Being Viola

I had a brother.
Well, I still do, but he is not alive and when he was dying of lung cancer at 60, I was frozen in fear of losing him and lost the manual on Preparing Your Brother and Yourself At a Time of Death. I didn’t feel so much his sister, as a distraction to his exit strategy. He died in 2001 – moments before 9/11. I was relieved he wasn’t around to see a plane crash into the twin towers, bodies flying through the air interrupting his fragile mind – after all he had only enough muscle to deal with the pains of his own final days and a shortened life on earth. And then there was his truly perfect life: a wife, 2 sons, grandchildren, his dog, friends, sisters, -a successful artist with his own foundry – Hamline University professor. He was not my twin – being two years older – but time paid no attention to certain details. Today is the eve of the anniversary of the loss of Mike Price and the unbearable thoughts of fun I didn’t have with him, the words not said, getting to know his mind and so much more. After one particularly volatile episode, our mom banished us, as teenagers, to the cellar – told to “work out our problems” meaning I suppose make it acceptable for her peace of mind as the CEO of our household. This strategy didn’t work and we came upstairs silently and it looked like we might have resolved our differences but uh-uh. They were too vast. Our similarities collided with live wire egos, competition for winner of Smartest Sibling was on-going.
It felt like hatred.
But it wasn’t.
It was adoration challenging a healthy mutuality and now I wish him alive and close by, to say “let’s get this right”.
“We should work on that”, he might have said.
We never did.

Writers – playwrights, poets – the ones who’s works plumb our depths – spirits, imaginations, hopes and dreams, anguishes and dreads, a vast world of ideas coming and going morphing into thin air, breaking ground, dissolving barriers, This is theater.
Temporality is theater.
That a play’s dramatic content can be discussed on our terms, some 500 years later, entertains dilemmas and situations we humans ought to have grappled with by now- smoothed over and moved on. The irony of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow being timelessly appropriate is a desperately curious notion. We have, indeed, left the stage, but we get to perform and perform and perform, not until we get it right, as much as spinning forwards and backwards: win, lose, discover, forget, forgive, love and hate. Did we shatter our own dreams or someone else’s? Or was it fated to be so, no matter what? Did Shakespeare truly rediscover his son while writing Twelfth Night? Can magic happen while writing? In thinking things so? In walking backwards in time, can we rewind and change it up?
Questions of human and nature and artifice dance around earth’s playground – fickly. Bumping against – well , who knows what or why certain ideas get knocked around. Every year it changes up.
Tomorrow she’ll be wearing blue.
Shakespeare may not have known.
In the ascent as an artist, Shakespeare’s characters are the ropes I pocket – the constant travel buddies – reassurances in the ups and downs and free falls that define an artists life. Twelfth Night’s Viola is my current companion. She is a twin. She thinks she has lost her brother to a shipwreck. Her cleverness and earnestness catch her a fabulously cute guy, in fact a Duke, despite her disguise as a boy but it’s Viola – the actual girl – he falls in love with (we think) and when her twin brother appears at the end of the play – she gets to have him back as well. And, the gorgeous Olivia, who has fallen for Viola’s disguise, Cesario, gets the twin. Plausible? Really?
Oh, and Feste. Well he’s another post.
I want to disrupt history, step apart from horizontal time and bring Viola to life as a blend of contemporaries and reincarnates come from various places – into Wallace Stevens’ poem, for starters, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”.*
Back to my brother.
Thirteen ways is a broad canvas of possibilities – a closet bulging with potentiality. I understand that Mike Price is not my twin. Viola knows she is not Cesario. Pretending? Are we ok with this? Step into a skirt and you see one way. Trousers, another. Pull on your jeans – your tee shirt, your knitted cap, and where are we bound? Shrink or distort time.
We face where we need to face.

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