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The Life in Words

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"Everybody is special. Everybody. Everybody is a hero, a lover, a fool, a villain. Everybody."

We had no theater, we had no audience, but still we acted.

We had a camera for a few months, but never any film. If we had, think of it, what we could have done! We could have filmed each other, we could have made movies. There was not enough time to be all the characters we had inside us. But we tried. It wasn't safe to be outdoors and everyone went out as infrequently as they could. Can you imagine how any one person could stand that? But we were together, and we were more than one person, two people, we could be everyone.

Name a book. Any book, go on. Aw, fuck, it doesn't matter which one, you know why? They were all outlawed. Everything that came before the take-over was declared subversive. You could be killed for a book, a record, even a postcard of a painting.

But there were problems with the heat. Many people were living in houses, flats, without heat and it was a cold winter. People were burning whatever they could. The Party knew that books could be burnt. They simply ripped off the covers and bindings, dropped the pages pell-mell into enormous containers so that all the stories became mixed together. They thought that one page, a page out of context, could do no damage, could not give anyone a new idea, like rebellion, a new feeling, like hope. What did they know, the Party? Nothing.

Those pages, we would read them to each other, we would make them our play for the day. When we ran out of words from the page, we would improvise, play the story out to any conclusion we wanted. One day we recognized the story from one of the pages. It was 'Jude the Obscure.' I remembered one of the lines from my school days: "I am not a man who wants to save himself at the expense of the weaker among us!" Ruth played Jude, I played Sue, and we gave it a happy ending, however improbable.

We remembered speeches, monologues, from drama school, auditions, plays and movies in which we'd performed. Shakespeare's sonnets and Keats' that we had repeated over and over again during our voice and speech classes, learning to perfect our enunciation, our projection. Yes, we took those beautiful words and we used them to learn practical lessons. But that was then. They became, those memorized words, everything for Ruth and me.

Let Shakespeare break your heart. Allow him to serenade you with countless poems of loss. Wait, wait for it. In the final couplet he will provide all comfort you could ever need:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

But don't ever think, even for a moment, that just because you have read the poem you understand it.

You have to say it out loud to feel the power of the language, create the orgastic moan of vowels and the staccato slap of consonants.

But it is not enough just to say it. Sometimes, when you are learning to act, you think that if you just say it a certain way, the meaning will come through. I will say it like I'm angry, you think. I will say it like I'm sad. No. You must find where those words are born, the very impulse that leads to them.

You have to live it! I know.

You must be able to stand in front of the crowd and say yes. Yes, this is not only one life! It is mine, it is yours, ours.

Take my hand.

And we will be, we will be everybody, everyone.

We will be the heroes, the lovers, the fools, the villains.

If you choose to act, you must grow in all compassion. You will learn to love even those who deserve your righteous, earned, hate. You will cultivate a love of anyone, any one, and understand that they are you and you are reflected back in them.

You can not act if you tell yourself it is someone else's story.

Take the words and make them your own.

You must find the voice inside you which echoes theirs.

That is what we did, that was all we had to do.

There was no audience.

There is always an audience.

There are no roses in London today.

But there were roses once.

There shall be roses again.