Good morning. It's June 29, a few hours after another fatal shooting at CHOP, and the morning when worldwide COVID fatalities have passed half a million. But amid the destruction and loss of life, at least there is still art—at least there are still artists who can open up our minds and make us see life in new ways.
One of the most brilliant actors in the city, Charles Leggett, responded to the invitation to make a Message to the City by asking if he could perform the work of another artist, the poet Kyle Dacuyan. He first encountered it in the online literary magazine The Offing.
It has lines like "Every time I speak / the room more brightly empties." And Chuck's delivery—compelling, accessible, and disarming—draws out all the layers. Even if you don't usually go for poetry, give this one a shot. Poets should hire actors to perform their works on the regular.
You can follow along with the text of the poem here.
When Chuck reached out to Kyle, the poet not only gave permission for his poem to be performed, but also extended his solidarity to all of us here in Seattle (and the CHOP) from New York City. (The poet also happens to be the executive director of this bad-ass organization.)
As for Chuck, "Leggett has been working in this town for a long time—thank god," Brendan Kiley wrote in 2015, when Leggett was nominated for a Stranger Genius Award. "Whenever I open a theater program and see his name, it instantly sparks a sense of relief and hope. Whatever else might happen over the next few hours, you know you're in good hands."
Chuck, who is also a poet, is known among theater types for his highly developed ear for the possibilities of language:
Back in 2010, during the world's umpteenth production of Hamlet, actor Charles Leggett did something unprecedented. He was playing the ghost of Hamlet's father, that dourest of dour roles, and he extracted an astonished laugh from the audience with a single "O." He wasn't mugging or being at all hammy. He used a deadly earnest "O" in a way no one in the audience had ever heard it before. It was in the famous line "Amazement on thy mother sits: O, step between her and her fighting soul." Instead of delivering the "O" as it's always delivered, he glanced at the dead body of Polonius and spoke it as a mildly surprised but almost indifferent "Oh"...
With one carefully deployed syllable, he gave the ghost, his relationship to his closest adviser, and the world of Hamlet, a 400-year-old play, a whole new dimension.
Thank you, Chuck, for the inspired performance of a piece of art we may not have encountered otherwise.
Thank you, Kyle, for the poem. "Every time I speak / the room more brightly empties" will be rattling around in our heads for a while.
Good luck in your empty room today, wherever it is.
Previously in this series: