presented by GEORGE W. GEORGE
in association with MICHAEL WHITE
director of photography JERI SOPANEN
production designer DAVID MITCHELL
editor SUZANNE BARON
sound JEAN-CLAUDE LAUREUX
music ALLEN SHAWN
produced by GEORGE W. GEORGE
screenplay by WALLACE SHAWN
directed by LOUIS MALLE
with JEAN LENAUER: waiter
ROY BUTLER: bartender
[We see Wally walking along the streets in a big city; we hear street sounds. Wally has a blank expression. We hear his voice commenting on the action, as a narrator would. This narrating voice will be labeled "WALLY'S NARRATION" to distinguish it from Wally's actual words within the action of the story.]
WALLY'S NARRATION: The life of a playwright is tough. It's not easy, as some people seem to think. You work hard writing plays, and nobody puts them on! You take up other lines of work to try to make a living...I became an actor...and people don't hire you! So you just spend your days doing the errands of your trade. Today I had to be up by ten in the morning to make some important phone calls. Then I'd gone to the stationery store to buy envelopes. Then to the xerox shop: there were dozens of things to do. By five o'clock I'd finally made it to the post office and mailed off several copies of my plays, meanwhile checking constantly with my answering service to see if my agent had called with any acting work. In the morning, the mailbox had just been stuffed with bills! What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to pay them? After all I was already doing my best! I've lived in this city all my life. I grew up on the upper east side, and when I was ten years old I was rich! I was an aristocrat, riding around in taxis, surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and music. Now I'm thirty-six, and all I think about is money! [Change of scene: in the subway. A train pulls in; Wally gets in and we see him riding, standing against the door.] It was now seven o'clock and I would have liked nothing better than to go home and have my girlfriend Debby cook me a nice delicious dinner. But for the last several years our financial circumstances have forced Debby to work three nights a week as a waitress. After all, somebody had to bring in a little money! So I was on my own. But the worse thing of all was that I had been trapped by an odd series of circumstances into agreeing to have dinner with a man I'd been avoiding literally for years. His name was André Gregory. At one time he'd been a very close friend of mine, as well as my most valued colleague in the theater. In fact, he was the man who had first discovered me, and put one of my plays on the professional stage. When I had know André, he'd been at the height of his career as a theater director. The amazing work he did with his company, the Manhattan Project, had just stunned audiences, throughout the world! [Change of scene: Wally is again walking.] But then something had happened to André. He'd dropped out of the theater. He'd sort of disappeared! For months at a time his family seemed only to know that he was traveling in some odd place, like Tibet, which was really weird, because he loved his wife and children. He never used to like to leave home at all! Or else you'd hear that someone had met him at a party and he'd been telling people that he'd talked with trees, or something like that? Obviously something terrible had happened to André. [Wally is now approaching the entrance to a restaurant. We hear piano music, the easy kind that is played as background music. Wally puts on a tie.] The whole idea of meeting him made me very nervous. I mean, I really wasn't up for that sort of thing. I had problems of my own! I mean, I couldn't help André! Was I supposed to be a doctor, or what?! [He walks in and checks his coat.]
WALLY: [To the hat-check girl:] Hello.
HAT-CHECK GIRL: Hello. [Wally checks his coat.]
WALLY: Thank you. [He goes to the headwaiter.]
HEADWAITER: Yes, sir.
WALLY: Uh...sir. My name is Wallace Shawn. I'm expected at the table of André Gregory.
HEADWAITER: [He checks his list.] That table will be a moment, sir. If you like, you may have a drink at the bar. [Wally goes to the bar. The piano music is louder. A woman laughs. Conversations.]
BARTENDER: Good evening, sir.
WALLY: Uh, could I have a club soda, please?
BARTENDER: I'm sorry, sir, we only serve Source de Périon [Perrier?].
WALLY: That would be fine, thank you. [The music takes over, now with a violin. We see the musicians: piano, bass and violin.]
WALLY'S NARRATION: [Standing against the bar, Wally looks at the diners. We are given views of people eating and talking.] When I'd called André and he'd suggested that we meet in this particular restaurant, I'd been rather surprised. Because André's tastes used to be very ascetic. Even though people have always known that he has some money somewhere. I mean, how the hell else could he have been flying off to Asia and so on and still have been supporting his family? [Conversations in the background.] The reason I was meeting André was that an acquaintance of mine, George Grassfield, had called me and just insisted that I had to see him. Apparently, George had been walking his dog in an odd section of town the night before, and he'd suddenly come upon André leaning against a crumbling old building, and sobbing. André had explained to George that he'd just been watching the Ingmar Bergman movie Autumn Sonata about twenty-five blocks away, and he'd been seized by a fit of ungovernable crying when the character played by Ingrid Bergman had said, "I could always live in my art, but never in my life." [The music takes over.]
ANDRE: Wally!! [André comes in with his arms outstretched. Wally goes to meet him. They laugh and pronounce some disjointed words; André says something like "Wow" and Wally replies with something like "My God."]
WALLY'S NARRATION: [They hug and André pats Wally on the back.] I remember when I first started working with André's company, I couldn't get over the way the actors would hug when they greeted each other. "Wow, now I'm really in the theater," I thought.
WALLY: Well! You look terrific!
ANDRE: Well!! I feel terrible! [They both laugh.]
BARTENDER: Good evening, sir. Nice to see you again.
ANDRE: Thank you! Good evening. I think I'll have a spritzer, if I may.
BARTENDER: Yes, sir.
ANDRE: Thank you.
WALLY'S NARRATION: [Wally and André start talking; we can hear only parts of the conversation, underneath Wally's narration.] I was feeling incredibly nervous. I wasn't sure I could stick through an entire meal with him! So we talked about this and that. [The music dies down and stops.] He told me a few things about Jerzy Grotowski, the great Polish theater director, who was a friend and almost like a kind of a guru of André's. He'd also dropped out of the theater. Grotowski was a pretty unusual character himself. At one time he'd been quite fat; then he'd lost an incredible amount of weight, and become very thin, and grown a beard!
WAITER: [Coming up to them.] Your table is ready, if you feel like sitting down. [André and Wally both say "Oh!" Then André says "Thank you." They go to their table and settle in. They look over the menu.]
WALLY'S NARRATION: I was beginning to realize that the only way to make this evening bearable would be to ask André a few questions. Asking questions always relaxes me. In fact, I sometimes think that my secret profession is that I'm a private investigator, a detective. I always enjoy finding out about people. Even if they're an absolute agony, I always find it very interesting.
WALLY: By the way, is he still thin?
ANDRE: [Hesitates blankly.] What?
WALLY: Grotowski. Is he still thin?
ANDRE: Oh! Absolutely. Oh, waiter? Uh, I think we can do without this. [He hands him the flower from the table.] Thank you. [Wally laughs.]
WALLY: What about this one? [He points to something on the menu.]
ANDRE: [Laughing:] "Seven swank shrimp" [?]! [They laugh.]
WAITER: Are you ready for your order?
ANDRE: Uh, yes. The aragna kalouska [?], how do you prepare that?
WALLY'S NARRATION: [André discusses his order with the waiter.] André seemed to know an awful lot about the menu. I didn't understand a word of it.
WAITER: Very good, I think.
ANDRE: Hum. No, I think I'll have the cailles aux raisins...
WAITER: Very good.
ANDRE: [For Wally's benefit:] ...quail.
WALLY: Oh, quails! I'll have that as well.
ANDRE: Two, great! [The waiter concurs.]
ANDRE: And then I think to begin with, a terrine de poisson.
WALLY: What is that?
ANDRE: It's a sort of pâté, light, made of fish.
WALLY: Does it have bones in it?
ANDRE: [Laughing:] No bones. Very safe.
WALLY: Hunh. Well, uh. What is the, uh, "vromborova polevka"?
WAITER: It's a potato soup. It's quite delicious.
WALLY: Oh, well, that's great! I'll have that.
WAITER: Thank you.
ANDRE: Thank you very much.
WALLY: Well! Now when was the last time that we saw each other?
WALLY'S NARRATION: [They talk.] So we talked for a while about my writing and my acting, and about my girlfriend Debby. And we talked about his wife, Chiquita, and his two children, Nicholas and Marina. [We can make out a fragment of something André says: "...and I stayed back in New York...."] Finally, I got around to asking him what he'd been up to in the last few years.
WALLY: ...and, God! I'm just dying to hear it!
WALLY'S NARRATION: At first, he seemed a little reluctant to go into it. So I just kept asking, and finally he started to answer.
ANDRE: ...conference on paratheatrical work, then. And this must have been about five years ago. And Grotowski and I were walking along Fifth Avenue and we were talking. You see, he'd invited me to come to teach that summer in Poland--you know, to teach a workshop to actors and directors and whatever. And I told him that I didn't want to come because, really, I'd nothing left to teach. I'd nothing left to say. I didn't know anything. I couldn't teach anything. Exercises meant nothing to me any more. Working on scenes from plays seemed ridiculous. I didn't know what to do. I mean, I just couldn't do it. So he said: "Why don't you tell me anything you'd like to have, if you did a workshop for me, no matter how outrageous, and maybe I can give it to you." So I said: "Well, if you could give me forty Jewish women who speak neither English nor French, either women who've been in the theater for a long time and want to leave it but don't know why, or young women who love the theater but have never seen a theater that they could love, and if these women could all play the trumpet or the harp, and if I could work in a forest, I'd come!" [They both laugh.] A week later, two weeks later, he called me from Poland and he said: "Well, forty Jewish women is little hard to find!" But he said: "I do have forty women. They all pretty much fit the definition." And he said: "I also have some very interesting men, but you don't have to work with them. These are all people who have in common the fact that they're questioning the theater. They don't all play the trumpet or the harp, but they all play a musical instrument, and none of them speak English." And he'd found me a forest, Wally, and the only inhabitants of this forest were some wild boar and a hermit! So that was an offer I couldn't refuse! I had to go. So, I went to Poland. And it was a wonderful group of young men and women. And the forest he had found us was absolutely magic. You know, it was a huge forest, I mean, the trees were so large that four or five people linking their arms couldn't get their arms around the trees? So we were camped out beside the ruins of this tiny little castle, and we would eat around this great stone stab that served as a sort of a table. And our schedule was that usually we would start work around sunset, and then generally we'd work until about six or seven in the morning, and then, because the Poles love to sing and dance, we'd sing and dance until about ten or eleven in the morning, and then we'd have our food, which was generally bread and jam, cheese and tea. Then we'd sleep from around noon to sunset. Now technically, of course, technically the situation is a very interesting one, 'cause if you find yourself in a forest with a group of forty people who don't speak your language then all your moorings are gone.
WALLY: What do you mean, exactly?
ANDRE: Well, what we'd do is just sit there and wait for someone to have an impulse to do something. Now in a way that's something like a theatrical improvisation. I mean, you know, if you were a director working on a play by Chekhov, you might have the actors playing the mother, the son or the uncle all sit around in a room and do a made-up scene that isn't in the play. For instance you might say to them: all right, let's say that it's a rainy Sunday afternoon on Sorin's estate and you're all trapped in the drawing room together; and then everyone would improvise, saying and doing what their character might say and do in that circumstance. Except that in this type of improvisation, the kind we did in Poland, the theme is oneself. So, you follow the same law of improvisation, which is that you do whatever your impulse as the character tells you to do, but in this case, you're the character. So there's no imaginary situation to hide behind. And there's no other person to hide behind. What you're doing in fact is you're asking those same questions that Stanislavsky said the actor should constantly ask himself as a character: "Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I come from? And where am I going?" But instead of applying them to a rôle, you apply them to yourself. Or to look at it a little differently: in a way it's like going right back to childhood where a group of children simply come into a room, are brought into a room, without toys, and begin to play. Grown-ups were learning how to play again!
WALLY: So you would all sit together somewhere, and you would play in some way, but what would you actually do?
ANDRE: Well, I'll give you a good example. You see, we worked together for a week in the city before we went off to our forest. Of course, Grotowski was there in the city, too, and I heard that every night he conducted something called a beehive, and I loved the sound of this beehive, so a night or two before we were supposed to go off to the country, I grabbed him by the collar and I said: "Listen, about this beehive: you know, I'd kind of like to participate in one. Just instinctively I feel it would be something interesting." And he said: "Well, certainly. In fact, why don't you with your group lead the beehive instead of participating." Well, you know, Wally, I got very nervous, you know, and I said: "Well, what is a beehive?" He said: "Well, a beehive is at eight o'clock a hundred strangers come into a room." And I said: "Yes?" And he said: "Yes, and whatever happens is a beehive." And I said: "Yes, but what am I supposed to do?" He said: "That's up to you." I said: "No, no! I really don't want to do this. I'll just participate." And he said: "No, no. You lead the beehive!" Well, I was terrified, Wally. I mean, in a way I felt on stage. I did it anyway.
WALLY: God! Well, tell me about it.
ANDRE: You see, there was this song. I have a tape of it. I can play it for you one day. And it's just unbelievably beautiful. You see, one of the women in our group knew a few fragments of this song of Saint Francis, and it's a song in which you thank God for your eyes and you thank God for your heart and you thank God for your friends and you thank God for your life. And it repeats itself over and over again, and this became our theme song. I really must play this thing for you one day because you just can't believe that a group of people who don't how to sing could create something so beautiful. So I decided that when the people arrive for the beehive that our group would already be there singing this very beautiful song, and that we would simply sing it over and over again. One of the people decided to bring her very large teddy bear, you know, I think she was a little afraid of this event, and somebody wanted to bring a sheet and somebody else wanted to bring a large bowl of water in case people got hot or thirsty, and somebody suggested that we have candles, that there be no artificial light, but candle light. And I remember watching people preparing for this evening. Of course there was no make-up and no costumes, but it was exactly the way that people prepare for a performance. You know, people were sort of taking off their jewelry and their watches and stowing it away, and making sure it's all secure. And then slowly people arrived, the way they would arrive at the theater, in ones and twos and tens and fifteens, and what-have-you, and we were just sitting there and we were singing this very beautiful song, and people started to sit with us and started to learn the song. Now, there is of course, as in any performance or improvisation, instants for one thing are going to get boring. So, at a certain point, it may have only taken an hour to get there, an hour and a half, I suddenly grabbed this teddy bear and threw it in the air! At which a hundred and forty or thirty people suddenly exploded! You know, it was like a Jackson Pollock painting, you know, human beings exploded out of this tight little circle that was singing this song, and before I knew it there were two circles dancing, you know. One dancing clockwise, the other dancing counterclockwise, with this rhythm mostly from the waist down, in other words like an American Indian dance, with this thumping, persistent rhythm. [Laughter in the background and some faint talking.]
Now, you could easily see, 'cause we're talking about group trance, where the line between something like this and something like Hitler's Nuremberg rallies is in a way a very thin line. [Same background laugh.] Anyway. After about an hour of this wild, hypnotic dancing, Grotowski and I found ourselves sitting opposite each other in the middle of this whole thing, and we threw the teddy bear back and forth. You know, on one level you could say this was childish. And I gave the teddy bear suck suddenly at my breast, and then I threw the teddy bear to him, and he gave it suck at his breast, and then the teddy bear was thrown up into the air again, at which there was another explosion of form into...something [salade de mots] something like a kaleidoscope, like a human kaleidoscope, the evening was made up of shiftings of the kaleidoscope. Now, the only other thing that I remember--other than that I was constantly trying to guide this thing, which was always involved with either movement, rhythm, repetition or song, or chanting, 'cause two people in my group had brought musical instruments, a flute and a drum, which of course are sacred instruments--was that sometimes the room would break up into six or seven different things going on at once, you know, six or seven different improvisations, all of which seemed in some way related to each other. It was like a magnificent cobweb. And at one point, I noticed that Grotowski was at the center of one group huddled around a bunch of candles that they had gathered together, and like a little child fascinated by fire, I saw that he had his hand right in the flame and was holding it there. And as I approached his group, I wondered if I could do it. I put my left hand in the flame, and I found I could hold it there for as long as I liked, and there was no burn, and no pain. But when I tried to put my right hand in the flame, I couldn't hold it there for a second. So Grotowski said: "If it burns, try to change some little thing in yourself." And I tried to do that. Didn't work.
Then, I remember a very, very beautiful procession with the sheet, and there was somebody being carried below the sheet, you know, the sheet was like some great biblical canopy, and the entire group was weaving around the room and chanting. And then, at one point, people were dancing, and I was dancing with a girl and suddenly our hands began vibrating near each other, like this, vibrating! vibrating!, and we went down to our knees and suddenly I was sobbing in her arms and she was sort of cradling me in her arms, and then she started to cry, too, and then we just hugged each other for a moment and then we joined the dance again. And then at a certain point, hours later, we returned to the singing of the song of Saint Francis, and that was the end of the beehive. And then again, when it was over, it was just like the theater, after a performance, you know: people sort of put on their earrings and their wristwatches and we went off to the railroad station to drink a lot of beer and have a good dinner! Oh, and there was one girl who wasn't in our group, but who just wouldn't leave, so we took her along with us!
WALLY: [Amazed:] Hunh! [The waiter brings the first course. We hear a woman talking at another table.] God! Well, tell me some of the other things you did with your group.
ANDRE: Well. Oh, I remember once, when we were in the city, we tried doing an improvisation, you know, the kind that I used to do in New York: everybody's supposed to be on an airplane, and they've all learned from the pilot that there's something wrong with the motor. But what was unusual about this improvisation was that two people who participated in it fell in love! You know, they've in fact married! And when we were--yeah!--out of fear of being on this plane, they fell in love, thinking they were going to die at any moment! And when we went to the forest, these two disappeared, because they understood the experiment so well that they realized that to go off together in the forest was much more important than any kind of experiment the group could do as a whole. [They laugh.] So, about halfway through the week, we stumbled into a clearing in the forest, and the two of them were fast asleep in each other's arms. It was around dawn. And we put flowers on them, to let them know we'd been there, and then we crept away. And then on the last day of our stay in the forest these two showed up and the shook me by my hands and they thanked me very much for the wonderful work they'd been able to do, you see! [They laugh.] So. They understood what it was about. I mean, that of course poses the question of what was it about. But it has something to do with living.
And then on the final day of our stay in the forest, the whole group did something so wonderful for me, Wally. They arranged a christening, a baptism!, for me. And they filled the castle with flowers, and it was just a miracle of light, because they had literally set up hundreds of candles and torches; I mean, no church could have looked more beautiful. There was a simple ceremony, and one of them played to rôle of my godmother and another played the rôle of my godfather, and I was given a new name: they called me Yendrush. And some of the people took it completely seriously, and some of them found it funny, but I really felt that I had a new name. And then we had an enormous feast with blueberries picked from the field and chocolate someone had gone a great distance to buy, and raspberry soup, rabbit stew, and we sang Polish songs and Greek songs, and everybody danced for the rest of the night!
ANDRE: Oh, I have a picture. See, this was...oh, yeah: this was me in the forest. [He shows the picture to Wally.] See?
ANDRE: That's what I felt like. [They laugh.] That's the state I was in!
WALLY: God! Yeah, I remember George told me he had seen you around that time. He said you looked like you'd come back from a war.
ANDRE: Yeah, I remember meeting him. He asked me a lot of friendly questions. I think I called you up, too, that summer, didn't I?
WALLY: Hum. [Evasive:] I think I was out of town.
ANDRE: Yeah, well, most people I met thought there was something wrong with me. They didn't say that but I could tell that that was what they thought. But, you see, what I think I experienced was for the first time in my life, to know what it means to be truly alive. Now that's very frightening, because with that comes an immediate awareness of death. 'Cause they go hand in hand. You know, the kind of impulse that led to Walt Whitman, that led to Leaves of Grass, you know, that feeling of being connected to everything means to also be connected to death. And that's pretty scary. But, I really felt as if I were floating above the ground, not walking, you know, and I could do things: I'd go out to the highway and watch the lights go from red to green and think: "How wonderful!"
And then one day in the early fall I was out in the country walking in a field and I suddenly heard a voice say "Little Prince"! Now, of course, The Little Prince was a book that I'd always thought of as disgusting childish treacle, but still I thought, well, you know, if a voice comes to me in a field, I mean, this was the first voice I have ever heard, maybe I should go and read the book! Now, that same morning I got a letter from a young woman who had been in my group in Poland, and in her letter she had written: "You have dominated me." You know, she spoke very awkward English, so she'd gone to the dictionary and she'd crossed out the word "dominated" and she'd said: "No, the correct word is `tamed.'" And then when I went into town and bought the book and started to read it, I saw that taming was the most important word in the whole book! By the end of the book I was in tears, I was so moved by the story. And then I went and tried to write an answer to her letter, 'cause she had written me a very long letter, but I just couldn't find the right words, so finally I took my hand, I put it on a piece of paper, I outlined it with a pen and I wrote in the center something like: "Your heart is in my hand," something like that.
And then I went over to my brother's house to swim, 'cause he lives nearby in the country and he has a pool. And he wasn't home, and I went into his library and he had bought at an auction the collected issues of Minotaur, you know, the surrealist magazine? Oh! It's a great, great surrealist magazine of the twenties and thirties, and I'd never--you know, I consider myself a bit of a surrealist, I had never, ever seen a copy of Minotaure. And here they all were, bound, year after year? So, at random, I picked one out, I opened it up and there was a full-page reproduction of the letter A from Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland, and I thought: "Well, you know, it's been a day of coincidence, but that's not unusual that the surrealists would have been interested in Alice and I did a play of Alice." So, at random, I opened to another page? And there were four hand prints! One was André Breton, another was André Derain, the third was André...I have it written down somewhere, it's not Malraux, it's like...someone, another of the surrealists, all A's, and the fourth was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who wrote The Little Prince. And they'd shown these hand prints to some kind of expert, without saying whose hands they belonged to, and under Exupéry's, it said that he was an artist with very powerful eyes, who was a tamer of wild animals! So I thought, this is incredible, you know. And I looked back, to see when the issue came out? It came out on the newsstands May twelfth, 1934, and I was born during the day of May eleventh, 1934. So! That's what started me on Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince. [Eating interruption.]
Now, of course, today I think there's a very fascistic thing under The Little Prince, you know--well, no, I think there's a kind of SS totalitarian sentimentality in there somewhere. You know, there's something, you know, that [takes a bite and talks with his mouth full]...love of, uh...hum. That masculine love of a certain kind of oily muscle, you know what I mean? I mean, I can't quite put my finger on it, but I can just imagine some beautiful SS man loving The Little Prince. You know, I don't know why, but there's something wrong with it. It stinks! [They laugh.]
WALLY: Well, didn't George tell me that you were going to do a play that was based on The Little Prince?
ANDRE: [With his mouth full:] Hum. Well, what happened, Wally, was: that fall I was in New York and I met this young Japanese Buddhist priest named Kozan, and I thought he was Puck, from the Midsummer Night's Dream. You know, he had this beautiful delicate smile. I thought he was the Little Prince. So, naturally I decided to go off to the Sahara Desert to work on The Little Prince, with two actors and this Japanese monk!
WALLY: You did?
ANDRE: Well, I mean, I was still in a very peculiar state at that time, Wally. You know, I would look in the rear view mirror of my car and see little birds flying out of my mouth. And I remember always being exhausted in that period. I always felt weak, you know, I really didn't know what was going on with me, and I would just sit out there all alone in the country for days, and do nothing but write in my diary, and I was always thinking about death.
WALLY: Hum. But you went to the Sahara.
ANDRE: Oh, yes! We went off into the desert, and we rode through the desert on camels, and we rode and we rode and then at night we would walk out under that enormous sky and look at the stars. I just kept thinking about the same things that I was always thinking about at home. Particularly about Chiquita. In fact, I thought about just about nothing but my marriage. And then I remember one incredibly dark night being at an oasis, and there were palm trees moving in the wind; I could hear Kozan singing far away in that beautiful bass voice, and I tried to follow his voice along the sand. You see, I thought he had something to teach me, Wally. And sometimes I would meditate with him. Sometimes I'd go off and meditate by myself. You know, I would see images of Chiquita. Once, I actually saw her growing old and her hair turning gray in front of my eyes and I would just wail and yell my lungs out out there on the dunes.
Anyway, the desert was pretty horrible! It was pretty cold. We were searching for something but we couldn't tell if we were finding anything. You know that once Kozan and I, we were sitting on a dune and we just ate sand. Y'know, we weren't trying to be funny. I started and he started. We just ate sand and threw up, that's how desperate we were. In other words, we didn't know why we were there, we didn't know what we were looking for, the entire thing seemed completely absurd, arid and empty. It was like a last chance or something.
WALLY: Hum. [Pause.] So what happened then?
ANDRE: Well. In those days, I went completely on impulse. So on impulse I brought Kozan back to stay with us in New York after we got back from the Sahara, and he stayed for six months. And he really sort of took over the whole family in a way.
WALLY: What do you mean?
ANDRE: Well, there was certainly a center missing in the house at the time. There certainly wasn't a father, 'cause I was always thinking about going off to Tibet, or doing God knows what! And so he taught the whole family to meditate, and he told them all about Asia and the East and his monastery and everything. He really captivated everybody with an incredible bag of tricks. He had literally developed himself, Wally, so that he could push on his fingers and rise off out of his chair! I mean, he could literally go like this, you know, push on his fingers and go into like a head stand, and just hold himself there with two fingers! Or if Chiquita would suddenly get a little tension in her neck, well, he'd immediately have her down on the floor, he'd be walking up and down on her back doing these unbelievable massages, you know. And the children found him amazing. I mean, you know, we'd visit friends, who had children, and immediately he'd be playing with these children in a way that, you know, we just can't do. I mean, those children, just giggles, giggles, giggles about what this Japanese monk was doing in these holy robes! I mean, he was an acrobat, a ventriloquist, a magician, everything! You know the amazing thing was that I don't think he had any interest in children whatsoever. None at all. I don't think he liked them! I mean, you know, when he stayed with us, in the first week, really, the kids were just googly-eyed over him. But then, a couple of weeks later, Chiquita and I could be out and Marina could have flu or a temperature of a hundred and four and he wouldn't even go in and say hello to her. But, he was taking over, more and more! I mean, his own habits had completely changed. You know that he started wearing these elegant Gucci shoes under his white monk's robes, and he was eating huge amounts of food. I mean, he ate twice as much as Nicholas ate, you know, this tiny little Buddhist who when I first met him, you know, was eating a little bowl of milk, hot milk with rice, was now eating huge beef! [They laugh.] It was just very strange! You know. And we tried working together, but really all our work consisted mostly of my trying to do these incredibly painful prostrations that they do in the monastery, you know, so really we hadn't been working very much. Anyway.
We were out in the country, and we all went to Christmas mass together, you know, he was all dressed up in his Buddhist finery, you know, it was one of those awful dreary Catholic churches on Long Island where the priest talks about communism and birth control. And as I was sitting there in mass I was wondering: "What in the world is going on? I mean, here I am, I'm a grown man, and there's this strange person living with me in the house, and I'm not working, I mean, you know, I was doing nothing but scribbling a little poetry in my diary. I can't get a job teaching any more, and I dunno what I want to do...." When all of a sudden, a huge creature appeared, looking at the congregation! It was about, I'd say, six foot eight, something like that, you know, and it was half bull, half man, it's skin was blue, it had violets growing out of its eyelids and poppies growing out of its toenails, and it just stood there for the whole mass. I mean, I could not make that creature disappear. You know, I thought: "Oh, well, you know, I'm just seeing this because I'm bored," you know. I could not make that creature go away. Okay, now: I didn't talk with people about it, because they'd think I was weird. But I felt that this creature was somehow coming to comfort me. That somehow he was appearing to say: "Well! You may feel low, and you might not be able to create a play right now. But look what can come to you, on Christmas eve! Hang on, old friend! I may seem weird to you, but on these weird voyages, weird creatures appear! It's part of the journey. You're okay! Hang in there!" [Pause. Laughter at another table.]
WALLY: By the way, did you ever see that play, The Violets Are Blue?
ANDRE: [Without expression:] No.
WALLY: Oh, well, when you mentioned the violets, it reminded me of that. It was about people being strangled on a submarine. [André gives Wally a bemused/puzzled look; he says nothing. Pause. Wally sighs.] Well! So that was Christmas! What happened after that?
ANDRE: You really want to hear about all this?
ANDRE: Well. Around that time, I was beginning to think about going to India. And Kozan suddenly left one day. And you know, I was beginning to get into a lot of very strange ideas around that time. Now, for example, I had developed this...well, I got this idea which I...well, it was very appealing to me at the time, you know, which was that I would have a flag, a large flag, and that wherever I worked this flag would fly, or if we were outside, say, with a group, that the flag could be the thing that we'd lay on at night, and that somehow between working on this flag and lying on this flag, this flag flying over us, that the flag would pick up vibrations of a kind that would still be in the flag when I brought it home? So, I went down to meet this flag maker that I'd heard about, and you know, there was this very straight-forward looking guy, you know, a very sweet and really healthy-looking and everything, nice, big, blond; you know, he had a beautiful clean loft down in the village with lovely, happy flags. And I was all into The Little Prince and I talked to him about the Little Prince and his adventures and everything, how I needed the flag and what the flag should be, and he seemed to really connect with it. So, two weeks later I came back: he showed me a flag that I thought was very odd, you know, 'cause I'd...well, you know, I'd expected something gentle, and lyrical. There was something about this that was so powerful, it was almost overwhelming! And it did include the Tibetan swastika.
WALLY: [Swallows abruptly.] He put a swastika in your flag?!
ANDRE: It was the Tibetan swastika, not the Nazi swastika. It's one of the most ancient Tibetan symbols. And it was just strange, you know. But, I brought it home, because my idea with this flag was that before I left, you know, before I left for India, I wanted several people who were close to me to have this flag in the room for the night, to sleep with it, you know, and then in the morning to sew something into the flag. So I took the flag in to Marina, and I said: "Hey, look at this. What do you think of this?" And she said: "What is that? That's awful!" And I said: "It's a flag!" And she said: "I don't like it!," you know. And I said: "Oh, well, I kinda thought you might like to spend the night with it," you know. But she really thought the flag was awful. So, then, Chiquita threw this party for me, before I left for India, and the apartment was filled with guests, and at one point Chiquita said: "The flag! The flag! Where's the flag?" And I said: "Oh, yeah, the flag!" And I go and get the flag and I open it up. Chiquita goes absolutely white and runs out of the room and vomits! So the party just comes to a halt and breaks up! And then the next day, I gave it to this young woman who had been in my group in Poland, who was now in New York. I didn't tell her anything about any of this. At five o'clock in the morning she called me up and she said: "I gotta come and see you right away!" And I thought: "Oh, God!" She came up and she said: "I saw things! I saw things around this flag! Now I know you're stubborn and I know you want to take this thing with you, but if you'd follow my advice you'd put it in a hole in the ground and burn it and cover it with earth 'cause the Devil's in it!" Well, I never took the flag with me! In fact, I gave it to her, and she had a ceremony with it six months later in France, with some friends, in which they did burn it.
WALLY: Hunh! God! That's really, really amazing! So did you ever go to India?
ANDRE: Oh, yes, I went to India in the spring, Wally, and I came back home feeling all wrong. I mean, you know, I'd been to India, and I had just felt like a tourist. I'd found nothing. So, I was spending the summer on Long Island with my family, and I heard about this community, in Scotland, called Findhorn, where people sang and talked and meditated with plants. And it was founded by several rather middle-class English and Scottish eccentrics, some of them intellectuals and some of them not. And I'd heard that they'd grown things in soil that supposedly nothing can grow in 'cause it's almost beach soil, and that they'd built--not "built"--they'd grown the largest cauliflowers in the world, and their sort of cabbages, and they've grown trees that can't grow in the British Isles. So I went there! I mean, it is an amazing place, Wally. I mean, if there are insects bothering the plants, they will talk with the insects! And you know, make an agreement by which they'll set aside a special patch of vegetables just for the insects and then the insects will leave the main part alone! [Wally laughs.] Things like that. And everything they do, they do beautifully. I mean, the buildings just shine. I mean, for instance, the icebox, the stove, the car, you know, they all have names. And since you wouldn't treat Helen, the icebox, with any less respect than you would Margaret, your wife, you know, you make sure that Helen is as clean as Margaret, or treated with equal respect. And when I was there, Wally, I remember being in the woods, and I would look at a leaf and I would actually see that thing that is alive in that leaf. And then I remember just running through the woods as fast as I could with this incredible laugh coming out of me. And really being in that state, you know, where laughter and tears seem to merge. I mean, it absolutely blasted me open. When I came out of Findhorn, I was hallucinating nonstop. I was seeing clouds as creatures; the people on the airplane all had animals faces. I mean, I was on a trip, you know. It was like being in a William Blake world suddenly. Things were exploding. So, immediately, I went to Belgrade, because I wanted to talk to Grotowski. And Grotowski and I got together at midnight in my hotel room and we drank instant coffee out of the top of my shaving-cream. And we talked from midnight until eleven the next morning!
WALLY: God! What did he say?
ANDRE: Nothing! I talked! He didn't say a word! And. And then, I guess really the last big experience of this kind took place that fall. It was out on Montauk, on Long Island, and there were only about nine of us involved, mostly men. And, we'd borrowed Dick Avedon's property out at Montauk. And the country out there is like Heathcliff country, it's absolutely wild! What we wanted to do, was we wanted to take All Souls' Eve, Halloween, and use it as a point of departure for something. So, each one of us prepared some sort of event for the others, somehow in the spirit of All Souls' Eve. But the biggest event was that three of the people kept disappearing in the middle of the night, each night, and we knew they were preparing something big, but we didn't know what? And midnight, on Halloween, under a dark moon above these cliffs, we were all told to gather at the topmost cliff, and that we'd be taken somewhere. And we did. And we waited. And it was very, very cold. And then the three of them, Helen, Bill and Fred, showed up wearing white, you know, something they'd made out of sheets--looked a little spooky, not funny. And they took us into the basement of this house that had burned down on the property, and in this ruined basement they had set up a table, with benches they'd made. And on this table they had laid out paper, pencils, wine and glasses. And we were all asked to sit at the table and to make out our last will and testament, you know, to think about and write down whatever our last words were to the world, or to somebody we were very close to. And that's quite a task. I must have been there for about an hour and a half or so, maybe two. And then one at a time, they would ask one of us to come with them, and I was one of the last, and they came for me, and they put a blindfold on me and they ran me through these fields, two people. And they'd found a kind of potting shed, you know, a kind of shed on the grounds, a little tiny room that had once had tools in it. And they took me down the steps into this basement, and the room was just filled with harsh, white light. And then they told me to get undressed, and give them all my valuables. Then they put me on a table and they sponged me down. Well, you know, I just started flashing on death camps and secret police. I don't know what happened to the other people, but I just started to cry uncontrollably. Then they got me to my feet and they took photographs of me, naked. And then naked, again blindfolded, I was run through these forests, and we came to a kind of tent made of sheets, with sheets on the ground, and there were all these naked bodies huddling together for warmth against the cold. 'Must have been left there for about an hour. And then again, one by one, one at a time, we were led out, the blindfold was put on, and I felt myself being lowered onto something like a stretcher. And the stretcher was carried a long way, very slowly, through these forests. And then I felt myself being lowered into the ground! They had, in fact, dug six graves eight feet deep! And then I felt these pieces of wood being put on me. I mean, I cannot tell you, Wally, what I was going through. And then, the stretcher was lowered into the grave, and then this wood was put on me, and then my valuables were put on me in my hands, and they had taken, you know, a kind of sheet or canvas, and they stretched about this much above my head. And then they shoveled dirt into the grave, so that I really had the feeling of being buried alive. And after being in the grave for about half an hour, I mean, I didn't know how long I'd be in there, I was resurrected, lifted out of the grave, blindfold taken off, and run through these fields, and we came to a great circle of fire with music and hot wine. And everyone danced until dawn! And then, at dawn, to the best of our ability, we filled up the graves and went back to New York. [Serving sounds.]
That was really the last big event. I mean, that was the end. I mean, you know, I began to realize I just didn't want to do these things any more, you know. I felt sort of "becalmed," you know, like that chapter in Moby Dick where the wind goes out of the sails. And then last winter, without thinking about it very much, I went to see this agent I know, to tell him I was interested in directing plays again. Actually he seemed a little surprised to see that Rip Van Winkle was still alive! [The main course is served.]
WALLY: [Surprised at the quail:] Hum! God! I didn't know they were so small!
ANDRE: [With his mouth full:] Well, you know, frankly, I'm sort of repelled by the whole story, if you really want to know.
ANDRE: I mean, who did I think I was, you know? I mean, that's the story of some kind of spoiled princess. I mean, you know, who did I think I was, the Shah of Iran? You know, I really wonder if people such as myself are really not Albert Speer, Wally. You know? Hitler's architect, Albert Speer?
ANDRE: No, I've been thinking a lot about him recently, because I think I am Speer, and I think it's time that I was caught and tried the way he was.
WALLY: [Not amused:] What are you talking about?
ANDRE: Well, I mean, you know, he was a very cultivated man, an architect, an artist, you know, so he thought the ordinary rules of life didn't apply to him either. [He eats.] I mean, I really feel that everything I've done is horrific, just horrific!
WALLY: My God! But, why!?
ANDRE: You see, I've seen a lot of death in the last few years, Wally, and there's one thing that's for sure about death: you do it alone, you see, that seems quite certain, you see, that I've seen. That the people around your bed mean nothing, your reviews mean nothing. Whatever it is, you do it alone. And so the question is: when I get on my deathbed what kind of a person am I going to be, and I'm just very dubious about the kind of person who would have lived his life those last few years the way I did.
WALLY: Well, why should you feel that way?
ANDRE: Well, you see, I've had a very rough time in the last few months, Wally. Three different people in my family were in the hospital at the same time. Then my mother died, then Marina had something wrong with her back and we were terribly worried about her, you know, so.... So, I mean, I'm feeling very raw right now. I mean...I mean, I can't sleep, my nerves are shot, I mean, I'm affected by everything. You know, last week, I had this really nice director, from Norway, over for dinner? And he's someone I've known for years and years, and he's somebody I think I'm quite fond of. And, I was sitting there just thinking that he was a pompous, defensive, conservative stuffed-shirt who was only interested in the theater, you know, he was talking and talking, you know, his mother had been a famous Norwegian comedian. I realized he had said "I remember my mother" at least four hundred times during the evening. And he was telling story after story about his mother, you know, I'd heard these stories twenty times in the past. He was drinking this whole bottle of bourbon very quietly, and his laugh was so horrible! You know, I could hear his laugh, the pain in that laugh, the hollowness, you know, what being that woman's son had done to him, you know. So at a certain point I just had to ask him to leave, nicely, you know, I told him I had to get up early the next morning 'cause it was so horrible. It was just as if he had died in my living room, and then, you know, then I went into the bathroom and cried 'cause I felt I'd lost a friend.
And then after he had gone I turned the television on, and there was this guy who had just won the something-something, you know, some sports event, some kind of great big check and some kind of huge silver bottle. And you know, he couldn't stuff the check in the bottle, and he put the bottle in front of his nose and pretended it was his face. You know, he wasn't really listening to the guy who was interviewing him, but he was smiling malevolently at his friends. And I looked at that guy and I thought: "What a horrible, empty, manipulative rat!" Then I thought: "That guy is me!" Then last night, actually, it was our twentieth wedding anniversary. And I took Chiquita to see the show about Billie Holiday, and I looked at these show-business people, who know nothing about Billie Holiday, nothing, so you're really kind of in a way intellectual creeps? And I suddenly had this feeling, I mean, you know, I was just sitting there crying through most of the show. And I suddenly had this feeling, I was just as creepy as they were! And that my whole life had been a sham, and I didn't have the guts to be Billie Holiday either. I mean, I really feel that I'm just washed up! Wiped out! I feel I've just squandered my life!
WALLY: [Pause.] André! Now, how can you say something like that?
ANDRE: [Long pause.] Well, you know, I may be in a very emotional state right now, Wally, but since I've come back home, I've just been finding the world we're living in more and more upsetting. I mean. Last week I went down to the public theater one afternoon. You know, when I walked in I said "hello" to everybody, 'cause I know them all and they all know me, and they're always very friendly. You know that seven or eight people told me how wonderful I looked, and then one person, one, a woman who runs the casting office, said: "Gee, you look horrible! Is something wrong?" Now she, we started talking, of course I started telling her things, and she suddenly burst into tears because an aunt of hers, who's eighty, whom she's very fond of, went into the hospital for a cataract, which was solved, but the nurse was so sloppy she didn't put the bed rails up, so the aunt fell out of bed and is now a complete cripple! So, you know, we were talking about hospitals. Now, you know, this woman, because of who she is, you know, 'cause this had happened to her very, very recently, she could see me with complete clarity. [Wally says "Un-hunh."] She didn't know anything about what I've been going through. But the other people, what they saw was this tan or this shirt, or the fact that the shirt goes well with the tan, so they say: "Gee, you look wonderful!" Now, they're living in an insane dream world! They're not looking. That seems very strange to me.
WALLY: Right, because they just didn't see anything somehow, except the few little things that they wanted to see.
ANDRE: Yeah. You know, it's like what happened just before my mother died. You know, we'd gone to the hospital to see my mother, and I went in to see her. And I saw this woman who looked as bad as any survivor of Auschwitz or Dachau. And I was out in the hall, sort of comforting my father, when a doctor who is a specialist in a problem that she had with her arm, went into her room and came out just beaming. And he said: "Boy! Don't we have a lot of reason to feel great! Isn't it wonderful how she's coming along!" Now, all he saw was the arm, that's all he saw. Now, here's another person who's existing in a dream. Who on top of that is a kind of butcher, who's committing a kind of familial murder, because when he comes out of that room he psychically kills us by taking us into a dream world, where we become confused and frightened. Because the moment before we saw somebody who already looked dead and now here comes a specialist who tells us they're in wonderful shape! I mean, you know, they were literally driving my father crazy. I mean, you know, here's an eighty-two-year-old man who's very emotional, and, you know, if you go in one moment, and you see the person's dying, and you don't want them to die, and then a doctor comes out five minutes later and tells you they're in wonderful shape! I mean, you know, you can go crazy!
WALLY: Yeah, I know what you mean.
ANDRE: I mean, the doctor didn't see my mother. People at the public theater didn't see me. I mean, we're just walking around in some kind of fog. I think we're all in a trance! We're walking around like zombies! I don't think we're even aware of ourselves or our own reaction to things, we're just going around all day like unconscious machines, I mean, while there's all of this rage and worry and uneasiness just building up and building up inside us!
WALLY: That's right. It just builds up, and then it just leaps out inappropriately. I mean, I remember when I was acting in this play based on The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, and I was playing the part of the cat. But they had trouble making up my cat suit. So I didn't get it delivered to me until the night of the first performance. Particularly the head, I mean, I had never even had a chance to try it on. And about four of my fellow actors actually came up to me, and they said these things which I just couldn't help thinking were attempts to destroy me. You know, one of them said: "Oh! Well, now! That head will totally change your hearing in the performance! You may hear everything completely differently! And it may be very upsetting. Now, I was once in a performance where I was wearing earmuffs, and I couldn't hear anything anybody said!" And then another one said: "Oh, you know, whenever I wear even a hat on stage, I tend to faint." I mean, those remarks were just full of hostility. Because, I mean, you know, if I had listened to those people I would have gone out there on stage, and I wouldn't have been able to hear anything and I would have fainted! But the hostility was completely inappropriate, because in fact those people liked me, I mean, that hostility was just some feeling that was, you know, left over from some previous experience. Because somehow in our social existence today we're only allowed to express our feelings weirdly and indirectly. If you express them directly everybody goes crazy!
ANDRE: Well, did you express your feelings, about what those people said to you?
WALLY: No! I mean, I didn't even know what I felt till I thought about it later. And I mean, at the most, you know, in a situation like that, even if I had known what I felt, I might say something, if I'm really annoyed, like: "Oh, yeah. Well, that's just fascinating! And I probably will faint tonight, just as you did!"
ANDRE: I do just the same thing myself! We can't be direct so we end up saying the weirdest things. I mean, I remember a night, it was a couple of weeks after my mother died, and I was in pretty bad shape. And I had dinner with three relatively close friends, two of whom had known my mother quite well, and all three of whom had known me for years. You know that we went through that entire evening without my being able to, for a moment, get anywhere near, you know, not that I wanted to sit and have this dreary evening in which I was talking about all this pain that I was going through and everything. Really, not at all, but the fact that nobody could say: "Gee, what a shame about your mother." Or: "How are you feeling?" It was just as if nothing had happened! They were all making these jokes and laughing. I got quite crazy as a matter of fact. You know, one of these people mentioned a certain man whom I don't like very much, and I started screeching about how he had just been found in the Bronx River, and his penis had dropped off from gonorrhea, and all kinds of insane things. And later, when I got home, I realized I had just been desperate to break through this ice!
ANDRE: I mean, do you realize, Wally, if you brought that situation into a Tibetan home? That would just be so far out! I mean, they wouldn't be able to understand it. I mean, that would be simply... [laughing:] simply so weird, Wally! If four Tibetans came together, and tragedy had just struck one of the ones, and they spent the whole evening going "HA HA HA HA HAW HAW HAW HEE HEE HEE!" I mean, you know, Tibetans would have looked at that and thought that was the most unimaginable behavior! But for us, that's common behavior.
ANDRE: I mean, really, the Africans would have probably put their spears into all four of us, 'cause it would have driven them crazy. They would have thought we were dangerous animals or something like that. [Wally murmurs agreement.] I mean, that's absolutely abnormal behavior.
WAITER: Is everything all right, gentlemen?
ANDRE: [Without enthusiasm; almost simultaneous with Wally:] Yeah. [After a pause:] But those are typical evenings for us. I mean, we go to dinners, and parties like that all the time. These evenings are really like sort of sickly dreams, because people are talking in symbols. Everyone's sort of floating through this fog of symbols and unconscious feelings. No one says what they're really thinking about. Then people start making these jokes, that are really some sort of secret code!
WALLY: Right! Well, what often happens at some of these evenings is that these really crazy little fantasies will just start being played with, you know, and everybody will be talking at once, and sort of saying: "Hey, wouldn't it be great if Frank Sinatra and Mrs. Nixon and blah-blah-blah were in such-and-such a situation," you know, always with famous people and always sort of grotesque? Or people will be talking about some horrible thing like, like the death of that girl in the car with Ted Kennedy, and they'll just be roaring with laughter! I mean, it's really amazing. It's just unbelievable. That's the only way anything is expressed, through these completely insane jokes. I mean, I think that's why I never understand what's going on at a party, and I'm always completely confused. You know, Debby once said after one of these New York evenings, she thought she'd travelled a greater distance just by journeying from her origins in the suburbs of Chicago to that New York evening, than her grandmother had travelled in making her way from the steppes of Russia to the suburbs of Chicago!
ANDRE: Well, I think that's right! You know, it may be, Wally, that one of the reasons that we don't know what's going on is that when we're there at a party, we're all too busy performing.
ANDRE: You know, that was one of the reasons that Grotowski gave up the theater. He just felt that people in their lives now were performing so well that performance in the theater was sort of superfluous, and in a way obscene.
ANDRE: I mean, isn't it amazing how often a doctor will live up to our expectation of how a doctor should look? I mean, you see a terrorist on television: he looks just like a terrorist. I mean, we live in a world in which fathers, or single people, or artists, are all trying to live up to someone's fantasy of how a father, or a single person, or an artist, should look and behave! They all act as if they know exactly how they ought to conduct themselves at every single moment. And they all seem totally self-confident. Of course, privately people are very mixed up about themselves. [Wally says "Yep."] They don't know what they should be doing with their lives. They're reading all these self-help books...
WALLY: Oh! God! And I mean, those books are just so touching because they show how desperately curious we all are to know how all the others of us are really getting on in life, even though by performing these roles all the time we're just hiding the reality of ourselves from everybody else. I mean, we live in such ludicrous ignorance of each other. I mean, we usually don't know the things we'd like to know even about our supposedly closest friends! I mean...I mean, you know, suppose you're going through some kind of hell in your own life, well, you would love to know if your friends have experienced similar things. But we just don't dare to ask each other!
ANDRE: No! It would be like asking your friend to drop his role.
WALLY: I mean, we just put no value at all on perceiving reality. I mean, on the contrary, this incredible emphasis that we all place now on our so-called "careers" automatically makes perceiving reality a very low priority. Because if your life is organized around trying to be successful in a career, well, it just doesn't matter what you perceive, or what you experience. You can really sort of shut your mind off for years ahead, in a way. You can sort of turn on the automatic pilot! You know, just the way your mother's doctor had on his automatic pilot when he went in and he looked at the arm, and he totally failed to perceive anything else!
ANDRE: Right! Our minds are just focused on these goals and plans. Which in themselves are not reality.
WALLY: No! Goals and plans are not--I mean, they're fantasy. They're part of a dream life! I mean, you know, it always just does seem so ridiculous somehow that everybody has to have his little goal in life. I mean, it's so absurd, in a way. I mean, when you consider that it doesn't matter which one it is.
ANDRE: Right! And because people's concentration is on their goals, in their life they just live each moment by habit! Really, like the Norwegian, telling the same stories over and over again. [Wally murmurs "Um-hum"] Life becomes habitual! And it is, today! I mean, very few things happen now like that moment when Marlon Brando sent the Indian woman to accept the Oscar and everything went haywire? Things just very rarely go haywire now. And if you're just operating by habit, then you're not really living. I mean, you know, in Sanskrit the root of the verb "to be" is the same as the verb "to grow" or "to make grow."
WALLY: Hunh! [Pause. Serving sounds. Laughter at another table.]
ANDRE: Do you know about Roc?
ANDRE: Oh! Well! Roc was a wonderful man. And he was one of the founders of Findhorn. And he was one of Scotlan--well, he was Scotland's greatest mathematician, and he was one of the century's great mathematicians. And he prided himself on the fact that he had no fantasy life, no dream life, nothing to stand--no imaginary life, nothing to stand between him and the direct perception of mathematics. And one day, when he was in his mid-fifties, he was walking in the gardens of Edinburgh and he saw a faun! The faun was very surprised because fauns have always been able to see people, but, you know, very few people ever see them. And [Wally looks blank]...you know? Those little imaginary creatures. Not a deer.
ANDRE: You call them fauns, don't you?
WALLY: I thought a fawn was a baby deer.
ANDRE: Yeah, well, there's a deer that's called a fawn, but these are like those little...imaginary...
WALLY: Oh! The kind that Debussy, uh... [Wally makes a gesture with his hands by his head, like big ears.]
ANDRE: Right! Well. So, he got to know the faun, and then he got to know other fauns, and a series of conversations began. And more and more fauns would come out every afternoon to meet him, and he'd have talks with the fauns. And then one day after a while, when, you know, they'd really gotten to know him, they asked him if he would like to meet Pan, because Pan would like to meet him! But of course Pan was afraid of terrifying him, because he knew of the Christian misconception which portrayed Pan as an evil creature, which he's not. But Roc said he would love to meet Pan, and so they met, and Pan indirectly sent him on his way on a journey in which he met the other people who began Findhorn. But Roc used to practice certain exercises, like for instance, if he were right-handed, all today he would do everything with his left hand, all day, eating, writing, everything: opening doors, in order to break the habits of living. Because the great danger he felt for him was to fall into a trance, out of habit. He had a whole series of very simple exercises that he had invented, just to keep seeing, feeling, remembering. Because you have to learn now. It didn't use to be necessary, but today you have to learn something like: are you really hungry or are you just stuffing your face because because that's what you do, out of habit. I mean, you can afford to do it, so you do it, whether you're hungry or not. You know, if you go to the Buddhist meditation center, they make you taste each bite of your food, so it takes two hours--it's horrible--to eat your lunch! But you're conscious of the taste of your food! If you're just eating out of habit, then you don't taste the food and you're not conscious of the reality of what's happening to you. You enter the dream world again.
WALLY: Do you think maybe we live in this dream world because we do so many things every day that affect us in ways that somehow we're just not aware of? I mean, you know, I was thinking: now last Christmas, Debby and I were given an electric blanket. Now I can tell you that it is just such a marvelous advance over our old way of life, and it is just great. But it is quite different from not having an electric blanket. And I sometimes sort of wonder, well, what is it doing to me? I mean I sort of feel I'm not sleeping quite in the same way.
ANDRE: Well no, you wouldn't be.
WALLY: I mean.... And my dreams are sort of different, and I feel a little bit different when I get up in the morning.
ANDRE: I wouldn't put an electric blanket on for anything. First, I'd be worried I might get electrocuted. No, I don't trust technology. But I mean the main thing, Wally, is that I think that that kind of comfort just separates you from reality in a very direct way.
WALLY: You mean...
ANDRE: I mean, if you don't have that electric blanket, and your apartment is cold, and you need to put on another blanket or go into the closet and pile up coats on top of the blanket you have, well then you know it's cold. And that sets up a link of things: you have compassion for the p...well, is the person next to you cold? Are there other people in the world who are cold? What a cold night! I like the cold, my God, I never realized, I don't want a blanket, it's fun being cold, I can snuggle up against you even more because it's cold! All sorts of things occur to you. Turn on that electric blanket and it's like taking a tranquilizer, it's like being lobotomized by watching television. I think you enter the dream world again. I mean, what does it do to us, Wally, living in an environment where something as massive as the seasons or winter or cold don't in any way affect us? I mean, we're animals after all. I mean, what does that mean? I think that means that instead of living under the sun and the moon and the sky and the stars we're living in a fantasy world of our own making.
WALLY: Yeah, but I mean, I would never give up my electric blanket, André. I mean, because New York is cold in the winter, I mean, our apartment is cold. It's a difficult environment! I mean, our lives are tough enough as it is, I'm not looking for ways to get rid of the few things that provide relief and comfort, I mean, on the contrary! I'm looking for more comfort, because the world is very abrasive, I mean, I'm trying to protect myself, because really there are these abrasive beatings to be avoided everywhere you look.
ANDRE: Yeah, but Wally, don't you see that comfort can be dangerous? I mean, you like to be comfortable and I like to be comfortable, too. But comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility. I mean, my mother knew a woman, Lady Hatfield, who was one of the richest women in the world, and she died of starvation because all she would eat was chicken. I mean, she just liked chicken, Wally, and that was all she would eat, and actually, her body was starving but she didn't know it 'cause she was quite happy eating her chicken and so, she finally died! See, I honestly believe that we're all like Lady Hatfield now, we're having a lovely, comfortable time with our electric blankets and our chicken, and meanwhile we're starving because we're so cut off from contact with reality that we're not getting any real sustenance. 'Cause we don't see the world. We don't see ourselves. We don't see how our actions affect other people. Have you read Martin Buber's book On Hasidism?
ANDRE: Oh, well here's a view of life! I mean, he talks about the belief of the Hasidic Jews that there are spirits chained in everything. There are spirits chained in you, there are spirits chained in me. Well! There are spirits chained in this table! And that prayer is the action of liberating these enchained embryo-like spirits, and that every action of ours in life, whether it's doing business or making love, or having dinner together, whatever, that every action of ours should be a prayer, a sacrament in the world.
Now, do you think we're living like that? Why do you think we're not living like that? I think it's because if we allowed ourselves to see what we do every day we might just find it too nauseating. I mean, the way we treat other people. I mean, you know, every day, several times a day, I walk into my apartment building, the doorman calls me Mr. Gregory and I call him Jimmy. All right, what's the difference between that and the southern plantation owner whose got slaves? You see, I think that an act of murder is committed in that moment when I walk into that building. You know, because here's a dignified, intelligent man, a man of my own age, and when I call him Jimmy then he becomes a child and I'm an adult because I can buy my way into the building!
WALLY: Right. That's right. I mean, my God! When I was a Latin teacher, I mean, people used to treat me, I mean, you know, if I would go to a party of professional or "literary" people, I mean, I was just treated, in the nicest sense of the word, like a dog! I mean, in other words, there was no question of my being able to participate on an equal basis in the conversation with people. I mean, you know, I'd occasionally have conversations with people, but then when they asked what I did, which would always happen after about five minutes, you know, their faces--I mean, even if they were enjoying the conversation, or they were flirting with me or whatever it was, you know, their faces would just have that expression just like the portcullis crashing down, you know, those medieval gates? They would just walk away! I mean, I literally lived like a dog. And I mean, when Debby was working as a secretary, you know, if she would tell people what she did, they would just go insane! I mean, it would be just as if she'd said: "Oh, well! I've been serving a life sentence recently for child murdering!" [Laughter at another table.]
I mean, my God, you know, when you talk about our attitudes toward other people. I mean, I think of myself as just a very decent, good person, you know, just because I think I'm reasonably friendly to most of the people I happen to meet every day. I mean, I really think of myself quite smugly. I just think I'm a perfectly nice guy, you know, so long as I think of the world as consisting of, you know, just the small circle of the people that I know as friends or the few people that we know in this little world of our little hobbies, the theater or whatever it is. And I'm really quite self-satisfied. I'm just quite happy with myself. I just have no complaint about myself. I mean, you know, let's face it, I mean, there's a whole enormous world out there that I just don't ever think about. And I certainly don't take responsibility for how I've lived in that world. I mean, you know, if I were to actually sort of confront the fact that I'm sort of sharing this stage with this starving person in Africa somewhere, well, I wouldn't feel so great about myself. So naturally I just blot all those people right out of my perception. So, of course, of course, I'm ignoring a whole section of the real world!
But, frankly, you know, when I write a play, in a way, one of the things I guess I think I'm trying to do is I'm trying to bring myself up against some little bits of reality, and I'm trying to share that with an audience. I mean...I mean, of course, we all know the theater is in terrible shape today. I mean...I mean, at least a few years ago people who really cared about the theater used to say the theater is dead. And now everybody has redefined the theater in such a trivial way that, I mean...I mean, God! I know people who are involved with the theater who go to see things now that, I mean, a few years ago these same people would have just been embarrassed to have even seen some of these plays. I mean, they would have just shrunk, you know, just in horror at the superficiality of these things. But now they say: "Oh, that was pretty good." It's just incredible! And I really just find that attitude unbearable, because I really do think the theater can do something very important. I mean, I do think the theater can help bring people in contact with reality. Now, now, you may not feel that at all. I mean, you may just find that totally absurd.
ANDRE: Yeah, but Wally! Don't you see the dilemma? You're not taking into account the period we're living in. I mean, of course that's what the theater should do. I mean, I've always felt that. You know, when I was a young director and I directed The Bacchae at Yale? My impulse--when Pentheus has been killed by his mother and the furies, and they pull the tree back and they tie him to the tree and fling him into the air, and he flies through space and he's killed, and they rip 'em to shreds and, I guess, cut off his head--my impulse was that the thing to do was to get a head, from the New Haven morgue, and pass it around the audience! You know, I wanted Agawe to bring on a real head, and that this head should be passed around the audience so that somehow people realized that this stuff was real, see, that it was real stuff! Now the actress playing Agawe absolutely refused to do it.
You know, Gordon Craig used to talk about why is there gold or silver in the churches or something, the great cathedrals, when actors could be wearing gold and silver! And I mean, people who saw Eleanora Duse in the last couple of years of her life, Wally, people said that it was like seeing light on stage, or mist, or the essence of something! I mean. Then when you think about Bertolt Brecht, he somehow created a theater in which people could observe, that was vastly entertaining and exciting, but in which the excitement didn't overwhelm you. He somehow allowed you the distance between the play and yourself, that in fact two human beings need in order to live together. You know, the question is whether the theater now can do for an audience what Brecht tried to do, or what Craig or Duse tried to do. Can it do it now? You see, I think that people today are so deeply asleep that unless, you know, you're putting on those sort of superficial plays that just help your audience to sleep more comfortably, it's very hard to know what to do in the theater. [Distant talking heard in the background.] 'Cause, you see, I think that if you put on serious contemporary plays by writers like yourself, you may only be helping to deaden the audience in a different way.
WALLY: What do you mean?
ANDRE: [The background talking seems closer.] Well, I mean, Wally: how does it affect an audience to put on one of these plays in which you show that people are totally isolated now, and they can't reach each other, and their lives are desperate? Or how does it affect them to see a play that shows that our world is full of nothing but shocking sexual events and terror and violence? Does that help to wake up a sleeping audience? See, I don't think so. Because I think it's very likely that the picture of the world that you're showing them in a play like that is exactly the picture of the world they have already. I mean, you know, they know their own lives and relationships are difficult and painful. And if they watch the evening news on television, well, there what they see is a terrifying, chaotic universe full of rapes and murders, and hands cut off by subway cars, and children pushing their parents out of windows! So the play tells them that their impression of the world is correct and that there is absolutely no way out. There's nothing they can do. And they end up feeling passive and impotent.
I mean, look at something like that christening, that my group arranged for me in the forest of Poland, well, there was an example of something that had all the elements of theater: it was worked on carefully, it was thought about carefully, it was done with exquisite taste and magic. And they had in fact created something! In this case it was in a way just for an audience of one, just for me, but they created something, that had ritual, love, surprise, denouement, beginning, middle and end, and was an incredibly beautiful piece of theater! And the impact that it had on its audience, on me, was somehow a totally positive one: it didn't deaden me, it brought me to life!
WALLY: [Pause.] Yeah, but I mean, are you saying that it's impossible, I mean...I mean, isn't it a little upsetting to come to the conclusion that there's no way to wake people up any more? Except to involve them in some kind of a strange christening in Poland, or some kind of a strange experience on top of Mount Everest? I mean, because you know, the awful thing is that if you're really saying that it's necessary to take everybody to Everest, it's really tough! Because everybody can't be taken to Everest! I mean, there must have been periods in history when it would have been possible to "save the patient" through less drastic measures. I mean, there must have been periods when in order to give people a strong or meaningful experience you wouldn't actually have to take them to Everest!
ANDRE: But you do, now! In some way or other you do, now!
WALLY: I mean, you know, there was a time when you could have just, for instance, written, I don't know, Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen! And I'm sure the people who read it had a pretty strong experience. I'm sure they did. I mean, all right, now you're saying that people today wouldn't get it, and maybe that's true, but, I mean, isn't there any kind of writing, or any kind of a play that--I mean: isn't it still legitimate for writers to try to portray reality so that people can see it? I mean, really! Tell me: why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean...I mean: is Mount Everest more "real" than New York? I mean, isn't New York "real"? I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean...I mean, isn't there just as much "reality" to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest? I mean, what do you think? You see, I think that not only is there nothing more real about Mount Everest, I think there's nothing that different, in a certain way. I mean, because reality is uniform, in a way. So that if you're--if your perceptions--I mean, if your own mechanism is operating correctly, it would become irrelevant to go to Mount Everest, and sort of absurd! Because, I mean, it's just--I mean, of course, on some level, I mean, obviously it's very different from a cigar store on Seventh Avenue, but I mean...
ANDRE: [Interrupting:] But, well, I agree with you, Wally! But the problem is that people can't see the cigar store, now. I mean, things don't affect people the way they used to. I mean, it may very well be that ten years from now people will pay ten thousand dollars in cash to be castrated, just in order to be affected by something!
WALLY: [Quieter:] Well, why...why do you think that is? I mean, why is that? I mean, is it just because people are lazy today? Or they're bored? I mean, are we just like bored, spoiled children who've just been lying in the bathtub all day just playing with their plastic duck and now they're just thinking: "Well! what can I do?" [Cough in the background.]
ANDRE: Okay! Yes! We're bored! We're all bored now! But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brain-washing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money? And that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it's not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who's bored is asleep, and somebody who's asleep will not say "no"? See, I keep meeting these people, I mean, uh, just a few days ago I met this man whom I greatly admire, he's a Swedish physicist, Gustav Björnstrand? And he told me that he no longer watches television, he doesn't read newspapers and he doesn't read magazines. He's completely cut them out of his life, because he really does feel that we're living in some kind of Orwellian nightmare now, and that everything that you hear now contributes to turning you into a robot!
And when I was at Findhorn, I met this extraordinary English tree expert, who had devoted his life to saving trees. He just got back from Washington, lobbying to save the redwoods? He's eighty-four years old and he always travels with a back-pack 'cause he never knows where he's gonna be tomorrow! And when I met him at Findhorn he said to me: "Where are you from?" And I said: "New York." He said: "Ah, New York! Yes, that's a very interesting place. Do you know a lot of New Yorkers who keep talking about the fact that they want to leave but never do?" And I said: "Oh, yes!" And he said: "Why do you think they don't leave?" I gave him different banal theories. He said: "Oh, I don't think it's that way at all." He said: "I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing they've built, they've built their own prison. And so they exist in a state of schizophrenia, where they are both guards and prisoners. And as a result they no longer have, having been lobotomized, the capacity to leave the prison they've made, or to even see it as a prison. And then he went into his pocket and he took out a seed for a tree, and he said: "This is a pine tree." He put it in my hand and he said: "Escape, before it's too late."
You see, actually, for two or three years now Chiquita and I have had this very unpleasant feeling that we really should get out. No, we really should feel like Jews in Germany in the late thirties? Get out of here! Of course, the problem is where to go, 'cause it seems quite obvious that the whole world is going in the same direction. You see, I think it's quite possible that the nineteen-sixties represented the last burst of the human being before he was extinguished. And that this is the beginning of the rest of the future now, and that from now on there'll simply be all these robots walking around, feeling nothing, thinking nothing. And there'll be nobody left almost to remind them that there once was a species called a human being, with feelings and thoughts. And that history and memory are right now being erased, and soon nobody will really remember that life existed on the planet!
Now, of course, Björnstrand feels that there's really almost no hope. And that we're probably going back to a very savage, lawless, terrifying period. Findhorn people see it a little differently. They're feeling that there'll be these "pockets of light" springing up in different parts of the world, and that these will be in a way invisible planets on this planet, and that as we, or the world, grow colder, we can take invisible space journeys to these different planets, refuel for what it is we need to do on the planet itself, and come back. And it's their feeling that there have to be centers, now, where people can come and reconstruct a new future for the world. And when I was talking to Gustav Björnstrand, he was saying that actually, these centers are growing up everywhere now! And that what they're trying to do, which is what Findhorn was trying to do, and in a way what I was trying to do...I mean, these things can't be given names, but in a way, these are all attempts at creating a new kind of school, or a new kind of monastery. And Björnstrand talks about the concept of reserves, islands of safety, where history can be remembered, and the human being can continue to function in order to maintain the species through a dark age.
In other words we're talking about an underground, which did exist in a different way during the Dark Ages among the mystical orders of the Church. And the purpose of this underground is to find out how to preserve the light, life, the culture. How to keep things living. You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language, a language of the heart, languages in the Polish forest where language wasn't needed. Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that's the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language, you're going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception, where you have that sense of being united to all things. And suddenly, you understand everything. [Pause. Floor and street sounds.]
WAITER: Are you ready for some desert?
ANDRE: Ah, I think I'll just have an espresso, thank you.
WALLY: I'll also have one. Thank you. And could I also have an Amaretto?
ANDRE: Certainly, sir.
WALLY: Thank you.
ANDRE: You see, Wally, there's this incredible building that they built at Findhorn. The man who designed it had never designed anything in his life; he wrote children's books! And some people wanted it to be a sort of hall of meditation, and others wanted it to be a kind of lecture hall, but the psychic part of the community wanted it to serve another function as well. Because they wanted it to be a kind of spaceship which at night could rise up and let the UFOs know that this was a safe place to land, and that they would find friends there? So, the problem was--'cause it needed a massive kind of roof--was how to have a roof that would stay on the building but at the same time be able to fly up at night and meet the flying saucers? So, the architect meditated and meditated, and he finally came up with the very simple solution of not actually joining the roof to the building! Which means that it should fall off, because they have great gales up in northern Scotland. So, to keep it from falling off, he got beach stones from the beach, or we did, 'cause I worked on this building, all up and down the roof just like that, and the idea was that the energy that would flow from stone to stone would be so strong, you see, that it would keep the roof down under any conditions, but at the same time if the roof needed to go up, it would be light enough to go up! Well, it works, you see. Now, architects don't know why it works, and it shouldn't work, 'cause it should fall off, but it works, it does work: the gales blow and the roof should fall off, but it doesn't fall off. [Pause. Coughing in the background.]
WALLY: Yep. Well, uh. D'you wanna know my actual response to all this? I mean, do you want to hear my actual response?
WALLY: See, my actual response, I mean...I mean...I mean, I'm just trying to survive, you know. I mean, I'm just trying to earn a living, just trying to pay my rents and my bills. I mean, uh...ahhh. I live my life, I enjoy staying home with Debby. I'm reading Charlton Heston's autobiography, and that's that! I mean, you know, I mean, occasionally maybe Debby and I will step outside, we'll go to a party or something, and if I can occasionally get my little talent together and write a little play, well then that's just wonderful. And I mean, I enjoy reading about other little plays that other people have written, and reading the reviews of those plays, and what people said about them, and what people said about what people said, and.... And I mean, I have a list of errands and responsibilities that I keep in a notebook; I enjoy going through the notebook, carrying out the responsibilities, doing the errands, then crossing them off the list!
And I mean, I just don't know how anybody could enjoy anything more than I enjoy reading Charlton Heston's autobiography, or, you know, getting up in the morning and having the cup of cold coffee that's been waiting for me all night, still there for me to drink in the morning! And no cockroach or fly has died in it overnight. I mean, I'm just so thrilled when I get up and I see that coffee there just the way I wanted it, I mean, I just can't imagine how anybody could enjoy something else any more than that! I mean...I mean, obviously, if the cockroach--if there is a dead cockroach in it, well, then I just have a feeling of disappointment, and I'm sad.
But I mean, I just don't think I feel the need for anything more than all this. Whereas, you know, you seem to be saying that it's inconceivable that anybody could be having a meaningful life today, and you know, everyone is totally destroyed. And we all need to live in these outposts. But I mean, you know, I just can't believe, even for you, I mean, don't you find...? Isn't it pleasant just to get up in the morning, and there's Chiquita, there are the children, and the Times is delivered, you can read it! I mean, maybe you'll direct a play, maybe you won't direct a play, but forget about the play that you may or may not direct. Why is it necessary to...why not lean back and just enjoy these details? I mean, and there'd be a delicious cup of coffee and a piece of coffee cake. I mean, why is it necessary to have more than this, or to even think about having more than this. I mean, I don't really know what you're talking about. I mean...I mean I know what you're talking about, but I don't really know what you're talking about.
And I mean, you know, even if I were to totally agree with you, you know, and even if I were to accept the idea that there's just no way for anybody to have personal happiness now, well, you know, I still couldn't accept the idea that the way to make life wonderful would be to just totally, you know, reject western civilization and fall back into some kind of belief in some kind of weird something. I mean...I mean, I don't even know how to begin talking about this, but, do you know...? In the Middle Ages, before the arrival of scientific thinking as we know it today, well, people could believe anything. Anything could be true: the statue of the Virgin Mary could speak, or bleed, or whatever it was. But the wonderful thing that happened was that then in the development of science in the western world, well, certain things did come slowly to be known, and understood. I mean, you know, obviously all ideas in science are constantly being revised; I mean, that's the whole point. But we do at least know that the universe has some shape, and order, and that, you know, trees do not turn into people, or goddesses. And they're very good reasons why they don't, and you can't just believe absolutely anything!
Whereas the things that you're talking about, I mean...I mean.... [Starts over:] You found the hand print in the book, and there were three Andrés and one Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and to me that is a coincidence! But, and then, you know, the people who put that book together, well, they had their own reasons for putting it together. But to you it was significant, as if that book had been written forty years ago so that you would see it; as if it was planned for you, in a way.
I mean, really, I mean.... I mean, all right. Let's say: if I get a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant, I mean, of course, even I have a tendency, I mean, you know, I mean, of course, I would hardly throw it out! I mean, I read it, I read it, and I just instinctively sort of, you know, if it says something like: "Conversation with a dark-haired man will be very important for you," well, I just instinctively think, you know, who do I know who has dark hair? Did we have a conversation? What did we talk about? In other words there's something in me that makes me read it, and I instinctively interpret it as if it were an omen of the future, but in my conscious opinion, which is so fundamental to my whole view of life, I mean, I would just have to change totally to not have this opinion, in my conscious opinion, this is simply something that was written in the cookie factory, several years ago, and in no way it refers to me! I mean, you know, the fact that I got--I mean, the man who wrote it did not know anything about me, I mean, he could not have known anything about me! There's no way that this cookie could actually have to do with me! And the fact that I've gotten it is just basically a joke! And I mean, if I were to go on a trip, on an airplane, and I got a fortune cookie that said "Don't go," I mean, of course, I admit I might feel a bit nervous for about one second, but in fact I would go, because, I mean, that trip is gonna be successful or unsuccessful based on the state of the airplane and the state of the pilot, and the cookie is in no position to know about that.
And I mean, you know, it's the same with any kind of prophecy or sign or an omen, because if you believe in omens, then that means that the universe--I mean, I don't even know how to begin to describe this. That means that the future is somehow sending messages backwards to the present! Which means that the future must exist in some sense already in order to be able to send these messages. And it also means that things in the universe are there for a purpose: to give us messages. Whereas I think that things in the universe are just there. I mean, they don't mean anything. I mean, you know, if the turtle's egg falls out of the tree and splashes on the paving stones, it's just because that turtle was clumsy, by accident. And to decide whether to send my ships off to war on the basis of that seems a big mistake to me.
ANDRE: Well, what information would you send your ships to war on? Because if it's all meaningless, what's the difference whether you accept the fortune cookie or the statistics of the Ford foundation? It doesn't seem to matter.
WALLY: Well, the meaningless fact of the fortune cookie or the turtle's egg can't possibly have any relevance to the subject you're analyzing. Whereas a group of meaningless facts that are collected and interpreted in a scientific way may quite possibly be relevant. Because the wonderful thing about scientific theories about things is that they're based on experiments that can be repeated! [Long pause while coffee is being served.]
ANDRE: Well, it's true, Wally. I mean, you know, following omens and so on is probably just a way of letting ourselves off the hook, so that we don't have to take individual responsibility for our own actions. I mean, giving yourself over to the unconscious can leave you vulnerable to all sorts of very frightening manipulation. And in all the work I was involved in there was always that danger. And there was always that question of tampering with people's lives. Because if I lead one of these workshops then I do become partly a doctor and partly a therapist and partly a priest, and I'm not a doctor or a therapist or a priest. And already some of these new monasteries or communities or whatever we've been talking about, are becoming institutionalized and I guess even in a way at times sort of fascistic. You know, there's a sort of self-satisfied, elitist paranoia that grows up, a feeling of "them" and "us" that is very unsettling.
But I mean, the thing is, Wally, I think it's the exaggerated worship of science that has led us into this situation. I mean, science has been held up to us as a magical force that would somehow solve everything, but quite the contrary, it's done quite the contrary, it's destroyed everything. So, that is what has really led, I think, to this very strong, deep reaction against science that we're seeing now. Just as the Nazi demons that were released in the thirties in Germany were probably a reaction against a certain oppressive kind of knowledge and culture and rational thinking. So, I agree that we're talking about something potentially very dangerous, but modern science has not been particularly less dangerous.
WALLY: Right. Well, I agree with you, I completely agree. [Pause.] You know, the truth is, I think I do know what really disturbs me about the work you've described, and I don't even know if I can express it. But somehow it seems that the whole point of the work that you did in those workshops, when you get right down to it and you ask: what was it really about; the whole point really, I think, was to enable the people in the workshops, including yourself, to somehow sort of strip away every scrap of purposefulness from certain selected moments. And the point of it was so that you would then all be able to experience somehow just pure being. In other words you were trying to discover what it would be like to live for certain moments without having any particular thing that you were supposed to be doing. And I think I just simply object to that. I mean, I just don't think I accept the idea that there should be moments in which you're not trying to do anything! I think it's our nature to do things, I think we should do things, I think that purposefulness is part of our ineradicable, basic human structure, and to say that we ought to be able to live without it is like saying that a tree ought to be able to live without branches or roots, but actually, without branches or roots it wouldn't be a tree. I mean, it would just be a log. You see what I'm saying?
WALLY: I mean, in other words, if I'm sitting at home and I have nothing to do, well, I'd naturally reach for a book. I mean, what would be so great about just sitting there and doing nothing? It just seems absurd.
ANDRE: And if Debby is there?
WALLY: [Slight pause.] Well that's just the same thing. I mean...I mean, is there really such a thing as two people doing nothing but just being together? I mean, would they simply be "relating," to use the word we're always using? I mean, what would that mean? I mean...I mean, either we're gonna have a conversation, or we're going to carry out the garbage, or, we're gonna do something, separately or together. I mean, do you see what I'm saying? I mean, what does it mean to just simply sit there?
ANDRE: That makes you nervous.
WALLY: Hunh! Hunh! Why shouldn't it make me nervous!? It just seems ridiculous to me!
ANDRE: That's interesting, Wally. I mean, you know, you know, when I went to Ladakh in western Tibet and stayed on a farm for a month, well, there, you know, when people come over in the evening for tea, nobody says anything, unless there's something to say, but there almost never is, so they just sit there and drink their tea, and it doesn't seem to bother them. I mean, you see: the trouble, Wally, with always being active and doing things, is that I think it's quite possible to do all sorts of things and at the same time be completely dead inside. I mean, you're doing all these things, but are you doing them because you really feel an impulse to do them, or are you doing them mechanically, as we were saying before? Because I really do believe that if you're just living mechanically, then you have to change your life.
I mean, you know, when you're young, you go out on dates all the time, you go dancing or something, you're floating free, and then one day you suddenly find yourself in a relationship, and suddenly everything freezes. And this can be true in your work as well. I mean, of course if you're really alive inside, then of course there's no problem! I mean, if you're living with somebody in one little room and there's a life going on between you and the person you're living with, well then a whole adventure can be going on, right in that room. But there's always the danger that things can go dead; then I really do think you have to kind of become a hobo or something, you know, like Kerouac, and go out on the road. I really believe that. I mean, you know, it's not that wonderful to spend your life on the road, and my own overwhelming preference is to stay in that room if you can.
But you know, if you live with somebody for a long time, people are constantly saying: "Well! Of course it's not as great as it used to be, but that's only natural, the first blush of a romance goes, now that's the way it has to be." Now, I totally disagree with that. But I do think that you have to constantly ask yourself the question with total frankness: Is your marriage still a marriage? Is the sacramental element there? Just as you have to ask about the sacramental element in your work: is it still there? I mean, it's a very frightening thing, Wally, to have to suddenly realize that my God! I thought I was living my life, but in fact I haven't been a human being! I've been a performer! I haven't been living, I've been acting! I've acted the role of a father, I've acted the role of the husband, I've acted the role of the friend, I've acted the role of the writer, director, what have you. I've lived in the same room with this person but I haven't really seen them. I haven't really heard them. I haven't really been with them.
WALLY: Yeah, I know. Some people are just sometimes existing just side by side. I mean, the other person's face could just turn into a great wolf's face and it just wouldn't be noticed.
ANDRE: And it wouldn't be noticed, no. It wouldn't be noticed. I mean, when I was in Israel a little while ago? I mean, I have this picture of Chiquita that was taken when she--I always carry it with me--it was taken when she was about 26 or something and it's in summer and she's stretched out on a terrace in this sort of old-fashioned long skirt that's kind of pulled up and she's slim and sensual and beautiful and I've always looked at that picture and just thought about just how sexy she looks. And then last year in Israel, I looked at the picture? And I realized that that face in the picture was the saddest face in the world. That girl at that time was just lost, so sad and so alone. You know, I've been carrying this picture for years and not ever really seen what it is, you know, I just never really looked at the picture.
And then at a certain point I realized I had just gone for a good eighteen years unable to feel, except in the most extreme situations. I mean, to some extent I still had the ability to live in my work; that was why I was such a work junkie, that was why I felt every play I did was a matter of my life or my death. But in my real life, I was dead. I was a robot. You know, I didn't even allow myself to get angry, or annoyed. I mean, you know, today, Chiquita, Nicholas, Marina, all day long, as people do, they do things that annoy me and they say things that annoy me, and today I get annoyed; and they say "Why are you annoyed?" and I say "Because you're annoying!" you know.
And when I allowed myself to consider the possibility of not spending the rest of my life with Chiquita, I realized that what I wanted most in life was to always be with her. But at that time I hadn't learned what it would be like to let yourself react to another human being. And if you can't react to another person then there's no possibility of action or interaction. And if there isn't, I don't really know what the word "love" means, except "duty," "obligation," "sentimentality," "fear."
I mean, I don't know about you, Wally, but I just had to put myself into a kind of training program to learn how to be a human being. I mean, how did I feel about anything? I didn't know. What kind of things did I like, what kind of people did I really want to be with, you know? And the only way I could think of to find out was to just cut out all the noise, and stop performing all the time and just listen to what was inside me. See, I think a time comes when you need to do that. Now, maybe in order to do it you have to go to the Sahara, and maybe you can do it at home, but you need to cut out the noise. [Street noise: honking.]
WALLY: Yeah. Of course, personally I just--I usually don't like those quiet moments, you know, I really don't. I mean, I don't know if it's that Freudian thing or what, but--you know, the fear of unconscious impulses or my own aggression or whatever--but if things get too quiet and I find myself just sitting there, you know, as we were saying before, I mean, whether I'm by myself or I'm with someone else, I just, I just have this feeling of: "My God! I'm gonna be revealed!" In other words I'm adequate to do any sort of a task, but I'm not adequate just to be a human being. I mean, in other words I'm not--if I'm just trapped there and I'm not allowed to do things but all I can do is just be there, well, I'll just fail. I mean, in other words, I can pass any other sort of a test, and I, you know, I can even get an A, if I put in the required effort. But I just don't have a clue how to pass this test. I mean, of course I realize this isn't a test, but I see it as a test and I feel I'm gonna fail it, I mean, it's very scary. I just feel, just totally at sea. I mean...
ANDRE: Well, you know, I could imagine a life, Wally, in which each day would become an incredible monumental creative task. And we're not necessarily up to it. I mean, if you felt like walking out on the person you live with, you'd walk out. Then if you felt like it, you'd come back, but meanwhile the other person would have reacted to your walking out. It would be a life of such feeling. I mean, what was amazing in the workshops I led was how quickly people seem to fall into enthusiasm, celebration, joy, wonder, abandon, wildness, tenderness! Could we stand to live like that?
WALLY: Yeah, I think it's that moment of contact with another person. I mean that's what scares us. I mean, that moment of being face to face with another person. I mean, now, you wouldn't think it would be so frightening. It's strange that we find it so frightening.
ANDRE: Well, it isn't that strange. I mean, first of all, there are some pretty good reasons for being frightened. I mean, you know, a human being is a complex and dangerous creature. I mean, really if you start living each moment, Christ, that's quite a challenge! I mean, if you really reach out, and you're really in touch with the other person? Well, that really is something to strive for, I think; I really do.
WALLY: Yeah, it's just so pathetic if one doesn't do that.
ANDRE: Of course there's a problem, because the closer you come, I think, to another human being, the more completely mysterious and unreachable that person becomes. I mean, you know, you have to reach out and you have to go back and forth with them, and you have to relate, and yet you're relating to a ghost or something. I don't know, because we're ghosts, we're phantoms. Who are we? And that's to face--to confront the fact that you're completely alone, and to accept that you're alone is to accept death.
WALLY: You mean, because somehow when you are alone, you're alone with death, I mean, nothing's obstructing your view of it, or something like that.
ANDRE: Right. [Street noise: siren.]
WALLY: You know, if I understood it correctly, I think Heidegger said that if you were to experience your own being to the full you'd be experiencing the decay of that being toward death as a part of your experience.
ANDRE: You know, in the sexual act there's that moment of complete forgetting, which is so incredible. Then in the next moment you start to think about things: work on the play, what you've got to do tomorrow. I don't know if this is true of you, but I think it must be quite common. The world comes in quite fast. Now that again may be because we're afraid to stay in that place of forgetting, because that again is close to death. Like people who are afraid to go to sleep. In other words: you interrelate and you don't know what the next moment will bring, and to not know what the next moment will bring brings you closer to a perception of death!
You see, that's why I think that people have affairs. Well, I mean, you know, in the theater, if you get good reviews, you feel for a moment that you've got your hands on something. You know what I mean? I mean it's a good feeling. But then that feeling goes quite quickly. And once again you don't know quite what you should do next. What'll happen? Well, have an affair and up to a certain point you can really feel that you're on firm ground. You know, there's a sexual conquest to be made, there are different questions: does she enjoy the ears being nibbled, how intensely can you talk about Schopenhauer in some elegant French restaurant. Whatever nonsense it is. It's all, I think, to give you the semblance that there's firm earth.
Well, have a real relationship with a person that goes on for years, that's completely unpredictable. Then you've cut off all your ties to the land and you're sailing into the unknown, into uncharted seas. I mean, you know, people hold on to these images: father, mother, husband, wife, again for the same reason: 'cause they seem to provide some firm ground. But there's no wife there. What does that mean, a wife? A husband? A son? A baby holds your hands and then suddenly there's this huge man lifting you off the ground, and then he's gone. Where's that son?
WALLY'S NARRATION: [Piano music: Eric Satie's first Gymnopédie. The restaurant is empty. The waiter comes over with the bill.] All the other customers seemed to have left hours ago. We got the bill, and André paid for our dinner! [Change of scene. We are looking out of a car window; it is raining, or has recently rained. Shops go by.] I treated myself to a taxi. I rode home through the city streets! There wasn't a street--there wasn't a building--that wasn't connected to some memory in my mind. There I was buying a suit with my father. There I was having an ice-cream soda after school. When I finally came in, Debby was home from work. And I told her everything about my dinner with André.