the handkerchief, however, always a temptation to Clov, that was a privilege reserved for Hamm, who treasured it like a veronica, the sanctified veil which Christ, carrying the cross to Golgotha, was given to wipe his face, leaving his Holy Image upon it. Christ's sweat, Hamm'sPage 250 → blood. Spreading the handkerchief out before him, Hamm offers it to our gaze—“Old stancher!”—before folding it into his breast-pocket, and joining his fingers to speak, about his own lofty misery in this clawing Passion play. The sclerotic gravity of this sequence was certainly much longer than you'd see in other productions; and while an entire performance took considerably more time than other stagings—and I've heard of nothing like it since—a run-through in rehearsal could last over four hours. When I told Beckett about it in Paris, he had to measure his disturbance against the Endgame pictures I'd sent, not at all what he'd imagined—on the gray walls and costumes, collaged textures of extruded time—though he was really quite impressed, as with the iconographic Clov above the filigreed sheet on Hamm, nothing of him yet visible, only his hairy hands. But back to a crucial question: what aside from the stage directions accounted for the crippled quickening, the stiff stagger in Clov's walk? I spoke of the play's tenacious memory: with all of history impacted in every reflex, every aspect of Clov's behavior seems to be impeded by absolutely mixed motives, every reason for doing it (whatever it may be) countered by every reason for not doing—quite the opposite of the more spontaneous antics of Didi and Gogo, who did the nothing to be done if only to pass the time, in the time that was always passing. Memory's there, too, but habitually failing—all things considered, better disremembered. With Gogo too hungry to be a historian, even of immediate history, and Didi no archive either, they seem to be making it up as they go along, improvising their nonidentity through the becoming of being. To be or not to be? With Clov, you might say, why even ask the question. As for Hamm, when not distracted by having to pee, he can take on any question with transcendent mortification. “A heart, a heart in my head”—if Hamm can't rhapsodize it away, even invoking “Nature!” he lets it forlornly subside into a disingenuous (Pause). But nothing subsides in Clov, and never mind the heart, it stays there in the head, nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. As I said to Tom at the outset, Clov suffers from an exacerbation of the Hamletic condition, so that—like the sudden killing of Polonius behind the arras—any action is taken against the incapacity to act. And so it is with the walk, the stiffness of the steps, the stagger with those laughs, self-derision there, the absurdity of being in a rage of thought. There were

times in rehearsal that Tom nearly passed out by concentration to brain fever. This is not to diminish the torment, for all his rhapsodic evasions, of that heart in the head of Hamm. Nor its effect on Bob Symonds, who said after months of performance, when I once asked how he was doing, “I feelPage 251 → exhausted, very old.” There were times, too, when having recovered from suffocation, he found himself staring toward the audience, with suppressed rage, as if they were responsible for the misery. Released in withering tirades, the rage was already there in his aspect when the handkerchief was removed: “Very red face. Black glasses.” Under the glasses, blank eyes (“they've gone all white”), like the hollow sockets of a pagan statue, the face red from congested blood and the intensest narcissism. If Didi and Gogo listen to the whisper, the rustle, like ashes, like leaves, and hear the pulse of the audience, the audience is hardly exempt from Hamm's apocalyptic outbursts or universal incriminations—after which, with self-nurturing misery, and another abysmal (Pause), he loses himself in his pulse. Whatever the prophetic tenor of Hamm's pronouncements, or “ever since the fontanelles,” allegorical leakage from those drippings in his head, there will be from the unsolaced Clov only the saddest fatalism: “There are so many terrible things.” Or, to the threat of “infinite emptiness”—no one left in all the misery to have pity on—“It's not certain.” Since nothing is in Endgame, there are countless choices that have to be made, word after empty word, stress this? think that? in the acting of it. “It appears the case is … was not so … so unusual.” Relax, breath, clear your mind—remember your Stanislavski. But like no other play we'd done, the issue of subjectivity in the art of the actor seemed to be there in the bloodstream, with doubt in the marrow bone. Fixed gaze, toneless, sure, “it must be nearly finished,” but how is it to be thought? those soundings in the psyche: the must, the nearly, even the bit-lip fricative in the thin-voweled (wish of?) finished. “This is deadly.” And so it was in rehearsal, but that's what livened it up—“Well, don't we laugh?”—the actor taking his cues from the throb in his temple, listening there to his life, the implosive inanities of it. Brain fever. That I suffered from it myself, I've indicated before, and there it was too—no doubt from scars in the nerve cells—in what Bob LaVigne brought to what I'd asked for in the design. Given what I've said of history, what I had in mind for the walls was an encrusted temporal landscape, crepuscular, disorienting, rot, scum, fragments, shored up in the cultural ruins, “a geography of historical bleedings.” What was composed, soiled here, scorched there, with luminous juttings, pendants, crevices, was an assemblage of damaged time, an eloquence of decay. If you merely glanced at the walls, they appeared to be nothing but gray. They were predicated, however, on the “retrospective hypothesis” which Beckett himself had defined, in his early essay on Proust, as “a constant process of decantation, decantation from the vessel containing the fluid of future time,Page 252 → sluggish, pale and monochrome, to the vessel containing the fluid of past time, agitated and multicoloured by the phenomena of its hours.” So the walls, washed by the hours, with the fluids of past and future, whatever the colors of epochs, coming back to gray. What was there in the scenery was in the costumes and makeup too, in the process of decantation part of the assemblage. Thus, in contrast to Hamm's gown, antique toque, hairy face and hands, Clov was virtually sealed into leather, as if preserving himself from whatever air was left, his face swollen red by the rage for order in his mortuary dream. There was, I should say, something which violated my own rage for order in how La-Vigne went about doing all this. Actually, I never saw a design for the costumes, but one day he showed up with swatches of leather, went onstage in the midst of rehearsal, and in a kind of demented dance, wrapped them around Clov, then scissored, and sewed him into shape, while the actors kept performing—and maybe weirder than all, I let it happen like that. Nor did I interrupt when LaVigne appeared with fabrics, auto parts, sundry stuff from the junkyard, glue, grit, paint cans, which he piled neatly in front of the stage—and one day, too, a costly barrel of brand-new nails, hundreds of which he pounded, flat heads glimmering, tightly clustered, into the back wall. The nails seemed in metallic abstraction part of the historical repertoire of the phenomena of the hours, as if contrasting the Industrial Age with the tattered parchment of another period, or if your eyes shifted, suggested by lace and brocade. Nothing but bricolage, monochrome, still gray, but when Clov pushed Hamm on his counterclockwise journey amid those walls, it was as if they were moving through the passing of pastness, back to an invisible source. But when Hamm knocked—“All that's hollow!”—there it was, finished, history bottomed out. When Clov finally brought him back to the dead center of the stage—“Roughly! Roughly! … Bang in the center!

”—it was as if they'd gone through a rite of passage lasting untold years. Walls of the brain, eyes of the mind. Whatever had taken its course, it was the staging of Endgame that caused us to see differently, as we conceived our plays from then on. Which is not to say there weren't regressions, as if the imaginative faculties were, from time to time, boxed into Clov's “kitchen, ten feet by ten feet by ten feet.” That wasn't so, however, with the space much contracted, when we revived Godot at the Encore, and LaVigne did a new design. As we psyched out the setting, in that air-raid-sheltered theater, I happened to read an account of an underground nuclear test, in which the released megatons accelerated the process of mineralPage 253 → evolution, so that artificial jewels were embedded in the ground. That nucleated dazzle seemed right for the new production. On an incline, low ceiling, the audience might have the feeling of being in a cave, but an exteriorized interior, with the stage walls looking as if blown away by a blast. The stage floor, covered with foam rubber (painted with black latex), not only muffled sound, but gave the sensation of sinking whenever the actors moved. Yet, as if from released megatons, glittering waste was either impacted in the ground, or seemed to grow out of it, like technologized vegetation. The mound, which looked like a toadstool, was actually a gas tank on the curvature of a pipe. The backdrop was a cloud-like collage of floating debris, and the hole cut near the apron, used by the tramps as a hiding place, might have been a trap in an obstacle course. Along with the metallized vegetation, there were stains on the latexed floor, like marrow, like mud, like pus—like the “bubos” which children explore with their fingers, and which Artaud celebrated, those wounds, the running sores, which appear “wherever the organism discharges either its internal rottenness or, according to the case, its life.” The floor inspired one sequence, in which—after abusing the crippled Pozzo, who crawls away with cries of pain, the tramps lie down to sleep, and the four actors, too, become part of the assemblage. With the waiting reduced to inertness, they might have been found objects—except that we went mythic. The direction was for them to think of it as a kind of geologic birth. Perfect stillness, pre-totemic. And then the first stirrings, as if the natal cycle itself were teased into evolution, or as in Artaud's metaphysics, “the truthful precipitate of dreams.” As they improvised through countless impulses—eye blinking, thumb flexed, rump rolling, twisted knee—the stage floor came to life, Didi crawling in and out of the hole, a reptilian form; Pozzo writhing, flopping in agony, like a wounded mammoth; Gogo stretching, then curling into a fetus; and Lucky there, still, a fragile crustacean, his white hair like some sun-bleached fungus in the Encantadas. The acting was, thus, a preverbal poetry born of the death instinct, or as if from the Plague, carrion man restored. As for the aeons of passing time, nothing to it, after all, like video games today: “Child's play.” It was in this production, too, that we did one of our first experiments with front curtains, not so sumptuous as that for Galileo, but rather more compatible with the ineptitude of the waiting. As for the warfare with the proscenium, immune to Symonds's fist, we renewed the losing battle with the frugal abstraction of an apertured floating fabric—through which, when the lights came up on the stunted tree, it was part of a collage sculpture,Page 254 → with Gogo on his mound, seen through another hole. When the play was about to begin, the curtain jerked up once; no rise; then again, some rise; then slid indifferently to the floor—a telltale sign: it couldn't get it up. As for the coming inconsequence on the blitzed landscape, that was prepared for with a score of “Sound Blocks” by Mort Subotnick, one of the earliest experiments with music from found objects, composed on tape (the electronics still new) in a makeshift studio of auto parts—hub caps, fenders, radiator—and coiled springs from city trolleys. The sounds were produced with a hammer, as Mort shuffled back and forth. When the audience entered the theater, they were confronted with the blockage, an audible barrier, then an ambience, to which they had trouble adapting because of the atonality, which nevertheless—unguessably sequenced, but not Cagean chance—led them directly into the play. Remarkable as that was, the revival much applauded, there was for me, through the prodigality of the stagecraft and disorienting sensations, a disharmony of excess. Unfair, perhaps, but now the standard was Endgame, where the redundancies of the unfinished had their own coherence. As for the balletic motion and lyric burlesque retained from the earlier version, that went with the larger stage at Marines, and Robin Wagner's design: its huge black backdrop, with raggedly-etched, but exquisite streaks of white and gray cloud, and the bare tree, bent like a willow, or a tripled question mark, its two low branches twisted, a Rosicrucian figure, or like fingers about to be crossed. Around the perimeter of the stage, there was a hint of barbed wire strung from three stakes, which might

have been telephone poles leaning over, or leftover signs of a concentration camp, or with the barbs as cut-off tent strings, even a long-gone circus. Here the bleakness was that of an estranging open space—to which we returned when we played at the Seattle World's Fair, in 1962, and the acting felt more compatible with the original setting, in a larger playhouse there. In both productions, there was a visual poetry in the design and staging, but it was the corrosions of time in Endgame, its aesthetic of incompletion, which led in its rich austerity to a vision of excess that would stretch every action to the limits of the credible. We eventually tested the credible in that most artful “house of illusions,” the Grand Brothel of Genet, where “all the scenarios end in death,” but not before the corrosive excess, almost inevitably after Beckett, in the extremities of King Lear—from the partition of the kingdom to the madness on the heath, the smell of mortality there, to the “Never, never, never, never, never” … that never never finished, where the theatrical is the unthinkable.Page 255 → Before a great leap forward, however, into the cosmos of King Lear, let's back up to the ashcans, lifting the lids again, not merely on Nagg or Nell, but the actors neglected there, among the dead or dying, those long gone, or even as I write, accumulating here. So with those two in the ash-cans, Peggy Doyle and Michael O'Sullivan. And what's still hard to absorb, as I come to the end of the chapter—and maybe a first volume of this long life—is that I can dedicate it in memoriam (as I did in a recent reading, appropriately in San Francisco) to the original casts of both Waiting for Godot and Endgame, all of whom are dead, including that once-handsome leading young man, later bent over as Clov, but ready to screw down the lids. I had lost touch with Tom Rosqui, on whom the lid closed, too, after a long struggle with cancer, about twenty years ago. It was Bob Symonds, as I recall, who let me know when it happened, much before his own cancer overcame life support. “Death,” said Henri Bergson, “is the accident par excellence.” Well, live it down, live it up, but Michael's death is another story, which might have been staged, and I think it was, which is just about how he lived. I last saw Peggy, however, at the memorial for Gene Roche, with some grudge against life I'd never seen before. But then, you could always depend upon Peggy, even back at the Workshop, acting, not acting, for a plainspoken awareness. If you gave a questionable direction, or didn't cast her as she thought you should, there'd be a tart or abrupt acceptance. Or long-knowing, a signifying sigh. “Why this farce, day after day?” That was Nell, but it might have been Peggy, who was also ready to grant that “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness…. Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world.” Yet when I saw her pacing there in a lobby, still candid, but world-weary, having walked out on the memorial talks, she wasn't laughing anymore. Nor was she asking, like Nell—though she once listened closely, appraising what I thought—“Have you anything else to say to me?” As for being in the ashcan, beside Michael, well, if it wasn't miscasting, they were—not only as actors—from entirely different worlds. Married to Bill Doyle, a good-natured professor at Berkeley, there was nothing at all modish about the way Peggy dressed, while Michael would show up in expensive regalia, a velvet jersey, perhaps, with sleek metallic trousers and calfskin slippers. Whatever her smarts or impatience, she was the epitome of normality as compared to the absolutely self-indulgent, mad, gay, lewd, divinely (as he saw it) irresponsible Michael, with his raw demonic face—almost fanged—and sandy, peppered hair, with tapered red fingers (and, Page 256 → yes, sharp nails), who also happened to be a genius as an actor, and played King Lear when he was only twenty-eight. With the allure of the Workshop growing, actors drawn to San Francisco because we were there, and wavering allegiance in the company diminishing as a problem, there was still the rare exception who really kept us guessing. And Michael loved doing it, while making a fetish of never committing to anything, except perhaps Michael, whoever he happened to be—if not a “sincere fool,” then a “proud fiend,” or in the self-declared “glory” indispensable to his being. (Such words from his correspondence, invariably self-edifying, even when masochistic, or when he signed off as “the red dragon.”) Despite the “sweet inoculation” in the disease of self, sparing him the “devastating disease of indifference,” he happened to have a fixation on me. Michael also had ambitions as a playwright, though he felt he could write better in more exotic places, or in the “sun-shocked, melancholy desert,” where his “giddy” soul, “when solitary, cuddled among the blossoms of its own degenerate eggs.”

True, that didn't rule out selling his soul to Broadway, though he would do that, too, he insisted, by his own rules, since “the weary tread of popular theater” wasn't for him, and the experience of which, later, caused him to write of Jules and me, “My God, you're saints. Slightly tainted saints, but saints.” Having worked out, meanwhile, the logic of my nature, “the logic of you, … vastly amusing, endearing and terrifying by actual comparison with what you are,” it nevertheless sustained his “devotion to the Workshop,” and “willingness to contribute sweet effort toward the completion” of what he considered my “ruthless” and “pious” goals. Whereupon he was off somewhere again, to the desert, to the mountains, or to places more cosmopolitan, where he might “refocus his infections.” With “the blessing of an income” from his “dead father,” the cost of travel wasn't an issue, while there was always a taunting message in his letting me know where he was. Thus, enclosed in a letter from Paris, a postcard from the Louvre, with a portrait by J. L. Creuze—a panicked young woman with hand distended on her forehead. Its title: L'Effroi (Terror or Dread). I must have reproached Michael for leaving again, or said something critical of a manuscript he'd shown me, with some reference to Goethe's Faust. There was a message on the card, in his lowercase spellings and backward-leaning script: “I forgive you your vast absurdity if you forgive me my intrepid fidelity. even if you wanted me not to, i'ld still love you. your beloved madman, Michael. ps. thank you for making faust a reality.”Page 257 → That Michael made Lear a reality, performing the unimaginable (traditionally said of the role: no actor up to it all) was due to several things going for him that I've tried to explain before: whatever he was, or wasn't—sincere fool, proud fiend, or in the giddiness of his soul, its degenerate glory—he was born ineffably old, as if he'd lived three lives; and with self-loving irreverence, there was the intrepid fidelity, its irresistible charm; and with an image of his corporate executive father running at high speed down the corridor from his office, and shattering a plate glass window to end his life below, he was early on intimate with madness. I've seen other performances of King Lear, but nobody—not Laurence Olivier, not Paul Scofield—could match the derangement that Michael brought with a raging pathos to those scenes on the heath. That there was reason to it, even cunning, he also seemed to convey, as if in embracing the enveloping syndrome he might even invite you in, so that even before we did it, there was something cat and mouse, which is how he played the demented Lear taunting the soldiers Cordelia sent to rescue him from himself: “Come, and you get it, you shall get it by running. Sa, sa, sa, sa!” Young as he was, Michael was an actor with superb technique, who could move like a sylph, a scythe, a boomerang, a guided missile, but when the madness took over, in the text, you could never quite tell what he would do, or when, because he saw the madness before you, or saw it where you didn't, actable, no doubt, but not knowing until he did it, improvisation in his bones, but with craft and destiny there, including sometime later the seemingly inevitable way—of course, I should have known it—he took his own life. As for the self-hatred in the suicide, that was always already there, and so it was in the most astonishing moment of a rehearsal that I've ever seen. Michael and I had worked on the text of King Lear for several weeks before we met with the rest of the cast. He was definitely primed for it all, though reserved, introspective, when it came to the first readings, as he was, too, when the play got up on its feet. Uncharacteristically for Michael, the character was taking his time, but when we came to staging the storm scene, those “cataracts and hurricanoes,” still mapping the madness out, I knew in an instant that something was wrong, or in those “sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,” only too right. It was something more than acting. For there he was, where Lear was, in the sovereign self-contempt of his onceglorious being, ready to “Strike flat the thick rotundity of the world.” And indeed, instead of assailing the heavens, when he came to thePage 258 → line, “Crack Nature's moulds, all germains spill at once,” Michael reached for his testicles, pulled fiercely, and in a pulverizing motion threw himself to the ground, no as if about it, wanting to atomize himself. My assistant director for the production was André Gregory, who wasn't going off to dinner when he stood bolt upright and left the theater. Gaunt, guarded, but inquisitive, not quite Buddhist yet, André told me later that it was too unbearable to watch. I told him to tell it to Michael. For in my secret directorial heart—almost immoral to think it—what Michael did, in that delirium of self-destruction, I wanted him to do again. It was never quite like that, but the danger was always there, approaching the unimaginable, those thought-executing fires becoming blooded thought. As for the actual suicide, that's a longer story, after Michael's having left the Workshop, and our

going to Lincoln Center, where for a brief time he joined us again. Given the furore there, he was so much irrelevant trouble that I threw him out of a cast, after which he was interviewed in a New York newspaper and told an assortment of lies about me. I didn't want to see him, nor did I expect to hear from him again, after I left Lincoln Center and went off to CalArts. But we'll leave that in abeyance, part of a later chapter, while remembering him enthroned, nobody more willing than Michael to believe he was there by Divine Right. “The King is coming,” the sennet had declared. And there he is, an aged King—martial, vain, Druidic—having entered in savage pomp. The Queen is absent (as she will be, too, in The Balcony of Genet), but invisibly in her place, there is Hecate, the sinister goddess, whom the King will invoke with the outrage of inveterate sovereignty. “Meantime,” he says, initiating the ceremony, “we shall express our darker purpose”—as if in command of the dark energy, before the cosmic irrelevance. A giant map is spread upon the ground, over the entire forestage, and the King, treading with imperial steps this image of the land, portions out the kingdom with bounteous strokes of his sword. They told him he was everything, which he is ratifying theatrically, but though his power also derives from “the sacred radiance of the sun,” we may already sense, in a collusion of radiance and darkness, some truancy of absoluteness and chthonic stirrings in the blood, as Nature's inscrutable purposes rise to meet his own. “Do you smell a fault?” The fault is also political, and the smell so pervasive—in the play, and the world around it: “World, world, O world!”—that we may even see the madness as the liability of too much life. On which, for the self-reflexive moment, and the dark energies there, let me close the page.

Page 259 →

Index Abbey Theater, the, and Yeats, 36, 130, 149 Abstraction coming to life, 169 and directing, 170, 223, 233 and expressionism, 243, 245 in Kafka's “The Burrow,” 144 in Mother Courage, 204 and scene design Endgame, 248 Galileo, 194–96 Waiting for Godot, 253 in Stevens, 153 and Yeats, 67 ACT (American Conservatory Theater), 108 Acting, 95, 103, 148, 150, 153, 175 and actors, 66, 80, 103, 113, 153, 218, 225, 227, 241, 251 and actors' dreams, 113 in Beckett, 224, 251 as Being-for-Others, 222 on Broadway, 145, 218 in Endgame, 249 in Godot, 225–26 and KRAKEN, 4, 44 and Manley, 103, 109, 113–14, 129, 151, 204 and physical/psychic risks, 236 and stage fright, 79–80 and Stanislavski, 147, 153, 227

and Strickland, 96–97 and Symonds, 188–89, 226–27 and too much thinking, 189 what do we mean by acting? 114, 249 and workshop critiques, 147 Actor's Workshop of San Francisco, 36–37, 91, 93, 98, 103–4, 111, 131, 137, 139, 142–43, 145, 148, 152, 154, 158, 161, 163, 166–67, 172, 176, 178, 182–83, 187–88, 190, 199–200, 206, 208–9, 216, 218–19, 221–22, 228, 231, 233, 240, 243, 246–57 Productions Balcony, The, 157, 176, 244, 258 Camino Real, 148–49 Cherry Orchard, The, 93, 183, 203, 241 Cock-a-Doodle Dandy, 242 Crucible, The, 131, 157, 173, 199, 200, 205, 206, 221, 243 Death of a Salesman, 183 Endgame, 2, 110, 187, 191, 204, 229, 231, 238, 244, 247–52, 254, 255Page 260 → Galileo, 180–82, 184–89, 190, 192–99, 203, 243, 253 Hedda Gabler, 152 Hotel Universe, 146, 153 I Am a Camera, 147 Iceman Cometh, The, 228 King Lear, 92, 134, 186, 195, 238, 244, 254–55, 256–58 Lysistrata, 178–79 Mother Courage, 155, 173, 175, 181, 185, 187–88, 189, 199–208, 210, 221 Oedipus Rex, 170, 175, 177, 178, 180, 186, 190 Playboy of the Western World, 91 Summer and Smoke, 152, 217 Waiting for Godot, 110, 157, 202, 218, 219–31, 232, 233, 239, 241, 255 Age of Reason, 163 Aging, 135, 169, 233

liabilities of, 27, 132 of Mother Courage, 204 and time, 132 and Woodward, authority on, 16, 133 Alienation, 37, 189, 200 and Actor's Workshop, 155, 205 in Beckett, 223 Brechtian, 170, 175, 200 and deconstruction, 170 and perspective in A-effect, 141 provisional as technique, 203 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 138–39 Anderson, Maxwell, 93 Antitheater, 181, 243 and theatricality, 176 Appearance conundrums of, 154 and dying, 169 and reality, 5, 163, 180 and system of representation, 170 See also Disappearance Aquinas, Saint Thomas, 115, 162 Arden, John, and Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, 208 Aristophanes, 179 and Lysistrata, 178 Aristotle, 154, 159, 161 and Poetics, 95 Armstrong, Louis, 189 Art, 22, 111, 143, 155–56, 158, 161, 176, 208, 240

and actors as artists, 150 artists in theater, 61, 126, 143, 155, 160, 175, 194–95, 239, 243, 245 and Beat Generation, 130, 194, 244 Deco, 47 and desecrations, 245 of disappearance, 127, 245 of the impossible, 130, 178 its absence in study of drama, 94 in San Francisco, 194 Artaud, Antonin and Brecht, 151, 175, 253 and Eleusinian Mysteries, 176 and metaphysics, 176, 253 and the plague, 245 Astaire, Fred, 20 Atheism, 5, 115 Atomic Age, the, 245 Auden, W. H., 93, 102 Audience, the, 61, 92, 149–53, 177–79, 183, 190, 193–94, 196, 200, 205, 218, 221 attitudes toward, 149, 151, 205 behavior of, 146, 206, 215, 219, 221 being looked at, 224 as community of the question, 205 with empathy arousing shame, 204 and Endgame, 248–51, 253 and Godot, 247 and Hotel Universe, 147 as liberal, 243 at San Quentin, 230

Augustine, Saint, 115 Aunts Fanny, 15–16, 28, 30, 40, 43, 49, 56, 213Page 261 → Rose, 21, 38 Rosie, 11, 21, 33–34, 38 Avant-garde, the death of, 161, 170 European, 170, 215 history of, 148, 245 modernist, 95 traditions of, 161 Baba (grandmother, Gussie Roth), 5–6, 9–11, 33, 40, 56–57 Bailey, Margery, 107–8 Prize in Drama, 107, 124 Bainbridge, Kenneth, 186 Balzac, Honoré de, 51 BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), 17 Baroque, 197, 227 risking the, 152, 175, 193, 243 Barry, Philip, and Hotel Universe, 146–47 Barthes, Roland, 4 and Brecht, 173 and death of the author, 187 meeting with, 173–75 Works Camera Lucida, 173 Mythologies, 174 Pleasure of the Text, The, 173 Writing Degree Zero, 173

Bataille, Georges, and Visions of Excess, 242 Baudelaire, Charles, 174, 178 Beat Generation, 92, 127, 244, 246 Conner, 245 Ginsberg, 244 LaVigne, 244, 246 and Rexroth, 243 at San Francisco State, 136 Beckett, Samuel, 2, 142, 220–22, 229, 238, 247, 249–54 and Actor's Workshop, 172, 189, 197, 209, 218–20, 233, 243, 247 and the Beckettian, 178, 224, 228, 239–40 and Brecht, 173, 181, 197, 201 and Cluchey, 229–30 and Cohn, 239–40 dark energy in, 221 as director, 223 early impressions of, 220 and inexhaustibility, 225 and laughter, 178, 218–19 and Mandell, 231–32 and misery or despair, 224, 247 mourning of, 134 and paranoia about pronouns, 247 revisions of, and vigilance, 187 at San Quentin, 228–31 and sleep apnea, 233 and specularity, 154, 224 and Stevens, merging in nothing, 126 theatricalizing the philosophical, 222, 224

Works Breath, 221 Endgame, 2, 110, 187, 191, 204, 229, 231, 238, 244, 247–52, 254, 255 First Love, 134 “Lessness,” 224 Not I, 154 Play, 154 Texts for Nothing, 221 Waiting for Godot, 110, 157, 202, 218, 219–31, 232, 233, 239, 241, 255 Begin, Menachem, 99 Belafonte, Harry, 104 Benjamin, Walter, 156, 202 Bentley, Eric, 95, 97, 173, 187 Beowulf, 115, 118, 161 Bergson, Henri, 255 Berle, Milton, 51 Berlin Dada Movement, 104, 176 Berliner Ensemble, 148, 170, 174, 193, 249 and Weigel, 202 Berlin Wall, 187, 203 Bernhardt, Sarah, 228 Beuys, Joseph, 111Page 262 → Bezozo, Edward, 107 Bhagavad Gita, 67, 186 Black Friday, 38, 45 Blackmur, R. P., 123 Blau, Herbert Books Audience, The, 151, 205

Impossible Theater, The, 36, 70, 98, 103, 163, 167, 189, 206, 209, 220 Take Up the Bodies, 35, 180, 234, 239 Essays “Astride of a Grave,” 134 “Black Art of Robert LaVigne, The,” 245 “Inhumanity of Conformity, The,” 137–38 “(Re)sublimating the Sixties,” 118 “Thinking History / History Thinking,” 125 Plays By Definition, 107 Gift of Fury, A, 44 Out of the Rain, 96 Prayer in Galilee, A, 98 When Death Is Dead, 89, 238 Blau, Joseph (father), 1–10, 12–19, 21–22, 25–26, 28, 31, 38, 56, 210–14 and business, 38, 210 and cross-cultural judgment, 9, 21 and death, 7 and the Depression, 10, 26, 37, 47, 52 and Disney, 18 as foreman, 16 intellectual legacy of, 8 and newspapers, 1–3, 18 in nursing home, 213–14 and plumber's union, 17 and second marriage, 210 as taxi driver, 21 Blau, Sidney (brother), 11, 13–14, 20, 24, 26, 30, 40, 47, 49, 53 dancing, and dating, 13, 20

death of, 20, 53, 133–34 and the Depression, 10 and mother's funeral, 210–11, 213 as plumber, and construction business, 10, 19, 28, 39 and wife Bea (or Beaty), 20, 56, 210–11 Blau, Yetta (mother), 3, 10, 12, 17–18, 24, 26, 29–30, 34, 39, 40, 43, 55, 57, 81 and afternoon séance, 52 death of, 210 and the Depression, 45 and housework, 16 and makeup, 13, 56 and market come-ons, 15, 210 resourcefulness of, 42, 53 Blau children Jessamyn, 40, 63 Jonathan, 182, 183, 210, 235 Richard (Dick), 93, 94, 102, 105–8, 110, 112, 114, 128–29, 168, 182, 184 Tara, 128, 184, 189, 235 Bohemian Club, 140 Bowmer, Angus, 190 Boys High, 7, 9, 22, 27, 30, 32, 35, 54–55, 57–63, 72, 107 and Ambu-dance, for the war, 39 and Frankel, 57 and Geschwind, 58–60 languages, politics, social affairs, 62 and Schulman, 60, 62 and Senior Recorder, 32, 34–35, 61 and Skor, 60–62 and Swing Club, 40, 64

and War Service Council, 39 Brando, Marlon, 104, 216 Brecht, Bertolt, 61, 142, 151, 157, 173, 175 and Actor's Workshop, 155, 178, 187–88, 197–99, 203 and Alienation (A-effect), 155, 170, 175, 181, 189, 197, 200, 203 and Barthes, 174 and Berliner Ensemble, 170, 202Page 263 → and the Brechtian, 162, 173, 175, 188–89, 193, 197 and complex seeing, 193 and critique of Oedipal theater, 170 in the equivocal Epic, 181, 189, 192, 197–98 and ideology of the aesthetic, 197–98 and Ionesco, 201 and Piscator, 104 and powers of reason, 193–94 and theater as tribunal, 202 in theory, 187, 189, 190, 192, 201 and Un-American Activities Committee, 88 Works Life of Galileo, 180–81, 185–89 Measures Taken, The, 175 Mother Courage, 155, 181, 185, 199, 202–4 Threepenny Opera, The, 189, 196 Brecht, Stefan, 203 Breuer, Lee, 143, 192 Broadway, 97, 107, 109, 124, 128, 130, 145, 147, 156, 179, 218, 227, 241, 256 and Hurok, 38 and Irving, 90–91 with laugh meters, 218

and Manley, 93, 103 and O'Sullivan, 256 and Poole, 91 and Post, 104 and Roche, 228 and Strickland, 98 and Symonds, 190 Brockett, O. G. (Oscar), 95–96 Brooklyn, 2, 4, 5, 10–12, 17, 26, 27, 37–38, 42, 49, 51, 54, 55, 67, 74, 61, 84, 86, 88, 94, 96, 103–4, 115–16, 161, 171, 234 and Atlantic Avenue, 2, 9, 11, 17, 43, 46, 52, 53, 55, 56, 64, 107, 128 and Bedford-Stuyvesant, 7, 10, 50, 57 and The Brooklyn Eagle, 38, 51–52 and Brownsville, 4, 8–10, 12, 16–17, 21, 23, 37, 39, 46, 49, 51–52, 54–55, 57, 63 and Bushwick district, 31, 49–51 and the Dodgers, 88 Bruce, Lenny, 243 Brustein, Robert, 233 Burke, Kenneth, 123, 157 Cage, John, 72 and Cagean chance, 254 Caldwell, Erskine, and Tobacco Road, 50 California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), 166, 171, 258 and Cohn, 239–40 and controversy, 36, 239 and Disney(s), 14, 142 and Haldeman, 14 California School of Fine Arts, 243 Callaway Mills, 81, 82 Calvinism, 115, 123

Campbell, O. J., 73 and Patterns for Living, 71 Camp Howze (infantry), 40, 77–79 Camus, Albert, editing Combat, 173 as playwright, 170 sudden death of, 172–73 Works Myth of Sisyphus, The, 222 Stranger, The, 170 Canon, the, 161, 221, 249 and the canonical, 161, 221 and the canonized, 142, 247 and reading canonically, 115 Carroll, Leo G., 97 Catholicism, 24, 38, 63, 147, 174–75, 185–86, 195, 203, 228, 245 Centre Pompidou, 231 Cerdan, Marcel, 25 Cervantes, Miguel de, 203 Cézanne, Paul, 102 and the Cubists, 94 Chaucer, Geoffrey, 109, 157 Chekhov, Anton, 91, 97–98, 180 Chekhov, Michael, 93Page 264 → Chemical engineering (Blau at NYU), 14, 17, 64, 67–70, 90 a crucial question, in the Mendeleyev table, 67–68 fluid mechanics, and the Manhattan Project, 70 and growing up with entropy, 70–71 problem solving but not experimental, 70 and teaching at Stanford, 106

Cheney, Dick, 40 Christian humanism, 115, 161 Christian Science, 190–91 Churchill, Winston, 88, 224 Cicero, 115 and Ciceronian rhetoric, 106 Cirque de Soleil, 193 Claire, Ina, 97 Clark, Barrett H., 91 Clark, Walter Van Tilburg, 164–65 Works City of Trembling Leaves, The, 164 Ox-Bow Incident, The, 164 Track of the Cat, The, 164 Classical, the, 245 and classicism, 161 and drama, 35, 143, 175, 232 and fatalism, 163 and music, 58, 169 Cleaver, Eldridge, 234 Clinton, Hillary, 61 Cluchey, Rick, 229–31 and Barbed Wire Theater, 231 and Beckett, 231 and The Cage, 230 and San Quentin Drama Workshop, 229, 231 Clurman, Harold, 233 Cold war, the, 85, 131, 143, 154–55, 182, 187–88, 200, 209, 245 Cole, Wendell, 95

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 70 Combat, edited by Camus and Sartre, 173 Comedy, 159, 178–79, 203, 255 and Barry, 146 of extinction, 179 learning how to do it, 218 of Mother Courage, 203 the Old, 179–80 Communism, 49, 63, 88, 104, 172–73 and Brecht, 175, 206 and early exposure to Marx, 58–59 in the neighborhood, 2, 19, 58 Conner, Bruce, 245 Controversy, 85, 118, 148, 232 and Actor's Workshop, 157, 192, 200–201, 205–8, 243 and Arden, 208 and CalArts, 36, 239 and playwrights, 142 at San Francisco State, 131 Cosmology, 221 Copernican/Ptolemaic, 196 and cosmological constant, 198–99, 202 and cosmos in the theater, 196, 256 and dark energy, 198, 221 and Einstein, 177, 198 the Great Chain of Being, 115, 177 Costumes, 92, 95 and Actor's Workshop, 178, 190, 195, 244, 250, 252 Counterculture, 101, 131, 137, 246

Cousins Maxie, 34, 35, 44, 107 Milty, 43, 78 Crane, Hart, 119 Crawford, Joan, 47 Creuze, J. L., 256 CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), 26, 134 Culture, 73, 82, 92, 127, 133, 148, 157, 161, 170, 174–75, 207, 208, 224, 231, 234, 243, 245 and counter-cultural therapy, 246 and cultural studies/critique, 54, 96, 118, 120, 156, 202 Curtis, Tony, 104 Daily News, The, 1, 18, 45, 62 Daily Worker, The, 2, 137Page 265 → Dance, 29, 34, 58, 76, 82, 117, 141, 153, 183, 190, 210, 252 Astaire and Rogers, 20, 47 and Sidney and Bea, 20 and Swing Club, with Glenn Miller, 64–65 Dante Alighieri, 36 Da Vinci, Leonardo, 195 Davis, Bette, 47 Davis (North), Judy, 194 Davis, Robert Gorham, 121 Davis, Ronnie, 143, 188 Deconstruction, 118, 161, 172, 175 Deleuze, Gilles, 176 and desiring-machines, 176, 178, 181 Delsarte, François, 153 Depression, the, 10, 21, 26, 40–41, 45, 47, 50, 52–53, 59, 61, 64, 73, 75–76, 92, 107, 141 Descartes, René, 220

Devine, George, 207–8 Dewey, Ken, 143 Dickens, Charles, 18 Dickinson, Emily, 157 Dilthey, Wilhelm, 94 Dior, Christian, 179 Directing, 66, 113, 134, 137, 145, 148, 151–52, 156, 162, 169–70, 175–76, 183, 187–88, 199, 218, 249, 253, 258 in the beginning, 66, 113 being too intellectual, 66, 148 confronting the intolerable, 134 and ghosting, 180 indulging a subtle cruelty, 152, 249 lured by the illicit, 176 more theater? less theater? 175 risking the baroque, 176 secret life of, 227 Disappearance, 48 art of, 127, 245 Disney, Walt, 14, 17–18, 142 Doc Savage, 100 Donne, John, and “Hymn to God the Father,” 73 Dorsey, Tommy, 40 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 33, 155, 160 and The Brothers Karamazov, 100 Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 139 Douglas, Melvyn, 139 Douglas, Justice William (Supreme Court), 137–38 Downbeat (magazine), 64–65 Doyle, Peggy, 255

Doyle, William, 255 Dreamgirls, 241 Dreiser, Theodore, 50 Druten, John Van, and I Am a Camera, 147 Duchamp, Marcel, 176 Duffy, Clinton T. (warden, San Quentin), 229 Dulles, John Foster, 179 Dumke, Glenn, 166 Dürrenmatt, Friedrich, 142 Eastwood, Clint, 104 Egan, Richard, 91 Einstein, Albert, 143, 177, 196, 198 Eisner, Michael, 17 Eldredge, Roy, 65 Eleusinian Mysteries, 176 Eliot, T. S., 8, 49, 119, 121–22, 153, 161, 221 and The Cocktail Party, 149 English, Patty, 167 Enlightenment, the, 162, 197 Epidaurus, 94 Esslin, Martin, 208, 229 Existentialism, 37, 39, 63, 90, 99, 118, 164–65, 170, 172–73, 175, 187–88, 215, 220, 224, 229–30 Experimental, the, 68, 101, 104, 155, 157–58, 183–84, 193, 216, 243, 246, 253–54 Family Club, 140–41 Farrell, James T., and Studs Lonigan, 50 Fascism, 62–63, 88, 121, 202 Fashion, 10, 47, 57, 93, 102, 105, 146, 161, 176, 179, 189, 195Page 266 → Faulkner, William, 157, 159 Fereva, Anton, and The Year of August, 160

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, 161 Fisher, Mickey, 58 Fishman, Fred, 58 Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 14 and The Great Gatsby, 106 Fletcher, Allen, 107–8 Foff, Antoinette (Toni), 159–60, 164, 165–66 Foff, Arthur, 158, 159–60, 161–66 and North of Market, 160 Fonda, Henry, 185 Fontaine, Lynn, 97 Food, 6, 11, 15, 28–29, 42, 44, 47, 76, 213, 218 Ford, President Gerald, 82 Ford Foundation, 165, 175, 217, 242 Fornes, Mara Irene, 143 Fort Benning (paratroops), 21, 77–78, 80 Foster Jones, Richard, 106 France, 39, 47, 62–63, 88, 143, 170, 174 Franco, Francisco, 62, 133 Frankel, Irving, 10, 57, 77, 211 Freedberg, Albert, 94, 102, 129, 144 Freud, Sigmund, 59, 133, 163–64, 170, 176, 222, 224, 242 and Civilization and Its Discontents, 59, 188 and the Freudian, 6, 114, 118, 144, 147, 177 Frisch, Max, 142 Funaroff, Sol, 61 Futurism, 148, 176 Gable, Clark, 91 García Lorca, Federico, andYerma, 133

Gassner, John, 91 Gehrig, Lou, 5 Gemignani, Paul, 241 Gemignani, Rhoda, 241 Genet, Jean, 142, 154, 157, 173, 176–77, 183, 197, 201, 202 and the alluring illicit, 176 and an obscene holiness, 189 with scenarios ending in death, 254 Works Balcony, The, 258 Blacks, The, 202 Germany, 39, 51, 63, 67, 71–72, 77–78, 88, 104–5, 170, 172, 237 Geschwind, Norman, 58–60 Ghosting, 180 Gibson, Josh, 31 Ginsberg, Allen, 244 Globalization, 73, 87, 125, 154, 177 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, and Faust, 256 Gomez, Lefty, 5 Goodman, Benny, 40, 64 Graziano, Rocky, 25 Green, Harold (Greenie), 22–26, 37, 44 Green, Paul, 95, 124 Gregory, André, 143, 258 Gross, David J., and quantum chromo-dynamics, 68 Guattari, Felix, 176 Hagganah, 99 Hair, 241 Haldeman, H. R., 14

Harlow, Jean, 47 Harrison, Robert Pogue, and Dominion of the Dead, 133 Haswell, Robert (Hal), 220, 227, 242 Hawkes, John, 242 Hayakawa, S. I. (Don), 71–73, 136, 158, 166, 234 and Language in Action, 71–72 Hays, David, 60 Hazlitt, William, 231 Heffner, Hubert, 94–96, 100, 105, 142, 161 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 172 Heidegger, Martin, 172, 224 Heideman, Leonard, 89, 90Page 267 → Heights Daily News (NYU), 74, 83, 84, 85–89 Heller, Elinor, 231–32 Heller, Elizabeth, 232 Hemingway, Ernest, 14 and For Whom the Bell Tolls, 62 Herbert, George, and “Church Monuments,” 122 Hess, Rudolf, 229 Hillbarn Summer Theater, 109 Hillman, Sidney, 39 Hippies, 136, 241, 246 Hiroshima, 164–65, 185, 197 Hitler, Adolf, 53, 72 and Mein Kampf, 36 Hollywood, 20, 48, 91, 104, 111, 164, 226 Hollywood Ten, 88, 138 Holzman, William (Red), 22, 42 Homeland Security, 138, 182

Hoover, President Herbert, 18, 45, 136 Hopkins, Gerard Manley, and “God's Grandeur,” 73 Horowitz, Jacob (Jake), 33, 107 Horowitz, Max (Maxie), 34, 35, 44, 107 Horowitz, Rose (Rosie), 11, 21, 33–34, 38 House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), 88, 89, 117, 118, 205 Howl trial, 244 Huddle, Elizabeth (Liz), 241 Humanities, the, 71, 87, 123, 137, 217, 236 Humanities World Digest, 137 Hurok, Sol, 38 Ibsen, Henrik, 91, 95 Impressionists, 94 Improvisation, 104, 113, 145, 156, 253, 257 and fertility rites, 180 Intiman Theater, 241 Ionesco, Eugène, 142 on Brecht and Genet, 201–2 Works Bald Soprano, The, 201 Lesson, The, 201 Iraq, 32, 134, 154, 162, 238 Irgun Zvi Leumi, 99 Irving, Amy, 191–92 Irving, Jules (Buddy), 90, 91, 100, 106, 130–31, 141, 147, 148, 152, 167, 177, 183, 191, 193, 208, 211, 232 and Actor's Workshop, 140–42, 147–49, 151, 153, 155, 168, 178, 183, 206, 218–19, 231 and the critics, 146 and Family Club, 140 financial dealings of, 141, 193, 216, 226–27

in The Hasty Heart, at NYU, 91 and intimacy, maybe, 130 with jokes and dark humor, 90, 178, 119, 130, 179 as Kilroy in Camino Real, 149 and Nixon, 140 and Priscilla (Pointer), 106, 129, 167 and realism, 171 and San Francisco State, 130 at Stanford, an improbable pair, 98 still deciphering each other, 163 Irving, Katie, 192 James, Harry, 40 James, Henry, 14, 101, 125 and The Golden Bowl, 125 Japan, 30, 39, 54, 72, 139, 164 Jarry, Alfred, 176 and Ubu Roi, 95 Jazz, 58, 61, 64, 169, 196, 230, 243 Jewishness, 6–7, 10, 12, 19, 38, 51, 56–57, 99, 163, 211, 213–14, 218, 231, 238 See also Yiddish Jihad, 2, 138, 154, 182, 185, 206 John XXIII (pope), 185 Jones, Richard Foster, 106 Jonson, Ben, and “To Heaven,” 122 Journalism, 62, 85, 90, 158, 161Page 268 → Joyce, James, and The Dead, 203 Justice, Donald, 242 Kabakov, Ilya, 111 Kafka, Franz, and “The Burrow,” 35, 144

Kaplan, Hymie and Willie, 19, 58 Kaufman, George (and Moss Hart), and The American Way, 90 Kazan, Elia, 36, 205–6 Keats, John, 71, 127, 161, 171 Kelly, Robert Glynn, 118–20 and A Lament for Barney Stone, 20 Kennedy, President John F., 184, 186, 188 Kerry, John, 61 Kinsey Report, the, 180 Kirkland, Alexander, 97 Knickerbocker, Paine, 207–8 KRAKEN, 35, 44, 66, 144, 154, 164, 166, 193, 234, 249 and burrowing, 35, 144, 180 as a cerebral discourse, 172 and cursing, 4 and ghosting, 180 Krupa, Gene, 64 Krushchev, Nikita, 143 Krutch, Joseph Wood, 91 Lapp, Ralph E., and Kill and Overkill, 184–85 LaVigne, Robert, 243–45, 246, 248, 251–52 and Beat Generation, 244–45 the Black Art of, 245 and the psychedelic, 246 and scene design, 244 Endgame, 248, 251–52 Godot at Encore, 252–53 Lawson, John Howard, 88 Lee, Calvin B. T., chancellor of UMBC, 44

Lee, Peggy, 65 Le Gallienne, Eva, 93, 183, 203, 241 Lenya, Lotte, 189 Leonard, J. Paul, president of San Francisco State, 135–36 Lerner, Max, 62 Levering Act, the (loyalty oath), 136–39, 155 Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 174 Lewis, John L., 39 Lilienthal, David, 88 Lincoln Center, 36–37, 60, 86, 98, 105, 130, 139, 142, 166, 240 Beaumont Theater, 60 and the board, 14 and Haswell, 242 and Mandell, 232 and Miller, 205–6 and O'Sullivan, 258 replacing Kazan and Whitehead, 36 Linenthal, Mark, 116 Litwak, Leo, 234, 236, 237 Works College Days in Earthquake Country, 234 Nobody's Baby, 237 Loew's Pitkin (Brownsville), 47, 49 Logan Act of 1799, the, 88 London, 138, 154, 207, 241 London, Jack, 51 Lorca, Federico. See García Lorca, Federico, andYerma Lowry, W. McNeill, 217 Lumet, Sidney, 104

Mabou Mines, the, 143, 192 MacDonald, Jeanette, 92 Malcolm X, 57 Maleczech, Ruth, 192 Mallarmé, Stéphane, 153 Malraux, André, 220 Maltz, Albert, 88 Mandell, Alan, 194, 231–33 and acting better with age, 233 and wealth, 232 who knows his business, 194, 231 and Yiddishisms, 231 Manley, Beatrice (Bea), 95, 100–106, 107–15, 127–31, 136, 146,Page 269 → 151–52, 177, 182, 199, 203–5, 219, 228, 232, 234 artist-in-residence at Stanford, 93 and career on Broadway, 93 in Greenwich Village, 101–2 married in Las Vegas, 108 as Mother Courage, 203, 204 and prospects in Mountain View, 108–9 in Summer and Smoke, 152 a swaying grace, and multiple sclerosis, 144, 152, 182 Mann, Thomas, 137 and Death in Venice, 159 March, Frederic, 90 Marcus, Colonel, 219 Marcuse, Herbert, 96 Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso, 148 Marshall, General George, 143 Martin, Peter, 161

Marx, Karl, 58–60, 94, 116 and The Communist Manifesto, 59 and Marxism, 7, 27, 59, 61, 86, 174, 201 Maugham, Somerset, and The Constant Wife, 146 Maurras, Charles, 121 Maynard, Ken, 48 Mazen, Glenn, 241 McAuliffe, General Anthony, 77 McCarthy, Senator Joseph, 38, 131, 137, 143, 149, 232 and McCarthyism, 88, 91, 206 McGowan, Kenneth, 124 McKenna, J. Fenton, 130, 139 McNamara, Robert, 188 Media, the, 15, 61, 140, 146, 154, 207–8, 237 Melville, Herman, 157 Meredith, Burgess, 91 Merwin, W. S., and Lorca's Yerma, 133 Metaphysics, 94, 176, 249, 253 and the metaphysical, 52, 73, 115, 176 Meyerhold, Vsevolod, 153 Miksak, Joseph, 170, 220 Miller, Arthur, 205–6 Works Crucible, The, 131, 157, 173, 199, 200, 205, 206, 221, 243 Death of a Salesman, 183 Miller, Glenn, 64–65 Milton, John, 71, 109, 157, 221 and Areopagitica, 137 Mix, Tom, 48

Modernism, 95, 158, 161 and modernity, 125–26, 144, 195 Monroe, Eason, 135–39 Morris, Henry, 69–70 Movies, 17, 47–50, 81–82, 91–92, 125, 164–65, 184, 225, 233, 241 a refuge from the Depression, 47 and what the theater is, 48 Murder, Inc., 12, 25 Murphy, Johnny, 5 Music, 20, 40–41, 58, 64–65, 117, 140, 143, 172, 204, 225, 241 at cellar clubs in Bedford-Stuy, 57 and earliest synthesizers (Moog, Buchla), 143 in Mother Courage, 204 and the Sixties, 118, 172 and Sound Blocks of Subotnick, 195 in staging of Galileo, 196 while studying for Regents exams, 40 for Swing Club dances, by Glenn Miller, 64–65 and wanting to be Gene Krupa, 64 and writing for Downbeat, 64–65 Nazism, 39, 66, 71, 88, 99, 104, 138, 147, 172 Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vladimir, 131 Netanyahu, Benjamin, 31 New Age, the, and Love-Ins and Be-Ins, 194 New York and Astoria, 27 and the Bronx, 20, 31, 67, 69, 74, 83, 84, 86, 93, 102–3, 204Page 270 → and the Catskills, 75–76 and Central Park, 188, 206

and Chelsea, 94 and Chinatown, 44 and Coney Island, 10, 27, 30, 41, 78 and Crown Heights, 55, 67 and Greenwich Village, 10, 93, 101–2, 107–8, 127 and Harlem, 14, 68 and Jamaica Bay, 52 and Long Island, 2, 10–11, 14, 27, 50, 52–53, 89, 134 and Lower East Side, 7, 12, 14, 17, 211 and Manhattan, 2, 11–12, 14, 17, 43, 46, 96, 100 and Ocean Hill–Brownsville, 9–10, 12 See also Brooklyn, and Brownsville New York Times, The, 2, 68, 188 New York University. See NYU Nichols, Luther, 146 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 6, 59, 144, 224 Nixon, President Richard, 14, 139–40 Nobel Prize, 60, 68, 247 Noh drama, 30, 130, 143, 150 Norris, Frank, 50 Nothingness, 27, 143, 146, 170, 173, 204, 216, 222 Novie (Noveshelsky), Fanny, 15–16, 28, 30, 40, 43, 49, 56, 213 Novie, Max (Mac), 28, 38, 43–44 Novie, Milton, 43, 78 NYU (New York University), 11, 17, 30, 40, 68–70, 81, 83, 85–87, 89, 92–93, 99–100, 106, 137 and Board of Athletic Control, 85–86 commuting from Brooklyn to the Bronx, 67–68, 84 an expanded worldliness at, 67 and fluid mechanics, with Treybal, 70

Gould Library, and Hall of Fame, 68 and Irving, with Hall of Fame Players, 90 and Morris, 69 performing in The Petrified Forest, 91 and Porteus, 74, 84 at Lawrence House, 74–75, 83–84, 89, 161 and Romantic poetry, 71 in School of Engineering, 67, 70–71 and Tannenbaum (basketball), 74 and Von Elling (track), 69 and Weinheimer (football), 86 See also Chemical engineering; Heights Daily News O'Casey, Sean, and Cock-a-Doodle-Dandy, 242 Odets, Clifford, 91, 124 and The Flowering Peach, 226 O'Dwyer, Mayor William, 88 Off-Broadway, 146, 216–17, 232 Olivier, Laurence, 257 O'Neill, Eugene, 91 and The Iceman Cometh, 228 Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 67, 186 Orlovsky, Peter, 244 Orwell, George, and Homage to Catalonia, 62–63 O'Sullivan, Michael, 256–57 Palance, Jack, 93 Paris, 4, 17, 63–64, 106, 148, 170, 173–74, 191, 201, 220–21, 231, 239, 250, 256 Patrick, John, and The Hasty Heart, 91 Picasso, Pablo, 94 Picon, Molly, 17

Pinter, Harold, 142, 157, 241 Works Birthday Party, The, 241 Caretaker, The, 111 Pirandello, Luigi, and Tonight We Improvise, 104 Piscator, Erwin, 104–5 Pointer, Priscilla, 106, 129–31, 146, 167, 190–92, 199Page 271 → with Buddy, abroad, entertaining the troops, 106 and vibrant, sublime, arriving in California, 106 walking the human steps, and marriage to Bob Symonds, 190, 191 and the Workshop starting up, 131, 136 Politics, 60, 62, 81, 83, 85, 87–88, 99, 104, 118, 121, 130–31, 135, 139, 147, 158, 173, 199, 238 as art of the possible, 178 and Barthes, 174 in Beckett, 209 after the Bomb, 87, 177, 215 at Boys High, 58–59, 63 and Brecht, 187–88, 202, 209–10 in the Depression, 37–38, 49, 235 of disorder, 162 identity, 114, 118, 174, 203 of impartiality, 137 from McCarthy to the Sixties, 131 in the media, 61 of pollution, 49 and theater, 137, 147, 150–51, 155, 172, 175, 177–78, 187, 209, 215 Poole, Roy, 91 Porteus, P. A., 73, 84 Post, Teddy, 103–4

Pound, Ezra, 119, 153, 243 and “The Seafarer,” 161 Powell, Colin, 20 Proust, Marcel, 251 Rabelais, François, 178 Rabin, Yitzhak, 99 Racial tension, 18, 52, 139 Jews and blacks, 10, 12, 16, 18–21 Ransom, John Crowe, 121, 123 Reagan, President Ronald, 14, 71–72, 135–36, 232, 234 Realism, 124–25, 171, 183, 205 Religion, 37–38, 73, 107, 115, 182, 185 Renaissance, the, 161, 195–96 Reviews, 146, 148, 206–9, 223, 233 and actors, 150, 163, 206 and reviewers, 147–48, 150, 206–8 Rexroth, Kenneth, 243 Rhodes, Art, 81–85 Rice, Elmer, 91 Risking the baroque, 152, 176, 243 Roberts, Kenneth, 49–50 Works Arundel, 50 Lydia Bailey, 50 Northwest Passage, 49 Oliver Wiswell, 49 Rabble in Arms, 49 Robinson, Edgar Arlington, and “The Wandering Jew,” 77 Robinson, Jackie, 88

Roche, Eugene, 228 Rogers, Ginger, 20, 47, 190 Rolfe, Edwin, 61 Romero, Elias, 196 Roosevelt, President Franklin Delano, 39, 76, 121 Rosqui, Tom, 216–17, 255 Ruskin, John, 231 Russell, Bertrand, 137, 186 and “A Free Man's Worship,” 73 Ryun, Jim, 236 Sahl, Mort, 243 San Francisco, and Atherton, 140, 232 and the Bay, 92, 127, 217, 229, 232, 235, 243, 245 and Chinatown, 127 and the Haight, 219 and Palo Alto, 92, 109–11, 129 San Francisco Mime Troupe, 143 San Francisco State, 71–72, 130, 157, 159, 161, 170–71, 230 and the Beats and hippies, 136 and Clark, 164–65 and Creative Writing Program, 107, 159, 161, 164 and Foff, 158–59 and Hayakawa, 71–72 and Linenthal, 116 and Litwak, 234Page 272 → and Miksak, 220 and Monroe, 135, 139, 161 and Shrodes, 157–58 and Van Gundy, 71

and Willson, 158–59 and Wilner, 161, 234 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 6, 170, 172–75, 220, 222 Works Nausea, 220 What Is Literature?, 173 Saud, Ibn, king of Hejaz (Saudi Arabia), 45 Schevill, James, 203 Schulman, Bernard, 60, 62 Scofield, Paul, 257 Scotus, Duns, 115 Seattle, 86, 139, 146, 197, 241, 246, 254 Seattle Repertory Theater, 107, 207, 217, 226, 241 Shakespeare, William, 42, 97–98, 115, 122, 157, 161, 197, 203, 221 and Ashland Shakespeare Festival, 190 Works As You Like It, 93 Coriolanus, 197 Julius Caesar, 90 King Lear, 92, 134, 186, 195, 238, 244, 254–58 Romeo and Juliet, 111, 175 Winter's Tale, The, 190 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 71 Shelton, Mr., and The Shady Lawn, 110–12, 114, 127 Sherwood, Robert, and The Petrified Forest, 91 Shore, Herbert, 116–18 Shrodes, Caroline, 71–72, 156, 157–58, 164 attitudes toward, 158–59 and bibliotherapy, 73

and Patterns for Living, 71, 73, 158 Shumway, Norman, 236 Sinatra, Frank, 40 Sinclair, Upton, 138 Sisyphus, 204, 222 Sixties, the, 131, 136, 145, 159, 172, 176–77, 200, 215, 245 Skor, Benjamin, 60–61 Smith, Hassel, 243 Smith, Nancy, 76 Socialism, 37, 59 and socialists, 1, 38–39, 46, 63, 104, 173, 205 Socrates, 137, 165 Sondheim, Stephen, 241 Sophocles, 169 Soviet Union, 39, 78, 184 and Stalinists, 63, 103, 156 Spahn, Warren, 5 Spielberg, Stephen, 191–92 Sports, 4, 14, 21, 22–25, 24, 27, 28–29, 30, 31, 58, 61, 69, 82, 85–86, 87, 89, 97, 110, 113, 130 at Boys High, 58 and Greenie, 22–23 and Holzman, 22 and House of David, 31, 51 and limits of performance, 236 and Morris, 69 at NYU, 69, 73–74 and Tannenbaum, 74 and Von Elling, 69 and Weinheimer, 86

Stanford, 90–93, 95–97, 99–100, 102–3, 105–9, 116–18, 121, 123, 124, 142, 180, 190 arrival of Buddy and Priscilla, 106 and Brockett as roommate, 95 like a country club, 90 disenchantments with theater program, 94, 100 and Fletcher, 107–8 and Heffner, 94–96, 100 and journalism, 137, 156 and Kelly, 118–20 living at the Stricklands, 96–97 and meeting Bea Manley, 93 and metaphysical poetry, 73Page 273 → and Stanford Players, 97, 109 and Stegner, 124–25 and Winters, 106, 116, 119–24 Plays produced at By Definition, 107–8 Out of the Rain, 96 Prayer in Galilee, A, 98 Stanislavski, Constantin, 131, 147, 153, 227, 251 Stark, Abe, 26, 47 Stegner, Wallace, 124–25 and what makes history, 125 Works Angle of Repose, 125 Big Rock Candy Mountain, The, 125 Spectator Bird, The, 125 Stein, Gertrude, 8, 108 Steinbeck, John, and Of Mice and Men, 34

Stevens, Wallace, 29, 126 on death as absolute, 133 Strasberg, Lee, 104 Streep, Meryl, 188, 206 Strickland, Edith (Edie), 96–97, 106 Strickland, F. Cowles, 96–98, 140, 142 Subotnick, Morton, 195 Suicide, 2, 119, 127, 138, 166–67, 222, 257–58 Sullivan, Daniel, 241 Sweeney Todd, 241 Swift, Jonathan, 182 Symbolists, 174 Symonds, Robert, 188–92, 230, 253, 255 and an always unspeakable protest, 226 and Christian Science, 191 death of, 192 as Galileo, 89, 189 as Gogo in Godot, 220, 226 as Hamm in Endgame, 191, 248, 250 married to Priscilla, 191 Synge, John Millington and Playboy of the Western World, 91 and The Tinker's Wedding, 151 Tannenbaum, Sidney, 74 Tate, Allen, 123 Taylor, Edward, 123 Tenet, George, 236 Thompson, Francis, and “The Hound of Heaven,” 73 Thoreau, Henry David, 73, 159

Tiegel, David, 21, 38 Tiegel, Rose, 21, 38 Tolstoy, Leo, 51 Tracy, Spencer, 49, 92 Treybal, Robert, 70 Trotsky, Leon, 2, 63 Truax Field (air force), 75 Truman, President Harry S., 143 Trumbo, Dalton, 88 Twain, Mark, 18 Uncles Dave, 21, 38 Jake, 33, 107 Mac, 28, 38, 43–44 Unions, 2, 8, 17–18, 20, 28, 39, 56, 61, 72, 75–76, 78, 82–83, 138, 159, 175, 184, 234 University of Maryland–Baltimore (UMBC) as dean of Arts and Humanities, 44 and KRAKEN in residence, 44 Valentino, 57 Van Druten, John, 147, 158 Van Gundy, Justine, 71, 73 and Patterns for Living, 71 Vietnam, 10, 34, 74 Vilar, Jean, 175, 202 Vogue, 195 Von Elling, Emil, 69 Wagner, Robin, 229, 241, 254 Waldorf, Mary, 167 Wallace, Betty Lou, 81–82

Wallace, Henry, 63, 85, 89 Waller, Fats, and “Ain't Misbehavin,” 40 Walsh, Bill, 236Page 274 → Warren, Governor Earl, and loyalty oaths, 135 Watergate scandal, 14, 139 Weigel, Helene, 202 Weil, Simone, 226 Weill, Kurt, 189 Weinheimer, Jack, 86 Wharton, Edith, and The Age of Innocence, 124 Whitaker, Virgil, 115 Whitehead, Robert, 36 Whitman, Walt, 73, 121 Williams, Tennessee Works Camino Real, 148–49 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 91 Williams, William Carlos, 122 Willson, Antoinette (Toni), 158–59, 164–66 Wilner, Herbert, 161, 166–67, 171, 234–37, 246 and Black Power, 234 an encysted growth, and a vestigial twin, 235 and The Impossible Theater, 171 Works College Days in Earthquake Country, 234 “Quarterback Speaks to His God, The,” 161 Wilson, Edmund, 61 Winters, Shelly, 104 Winters, Yvor, 106, 116, 119–25, 159, 161, 194

and Hart Crane, 119 and his objections as motivation, 122–23 and the New Criticism, 106, 121, 123 and politics, 121 Works Collected Poems, 122 In Defense of Reason, 122 “On Teaching the Young,” 119 Wister, Owen, 164 Wiswell, Oliver, 49 Wolfe, Thomas, and Look Homeward, Angel, 95 Woodward, Kathleen, 11–12, 16–17, 40, 49, 61, 132–33, 169, 238, 246 and Aging and Its Discontents, 133 Woolf, Virginia, and Bloomsbury, 115 Wordsworth, William, 73 Wotman, Edith (Edie), 40 Wyatt, Whitlow, 5 Yacine, Kateb, and Le Cadavre encerclé, 174 Yeats, William Butler, 36, 67, 95, 119, 122, 130, 149, 150, 153, 235 and Abbey Theater, 36, 130, 149 Poems “Second Coming, The,” 14 “Vacillation,” 235 Yiddish, 9, 15, 51–52, 210, 231 theater, and Molly Picon, 17 and Yiddle Mtin Fiddle, 17 Younge, Richard, 20, 58