Saturday, March 2, 2013

To Doc Sydney Berger

I have lost another mentor this week.  This time, the man who taught me to love Shakespeare.  I wold not be who I am, or where I am today without his support.  So, to him.  I post this.  And for him, I pledge to start doing this again regularly.  Some where, in theatre heaven, he, Lanford, and Jose are all having a laugh together and watching us create the art that they inspire us to make.  

What shall Cordelia do?
Love, and be silent.
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's
More ponderous - Speak. 
Nothing, my lord.
Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.
Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones. 
Alas, You must now be here confined by us.

I would hazard a guess, by looking at us all here and the lives we have made, rippling out towards forever and across the globe that the good that Doc has done will live on forever.
The good of listening to a scared little undergrad, barefoot and wide eyed, babble to him about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  And he listened.  He listened and said: Huh. And how you gonna do that?  Or Are you sure that’s what you want? Genuinely questioning, genuinely wanting his students to fly, but also, genuinely wanting us to know.  And always with a half cocked grin.

Teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and then I lov’d thee

Doc’s most amazing thing is that he taught me how to love.  He taught me to love verse and rhetoric.  To coin words and phrases.  Look for anti-thesis. Build lists. Stop dropping the end of the line.  Don’t be afraid. Count meter. Short line? Fem ending? Alexandrain? Why?  Speak the speech. Use the verse, it’s not prose for god’s sake. No really, stop dropping the end of the line. Don’t question if he’s sleeping or paying attention, which eye is which again? Also, if you drop the end of the line one more time…

Doc taught me, a self proclaimed Shakespeare hater, to love the bard so much that I pursued a graduate degree in Shakespeare and Renaissance Litature in Performance…  (More of a mouthful than a full line of text, I know) He taught me that I don’t hate Shakespeare, I hate bad Shakespeare. He taught me that the beauty of Shakespeare is in the universality of the human moment and the human heart.  He taught me to love in terms of kings, and in queens, in peasants and in fools, in boys dressed as girls dressed as boys… in shipwrecks and in fairies and in pirates and in heartbeats and…  He taught me to love by telling me stories.

Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say 'This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'
So should my papers yellow'd with their age
Be scorn'd like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:    
But were some child of yours alive that time,   
You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.

As a director he taught me that the most important thing you can do for a cast, or a play, or a story is to set the stage for miracles.  But he neglected to tell me that he was a miracle.  His guidance, support, and hope for my life shaped me into the artist and woman I have become and will guide and shape me as I grow.  His courage and belief in me allows me to be the best me that I can be.

In closing, as I often do for closing, I would like to quote a wiser speaker of truth than I:
To Doc Berger.  My teacher, my mentor, my friend:

"Which can say more than this rich praise; that you alone are you?"

He was a man, taken for all in all I shall not look upon his like again.

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