Knock knock. Who’s there? Hamlet.

My brother, Ted, with some of the puppets he's made.
My brother, Ted, with some of the puppets he’s made.

Many years ago(okay, ten or so), my brother Ted asked me to write a script for him to perform with his puppets.

So I adapted Hamlet into a five-minute version for him. The script was lost, found, lost again, and now found again, so I’m putting it up here.

My father says it’s terrible, but he hates Shakespeare, and slept through the Lantern Theatre Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing once (which Ted and I both loved), so this can’t be all that bad.  If you read this and it makes you laugh, great. Comments and feedback are all welcome.

If you want to perform this, with or without puppets, go right ahead. Let me know, because that would make me really happy, but please give me credit in writing for creating this adaptation.  Now I have to get back to reading and writing about Walter Lowenfels and Georgia O’Keeffe.

HAMLET IN FIVE MINUTES

OFFSTAGE VOICE:
Knock knock. Who’s there?
(GHOST puppet comes up.)
GHOST:
AWOOOOO!
(GHOST puppet disappears. Hamlet puppet comes up)
HAMLET:
I’m really depressed.
(HORATIO puppet enters)
HORATIO:
Hamlet, there’s a ghost on the balcony! Come see it!
(HORATIO exits)
HAMLET:
Sure, whatever.
(GHOST re-enters)
GHOST:
BOO-YAH!
HAMLET:
OH! Jiminy Christmas, Dad, don’t scare me like that.
GHOST:
HAAAAMMMLEEETTTT, my brother killed me and married your mother. Now he’s king and you’re not. Do something!
HAMLET:
Dad! You’re really upsetting me! Why shouldn’t I just lie around and slob out my trust fund?
GHOST:
Because I’ve got news for you, kid.
OFFSTAGE VOICE:
Knock, knock!
HAMLET:
Who’s there?
OFFSTAGE VOICE:
Fortinbras!
HAMLET:
Fortinbras who?
OFFSTAGE VOICE:
Fortinbras of Norway! I’m amassing soldiers on the border and we want baked Danish for breakfast!
HAMLET:
Great.
GHOST:
Hamlet! Do something with your life!
(GHOST disappears)
HAMLET:
Well, this sucks.
(POLONIUS enters)
POLONIUS:
What is the matter, my lord?
HAMLET:
Leave me alone, I’m trying to think.
POLONIUS:
Oh, tell me all your problems, I’m here for you.
HAMLET:
Really?
POLONIUS:
No.
HAMLET:
You know what? I’m crazy. Hopping mad! Boogedy-Boo! Leave me alone!
POLONIUS:
What are your intentions with my daughter?
HAMLET:
Your daughter?
(POLONIUS exits, OPHELIA appears, she is an adorable bunny rabbit)
OPHELIA:
Hi, Hamlet.
HAMLET:
Hi, Ophie.
OPHELIA:
Whatcha doin’?
HAMLET:
You don’t wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Ophie. A rebel.
OPHELIA:
Just wait till my brother finds out what a head case you are.
(she exits. CLAUDIUS enters)
CLAUDIUS:
Well, well, well, if it isn’t Hamlet. Still crazy and useless?
HAMLET:
If I stopped being crazy and useless, you’d have me killed, right?
CLAUDIUS:
Now, Hamlet, whatever makes you say that?
HAMLET:
Ok, Uncle Claude, I have a joke for you. Knock knock.
CLAUDIUS:
Who’s there?
HAMLET:
Guys that kill their brother, marry their sister in law and make off with the crown.
CLAUDIUS:
I don’t think that joke’s very funny, Hamlet.
HAMLET:
Neither do I.
CLAUDIUS:
Go to your room and stay there till I think of something to do with you!
(exits)
HAMLET:
How about if I go to Mom’s room instead?
(GERTRUDE enters)
GERTRUDE:
Hamlet, baby, why can’t you get along with your uncle and your stepfather?
HAMLET:
Mom. Don’t tell me that you cannot see how there is something completely, intrinsically wrong with that sentence.
GERTRUDE:
You always were a strange boy.
HAMLET:
No I’m not! I am not a strange boy! Look around you, Mom! Everything else is very, very messed up!
(rod puppet pops up of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN)
R&G: (singing)
Oh, we are the boys in chorus, we hope you like our show, we’re really glad to be here, but now it’s time to go!
(R&G disappear)
HAMLET:
You see?
GERTRUDE:
Maybe you need some Ritalin.
HAMLET:
No.
GERT:
Prozac?
HAMLET:
No.
GERT:
Zoloft?
HAMLET:
No!
GERT:
Tofranil? Tegretol? Riseprdal? Ex-Laxx?
HAMLET:
No, no, no, no!
OFFSTAGE VOICE:
I’ll take some Ex-Laxx.
HAMLET:
Who was that?
GERT:
It must be a mouse because there couldn’t possibly be anyone spying on you!
HAMLET:
Ok, well, I’ll just stab the tapestry with my sword, then! Take THAT!
(rod puppet of DEAD POLONIUS appears. Eyes like X’s, tongue hanging out, etc. GERTRUDE exits, replaced by CLAUDIUS)
HAMLET:
So that’s what dead really looks like.
CLAUDIUS:
HAMLET! What did you do this time?
HAMLET:
Oops. My bad.
CLAUDIUS:
Congratulations! You’ve just won an all-expense-paid one-way trip straight to England!
HAMLET:
You know what? If it gets you out of my sight, FINE.
(Exeunt. OPHELIA, still an adorable bunny rabbit, but now a crazy, scary bunny rabbit, appears, singing to the tune of “I Met Him on a Sunday.” GERTRUDE sings backup)
OPHELIA:
I met him on a Sunday.
GERTRUDE:
Oo-oo-oo-oo
OPHELIA:
And his dad got killed on Monday,
GERTRUDE:
Oo-oo-oo-oo
OPHELIA:
Lost his marbles on a Tuesday,
GERTRUDE:
Oo-oo-oo-oo
OPHELIA:
Dissed me off on Wednesday,
GERTRUDE:
Oo-oo-oo-oo
OPHELIA:
Killed my dad on Thursday,
GERTRUDE:
Oo-oo-oo-oo,
OPHELIA:
Disappeared on Friday,
GERTRUDE:
Oo-oo-oo-oo,
OPHELIA:
I said, Bye-bye- Baby…
Doo ron, day ron, day ron, day ron, day, poppa doo ron, day ron, day ron, day ron, day poppa doo, oo-oo-oo-oooo.
Splish splash, I was takin’ a bath, long about a Saturday night, rub a dub, just relaxin’ in the tub, thinkin’ everything was all right…
(OPHELIA exits. HAMLET enters.)
GERTRUDE:
Hamlet! You’re back! Where were you?
HAMLET:
Well, I was going to go to England, but I changed my mind.
GERT:
What happened to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
HAMLET:
Oh, they decided to stay and hang out.
(Rod puppet of ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN, dead Xs for eyes, tongues bugging out, nooses around their necks, pops up briefly, with a riff of “Rule Brittania” on kazoo.)
HAMLET:
Where’s my girlfriend?
GERTRUDE:
Oh, she went for a big swim.
HAMLET:
How big?
GERT:
Six feet under.
HAMLET:
Well, hope she reserves us all a good table and pre-orders the appetizers.
GERT:
I’ll bring the wine!
(GERTRUDE exits. a little skull on a stick pops up.)
SKULL:
Knock, knock.
HAMLET:
Who’s there.
SKULL:
Yorick.
HAMLET:
Yorick who?
SKULL:
Tag, Yor-ick!
(SKULL drops away.)
HAMLET:
I knew him.
(LAERTES pops up, mad as hell)
LAERTES:
HAMLET! I just got here from Paris-
HAMLET:
And boy are your arms tired.
LAERTES:
And everyone I love is dead!
HAMLET:
Boo hoo. Join the club.
LAERTES:
I’m gonna kick your ass!
(LAERTES exits, GERT returns)
HAMLET:
Good.
GERT:
Hamlet, your uncle brought some wine, wasn’t that nice of him? It’s got pearls in it! And it’s mighty tasty too!
HAMLET:
Mom, wait, stop, don’t you know what they say about pearls soaked in wine?
GERT:
No, that’s pearls before- GAK.
(she dies. Disappears.)
HAMLET:
Okay. Well, everyone that’s left I don’t like very much, so this should be easy.
(CLAUDIUS enters)
CLAUDIUS:
Hamlet, I’m betting on Laertes to pulverize you!
HAMLET:
Hey, Uncle Claude, guess what.
CLAUDIUS:
What?
HAMLET:
Never get in a fight with someone crazier than yourself.
CLAUDIUS:
What’s that supposed to mean?
HAMLET:
Look, a flesh-eating vulture.
(CLAUDIUS looks up)
CLAUDIUS:
Where?
(HAMLET head-butts him. CLAUDIUS dies, disappears. LAERTES pops up, holding a sword)
HAMLET:
Yeah, I learned that from Mel Gibson.
LAERTES:
Hey, Hamlet, wanna see my new sword?
HAMLET:
What’s so great about it?
LAERTES:
Well, your uncle gave it to me. It’s got deadly poison all over it. Tag, you’re it!
(whaps him with the sword)
HAMLET:
Oh well, I guess that means I have to kill you RIGHT NOW.
(HAMLET beats LAERTES up until he disappears)
HAMLET:
Ok. Well, I think that about wraps it up.
(HORATIO enters)
HORATIO:
Hey, um, Hamlet, someone’s at the door.
HAMLET:
Can it wait a minute? I’m dying here.
(HAMLET slumps, dead, over the puppet stage. FORTINBRAS enters)
FORTINBRAS:
Knock knock.
HORATIO:
Who’s there?
FORTINBRAS:
Norway.
HORATIO:
Norway who?
FORTINBRAS:
There ain’t Nor Way that Denmark isn’t mine, all mine! Hah hah hah!
HORATIO:
And I alone am escaped to tell thee, “The End.”

END OF PLAY

I also have to add: This play is much, much funnier when Ted performs it. He reads so fast that you can only understand about 60% of the words, but the intention is clear, and the enthusiasm and determination are like a galloping horse toward Horse Heaven. It’s like Andy Kaufman breaking a land speed record.

First prize: Seven Days in Minneapolis

Tiki God on the outdoor deck at Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge, Minneapolis, MN
Not an actual Wendigo.

A weeknight in February is not when you most want to be standing on the side of a road, in the dark, alone, in Minneapolis. Local temperatures were less than a respectable grade point average and nearing a blood alcohol count. For the first time, I opened the compass on my phone and used it for its intended purpose. It might seem strange, but for a playwright, I was in the best place I could possibly  be: on my way to the Theatre Pro Rata play reading series.  How does a cheesefake-eatin’, “yeah-yeah” sayin’, angry young Philly Playwright end up waddling like a penguin through the hip-high snow canals of Minnesota?

producing: Theatre Pro Rata www.theatreprorata.org photo: Charlie Gorrill http://leonardgorrillphoto.smugmug.com/
producing company: Theatre Pro Rata
http://www.theatreprorata.org
photo credit: Charlie Gorrill
http://leonardgorrillphoto.smugmug.com/

Theatre Pro Rata is the company which produced Traveling Light back in 2010, in Layman’s Cemetery, as noted by American Theatre Magazine. To this day, in Minneapolis, it’s known as “that play in the cemetery.”  So, yeah, they know me there. Artistic director Carin Bratlie and I met through an online craft community. We bonded over a shared love of knitting. I stalked her because she was working on a production of Quills, and I was fascinated with her process of building a distressed corset.  Over time, she saw what and how I write, drafts were exchanged, and the rest is full-cemetery history.

That 2010 trip whetted my appetite for the Twin Cities. Vince and I fell in love with the mild July weather. The mosquitoes they complained about didn’t seem like much. The food, architecture, and intelligent small businesses in Uptown were all enough to make the city great on its own, but the people were what really lured us in.

Saint Paul's Cathedral, St. Paul, Minnesota
Cathedral of Saint Paul, St. Paul, Minnesota

One evening we were standing in front of a public map looking for the nearest bus stop.  A woman in a floral print dress walked past us, stopped, came back and asked, “Did you need any help finding something?” My jaw practically hit the ground. I blubbered, “Wh-wh-wh-whaaat?”  I did notice that around her neck was a silver St. Christopher’s medal, so maybe she had a particular need to assist travelers. Maybe I’m jaded and need to look into a softer suit of armor. But, in general, the kindness and politeness of Minnesotans is humbling.

Theatre Pro Rata has a history of creating thought-provoking theater with a high standard of excellence.  They are what I think most people would call a small-budget theater company, but they pack tremendous impact onto the stage. Their mission indicates that they create plays which cause you to think about and discuss them long afterwards. I loved working with them so much that I keep trying to crack the code of “what is a Pro Rata play,” because the work they do is the kind of things I want to write.

The commonalities are that the conflict is specific and immediate, with resonance in the present, even if the play takes place long ago and far away.  The plays they choose seem to be ones that show the best and worst about the human condition, and how these two are often interchangeable.

producing: Theatre Pro Rata www.theatreprorata.org photo: Charlie Gorrill http://leonardgorrillphoto.smugmug.com/
producing company: Theatre Pro Rata
http://www.theatreprorata.org
photo credit: Charlie Gorrill
http://leonardgorrillphoto.smugmug.com/

For example, in their most recent show, Elephant’s Graveyard by George Brant, the joy and dazzle of a circus is contrasted with the simplicity and pragmatism of small-town life. However, the hunger for artifice and desire for spectacle, inextricable from the human condition, fuels but ultimately undoes anything beautiful about either side. Director Amber Bjork placed Brant’s script in a minimalist arena, where the characters, conflict and language are the entire show. Two musicians played tunes created by music director Theo Langason on a platform, echoing the heat and pulse of Tennessee in the summer. One string of lights showed the glitz of the circus tent.  Julia Carlis’ subtle and powerful lighting design caused many people to think, at times, that they saw the actual elephant (never onstage, but certainly felt).  Every other element of this heartbreak was brought in by the performances of the excellent cast and the flawless costumes by Mandi Johnson. By the end of the play I felt like I’d been punched in the sternum, had the breath sucked out of my lungs, and then had taken the front seat of the roller coaster straight down hill; like I’d just fallen in love. This is exactly how theater should make you feel.

producing company: Theatre Pro Rata www.theatreprorata.org photo credit: Charlie Gorrill http://leonardgorrillphoto.smugmug.com/
producing company: Theatre Pro Rata
http://www.theatreprorata.org
photo credit: Charlie Gorrill
http://leonardgorrillphoto.smugmug.com/

Amber took me to the Minnesota Fringe Lottery, which was a huge affirmation of how theater can be done and something FringeArts could stand to learn. In exchange for an application fee of $25, you and your production company receive a lottery number. At an event in a theater space, ping-pong balls containing numbers are drawn, charted, and the entire festival, for all size venues, is selected.

If your number is selected, you pay a production fee, and get “venue rent for five performances, technical and box office staff, a listing in the printed program, a customizable show page on our website, lots of producing training and at least 65 percent of the box office receipts.” Essentially, they do the hard stuff.  You do the fun things that are the real reason you went into making theater in the first place.**

That’s it.  The playing field is level. It’s easier for audiences to find shows and plan their Fringe-watching schedule. The selection process occurred  in a party atmosphere (Brave New Workshop Student Union, with a bar and a popcorn machine), and most companies tentatively titled their shows, “TBA.” That atmosphere of “let’s all get together and make a big experiment” seems to last through the summer into August; supportive and deliberately collaborative. Companies don’t have to compete for audiences, space, or reviewers’ time.  It is true that in some ways it’s more restrictive; your show can not run longer than 60 minutes, your venue and performance times are assigned.  But, if you want to do a site-specific Coriolanus in your local laundromat at dawn, they have an application process for that too. It honors the camaraderie and experimental nature of theater and provides structure to foster growth, while making it easier for audiences to experience.

Table reading of Fox Haven, by Theatre Pro Rata at Theater Nimbus, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Table reading of Fox Haven, by Theatre Pro Rata at Theater Nimbus, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The reading of Fox Haven was extremely helpful for me. Since its reading in last spring’s MFA Playfest, I’ve revised the end and beginning. While the reading last time was a complete success, in this case I was able to hear it with actors closer in age to the characters.  The feedback they gave me was specific and clear, and, as always, working with them was not only productive but also a joy.

Como Park Conservatory, St, Paul, Minnesota  As a cultural haven, Minneapolis is just so seductive. The city manages snow and cold as well as Las Vegas manages heat. Indoor spaces are well-insulated, streets are efficiently cleared, and there’s a strong sense of hygge, the idea of getting together with others and enjoying social time to stave off adversity. This probably contributes to the strength of their cultural scene; they don’t hibernate at home, but go out to see shows, experience museums, conservatories and architecture. Their Uptown district has theaters in similar density to how most cities have Starbucks.  Not only is there audience demand for the arts, but also there’s government and corporate funding.

The mind-blower for me was The Interact Centre.  It’s an arts organization which includes a licensed day program so that people like my brother Ted can attend five days a week and work with artists on the art they need to create most. I know of no other program like this. It would be perfect not only for Ted, but for so many artists to work in. We know that arts and education make cities a destination and promote economic growth by leaps and bounds. Why this isn’t happening like this in more cities, I don’t know.

Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge, Minneapolis, MN
It’s always in the fine print.

Getting back to the Shackleton experience. Needless to say, between, Siri, my compass, and my sketchy sense of direction*,  I quickly found Theater Nimbus, the location which Theatre Pro Rata was using for their production of Elephant’s Graveyard, and joyfully stumbled into the welcoming warmth they provide. On the whole, the entire experience was an intellectual and emotional health spa. Prior to this trip, my seasonal affective disorder was turning me into a slug, but now I don’t feel so cold. My purpose is definitely renewed.

Now if I can do something about the seven pounds I gained from their terrific restaurants, everything will be fine.

————

*All right, I’ll admit it. My secret teenaged mutant ninja x-men power is getting lost. If Magneto ever captures me and demands to know where Professor Xavier is, I will hold up under torture as long as possible, and then gasp, “Fine… you win…  I’ll take you to him…. we wanna get on the turnpike.” Thus providing a distraction long enough for the others to get through makeup and so on.

**I am wrong. I know some people really did go into making theater because they love sweeping aisles between bolted-down theater seats, running sales reports, applying for insurance, or calling cues. Those people should be saluted, honored, and the rest of us should get out of their way.

sometimes, having an autistic brother is funny.

It’s not often enough that you have to say this sentence, “Electric fences don’t work on my brother.” Not because my brother is Iron Man, but simply because he is who he is. By way of explanation, I wrote the following story, and it seemed good enough to share, so enjoy.

IMG_1534
My brother, about 40 years ago.

My brother, Ted, has an official diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder with autistic-like symptoms. He’s relatively high-functioning and his behavior tends to be somewhere between Rain Man and Forrest Gump, with a fair amount of Captain Jack Sparrow and Vincent Price thrown in for good measure.

When Ted was in his 20s, he had all the same daredevil urges that most guys that age do. Fortunately, he wasn’t interested in kegstands and extreme sports (although he did like to ride around on a mountain bike, until he was run off of a road by an asshole aggressive driver and broke his collarbone). He also liked to spend a lot of time walking around in the yard in costumes or his pajamas, talking to himself.

His pajamas at the time consisted of a red V-neck giant t-shirt that (thank God) came down to his knees. I got used to it. Looking back I realize that it may have seemed odd to others.  At the time, he was over six feet tall, blond, and built like your basic frat boy. but he would wander around the yard scheming about his imagined future career as a late-night horror movie host.

My father had a swimming pool built sometime around 1991 or so. We now call it Lake Mistake. Ted would spend his afternoons by the pool in his concept of a pirate costume with all of his stuffed animals and his Playmobil pirate ship set (which he acquired when he was about six or seven and in which he didn’t lose interest for another 20 years or so). His pirates would do battle and then he took a wooden plank, weighted it with bricks at one end of the pool, and made all of the stuffed animals walk the plank to meet their watery graves.

We were finding teeny tiny pirate accessories in the pool filter system for years. The stuffed animals never quite dried out.

Now that I think about it, Ted went through a period where he built a wooden raft in the barn out of whatever scrap wood he could find, and he and his teddy bear would set sail on Ridley Creek (which is about 2′ deep at the most near our house). The raft was about 3’x4′, had a mast and sail, weighed a ton and was as seaworthy as a cinderblock, but he kept dragging it down to the creek and back, along with his teddy bear, Captain Junior Foozergraph Bear, who also wore a pirate costume, and who bore many knife wounds from various steak-knife skirmishes with the other stuffed animals. Between the old rusty nails and the questionable cleanliness of Ridley Creek, the whole thing was a massive testament to hepatitis and tetanus, but somehow Ted survived. He did get really sick from playing in the creek too much, but he managed to sleep it off somehow.

as a result of the sickness he got from too much creek swimming, he tried to launch his raft in the swimming pool once. I don’t know how he got it out, but he never did it again. He and my mother managed to reach a compromise that the raft could be next to the pool and he could imagine sailing it across the ocean more enjoyably than actually trying to float it in the pool.

so, for a couple of years, we had this treacherous pallet of scrap lumber and found nails sitting next to the swimming pool, along with the chaise lounges and chairs.
“what’s that?”
“oh, that’s Ted’s pirate ship.”

I’m totally digressing away from the point.

IMG_1584
My brother, last month.

We had a golden retriever named Chowder (my family’s never been good with pet naming), who was completely nuts, a jumping, barking, running tornado of blond hair and love. My parents installed an invisible electric fence to keep him from running up to a particular house about a mile away where there were two golden retrievers, where, of course, he would fight with the made dog and have sex with the female dog. he was a four-legged viking (There is no such thing as a story about my family that stays on one tangent for long. It just doesn’t work). Chowder managed to figure out that if he made a beeline from the front porch to the furthest downhill corner of the yard, he could build up enough speed that he could zip across the fence with little to no ill effect. Either that, or his dog brain just said, “GO! GO! GO!” and he was going so fast that he didn’t even realize he was in the danger zone until he was out of it. The invisible fence people kept telling us to crank the signal higher and higher, and we said that the electric shock was now high enough to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, but it wasn’t stopping Chowder when he put his mind to it.

So, one day, my boyfriend Dave and I were at the house wandering around the yard, as was Ted, and of course he was in his red V-neck t-shirt, covered in food and ink stains. Thank God Dave also had an autistic brother, so he understood the behaviors pretty well.

TED: Have you tried out the electric fence yet?
ME: What do you mean, ‘tried out’?
TED: Have you walked across it while wearing the dog’s collar?
ME: No. Have you?
TED: Huhhuhhuhhuh…
ME: You did, didn’t you?
TED: Maaaybe.
ME: What does it feel like?
TED: Like Frankenstein being brought to life!

Yes, my brother took a dog’s collar with an electrical box with two metal prongs sticking out of it on his neck, lined up the prongs on his neck, and walked across an electrical fence cranked up to its highest setting. For Science. you know. as you do. I’m kind of surprised it didn’t seriously hurt him, but I’m also kind of not surprised.

Anyway. A few minutes later, the dog decided to take a run from the front porch to the far downhill corner of the yard, again, and of course he made it across the fence and off to someone else’s yard. We ran after him, and back then Ted was a really fast runner, so he managed to make it across the yard, the bridge over the creek, across the street, and into a neighboring yard, where he grabbed the dog and dragged him back. We caught up with him about ten feet away from the other side of the electric fence.

Now that the dog was moving at a normal pace, he refused to cross the invisible fence. The collar makes a warning sound, a high-pitched beep, when it gets in close proximity to the fence, so the dog has some warning before it gets zapped. The collar was beeping, so we took the collar off of Chowder and hung onto his indoor collar to see if he would let us drag him across the line that way. Nothing doing. Chowder was a big dog, and he settled his full weight down and would not budge. Finally Dave picked up the dog and carried him across the line. Dave was not a big guy, and the sight of him carrying a giant yellow dog half his size was hilarious.

It was so intoxicatingly funny that I completely forgot that I was holding the collar, by the box, with the two prongs stuck between my fingers.

The image that flashed through my mind was a giant gold and silver rattlesnake biting my hand off. I screamed a high C bloody murder and threw the collar as far as my arm would flail. I also probably levitated about four feet off the ground. Dave dropped the dog, who went back to his usual routine of jumping up and down and barking and rolling in the grass. We managed to get the collar back on the dog, and the adrenaline rush made me completely useless for about the next four hours.

So, in the great scheme of things, I will never know which is the biologically superior being, my brother or me, but I’m pretty sure it’s him.

And, SCENE.

I love my brother.

Ted Harris at Rose Tree Park.
Ted Harris at Rose Tree Park.

My brother, Ted, is part of The State Street Miracles, a singing group for people with developmental disabilities in Delaware County, PA.  Earlier tonight, they performed as part of the Delaware County Summer Festival in Rose Tree Park.

I’m sorry I didn’t get their performance of Leiber and Stoller’s “Houn’ Dog,” which included some great Preseleyesque dance moves on the part of some of the Miracles.  But, I did get some footage of a couple of their songs.

The last time I had to do anything resembling performing in front of a room full of people, I had to read a piece I’d written for my Solo Performance class.  I had to read the script in front of twelve supportive classmates and one supportive teacher. I was so nervous I thought my uterus was gonna fall out.

This should give you a bit of an idea of how proud as punch I am of my baby brother, who sang in front of hundreds of strangers. The State Street Miracles are a pretty darn good group.

Now, if I can just get Ted to eat spinach salads without covering himself in salad dressing, it’ll be a great week.

the trickle-down of medicare spending cuts

Hey, guess what, guess what?

Today I was going to post more of the beautiful photos which Kyle Cassidy took for us, photos not only showing off the beauty of Mount Moriah Cemetery, but also the beauty of actors Kyra Baker, Doug Greene and Bob Stineman. Oh, your Monday could have been full of a visual cornucopia of symbolism debating the struggle between life, death, fecundity, sterility, society vs. chaos, Oh, the visual feast for your senses. You would have transcended your blue Monday and felt like you were in Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil, but more sexy and British.

In fact, today I was also going to take my hastily scribbled notes and start work on a new play, about hoarding and alternate dimensions. But you know what? Nope. Not today.

Today, my brother’s caregiver is running late. This is a trend with him. If caregivers for people with special needs were paid a living wage, then it would be worth their time to arrive on time. But no, today he’ll arrive “sometime late this afternoon,” and we really have no idea when we’ll see him. So, instead, my brother Ted and I are taking this opportunity to go clean my house.

Who could resist this face?
Who could resist this face?

Ted can’t go without productive activity for about 15 minutes at a shot. When he gets bored, lonely, and feels like things are meaningless, he’ll wander around town talking too loudly to everyone he meets and demanding that they back his next production of the all-puppet Citizen Kane or something. which, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad idea. in fact, some days I’d like to print up a whole bunch of T-shirts saying “My Caregiver Called Out Today, Now You Get To Entertain me,” find every single special needs person I know, get them all hopped up on M&Ms and Red Bull, and let them wander singing all over the Capitol building until someone steps up funding for people with mental disabilities, so they can have structured care and meaningful activity.

But, obviously, I must be nuts to think such a thing might be a good idea. Better that mentally disabled people should just be heavily medicated and left to watch tv all day, right?

Thanks, Harrisburg!

P.S. Ted says, “Oh my God. I think that’s gonna start some shit. You should post that.”