there's an art to the laughter (there's a science)

Author: Minervacat
Fandom: Slings & Arrows
Pairing: Geoffrey gen, nominal Geoffrey/Ellen
Rating: PG
Summary: Six times Geoffrey Tennant wasn't crazy, and one time he was (or maybe it's the other way around, you never know with these theater types).

When Geoffrey was starring in Two Gentleman, a patron complained to the box office manager during one of the Saturday matinees: Please remove the crazy man swearing and kicking the seats from the back of the theater, he's disturbing the performance.

He knew without being told - just stagehands repeating the rumor to each other backstage - that it was Oliver. Theater makes you insane, Oliver said. Theater's made me insane. You make me insane, he'd slurred when Geoffrey had found him at the bar after. You got it wrong again, he mumbled into Geoffrey's chest, but Geoffrey never found out what he'd gotten wrong, because Oliver had slid from the barstool. It had taken Ellen and Geoffrey both to get him onto the couch in the green room to sleep it off before the evening's show.

Later Geoffrey said, It will never make me crazy.

Ellen didn't answer that.


It wasn't the first time he'd done Hamlet; he did Hamlet at university, too, Ellen his Ophelia and he'd hung onto the shreds of his sanity that time. The theater made no one crazy; if you were crazy, you were crazy wherever you were - he was crazy in the hospital, he was in the hospital because he was crazy.

Turned out Oliver was right. It had all started so well; love is an antidote to madness, Oliver said, and then he had held forth on the difference between madness and insanity and good old garden-variety street performer craziness in the backseat of their taxi, while Geoffrey and Ellen kissed on the other side of the seat, oblivious to anything and everything he had to say.

Except that later, after, Geoffrey remembers Oliver saying that madness is, at least, attractive, and Hamlet didn't make him crazy but Ellen might have.


The eternal debate: is he crazy or is he just acting crazy?

And if he's acting crazy, does that make him crazier than if he actually was crazy? That was the question Geoffrey wanted the answer to, when he thought about Hamlet. The question that made even the most argumentative Hamlet apologists - Hamlet apologists, Geoffrey snorted to Darren at university, before any of that happened, like there's anything to apologize for - back down and back away.

Whenever Geoffrey talked about Hamlet, everyone backed away. You get a gleam, Ellen told him. A gleam in your eye, and it scares people.

Ghosts and murder and suicide, Geoffrey retorted. It should scare people, it scares the hell out of me.

And then it turns out that one day he gets up on a stage and he can't tell if Hamlet's crazy or he's crazy, and he doesn't remember much after that.


Geoffrey read One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest while he was in the hospital. He never found out who left it in the cafeteria - but it was there, and he was bored, and so he read it.

He never managed to understand why it was considered an American classic, but it was interesting enough and he thought he could see why it turned out to be a tremendous movie; it would do well on the stage.

The thing that Geoffrey's always known about the theater is that it's the drama that's working for it.

At 38, Ellen told him that she couldn't take it anymore. She never told him what it was; she just left, and Geoffrey woke up in a hospital, clutching at nurses and saying You should not have believ'd me, for virtue cannot so inoculate old stock but we shall relish of it.

Ellen didn't call.


Darren was demented. Ellen was insane. Oliver was absolutely barmy, and he was incorporeal to boot. Jack Crew was maddening (but talented) and Kate was lovesick.

There are a hundred thousand words for being crazy. Geoffrey knows them all, and all of them sound better than what they whisper about him during intermissions and talk-back sessions after matinees at New Burbage. He's heard barking mad, batshit crazy and sometimes even genius beyond compare - but honestly, no social skills, and he's apparently a bit of an alcoholic.

It shouldn't hurt the way it does - Geoffrey has flapped about in his long coats and ratty sweaters for too long to care about his reputation, but some days he wakes up and can't remember if he is actually good at anything he does.

On Thursdays, he has decided not to care; on Mondays, he acts crazier than he actually is.


Oliver says, She's getting too old to find crazy people attractive.

Geoffrey says, It's a story about one man's journey into madness.

Oliver says, You're just trying to make this about you!

Geoffrey thinks, Yes. Well.

It's his life, after all, and his visions of dead people and Geoffrey sometimes stops and thinks that he should stop directing Shakespeare, because there are only so many tragedies that he can live out in his own life. And what was Shakespeare's fascination with ghosts, anyway? Geoffrey finds them tedious, annoying, argumentative - or maybe that's just Oliver.

This is what his life has come to: he spends his free moments contemplating whether or not Oliver is a standard sort of ghost. Geoffrey doesn't believe in curses, but he wonders if he did something in another life - he doesn't deserve this.

Oliver says, You went crazy.

Geoffrey thinks, Yes, well. Punishment enough.


He thinks if I ever played Ophelia - and Ellen would be Hamlet, and Oliver could play Gertrude, oh, the scandals implicit in that casting - and this is how people go mad, this is how anyone is mad in our universe - in Hamlet's universe, in anyone's universe ever, this is what going mad feels like - and he doesn't even know the questions anymore, much less the answers - but he doesn't need the answers anymore, there are no answers - and he wakes up and none of it makes sense anymore but somehow it doesn't matter at all.


author's notes: geoffrey isn't crazy in six 150 word sections; he is crazy in one 100 word section. ani difranco provided the title, from "freakshow". geoffrey quotes from hamlet, and some dialogue lifted verbatim from 2x04, "fair is foul and foul is fair". either insidian or loud bill told me the story about the director of the long wharf regional theater swearing and kicking the seats, behavior here attributed to oliver. pearl-o made my gorgeous banner.

this is for tracey on her birthday. love, baby.

feedback always welcome.

stories in stray fandoms