Mr. Eustis, whose theater oversees Shakespeare in the Park, had long known about the possible connection between the playwright’s grief and his play, but it had new and unwanted resonance.
His 16-year-old son, Jack, took his own life nearly two years ago. Now, Mr. Eustis, with his family, faces the kind of soul-searching for which there can be no preparation. How to hold on and move forward at the same time. What it means to be a public figure with a private grief. How he thinks about the work he does and the shows he sees.
The tragedy coincided with a time of extraordinary success in Mr. Eustis’s professional life: The Public was the Off Broadway birthplace of two groundbreaking new musicals, “Fun Home” and the once-in-a-generation hit “Hamilton.” Those very shows are propelled by tragic losses. But his is a life of theater, and immersing himself in theatermaking is the only path he knows to take.
Some folklorists align the current clown scare with other stories of “phantom attackers,” like the Phantom Slasher of Taipei from the 1950s or the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Ill., from 1944. The latter most likely played on World War II-era fears of gas and wartime instability; in general, urban legends tend to spread in times of anxiety, when there are low levels of trust in official institutions and sources of information. Our current moment certainly qualifies.
But when did clowns become scary? It turns out that even asking that question is evidence of a short cultural memory. Dark clowns go back centuries before Stephen King. As Benjamin Radford, author of the recent book “Bad Clowns,” points out, “It’s misleading to ask when clowns turned bad, for they were never really good.”
When imagining a journey around planet Earth, I never pictured the part where I crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in a Toyota Camry with a pink Lyft mustache on the dashboard. Yet that was how I embarked on an accidental circumnavigation of the globe one recent sunny morning, Annie Lennox singing “I travel the world and the seven seas” on the car stereo as the Camry hurtled through the E-ZPass lane.
Because I was flying west out of Newark Liberty International Airport and arriving back at Kennedy Airport two weeks later, my trip had begun, and would end, rather prosaically, like my daily commute, on my doorstep in Brooklyn. At least that was how the experienced travelers of the Circumnavigators Club explained it to me. I had sought their counsel a week before as I tried to understand what, if anything, this inadvertent journey meant to me.
Hag-Seed, fourth in the Hogarth Shakespeare series of novels reworking the Bard's plays, is Margaret Atwood's take on The Tempest. But you don't need to be a Shakespeare geek like me to enjoy Hag-Seed; it's a good story, and will introduce you to the play gently, with Felix himself as your guide.