This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

November 14, 2001 - Character Revisited

I was born and raised in the north. So I talk, and mostly think, northern. Both my parents, though, come from the south. So my family has both types.

Of particular fascination to me is the Southern Woman. By turns brilliant and bitter, demure and demonic, she bewitches and bewilders. I've seen southern women transform from a ruthless roomful of incisive social critics to a bevy of giggling belles, and in just the instant it takes for a man to walk through the door.

And God help the man. Make no mistake, the South is a matriarchy. But men do have their small sorties and rebellions. I'm thinking about all this because I have been afforded a rare opportunity. A year ago, I had the pleasure of appearing in the play, "Greater Tuna," with my friend and cohort, David Truhler. It's a farce set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas.

Between the two of us, we portrayed some 20 characters, most of the population of Tuna. I played two women; David played three. All of them were Southern Ladies, with that Texas twist. One of my female characters, Bertha, is a would-be censor of library books.

Well, it happens that we're reprising the play again this year, as a fundraiser for the Castle Rock Players. You can get tickets by calling 303-814-7740. Our shows, in Castle Rock, are Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m., a matinee on Saturday at 12:30, and a Sunday performance at 4 p.m. All of them take place at Kirk Hall, at the Douglas County fairgrounds. The cost is $15 per ticket.

Actors rarely have the chance to reprise previous parts. I'm finding that the second shot is instructive. The characters have grown in my imagination. I feel that I have more insight into their deep motives, their longings and their disappointments.

They now feel to me not like skits, or gags. They feel like whole people.

It's made me realize just how much life, and reading, is like acting.

All of us have selves: the work self, the family self. Or maybe it's the public self and the private self. That self is made manifest by the choices we make: how we dress, how we carry ourselves, the patterns of our speech and gestures.

In short, we present a character to the world. That character is intelligible—or not. If the character has clarity of choice, a consistency of presentation, it is comprehensible. If the character behaves so randomly that it cannot be predicted or grasped, then it doesn't feel like a character at all.

Likewise, character is a trap—or not. If it hems us in with an ever smaller set of responses, in the name of tradition, of consistency, of social expectation, it is a kind of jail cell.

On the other hand, if the character allows us the full range of our emotions and intelligence, if it has the ability to change, then that character is a stage, like the stage of a rocket.

It's like going back to a library book you read and liked, and this time, with a year's extra experience, getting more out of every page.

There is a value in re-reading. There is a value in revisiting a character you have played before. And there is a value in seeing a play you have seen before.

I hope to see you at Kirk Hall.

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