Backstage Writers – Think Hope Do


Postmodern Challenges – Defining Impact

Let’s Bring Back Thou

Many languages have a singular and plural form of “you.” English is no exception, although many foreign speakers of English are unfamiliar with our beloved “thou”.  Many non-natives believe “you” is the singular, or familiar, form. We Anglophones get accused of being a bit fresh with the rest of the world when we are, in fact, the greatest of stiffs, using formal address with everyone except God.

I vote we bring back “thou” to give ourselves a cozy way of addressing another person, a special person for whom we want to distinguish closeness, trust, and complicity. We could maintain our global stuffiness and reserve this familiar form for highly select, specific circumstances. Just think of the power we could load into this one little word. I suggest you try it.

Thou. Let it roll off your tongue and hang in the air. It’ll take some getting used to. I can only imagine how I’d feel, someone saying it to me in one of those brief moments of tension. I’d turn to leave. I’d feel his hand on my shoulder. He’d say, “Whither goest thou?” I’d shiver with that rush of exhilaration only a loaded word can produce.

Thou. Sigh. He thoued me. Read the rest of this entry »

Is She My Husband?

Madame Mauser wound up at Colette’s table when they rearranged the dining rooms.  She asked us our names then she scrawled them into a notebook. Sweet idea, I thought, an active attempt to get to know her dining partners. The fact that she repeated the question two or three times didn’t strike me. I thought she was practicing. On the fourth and fifth times, the other residents started grousing.

“Don’t answer her!” one woman yelled.

“Incredible! She can’t leave anyone alone!” Read the rest of this entry »

Madame Ziefre has four children

“Can you help me ?”  the old woman asks. She’s waiting at the elevator, leaning on her special walker. It is not obvious what kind of help she needs. “I want to go to my room. I have four children.”

As she seems greatly distressed, I agree to walk her to her room. Praise be to all higher powers, she knows where it is. Mystery reigns on arrival, however. The safety bar on her bed is up. How can this be?

“I want to lie down,” she says. I’m thinking a safety bar cannot be that complicated to undo. I try pulling the whole unit out. It doesn’t budge.  I look for a lever, knob, latch, catch.  I tug on the whole thing again. No luck.  I try sliding the main bar, nothing gives.

“I have four children!” the woman wails.

I can’t imagine how this fact could be so upsetting to her.  But what can I say? I take the disbelief angle. “Four, you say?”

“Yes, four!”

“How did you get out of bed?”  I ask.

She looks perplexed then wails again. “I moved here to have no worries!”

“Well, I am a bit stuck on this bar. I’m terribly sorry.”

“Four children!”

“I see.”

“There’s never anyone to help me.” She starts crying and I feel like a mechanical zero, not even capable of putting an old woman to bed.

“Four children,” she says. “And not one of them comes to see me.”

A Postmodern Question

Why do we iron?

There is a certain hypnotic pleasure to the act. One or two gentle strokes, the ugly crease is gone, and you have straight, smooth cloth. We need this smoothness for some reason. Why? What do we get out of this repetitive, seemingly useless act? If every time I ironed, one starving child got fed, I’d iron every day. Imagine the sense of purpose we’d feel if we could iron out hunger, disease, inequality. We’d iron for peace. We’d iron to protect the ozone layer. Read the rest of this entry »

Why I Go Back

Colette wonders why I keep coming back.

“You make me laugh,” I say.

“Don’t let me be selfish. Tell me about you,” she says.

Somehow we get started. I speak loudly and distinctly and choose my words carefully. My accent leads to misunderstandings. She soon takes over the story-telling.

Colette says she’s looking for work. I wonder why. She’s 93 and well-worn by the kilometers she’s put on her feet. She’s spent years walking the art galleries of Paris, visiting artists in their studios. She’s written volumes about these talented individuals she’s admired and cherished so selflessly.

“Are you bored?” I ask. I’d be bored living in a home full of people too deaf and confused for conversation, a sterile-looking place with a revolving door staff and only one or two employees who take time to listen. Read the rest of this entry »

You have to touch Gilles

You have to touch Gilles to talk to him. You put your hand on his arm, your mouth right up to his ear, and you stay there. Gilles needs you close. He knows your voice, your perfume, how your hand feels. He knows if you’re the big, rough, warm hand or the cool hand with long, thin fingers, the weightless hand that feels lost when he covers it with his own. Gilles knows where you fit in, and he’s happy to single you out in this world of voices, perfumes, and hands. Read the rest of this entry »

The Yellow Man

I had to go back to see the money people at the French unemployment office. It was a balmy spring day, and I found myself waiting outside in a long line of blank-faced chomeurs. The yellow man next to me decided to grace me with his conversation. “What are you here for?” he asked. Read the rest of this entry »

Moving Colette

Colette has taught me to appreciate small things. I’m not talking about rose petals and ladybugs. We all need to slow down and put our senses to use. Get a whiff of that daffodil. Listen to the girl next door struggle with her violin. When you’re 93, you can’t hear the girl next door and you don’t get out into the garden unless someone comes to visit on a nice day.

I’m talking about pleasure in something neither beautiful nor inspirational. Read the rest of this entry »

At last

What can be said about time spent second guessing software? It’s somebody else’s idea about what is simple, clear, unmistakeably obvious, and, in the end,  the universal rule: doubt everything and start over prevails. One should also not forget passwords as they are being created. Post-its are useful items and should be used in dire moments like these.

Go out and hug an old person for me please.

Nothing is set in stone – Changes as they happen on Center Stage

-I’m not sitting here, Fran!

-Oh Tod.

-Don’t start that, Fran.

-He did say, “Center Stage.”

-Why us?

-We’re props, Tod.

-Why’d he choose us, Fran? We’re not the only Americans. We weren’t first in line. Is it my weight? Is it your-

-He looked so pleased to put us here.

-And so we’re just going to sit here ‘cause “Monsieur” looked pleased? Are you nuts, Fran?

-Oh, Tod. You wanted something contemporary… You like being on stage.

-I can’t even talk to you.

-Don’t touch them!

-There’s got to be a back door. Don’t want to step over your “Monsieur”. Why’s he standing guard like that?

-Tod, you never touch the curtains in a theatre.

-Why the hell not? Let me guess, because theatre is like life? Is that it, Fran? You don’t turn your back on anybody, and you don’t touch his curtains? You’re pathetic, Fran!

-Sit down, Tod.

-I don’t like that tone, Fran.

-What tone?

-That sweet little voice of yours! I hate it when you get all nice. I know what you’re thinking.

-If you don’t want to-

-Stop whispering, Fran!

-If you don’t want to be part of the spectacle, sit down and try to act-

-Act how?

-Now is not the time.

-Come on, Fran, how should I act?

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