What you see… the willing suspension of disbelief

May 13, 2012 | 3 comments

     Son Charlie sent me some photographs taken during a rehearsal for “Measure for Measure.”  Had I not known they were of my only son-and-heir, and had I not known the circumstances under which they were done, I think I would have been truly mystified.  And intrigued.
     From now through October, Charlie is working at the Theatricum Botanicum, a repertory theater in Los Angeles.  He has small parts in two plays – the aforementioned “Measure for Measure” and “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”  The director of “Measure” has set it in San Francisco in the sixties, during the time of the flower children and peace marches and general unrest concerning our nation’s role in Viet Nam.
     It’s a time I well remember, as does Charlie.  We were living in the East Bay (Castro Valley) then and had a number of friends in San Francisco.  Some even lived in the Haight Ashbury district and we were often on the edge of the protests and in the thick of the folk singing.  I didn’t burn my bra or wrap myself in a flag, but I was definitely a sympathizer.
     San Francisco 1968 is a background that’s apparently a good fit for the plot of “Measure for Measure.”  (I have to confess that I have not seen or read the play for a long time.)  In addition to his part as Barnardine, Charlie appears in the crowd scenes as a Viet Nam veteran.  He is in a wheelchair and to change his appearance from the Barnardine character, he wears a beard.  He is also carrying a sign which is why he sent the photograph.  (He had made it and I was curious.)
     Even though I know I’m looking at Charlie, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around that fact.  What a difference a little make-up, a beard and a few costume pieces make.   He tells me that he leads the singing and at some point in the scene he cries.  That caused a problem in the first dress rehearsal – his tears dissolved the mustache stick-um and he said trying to keep it in place with as little notice as possible made him feel like he was in a bad Lucille Ball comedy.  But, that’s what rehearsals are all about – finding the right glue!
     As I look at this picture, it’s as though I’m seeing someone familiar but I can’t quite place him.  I wonder how I’ll feel when I see the play in June.  One thing is certain – I won’t miss him.  He will certainly stand out, wheelchair or no wheelchair, in the crowd.  That’s my boy!


  1. Nancy

    Sydney….your blog brought moisture to my lids as I thought of San Francisco in the late 60s, of Viet Nam, of the Veterans for Peace organization and of Charlie. I too had difficulty “wrapping my head around the fact” that the man in the photo is your son! Thank you so much for this post, which on Mothers’ Day seems to have deeper meaning.

  2. Marta

    Hi Syd – Your blog brings back so many memories & Charlie’s transformation as a bearded Vietnam vet is quite stunning!! How neat that you posted this on Mother’s Day, as the origin of this day was based on mothers who were protesting the war….such synchronicity!!

    Happy Mother’s Day to you, the best “other mother” a gal could ever have!


  3. Stephanie Frieze

    We’ve become history, Sydney. Students at school are gobsmacked about the rock groups I’ve seen and the marches I participated in in Seattle.

    Charlie needs to do a play in SF. I could go visit Nadir and we’d go see it. Have fun when you go to LA.


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