Yes, I have returned, gentle reader. Although I have been languishing in a Louisiana swamp for the last ten months, I have returned home to Cal Shakes for some dramaturgical high jinks. After all, nobody wants to stay in New Orleans during the summer anyway: too hot. And who in their right mind wouldn't want to miss the first two and half months of hurricane season? So, coming to Berkeley/Orinda to dramaturg An Ideal Husband, Uncle Vanya, give Grove Talks, and write the dramaturgy pages in the programs for the season provided the promise of a very lovely escape. It’s good to be home.
It took me four days to drive from New Orleans to Berkeley. I drove through it all: thunder, lightening, pouring rain, hail, three tornado warnings, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and one small-town, Louisiana sheriff with a Napoleon complex and a sneaky-a** speed trap. I hate him. I mean I really, really hate him. A pox upon him, gentle reader.
My car was entirely loaded down with all the necessary items for a summer of dramaturgy fun for Cal Shakes. The inventory goes like this:
Shakespeare’s Collected Works
Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare
Marjorie Garber’s Shakespeare After All
110 other books for research and writing purposes
2 boxes of paper
10 research notebooks
2 file boxes
4 research journals
3 suitcases of clothes for that unpredictable NorCal weather
4 coats of assorted thickness and length for unpredictable tech week weather at the Bruns
2 pairs of gloves
1 hip scarf, veil, and zills (don’t ask)
1 yoga mat
2 sets of sheets
2 sets of towels
5 pillows (I can’t sleep unless my bed looks like a Turkish bordello)
2 boxes of kitchen stuff
1 bag of cleaning supplies (cleanliness truly is next to Godliness)
1 cat (my trusty Tallulah) in her kitty carrier
1 bottle of kitty Valium for the road trip. (Technically, she takes the pills, but let’s face it, they’re really for me.)
3 Cal Shakes nametags
21 shades of lipstick
32 pairs of shoes
That’s right, I said it: 32 pairs of shoes for a 12-week stay in California. And let me tell you, it took forever to narrow it down to 32. I debated. I agonized. I packed and repacked. I couldn’t bring all the shoes, but how to choose the small fraction that would travel with me to dramaturg at Cal Shakes? It was awful. And I may say, since I have been here now for 2 weeks, I dearly miss some of those shoe-friends I left behind in New Orleans. My feet weep for them. How could I have left my pointy-toed, vibrant green, straw-and-faux-gator high heels in New Orleans? Why did I leave behind my strappy, red, patent leather Isaac Mizrahi 4-inch pumps? I REALLY wanted them yesterday, and they weren’t there. What if they are blown away by a storm and I never see them again? How will I go on? It’s too awful to contemplate. I miss them more than the last three men I dated--I don’t miss those guys at all. Pining for my missing shoes for 12 weeks, however, may just kill me.
The rest of the astonishingly huge laundry list aside, why, you may ask, do I need 32 pairs of shoes to dramaturg at Cal Shakes? I maintain that it is entirely necessary.
There are those shockingly ill-informed individuals who say it is an illness--an addiction, if you must put a label on it. If so, I have no intention of getting well. I am the Imelda Marcos of Dramaturgy.
Jon Moscone actually used my shoe obsession as an example in Ideal Husband rehearsals this week. He was explaining to Sarah Nealis how it was possible for her character (Mabel Chiltern) to be in a serious conversation with her handsome boyfriend (Lord Goring, played by Elijah Alexander) and suddenly be completely distracted from him by a diamond brooch on the floor behind a divan. Jon told her, “It’s like our own Laura Hope. She’s one of the most serious people I know. But if she’s talking to you and sees a pair of shoes she likes, forget it. It’s over. She’ll forget all about you and the conversation because it’s all about the shoes. She immediately loses IQ points and it’s instantaneous dumb blonde. So, these things do happen.”
What could I say? I cannot object when it’s true. Jon knows me too well. And he’s not the only one. I looked over, and my dear friend L. Peter Callender was silently laughing so hard into his script that he had tears in his eyes. Elijah was giving me that smirk of his--he just doesn’t get it. Poor man, I pity him. But Peter gets it. He knows about the shoe thing. He’s wise enough never to question me about it, and he doesn’t judge. He also knows it took two hours to unload my car when I got here, probably due to the shoes. Like a good friend should, he accepts my shoes and me just as we are. What are friends for?
Anyway, the example worked. Sarah completely understood the point Jon was making, and the scene is really great. I wonder how many pairs of shoes she has? I mean, she really seemed to understand …
You know who else would understand? Oscar Wilde. He probably wouldn’t want any dramaturg working on one of his plays that needed less than 32 pairs of shoes to get the job done. Oscar was into Aestheticism. He believed in fashion decadence. After all, Aubrey Beardsley was his illustrator. How much more stylish can you get? Oscar was a dandy. He believed that beauty was entirely necessary and as a result, life should imitate art, not the other way around. He loved fashion, and the more outrageous it was, the better. If you read Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde, you will understand what I mean. You don’t even have to read the whole book (though you should, gentle reader), just look at the pictures. Those photos provide a veritable fashion spread of Oscar in all his glory. There he is in all his fashion-fabulousness: in short velvet pants and patent-leather ballet slippers, in a fur coat, in a white linen suit and panama hat worthy of Tennessee Williams’ “Big Daddy,” or in a silk smoking jacket reclining on a divan covered in Persian rugs and bear skins, in a tuxedo, in a Dracula-esque cape, a natty pin-stripe suit and bowler hat, and finally, in drag as Salomé (for his play by the same name), bowing in front of the severed head of John the Baptist while wearing dangly earrings and a long, flowing wig. Oh Oscar, how I love you! Would that we had lived during the same time period. He would have loved my beautiful straw and faux croc, vibrant green, pointy-toed pumps I so foolishly left back in New Orleans. He would not have let me leave the house without them. We would have been soul mates, Oscar and I. We both like pretty men and pretty shoes. We could have gone shoe shopping together! Viva Oscar!
And another thing, Oscar would totally have understood my motto: Will Dramaturg for Shoes.
Till later, gentle reader,
I am ever your,
Dr. Laura, Resident Dramaturg and Shoe Aficionado