Bill George

Bethlehem, PA

I make theatre for a living. It’s a terrible way to make a living, if you actually need money. And, needless to say, I don’t like everything I do; in fact, even then I may like something I’m never entirely satisfied with it. At Touchstone we’d done considerable work with Gus Ripa, an old and cherished friend, on Shakespeare’s sonnets over a year of rehearsals and investigation. Working them into gestural expressions, playing with different choral approaches. Audiences seemed to like the results, but I felt, in general, we’d failed to go anywhere really new. The sonnets just don’t come apart. They’re like indestructible diamonds, unwilling to transform into anything other than themselves.

And then a friend of mine died. He was older, it was time. But his wife was left alone. I went to the memorial service, and she asked me to recite Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

I got up there, in front of a few hundred mourning friends, she in the front row with her family. And all those months of work on that poem, the hours in the rehearsal room, the years in diction classes, and acting classes, and in performances…all of it came together in one moment. Say the words clearly and mean them.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

And then, I knew why I was an actor, an artist. To connect my friend with her loved one. To help us transcend the pain and celebrate the glory of life.