April 13, 2010
If Sam is the Urban Matador, I am the Suburban Ambulator. I walk everywhere, great distances, Obie trotting ahead or behind. Spiky yellow grass eventually gives way to green, masking the everywhere litter. The trash lining the roads creek beds storefronts is the detritus of vice — Coors Michelob Camel Winston Chick Fil-A Walmart McDonalds Jamisons Budweiser Sonic Colt, plastic bags hanging from trees like limp ornaments, old tires and discarded clothing tumbling down to ravines. But then I turn off of Winchester and am walking along Quince, along Stout, along McVey, and the trees rise out of the swamp and the frogs croak and the grass grows long, and I am back Before People, the sound of the highway only an echo. Swamp gives way to pastures, horses, long split-rail fences, which in turn gives way to more forest, wider trees, higher ground. And then I am at St. George's, six miles from my small brick'd litter'd cul-de-sac'd Memphis neighborhood. I stop walking and my legs pulse, muscles mistakenly firing, feet sock-burned and sore. Obie's tongue hangs out the side of his mouth and he lies down in the shade of Mrs. Apperson's cottonwood, glancing this way and that. And I walk into the church, with its carpeted floors and green walls, for rehearsal.
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The school show today is full of students from Memphis Central. They stand and they shout and they laugh when Caesar dies and we egg them on, dare them to participate more and more and more, because this is a kind of Acting Out that demands Listening. There are few side conversations and few who sleep. But there are many standing and yelling "Liberty!" and "Read the will!" and "Freedom!" and cackling when Cassius draws her broadsword, but then gasping when she plunges it into her own guts. This tragedy is comedy to these teenagers, but they are active listeners to the text, and they understand the story, and they have an experience they will remember. Which, in my opinion, makes it all worth it.
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It is like leaving camp when we all say goodbye. These are strong, smart, intelligent, wonderful women. If I had to do the show one more time, I'd stab my eyes out, but I will miss these people, this close-knit sisterhood we have created. We have a common language now, a way of being, and its suspension is bittersweet.