Friday, June 27, 2008


The forest fires are raging in the San Francisco Bay area, and Lake Tahoe is swathed in smoke. The mountains, when you can see them, are hazy and clouded. The lake disappears into mist. Several of my actors are getting serious asthma attacks - they tell me the air quality feels worse than New York City, and I can well believe them.

Meanwhile, our American Dream is taking shape. It's usual when talking about rehearsal processes to say "slowly taking shape", but this process is astonishingly fast. It's barely two weeks since we sat down to read the play, and today we were running long sections of it. Given that the same cast are also rehearsing Richard III, this is lightning progress. We've also been joined by our Native American flute player, Kelvin Mockingbird. Kelvin's work is transforming the play, giving a magical echo-chamber to Shakespeare's verse, and filtering it through the indigenous culture into the consciousness of modern America. He's also a wonderful consultant for the First Nations elements we're including in the production.

Last night Kelvin, Catherine Atack and I were invited to the house of one of the board members, Vicki, where we met Danny and Rose, two First Nations people who are working to keep cultural traditions alive in this area. Danny had been part of the AIM (American Indian Movement) in the 1970s - supporting Wounded Knee and going on the Longest Walk. Rose had brought her daughter with her: a beautiful child whose traditional name is Evening Star, and whose English name is Hope. As we talked and laughed around the fire in Vicki's garden, and Kelvin played his flute, there was a real sense that this little girl had been given the right name. We are working together to create real cultural dialogue - and that is an action filled with hope.

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