The Rich Man’s Troupe

So you wonder how it’s possible to spend the amount of money I manage to spend. You may well wonder. I didn’t learn how to spend like this right away. It took time. One must look beyond the more mundane luxuries, first of all. Unless cars are the joy of your life, you can only buy so many of them. The same with houses. A lot of people saddled with my immense wealth would resort to spending it on things they would never use, like third world countries, presidential bids, things like that. I for one choose to get with my money things people never imagined were available, but which they would want if they heard about them. I will describe one such thing about which I am very proud.

I have my own acting troupe. This does not impress you. Neither are you particularly impressed when I mention that it is made up of some of the brightest young actors in the country and that they are under a contractual obligation to perform for me alone. But the service that this particular acting troupe performs is quite uncommon. They don’t really act plays. I’d rather go to the theater for that, get out in the city, show off my mistress. It’s not a kinky sex thing, either, at least not necessarily, although sex certainly comes into play. In any case I always remain a spectator. What exactly do they do? They show me myself.

They are much better paid than average actors, even the famous ones, because they are asked to do much more, and because I own them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are not allowed out of the confines of my estate. You see, I allow them access to my most personal records. They’ve read everything I’ve ever scrawled since I was a tiny thing, every half-baked journal entry, every love letter (there have been quite a few). They comb through all my photographs as well. Any face they encounter, any name, they are instructed to research that person, find out anything they can about them which might relate to me. They must also learn general things about that person to find out how they might be depicted most convincingly on the stage. I have make-up artists too, of course, lighting technicians, and sound men, whatever it takes to put on the better show. I don’t have a director though, because that’s really me, and I don’t have any writers because I don’t trust them. They’d rather tell their own story. I love actors because they like nothing better than to be someone else.

Most of these actors have been in my employ for ten years. I have added a couple younger ones recently, but I don’t want to let the older ones go. They don’t seem to want to go, although I have never asked them. By this time they have learned to embody my life so well that it is second nature to them. Here is how it works: having learned all they can about the events and people of my life, they empty the stage, lights off. I then bark out whatever comes to mind, like, “Saturday riding bicycle!” A light comes on and one of my marvelous actors comes out, mimicking the action of riding a bicycle, and also subtly reminding me of a particular time I rode my bicycle by the beach when I was a child. Then I cry out, “Old lady! Pumpkin patch!” which produces an old lady who, along with the cyclist, has to deal with the sudden appearance of a pumpkin patch by the side of the road. But don’t think my actors are totally at the mercy of my mad exclamations, because I’m liable then to shut up for a while, curious to see what will happen. The pumpkin patch, the old lady, and the bicyclist are all parts of my past, but all from different parts of my past. I don’t really have any idea how they will react together. By now my actors are so well-trained, and so deeply absorbed in their roles, that they are invariably convincing. “So that is how the old lady, the pumpkin patch, and the cyclist fit together,” I think, as I watch the cyclist nearly run the old lady over and fall into the pumpkin patch. The old lady rushes to help the boy up. They look into each other’s eyes for a moment. I can’t control myself. “Rain!” I cry, and my actors run for cover.

But why, you ask, do I need these actors to show me myself? Listen, do you have any idea how much energy real self-examination takes? In real self-examination, no possibilities can be overlooked. It is not enough, for instance, to consider everything that has happened in one’s life. One must consider everything that didn’t happen as well, like the above incident, because only then can one come to terms with the most drastic consequences of one’s character, all of which, especially if one’s character is as powerful as my own, one can’t possibly live through. The task is daunting to say the least. One would have to spend every waking moment engaged in it if one had to do it alone, and it would be a monumental bore to boot. Me, I’ve got tennis matches to go to, flights to Paris, several women whom I love dearly, not to mention my children. Besides, I’m convinced my actors reveal things to me that I would never be able to uncover myself. I do the easy part by shouting out random images. My actors do the very hard work of synthesis, work which I have tried in the past and never had much success with. If it were up to me, the old lady, the bicyclist, and the pumpkin patch would have stayed in separate parts of the stage, unsure how to react to each other. The cyclist would have been too busy cycling to even think of almost running into the old lady, the pumpkin patch too busy growing pumpkins to break his fall. I’ve tried to do in my mind what my actors do on the stage, and I can’t manage it. I’d rather pay them to do it.

Now you are wondering if my actors are really honest with me about the weaker points of my character. Oh, they are, they are. I have no illusions there. When they showed me the extent of my vanity, I gave them all raises, which encouraged them to crystallize my jealous nature for me, to make my bigotry painfully obvious, and then, in a particularly poignant scene, to show how my feelings of sexual inadequacy make me a regular beast with the women. I applaud their accomplishments. I may have remained blind to these glaring faults if it weren’t for them.

I don’t think I could live without my actors. They keep me whole. They are money well-spent.

[Originally published at Icebox Journal]

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