failure to obey
god's law when the law is known
is failure indeed
I had joined a group of people who were planning to perform a play by Shakespeare entitled King Richard. Although I intended to be one of the actors, I was surprised when the director picked me to play the part of the protagonist himself, King Richard.
When the day of the play arrived, I found myself in one of the theater's dressing rooms. The play was scheduled to begin in about four more hours, and I was beginning to feel frightened because I had not yet memorized my part. Indeed, I had not even read the play. Our group had never conducted any rehearsals (a fact I blamed on the director) and I was not even sure who the other actors were going to be.
I was holding a paperback book which contained the play and whose pages were browned by time. Flipping to the first page, I saw that my character delivered the play's opening statement, which was about twenty lines long. I read three or four lines and began trying to memorize them. Since I still had four hours, I thought perhaps I could yet do some good.
In the first scene, the King was supposed to stand before a medieval-looking city named "Erichthyus." I visualized a picture of the medieval city stretching out before me.
The meaning of the words I was reading seemed obscure. One word in the first lines was "de." Although the sentence containing the word could not make much sense unless the meaning of that word was understood, I doubted that most people in the audience would know what the word "de" meant. Noticing footnotes for some words, I read a few notes.
I recited the first line to myself several times. Although I never spoke the line exactly right, I thought I probably knew it well enough to pass; my recitation did not have to be perfect. Memorizing the lines was taking so long, it was becoming increasingly clear that I simply could not memorize the whole play in time.
When I skipped down to the last three lines in the opening scene, I recognized the words as a famous, Shakespearean quote. Since most people in the audience would be familiar with those lines, I knew I must be able to recite them correctly.
As I memorized, my attention was caught by the small dressing room's wall-paper which had been torn back on the wall right above my head, revealing old wall-paper which had previously adorned the wall. The new wall-paper appeared to have been ripped back on purpose to reveal on the old wall-paper a picture of the heads of a man and a woman, behind which was another small picture of the head of Jesus Christ. Light seemed to fall in long rays over the three heads, creating an attention-catching scene.
My mind, however, was more concentrated on the problem at hand. I still needed to dress for my part in the play. Although I figured I would probably be given a long, kingly robe, I had never even yet seen the guise I was supposed to wear. In the meantime, I doffed the clothes I was wearing, except for a pair of under shorts and a tee shirt. I had a pair of clean blue jeans and a shirt which I planned to don, to be worn under my costume. As I dressed, since the door to the dressing room was open, I wondered if any women in the area might see me undressing. Since we were all actors, their seeing me probably did not matter.
I continued to worry about how I could possibly perform. As I envisioned myself walking out on the stage and speaking the opening lines, I imagined how my voice might seem small, like a child's. I was afraid it would be so painfully obvious that I was acting that some members of the audience might even leave. As I tried to concentrate on how I could effectively play the part, I seemed to improve somewhat in my mind. However, I still was obviously unprepared for the task before me.
Other people who apparently were also in the play entered the room including a strong husky actor (about 30 years old). Recalling some of the story of the play, I remembered that he played a repugnant character who would finally kill my character, the king. However, the death of the king would not be a particularly remorseful event, because the king had a wicked streak in his nature.
Approaching the fellow, I engaged him in talk, thinking he likewise might be unprepared for the play. When I asked him if he were ready, he informed me that he had indeed memorized his entire part. Hearing this news, I was more depressed than ever; I did not know what to do. How could I have let this happen? I remembered I had even had dreams when something like this had occurred – when I had dawdled and waited until the last day to begin preparing for a play. Now it had actually happened. Incredible.
Perhaps someone else could be found to take my place. Indeed, I thought the very same play was being staged by several actors' groups at the same time. I thought that all the groups were actually part of a college class, and that other students had learned the parts to this same play. However, since finding someone to take my place at this late date seemed almost impossible, I abandoned that idea.
In desperation I walked over to the other actor and shamefully admitted that I had not even read the play, much less memorized my part. He looked at me scornfully and said that I was going to have to try my best to act. He mentioned that my part was not very long, because the king (my role) died during the play. Obviously I needed to know about that. We began flipping through my book, from back to front, trying to find the scene where the king died. For page after page the king did not appear. Finally after flipping from the back through probably three fourths of the book, I found the king's part, but the part seemed to be in a scene in which the king had already died, and only his dead spirit was talking. Was such a scene actually in the play?
When we finally found the scene where the king was killed in a sword fight with the other character, I began imagining how I would play the dying king in that scene.
I was definitely encouraged when I saw that the king's role was much shorter than I had originally thought. I now realized the character who killed the king had a much larger role – all the more reason to marvel at how the fellow had memorized his part. I was definitely impressed. I thought that the fellow probably wanted to become a professional actor someday and that he was therefore working extra hard in the college course to further his aims. I somewhat ashamedly reflected that I also would like to be a professional actor. Why had I been so neglectful?
Encouraged by the shortness of my part, I picked up the book and tried to acquire a better idea of the king's role. I still did not understand the plot, and I obviously did not have a feel for the character of the king, the characterization of whom seemed increasingly important to me.
As I leafed through the pages, I noticed the name of one character was "Lord," and I wondered if that character was actually God, or if "Lord" was simply the title of a feudal personage.
Somehow I managed to bend back the pages of my book, and as a result I could not seem to find the opening scene again. Several times I flipped to where I thought the front of the book should be, but each time I only uncovered blank pages. Every time that I flipped further back in the book, instead of finding the opening scene, I would end up in the body of the play.
The task seemed so hopeless anyway. I obviously did not have time. I could not even understand many of the words and I certainly was not going to be able to read the footnotes. I simply did not know what I was going to do.
neglecting the power to create beauty, once seized, is an act of evil
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