Though I Am Estranged From the World

Rehearsals for The Winter’s Tale begin on Monday. I’ve acted in and directed dozens of plays in my life. But it never gets easier. When you have experienced creating real art, the only thing you know for sure about the process is that the thing that makes it real art is quite beyond your own power or control. And that keeps you humble. Sometimes terrified. It’s a wilderness. Terrible, sublime, beautiful. You enter again and again, because there’s nothing quite like being tossed around by the intangible.

Entering the wilderness is a constant theme that spans the entire career of William Shakespeare. From early plays to late plays, from comedies to histories, tragedies to romances, Shakespeare’s characters leave the security of structure for the insecurity of wilderness. Only there, where they are no longer in control, can they work things out for good or ill. The lovers and clowns leave Athens for the fairy-haunted wood. Prince Hal passes through the wilderness of war. Lear loses everything and finds himself naked in a wasteland. Macbeth is too stubborn to enter the wilderness, so Shakespeare brings the wilderness to him. And, of course, in The Winter’s Tale we have to leave the cold castle of Sicilia for the budding pastoral of Bohemia.

A friend of mine who trained with me at Old Globe––or Wudang Mountain as we affectionately call it––wears a tattoo on his forearm that reads In Bocca al Lupo. It’s what Italian actors say to each other before a show. It means “into the mouth of the wolf.”

You’re never ready for it.


The Pinewoods

This morning
two deer
in the pinewoods,
in the five a.m. mist,

in a silky agitation,
went leaping
down into the shadows
of the bog

and together
across the bog
and up the hill
and into the dense trees—

but once,
years ago,
in some kind of rapturous mistake,
the deer did not run away

but walked toward me
and touched my hands—
and I have been, ever since,
separated from my old, comfortable life

of experience and deduction—
I have been, ever since,
exalted—
and even now,

though I am estranged from the world,
I would not go back—
I would not be anywhere else
but stalled in the happiness

of the miracle—
every morning
I stroll out into the fields,
I believe in everything,

I believe in anything,
even if the deer are wild again
I am still standing under the dark trees,
they are still walking toward me.

––Mary Oliver

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