Deborah Eisenberg: Such A Beautiful Tension

Unedited Notes from Journal
New Orleans

Not long ago I was encouraged--compelled--by a dear friend to see a play that was described to me as good and intelligent. It was far more than that. The writer is unknown to me, but I imagine many future encounters with her talents. Deborah Eisenberg. And within the cast of her play--called Pastorale--was the wonderful Judith Ivey, who was brought to my attention by Millie Natwick. 

The recommendation of the friend and the presence of Judith Ivey, whose name and countenance had been swimming before my eyes for a few years, led me to the theatre.

Writing--and I suppose, for that matter, talent--has a great deal to do with placement. Words must fall upon a page in a particular pattern. There are rhythms that must be honored and perfected. There is the human truth that must be honored, and there is the artistic. Both are steep mountains to climb.

When one has writing that is placed upon a stage, an entirely new form of placement presents itself: The placement of people in situations rooted both in reality and in theatricality that can reach an audience and allow them to see the truth in the magical presentation of a story.

Deborah Eisenberg presented to her director an ideal map of placement, because there was such a beautiful tension created by her ability to drop and divide and share words in such a lapidary and dangerous way. Her characters--at least to me--appeared to be dangerously swerving toward their attempts to tell their stories over and between and among these words, and the director needed then to move everyone about in such a way that you felt that a portion of life was taking place right before you. Messy people; funny people; complicated people. Endowed with humor and intelligence and trying to figure things out.

Eisenberg had figured everything out. The road she had presented to us was winding and at times overgrown with peril, but it got itself right and there was a safe destination ahead.

It was so wonderful to reach the end of that road and to savor the language and the people with whom you had danced for a while.

This is what I realize--again--that the theatre can be. And what I hope I can create again.

Some words and some danger and some magic in the air.

Deborah Eisenberg is currently appearing in Wallace Shawn's The Designated Mourner, with Larry Pine (left), Mr. Shawn (center) at The Public Theater until August 25th. 

You may try to purchase tickets to this production at, but I would not get my hopes up. Everyone wants to be there.

© 2013 James Grissom 


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