Wednesday, January 03, 2007


The economy with which gesture reveals the prickly consciousness of social class reminds me of a story I heard about a German theater troupe rehearsing a scene in which a boss was supposed to hand a document to a worker in the plant. The actor playing the worker kept saying that he couldn't get the scene right, that something felt incorrect about the way that the worker was taking the document from his boss. At which point the director -- Bertolt Brecht, in the version I heard -- called in the theater's cleaning woman. Very politely, he said that they were having a problem. Could she help them and hold their document for a moment? The cleaning woman wiped her hands on her apron and only then reached for the paper, thus demonstrating for the actor what had been missing and what was required.
Francine Prose, Reading Like A Writer 219 (HarperCollins, 2006).

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