Mar 20, 2022

An Elegy for William Hurt

William McChord Hurt b. March 20, 1950 d. March 13, 2022
By Josh Liveright / filmsforaction.org
An Elegy for William Hurt
Photo from Vanity Fair. L to R: Michael Nyqvist, Cherry Jones, Jean Reno, Allison Janney, William Hurt, Mark Rylance, Christian Camargo, Ben Whishaw, Juliette Rylance, Katie Holmes and Russell Means. A recreation of an old photo from Moscow Arts Theatre.

In 2012 I worked on a low budget indie film called Days and Nights, shot almost entirely at a lake house in Kent, CT. I was the production manager which, at that budget level, means I wore many hats. The producers assembled a stellar cast including Mark Rylance, Katie Holmes, Allison Janney, Cherry Jones, Russell Means, Jean Reno, Michael Nyqvist, Ben Whishaw and William Hurt. In prep, one of the actors, Michael C. Hall, dropped out and, after failing to find another actor of note, it was decided that the director, Christian Camargo, would step into the role. The cast was rounded out by one of the producers (Mark Rylance’s step-daughter), Juliette Rylance, who is married to Camargo. Mark was the first actor cast and the rest came aboard mostly because of his attachment. My two kids also appeared in a scene where they roll William Hurt’s character down a hill into the lake.

We rented rather posh houses for the actors but for some strange reason, it was decided (not by me), that Michael Nyqvist and William Hurt would be roommates. One evening, about a week or two out from shooting, I met them both at the house we chose for them. Nyqvist seemed to take to the place but I noticed there was no instant rapport developing between the two men who had met for the first time right there and then. William, immediately disgruntled by the arrangement, became more frustrated after discovering spotty cell service and simply refused to stay there. One of the details of my job was to always have a plan B and, in my back pocket, I had put a simple cottage in the town of Kent on hold, so I asked William if he’d like to see it. He agreed and we drove, in two cars, a half hour through windy backroads.

When we arrived, the owner of the house, an attractive middle-aged woman, was there to greet us. William was instantly taken by her and I got my first glimpse of his charm. Later, they struck up an affair which, from William’s account, sounded sweet and unencumbered. At that point, I was still the focus of William’s dissatisfaction so when I asked if the cottage would be acceptable, he barked at me, “what’s your name?” I rather boldly and sarcastically replied, “I’m Josh Liveright, the production manager, here to serve your every whim”.  A smile appeared on his face, “well Mr. Liveright, you’ve done well”. It was then I knew we would get along. What I didn’t know is that we would soon become friends.

During the course of the shoot, he all but alienated the other cast members and then got under the skin of the director, Camargo. William’s first relentless crusade was to insist on rehearsing the material. Unfortunately, on most film projects there’s just no time for such a luxury. The second item that rankled him was Camargo’s choice to play the part of Peter (Trigorin). It should be mentioned that the film is loosely based on Chekhov’s play The Seagull. William is at his core a theater person.  He speaks the language of the theater and embodies it heart and soul. He was drawn to the project because the script had a lot of promise (which he later denied in a text exchange). I believe he signed on because of the chance to work opposite Rylance, one of the truly great theater actors. But he was mostly excited to explore Chekhov.

William didn’t like how things were unfolding. He confided in me almost every day that the production lacked professionalism and direction, mostly due to choices made by Camargo and the producers. Things went truly south when he refused to participate in a Vanity Fair photo shoot (he ultimately relented). The filmmakers gradually lost their patience. At one point, I became the liaison between Camargo and William, even mediating direction in scenes scheduled toward the end of the shoot. It was rather ugly and juvenile but it drew William and me closer. We ultimately shared some deeply personal things about each other that I won’t include here. What became evident is how we both spoke the language of the theater. In fact, when I was much younger, pursuing an acting career, I was mostly compared to William Hurt. One evening at dinner, there was a moment, as we sat across from each other, face to face, that the same idea came into both our minds. It was more of a non-verbal acknowledgement but essentially, I think I said something about how looking at him was like looking at myself and he got that squinty eyed grin on his face and said, “well, yeah”.

When William died on Sunday, I received a few texts from people who were aware of our friendship including David Lawson who recently recorded Samuel Beckett’s Fizzles with me. In one exchange in the texts that follow, William gives me advice on how to speak them. One thing I’m proud of is that he was supportive and even admiring of my creative work. In March of 2021, I shared a recording of a play I wrote and performed. It gave him the opportunity to talk about the theater in some depth. I’ve included that exchange as well.

In 2012, shortly after shooting was completed on the film we worked on together, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given three years to live. He survived almost ten. He talks some about this as well. Our previous correspondence prior to 2020 was lost thanks to the settings on my Apple products. However, I was able to copy and paste the texts that remained and want to share some of them with you as a sort of elegy. I wish I had the chance to share more physical space with him but I guess that wasn’t in the cards. Hearing about William’s death didn’t surprise me, I knew it was coming.

I am grateful for our correspondence and especially for his trust in me. I hope you get something out of his stream of consciousness scribblings. Please note that these are only cuttings, I’ve attempted to keep much of the personal details out of it. Here we go...

 

William Hurt Texts: May 4, 2020 to January 29, 2022

 

Josh Liveright (JL)

Thinking of you. Hope you’re okay.

 

William Hurt (WH)

Thanks, Josh.

It’s been a haul.

Character building can’t lose.

 

JL

So true. And it seems everything is a resource, if we so choose. Good to hear from you.

 

WH

U 2, Josh

Are you still involved in making films on any level?

 

JL

Yes, working on getting my screenplay Last Rights made, based on the case of Mumia Abu Jamal. Also developing a feature based on a Barry Gifford short story called American Falls. And just finished first draft of a new screenplay centering around the accident at Three Mile Island. How are you?

 

WH

You’re busy. Good. My situ is too complicated to describe. Eight exciting ( 🙄 ) years of fighting cancer.

Hoping to do one more thing as an actor if I’m lucky enough to make it and also advise a dear friend of mine, a Nez Percé Indian, on a project he’s written a first draft of. And am semi-leading a very small zoom room about acting using Waiting for Godot as a backboard.

Do you know any really modest, really good, really grounded, really independent Directors and/or DPs and/or Art Directors?

I’ve known this guy almost 30 years. He’s a special guy. He’s the great great great Grandnephew of Chief Joseph and he’s got a lot of his Granduncle’s gene and spirit pool.

I keep things very simple lifestyle wise. Haven’t turned on a TV in more than 15 years and the American Media disgusts me mostly. But this little thing (“project” isn’t even the word) is personal, anonymous (humble in the real sense, meaning even saying the word is presumptuous), and could be deeply touching. I work on it not as a production but as like hanging out. Like purging my race’s sins in the company of the living ghost doppelgänger of a True Great One.

I’m just looking for names of maybe a few people who’ve got some skill and left the pretentious shit behind, who like the smell of dirt and simple, unadorned, real honesty in THIS life.

My buddy lives alone with his two daughters (his white wife left them a year ago) on a Res to the east of me. In ‘96 we did a doc together called American Cowboy (he wrote it, I only narrated). The topic of our get-togetherness is race issues across many lines but set in something more accurate to that era than McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

I’m seeing your message as a possible tiny miracle toward finding anyone who might be able to absorb something as unlikely as a roots-up exercise more like a contemplation and small scale private outing into the wilderness among friends who don’t have anything to sell.

Sensitivity allowed to live gently like grass grows where no tourist ever thinks to go.

My friend is made of his ancestor’s stuff. I fell in permanent love with that man when I was 15. That was 30 years before I ever met my friend. Which itself was a very long time ago and I had no idea till recently just how close he is to my hero, Chief Joseph.

 

JL

Of course. I’m feeling the urgency of returning to what’s true and real. The absolute need of collaborative mindset as the pervasive competitive one is destroying everything. A tall order as we seem to navigating through a time where conspiracy and salvation create so many false narratives plunging many of us into various rabbit holes. I write a bit about this in my new essay.

 

WH

These long texts will now stop.

I’m out of the Industry. Long time ago. But am still hobbling along and ....

Was glad to hear from you.

I’ve never in my life sent any artifact of show-n-tell to anyone ever but I did dare break that policy and sent it to the teacher who invited me to audition for a [play] at school in 1963. He’s a man still as bright mentally as any shiny brass button on a clean blue blazer. We’ve never lost contact.

My friend and I only meet on the Res. We are not Industry skunks. We are just friends. We help each other be fathers.

 

JL

I was moved by Nomadland and Chloe Zhao’s direction. There are filmmakers out there with the kind of integrity you seek but seem rare as Hollywood seeks to create a narrative where some of the insidiousness we face is normalized. Time, a documentary by Garrett Bradley moved me.

 

WH

We meet in his remote little home. It’s neat. Spartan to consumer standards, opulently authentic to me.

I read about Nomadland.

 

JL

Seems Kelly Reichardt has an eye for the period and understands digging in deep. First Cow had a simple and profound sensibility.

Both the DPs on Nomadland and First Cow have a terrific eye.

 

WH

I’m looking for grassroots scrappers who can be in room with originals (indigenous) to this land and shut the f... up without cringing

Those are already too famous.

 

JL

Let me think more. I’ll come up with some scrappers.

 

WH

Maybe Reichardt. Dunno.

 

JL

Yes, she did Meek’s Cutoff.

 

WH

Two weeks before 9/11 I closed the door on our life in NY and drove to my Mom’s grave with two boys who’d been wrecked by the Family Courts parasitizing my “fame and moolah” using them as hostages. I put them in a one room school house fifty miles from the nearest town of 2000 people.

 

JL

Would be great to have it be an Indigenous filmmaker though. I was just in an online discussion about Robin Wall Kimmerer’s fine book Braiding Sweetgrass but it was led by white people. About halfway through, a group of Indians took over the discussion and kicked all the whitey’s off. It was profound and magical.

 

WH

It was the only way I could imagine saving their lives.

 

JL

I remember you telling me that story. Still astounded by your courage to do that. It was the best thing to do and I know it was lifesaving.

 

WH

Yes.

I’m hoping for Indigenous.

But as Chief Joseph was enlightened (something strange genetically that conquered gender-ism) so is my friend.

They took a step.

That’s why the whites slaughtered them.

My friend does not see race.

 

JL

Anyone who sees reality doesn’t.

 

WG

He was born beyond it.

He sits.

Well.

Sits and sees.

The quietness inherent can seems dull to the “dotard” (Kim Jong-un’s word for Trump) of consumptionism but is just calm clear clean waters to a beat up guy like me.

He talks too. Lol. Hahaha

 

JL

I recently listened to Wade Davis speak about recent and current events at the 2020 World Ayahuasca Conference. Davis is an anthropologist, ethnobotanist and author whose work has focused on indigenous cultures worldwide. Davis mused that virtually everyone on the globe was pretty much focused on one thing, Covid-19, and posited, “if this doesn't teach us what's happening to our planet, nothing will”. From his lens of hope, and I’m paraphrasing here, he felt it was actually possible we were beginning to appreciate nature's resilience and noticing how we are “a part of it, not apart from it”. Davis went on to describe how three hundred years ago, Descartes pretty much thrust the final dagger into our relationship with the natural world by reframing the concept of a mountain as just a dead pile of rock rather than revering it as a living breathing deity. Therefore, human beings could justify poaching resources from the mountain with no further consequences entering our hungry myopic narrative driven minds.

 

WH

You’re really in the good.

You live right.

 

JL

Did a quick search and stumbled across this.

And this.

Two Indigenous filmmakers who may be tuned in.

 

WH

Whatever is best in Anyone isn’t theirs. The mountain breathes for those who breathe. The best in us is from something else. If we grasp and try to own, we choke its life out of us.

The c-19 thing is a put-up job to switch the social paradigm over to a different format - CBDC.

The new social system blood stream (the version put out by oligarchs) will be the Central Bank Digital Currency. The notion of any kind of sovereignty is being set aside. Not just nation-states but of the notion of sovereign individuality. That’s the shift. It’s because the fear has permeated the collective unconscious and dumbed us back down to primitive reptilian thinking structure. The fear permeating the consensual validation now is that there’s no way to save any human from extinction by its own folly but to double down on folly and blow this pop stand (fuck our mother and leave her behind). It’s due to something that went haywire in the European idea of proportion. “No proportion kept,” as Hamlet says. “Something’s rotten in the State,” alright.

 

JL

My baseline is mental sovereignty is the key to freedom. Especially now.

 

WH

Those two names are cool. But we have to watch out.

I don’t know them. I will stay aware and open up to what may come.

Shaandiin is SW tribes. Sky - doesn’t say.

The tribes have extremely different personalities on some levels.

 

JL

Yes.

Here are more of my musings if you’re interested. Charles Eisenstein is someone who you may dig or already do.

 

WH

The Res is the CTUIR: confederated tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. 

Primarily: 

Umatilla

Walla Walla

Cayuse (language extinct)

But with a very few of the straggling remnants of the very special Nez Percé. The whites went out of their way to annihilate them because of the level of their cultural open mindedness and inclusiveness.

 

JL

Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) was born and raised in Ferndale, Washington.

 

WH

Wow

I just read your stuff on Eisenstein.

And saw the rest.

You’ve been very busy, buddy

Ho-chunk

Wisconsin/Nebraska/Minnesota

Washington is where the one very small, starving group of Nez Percé escapees made it after the rest had been finally cruelly harried and beat at Bear Paw after their long march to try to find peace.

They had, as a family of 600 men/women/children, humiliated the cavalry so badly that the cavalry did to them what the Romans did to the Gauls.

Odd, that Sky was brought up there, as well.

I’ve become more simple.

Not real social.

After the terminal cancer diagnosis and massive surgery, radiation and chemo, I went (still bleeding) back to school to do my Bucket List. (2013 Columbia Comp-Sci and Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and 2016 UCLA Neuroscience and Sociology)

And then

the train in Georgia killed Sarah Jones (2014) in front of my eyes

and then

I got pushed on the street and snapped my femur in Warsaw (2018) (trying to escape Hollywood ensnaring) and then covid/cachexia (lost 50 pounds) in Europe a couple years ago (2019)....

And facing bankruptcy four times while doing all that and making projects best I could ....

After that

I got quieter.

Lol

All the prognoses on me had me dead no later than 2015 (diagnosed in 2012)

Alternative medicine (not covered by insurance) on top of allopathic has been what’s kept me breathing and I’m just about out of money now so ....

I’m trying to hang around a while for my kids.

That’s how I’m doing.

😂

But I was able to film (for the first time in my life since I don’t know cameras), with a Sony A7Siii I bought, a week ago, my friend reading his relative, Chief Joseph’s two legendary speeches. It was just the two of us as the sun set in his quiet little house.

What a giant wheel coming full circle that was.

I don’t know why I did it exactly except to maybe show it someday to a real artist by way of connecting a few separate long-term dots. 

It was a dream. Not “come true,” though, since all dreams are already true

Thanks for the connections, Josh.

Apologies for the gushers.

Have a Whole Day.

Many thanks.

Time now to chant and get this day’s chores rolling

 

JL

Grateful for you. And grateful for this connection. I’ve also mostly moved into a natural setting. 24 acres in the southern Catskills on Lenape land. I enjoy watching moss grow - chop wood, carry water.

 

WH

Congrats on chopping wood and carrying water

Btw, your words are brilliantly good.

Have you ever heard of The Blue Pearl? Even if you don’t know that term, I’d say you’ve seen it.

Bless you, Man

 

JL

I’ve done a lot of entheogens so yeah - pineal gland.

 

WH

Hahahahahahahah

I know you’re well tuned in so can’t say you DON’T know....

But I do hope you DO know....

What you just gave me.

I was just reading in a respected sociology manual how human brains are biggest and I whispered from down here in the bottom of the deep Blue, “ummm ... what about the Big Blue Lady at my side right now?”

 

JL

Kurt Vonnegut said our brains are too big which is source of our problems. Maybe he meant ego.

 

WH

I’ve a smart acquaintance who said part of it grew too fast but left other parts behind.

 

JL

I agree with that! I believe we are 7.9 billion animals walking around with unintegrated brains!

 

WH

Something went askew

Some can reintegrate

 

JL

I’m making the attempt.

 

WH

As a casual observer I’d say you’re doing FANTASTIC

Here's something

Baruch via Albert

 

JL

Absolute freedom! Beautiful. Just what I needed today! And the sun is shining, the wind is blowing and here we are! I just wish this fly would stop buzzing right in my ear... ❤️

 

WH

He must be upset about something. The fly.

 

JL

I think he’s being mischievous.

 

WH

My Indian friend used to hello me stories about the “weyekin” spirit. The image was a fly on a horse’s rump.

They even would paint or tattoo a fly there sometimes.

 

JL

Love that. The fly as the link to the spiritual... makes sense. But what about Jeff Goldblum?

 

WH

The only really good job he ever did.

Watch this.

 

JL

Ahhh sheeple. How many leaps into the narrow ravine of our minds until awakening?

 

WH

HahahahHahHahahahahahahHahaha

It’s FREED!

Then

It ..... GALLOPS away in pure freakin PANIC ...

and ....

seeing its grand opportunity!!! ...

Takes spontaneous but oh so careful aim! And .....

does a

........ LONG  FLYING SOARING SWAN DIVE 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 !!!!!!!  straight back into the SAME ...... damned DITCH! and then !!!....

is INSTANTANEOUSLY JAMMED LOCKED MOTIONLESS in it .... and looks like thinking .... “oh Jesus! Oh God!” ....Hahahhahahaha

Or! ..

perhaps thinking,  “whew!!! Whooo...wh000!  THAT was CLOSE!  Thank GOD!!.... I’m ..

SAFE!!!”

It sees total darkness ...

Soothing ... reassuring ..

black ... 😂

Like, after escaping being yanked and dragged from behind .... “toward ..... WHERE???????! To the abertoir (the slaughterhouse ???!!) ???! NO!!! No!!! PLEASE NO! “

Who KNOWS what it’s thinking but ...

The indication is that it thinks it’s .. “SAFE! !! PHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!” “I’m .......SAFE ...!!!!  I’m oh thank God I’m ...safe!

 AGAIN!!!”

“I’m back in my safe HOLE ..... IN THE ..... DARK ..... GROUND”

😂

So so so funny

 

JL

You just wrote an amazing animated short film! “Safe and Bound”.

 

WH

Safe and Bound!

Lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I sent him a Zoom recording of my play, The Jab, which you can watch here

 

JL

Thought you might get a kick out of watching me in a play that I wrote and performed on Zoom recently.

 

WH

I’ll try to watch soon.

I’ve stopped watching anything except severe docs since 15 years ago and even mostly those since 7 years ago.

Even when we did that film I was off most stuff.

I’m so sick of almost all of it.

But I’ll be happy to watch your lovely face.

 

JL

Speaking of severe docs just finished Exterminate All the Brutes by Raoul Peck.

 

WH

Is the Peck film on Netflix?

 

JL

HBO Max

Peck used a lot of sledgehammers that will ultimately come down on folks’ heads like daisies as the system was set up almost perfectly to accept genocide as part of “human nature”. We can thank Darwin and many other “men of science” for this. Yet I highly recommend this series (4 episodes).

 

WH

I recommend Dr. Sam Bailey on Subscribestar (inexpensive) and, free, Odysee.com

Just finished The Jab.

Lots and lots of good.

Challenging venue isn’t it (Zoom). Which means there’s freedom in it, too. Loved much of the language. Had a hunger to rehearse it.

But it deserved the hunger.

Appetite wildly whetted.

 

JL

Means so much coming from you. It was put together for this event very quickly. I wrote it in two days and we rehearsed it twice. At the time I felt a real urgency. I also held back on the science aspect because I wanted it to feel like a conversation. I agree, there’s much more to do with it. Much more to explore in rehearsal.

 

WH

I think the “other” story, the one about their personal relationship, aside from COVID and morality, is perhaps the dimension that needs fulfilling.

Two day?

Great plays aren’t polemics. They’re about who we are.

It’s about the minute details how we live (like how we pick our nose or hide a fart) AND the “greater moral coliseum”.

And everything in between.

You’ve established a wonderful seed.

Don’t underestimate its potential by clapping yourself on the back for having been rushed to accomplish so much goodness in such a short (adrenal) first jerk jag. Yes, it’s talented. But you have more than just that. We all do. Consideration is the key to depth.

Consideration is what those who have designed the crises that have triggered the primitive global panics have shown. We artists might as well do the same.

We are the ones rocked back on our heels.

Remember A Doll’s House?

Late 1800s. One of the first plays Stanislavski did at MAT [Moscow Arts Theater]

It only took the pols a few brief years to take the beautiful buds of his principle ideas and institutionalize their beauty into cheaper prettiness and packaging. Then he was relegated to a basement. His whole idea had been authentic process. Everyone recognized its wonders right away (second Chekhov production). Then they trapped it and put it on show. He wanted to keep it a studio based process. They pushed him out using people with political agendas.

Two variables in the formula:

Prestige and Money

 

JL

At the end of Peck’s series he says, “It’s not knowledge we lack. It’s the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions.” And I would take it further, after drawing conclusions with awareness, we then require the intention (and courage) to change the way we think about a world we so easily accept. Now of course that’s somewhat philosophical or polemical. What you’re talking about is getting inside of it. Consideration, process. And yes, I was going to mention Chekhov. We talked about this a lot in CT, esp in regards to process and the lack thereof in regards to that piece. You are reminding me of Arthur Miller. I once got to sit down with him for hours and he spoke of the theater in this way. He was deeply disappointed with where it was. That was the early 90’s.

I am grateful to revisit these truisms with you.

Sometimes I’m also grateful I have neither money or prestige!

Consideration. And spelunking for more hot coals. It’s a seed, you’re right.

 

WH

I knew Arthur. He never let up on the real value.

For quite a while now I’ve been separating any of the moral codes from the efforts. Jesus and Albert Camus held linked notions. It wasn’t good-bad. It was healthy-sick.

“Sin,” in Aramaic, meant “do oneself harm”

 

JL

I can really sink my teeth into this. Sin also means to miss the mark.

 

WH

Which is why the particulars of the emotional, psychological, sociological, anthropological and physical relationship between the two (or more) characters always is just as important in the mix of ideological/philosophical/political polemics.

Their personal relationship.

Like, “Robin, how many days is it that we haven’t seen each other to go for a jog or a beer?” Take that and add to it a quintillion other grains of personal gems in the barrel of them that are in the back pocket of every personal relationship, without having to mention them ALL but still having them “there” to THINK OF as the dialectic pours and flows between, which is where every human being is coming from, and then people can RE-LATE.

There’s a lot in the body. A lot lot lot. “How do you get groceries?” “Are they ending your furlough if you can’t prove you’ve been vaxxed?” (PSU has just said no student can go to personal classes without proof of same; it’s against the frickin Constitution without PROOF that it’s safe and it can’t be proven safe unless the companies that make it can be sued if on any time scale the drug is found to be bad for the population but the drug companies are indemnified against law suits so ….. WTF?).

Etc etc etc

A lot lot lot in the body.

A ….. pause …. For example.

Like how long have they known each other, what can they say to each other now that they didn’t/couldn’t say before, asking “why” they couldn’t say it before, being amazed by that and by how much life and survival they missed by not being able to say it before when saying it before would have enriched them so so so much more than anything they’ll have the opportunity to do now that the technology cold blood boa constrictor is patiently waiting for the next forced exhalation to lock in another squeeze before the next inhalation can take place.

Etc etc etc

There’s an immense amount of future life in this egg you conceived in the two quintessentially abbreviated days the boa gave you to express the whole mama-lode you’ve got in your heart and mind.

 

JL

Will be diving back in with all this in mind. The way we communicate with all those quintillion grains is endlessly fascinating. Every moment, beat, has the potential for another synapse opening for curiosity or resistance. The way humans communicate these days often exposes those innate programmed dogma thoughts that are not truly our own… soapbox vitriol comes flying when we close our eyes and ears… And then we’re in the divisive domination mode of being. I want this piece to come back to basic listening and relating through the body, through the heart. What’s the truth? What’s real? As I say to my kids, don’t believe everything you think! What is it you feel, in your body. Eyes up eyes open, with curiosity and discovery. So hard to do, but it takes practice. So yes, these two are flailing through it. There’s a bigger thumb pressing down on the situation that’s not entirely identifiable as their opinions fly but what’s underneath? That idea that they are friends, connected through those details of past shared events and experiences. They are bonded underneath the thumb pressing down. Ultimately what is it that tears people apart. Sin? Missing the mark? Doing oneself harm? It’s NOT about good and bad, right and wrong, it’s more about what path is a healing one. How do we want to shift gears and veer into the path of love?

 

WH

If a dramatist (tragedian or comedian) focuses on character then they’re gonna be okay.

It’s only about character. The senses. We are subjective beings. Everything else is an abstraction. We do have the ability to manifest physical machinery out of abstract ideas but that talent has mostly resulted in destruction because we enjoy feeling powerful. We are cheap about it. We replace Nature with cheap little inventions.

Character is senses. Ideas that spew from organic bodies are then just the hot air they’re made of. People who sit in front of computer screens are just as physical as people sneezing.

 

JL

Yes.

 

WH

Occasionally don’t we shut up talking about it, take a weary pause or collapse our heads on a weary chest for a nap, then wake up and put a hand on the computer to see if it feels alive to us?

We are physical. Not virtual.

 

JL

You are reminding me why my first love is the theater.

 

WH

Theater IS the art.

Not movies.

Movies is one of the art’s parts. But something the progeny don’t mature very quickly. Movies haven’t.

It’s a living art. That’s its thing. Its art is the heart.

Not the noggin.

🤣

Last night I watched two hourlong lectures given by a WONDERFUL intellectual named Jonathan Israel. Oh man this guy is off the charts “cool.”

He gave the two talks I watched at The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies. The first one is titled “Jonathan Israel: How Spinoza was a Revolutionary Thinker” and the second was “Jonathan Israel: The Radical Enlightenment & Jewish Emancipation.”

Tour de force. That guy. Both lectures. Especially the second

 

JL

This is very much what Arthur Miller and I talked about. And my great aunt and I would talk for hours in her London flat… the late Mary Ellis who did all those operettas with Ivor Novello but also had quite the cohort in NYC including David Belasco… she moved to London in 1932 with the touring production of Strange Interlude…

Where did you see the lectures?

 

WH

YT (YouTube)

Nothing that comes out of a flora or fauna is perfect in the packaged term. That’s why so many cashiers say it.

Here’s something interesting.

 

Arizona Atheist Lawmaker Stands Up To Christian Bully

 

Jonathan Israel: How Spinoza Was a Revolutionary Thinker

 

Jonathan Israel: The Radical Enlightenment & Jewish Emancipation

 

JL

Listen to Spinoza lecture first?

 

WH

Yeah

 

JL

I was sorry the video was cut off in the Arizona legislature. But you know, that guy said it all… god made nature is the maybe the single most destructive human concept.

 

WH

God is Nature.

God made Him-Her Self

 

JL

Thou nature art my goddess…

 

WH

Same same

Shiva-Shakti

 

JL

Pachamama

 

WH

The lady’s response to that Christian could’ve less violently victimized and been more Christ-Like

Be child-LIKE

Not child-ISH

 

JL

Agreed

But that guy is the embodiment of settler colonialism

 

WH

I think most European-Americans are pompous in our blood. That’s a big part of what makes us terminally gullible

 

JL

Hahaha I like that!

 

WH

No

I think he’s sick.

Humiliating him in return isn’t going to do anything but make it worse

Egocentricity is a sickness

It’s a “chronically inflamed ego”

Anyone can catch it

 

JL

The story of separation makes us insane which I guess is to say sick

 

WH

Until we in theatre set the righteousness aside we’re not really doing anything.

It means going to school and setting ego aside every day inside the conundrum of competing.

 

JL

I admit to struggling with that and yet I still know it.

 

WH

It’s just field work.

Gardening

“The work shall make you free.” 

The Nazis meant it as the cruelest possible joke insult as they led the Jews to their deaths. The Nazis had no clue what it meant. The Jews knew. And know.

Your two characters have to have a past.

From Hochschild, in The Managed Heart, a sociology book:

“Pg 40

“ ... Ultimately, direct prods to feeling are not based on a deep look into how feeling works, and for this reason Stanislavski advised his actors against them: “On the stage there cannot be, under any circumstances, action which is directed immediately at the arousing of a feeling for its own sake ..... Never seek to be jealous, or to make love, to suffer for its own sake. All such feelings are the result of something that has gone before. Of the thing that goes before you should think as you can. As for the result, it will produce itself.” (From, probably, To the Actor, 1965)

            Stanislavski’s alternative to the direct prodding of feeling is Method acting. Not simply the body, or immediately accessible, feeling, but the entire world of fantasy, of subconscious and semiconscious memory, is conceived as a precious resource.”

Go ground a character you have to head backward. Not forward. What’s behind results in what happens. Always. So creating the behind spills wildly (uncontrolled) into the what’s happening.

To ground

Not go

What’s happening right now is the result of the infinity that already happened and whose next is unexpectedly now.

The more past you understand and then “posit” part as the character’s past “results” in the current event. Which, in theatre, is the grinding millstone of the organic human conflict.

I may still get to act again.

As long as that’s a possibility I can’t mix the metaphors.

I’d be glad to try to learn to polemically but it’s not my 10,000 hours item.

Acting is still my 10K hours

And those go into my constant surprise shaped within that context

 

JL

All that you’re describing seems to layer into itself into one organism. Fully realized. Fully actualized. It’s craft and beyond craft but comes from craft. You’re describing the multi dimensionalism that is the full catastrophe of life.  In art.

 

WH

I am allowed to “be” in that one because it’s the tail end of fifty years of attraction to that venue of expression, one that cannot be pretentious because it knows that adjectives don’t cut that mustard.

The catastrophe is a miracle. This moment is an incredible gift. Truly. Every heartbeat.

 

JL

Yes. Yes. (Last word of Ulysses) Yes.

 

WH

I saw in the really good plays I read and then tried to lamely act in that the writer had been utterly modest. The writer had seen it from inside the aquarium. Not on a flat surface.

Describing it is second hand. Which isn’t useless if it’s used to get to the front of the surf board and hang that Big Ten. The wave break.

Anything good swims in at least three dimensions. Probably at least four.

 

JL

I’ve seen you ride the waves with aplomb and you make it look easy to us landlubbers.

Innate.

 

WH

Well, whatever you saw is how it felt but not how it was presumed. Anything good comes not from what’s presumed but from what’s cast to fate (on a prayer for help).

 

JL

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

And it’s called developing a sense of wonder and looking off the menu for the vastness of each moment as you say.

 

WH

The truth is that, in acting anyway, because of how completely the theatre (the entire metaphor of it - of living participants all jingling like chimes away each in their own ways) which was, if I abandoned all hope (cheap hope, I mean; like hope for attention), a place that left me in a multidimensional seminar.

If I abandoned the insecurity, the gnawing hunger for recognition, in that moment, then all I could hold onto was my own (we all have it) natural curiosity.

Theatre lives in the admission that it does not know. It asks.

I could only go swimming if I jumped. And it took 10,000 hours of frustration to learn to do a simple thing.

Like high diving into a little pool. Or like learning anything about anything. Like learning how a 747 goes up. It’s because air is THICK! But I hadn’t known that, once. So I’d had to go do something that scared me. Flying planes. Which always scared me but always proved that air was thick.

Admitting the fear is the process that makes the path.

Theatre lets me channel a curiosity I would have without it.

People can say what would you have done without it and I say “something else.”

😂

I’m still afraid

But that’s ok

Everyone is

And it’s okay

It’s normal

I like most people

Just … not so much in groups.

If only movies could be smelled it’d be a lot more necessary to make sure they were good at reflecting who/what we ARE

Sometimes I analyze a scene with the question “what’s this smell like?”

There’s nuthin

Either good nor bad

But “thinking” makes it so

It’s literally true

The way that “to be or not to be” should be spoken as the simplest breakdown of what human life is all all all about AND how utterly absurd a dilemma that is for us all BUT

It’s Our Beloved Dilemma

The only and every reason to do a great play is to start asking it what it means and sifting into it to see how to find that meaning.  Even if we do it horribly wrong it’s still a lesson we can roll around like a marble in the corner of our mind’s mouth for a lifetime. Occasionally we can wake up years allayed and go, “oh!!! Wait! Here it is!” And then a single sentence of 25 words or less will unfold like a carefully folded protein inside the iris and we’ll say “ah.”

Oh man

Gotta get back to the books

I’m so far behind in Sociology

Please forgive the verbiage
 

JL

Oh to be in love again!

 

WH

Love the lovable

The search for legitimate freedom from fear and wrong is a lovable love

And it’s a livable lovable

I've been thinking: that ....

To un-know is a verb.

People "under the influence" (anything toxic, which can emit an attractive smell) can un-know themselves (thinking to avoid discomfort). Denying/denial is overused (any word can be).

There are even people (virus types acting like people, like zombie ilk) that can un-know a person from their-selves. 

That creates a gap space in our mind, between the we and the our-self, a patch of fog, in which an outside element can slip its mind and hide.

 

JL

I’ve been using the term unlearning as a precursor to unknowing. This unknowing you’re describing can actually be accessed by paradoxically learning how to soften the rigid filters in head heart and groin (base of spine). I tried to describe this in one of my essays as the three floors of the elevator. And those filters are connected to the default mode network in the brain, the pesky duality maker.

That patch of fog is a beautiful and freeing gray area...

 

WH

But it can be infiltrated.

By a foggier fog )

 

JL

Sounds like my NDE

 

WH

Non Denominational Error?

 

JL

Hahaha! Near Death Exp

 

WH

We need to mete out less noggin dealing time and more be-here-now stuff. Like your hands, if you’re playing a farmer, and some manicured ones - same hands, different cosmetics - if playing a CEO.

 

JL

I had to re-read your text about unknowing a few times... are you referring to the Wendigo spirit?

 

WH

I don’t know that term

 

JL

Wendigo is an Anishinaabe creature that enters humans like a mind virus… maybe even like a hungry ghost… the more it consumes the more it wants. Members of the tribe inhabited by Wendigo spirit were banished, exiled. Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about Wendigo in her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants, a new favorite. In the story, Wendigos were once humans who became sick with incredible hunger… drinking, pedantry, this that same old same old.

I wrote about it here.

 

WH

Sounds right.

All peoples have suffered this.

I’ll try to read this very soon but must now clear some space from so many hours of social media.

I think that lady sees a lot. And you do.

Bientôt

 

JL

I’m recording three of Beckett's Fizzles tomorrow night.

Have you ever spoken them?

 

WH

Nope

They’re great

Have responsible fun

 

JL

Any other advice?

 

WH

Not right now.

Swimming in a vat of alligators.

Only thought is that it depends on Irish dialect. Lilt and tilt. Soft humor, bitter irony. The dialect is key to all his work.

It’s as interesting a fixture among Celtic Irish, and as similar a permanent coping mechanism, as among Yiddish Jews.

Though the Yiddish drink nowhere near as much and are therefore tougher.

“Walking with his father”

He was from a suburb of Dublin. Called …. East gate I think. Or something like that.

 

JL

Finding a rhythm in the musicality of it too.

 

WH

Inhabit it.

Don’t sing it.

It’s all a continual sad and bitter and sweet joke.

Now that I’ve said that I could never do it.

You either say it or do it.

Not both.

Either is good

But never both

 

JL

Himself couldn’t have said it better

 

WH

Teach or do.

Either is hard to get right.

Of the two I thought “do” better.

Now I know better

Teaching is harder and teaching well is much harder, and better for the world, than the other

 

JL

Yes. And you are a maestro.

 

WH

No

Thanks though.

But

A befuddled befuddler on the Roof.

🙏

 

JL

Had fun!

(I sent him the recordings)

As you say, it’s a seed. Going to keep working on these.

 

WH

Fizzles didn’t fizzle out.

 

JL

Start at 18 minutes if you’re interested. Commencement address at Pacifica Graduate University.

 

WH

It’s interesting.

Umm…

What’s the question, please?

 

JL

I was intrigued by his optimism about failure and fissures. Maybe the question is... is this another end of the world moment?

 

WH

In my life I deal with life/death every day. It’s true. And it keeps me busy.

 

JL

I know and I feel this deeply.

 

WH

No worries.

 

JL

Here's a poem I wrote and recorded for the Zoom wedding of a good friend.

 

WH

Yep.

Every atom is liquid energy.

All flow.

Happy Fathers Day, Josh.

 

JL

Thank you. Happy Fathers Day, William.

 

WH

Today is the ninth anniversary of the day I was told I’d be dead in at most three years. Many critical emergencies since.

Very near death five times. Worse - very near slow-death by Pharma.

And a train mowed us down on a pencil thin train trestle over a raging frigid river killing Sarah Jones and badly wounding six others. 7 out of 15.

And femur broken in half on a sidewalk in Poland.

Plus living among the dying who are utterly forgotten by media and mostly spiritually and factually inchoate America.

So …. Those

Slogans are right.

And my face just happens to be shoved in the filth from which grow the lies those truths oversimplify when context is conveniently maneuvered off-frame. Yet they own the fame they make and copyright. It’s not The Who in the frame who sculpts the impact of the slogans. It’s the owners. The proprietors.

And they don’t name themselves.

It’s not “opting out” when the opposition has no option.

 

JL

Do you mind if I share your words with my mother who’s been told she’s near the end and refuses the slow death approach?

 

WH

OF COURSE NOT, YOU BOZO!

Of course not, Josh.

Of course not.

Bless her.

 

JL

Sent. ❤️

 

WH

And bless you, too, ya big lug.

I have a real hard time with emojis so .. I’ll probably write equivalents in another sign language called English

 

JL

Takes one to know one! Bless you William.

 

WH

Well … there are lots of things to know.

Be wary of the impulse to package.

 

JL

I will.

 

WH

It won’t be easy.

 

JL

Some people believe freedom is easy. I don’t

 

WH

You’re credible about that.

No overbearing daddy figure is challenging your veracity out of his bullying ego.

Not me anyway

 

JL

My mother’s response, “is he writing a book?”

 

WH

Aww that’s nice. The dear.

No.  My brain-hand connection isn’t at that level on those terms. Lol. Not yet.

 

JL

Thomas Merton said:

"Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.

The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it."

 

WH

That’s excellent and correct

Thanks

Merton and my step grandfather (though not Catholic) and grandmother (very Catholic but no dustbin) were close. They’re all three buried in Trappist monastery cemeteries. One in KY and two is SC (or NC)?).

Last night the sky was wondrous.

Those skies are rare here anymore.

In Africa and the S Pacific they were very often when I was young. And it was clean.

We soiled the nest.

It was utterly clean.

I saw it.

 

JL

Didn’t take us long to do that. There’s much that I remember too.

 

WH

Yes

 

JL

Watching Until the End of the World 

Directors cut is 5 hours!

Won’t make it through tonight

I saw the commercial release when it came out.

Wonderful soundtrack

 

WH

Ok

Yeah

And it’s supposed to be cool

Well

I don’t think that stuff much these says.

Interesting flick though.

Yeah

Soundtrack

The acting …..?

😂

 

JL

Yep, sorry to say.

 

WH

It was rhetorical

And not in the affirmative.

)))))))

Excuse me gotta go throw out the trash in this hotel in NV where I’m getting chemo

Getting the chemo in NV. Not in the hotel. Lol!!!!!!

A person can’t do much on chemo

 

JL

Of course. Coyotes going crazy here. Sound like children,

Love from the Catskills.

 

WH

Time is but the stream we go a fishing in.

My métier is theatre. It’s my first and last language. language. And when truth is spoken clearly there (in drama) I see it right away and can begin to physically enhance it in many ways. Even as a lowly actor. IF, that is, they rehearse.

 

JL

I love that your first and last language is the theater. It was my first and perhaps I’ll be coming back around. Are there any plays that you’d like to see done at this time? Speaking truth has also come back around…

 

WH

Many

But no one is talking about the Method

The Way

The Tao

They forgot the body

The Terrain

 

JL

True. There are some of us talking. You. Me. Perhaps the people in our circles. And I intend to keep talking. And being.

 

WH

The talking isn’t anywhere near the walking

But Hollywood fed us the addiction to meaningless imagery. It fed the fascination with the image not reflections of the meanings of being. It was run by master prestige pimps who farmed talented prestige prostitution.

How many actually physically unattractive people do you see being included in their paraphernalia? Even (or especially) if they have a true relationship with their own self.

Hollywood tells you the system is working perfectly,

while armed police guard grocery store dumpsters full of food from the hungry,

They won’t tolerate ugly. And so they don’t know what is beautiful in it. They can’t find it. They’re on the run. They run from truth and make it popular. They steal minds. They never get lost in reverie. They’ve no idea what that means. Then they stage a 9/11

Some knew.

Kazan and others knew that rehearsal was key. But they got shoved aside.

It’s gone now. Really gone.

I don’t think about movies anymore. Haven’t seen one in ages that isn’t purest self-consciousness in the most insecure way.

Camargo ruined that movie the moment he decided to act in it.

 

JL

He didn’t understand the material in any real depth

 

WH

There’s no such thing as unifying the two sides of a heterosexual creation.

 

JL

The script had promise, no?

 

WH

Of course it didn’t

Listen

I can’t have this conversation

I fought my fight

So now I have to fight for my life.

I need to study antioxidants

Glutathione is the target this morning

 

JL

Of course.

 

WH

I recently found America America (Kazan) and La Strada (Fellini) again. They both made me feel better. So almost did Pasolini’s Gospel of St. Matthew.

Take a look if you wanna see good movies.

Those actually make a person feel better. They help health.

 

JL

I will. La Strada is dear to me. The other two will be new adventures.

 

WH

The detail and selflessness. The fearlessness. The humility.

The Kazan takes time to get into but just gets better and better. Not perfect. But human.

Deeply wonderful work

Wonderful

Not chintz

I was comforted

As a human being

They heal

Because they care

Glutathione awaits

If you see or know of others on the level of those I mentioned please let me know?

This is one of the most amazing things I’ve been around seven decades to witness.

 

JL

The impossible becomes possible. The science of can and can’t! Wonderful!

I will think about my list of movies and send it to you. And I will be manifesting healing for you in the meantime. 

 

WH

It’s just recognition.

That’s all we can do. But if it’s realized as being enough then it’s more far more than enough.

Btw, character and ensemble: Alain Resnais was one of the very very few who understood what it meant to make those processes an innate part of filmmaking. 

Well

Back to glutathione.

I’m sorry I’m too ill at the moment to focus on anything else.

 

JL

Then only sending healing and love.

I participated in a medicine ceremony Saturday and felt your presence. 

Praying for you.

 

WH

Thanks.

I need it. Thanks.

 

JL

Checking in on you. Thinking of you today.

 

WH

Each a separate path to fresh water.

 

That was the final transmission between us. On some level I knew I wouldn’t hear from him again.

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