I first met Norm Jones in 1985 when I was two years old.
Could I have the PowerPoint, please?—thanks.
As you can see, he was heavily bearded with a thick—oh, no PowerPoint? Well, here he is, use him as a visual aid—he was heavily bearded, with a thick black beard.
At that time he was directing a Gordon production of “Mornings at Seven Old People Played by Kids in Heavy Makeup”—for which he single-handedly built a set that was the home of Marvin Wilson during the entire run.
He used two hands—please…
“Marv” is an “OT” “prof” who thought the theatre was a “lecture hall”—and who enjoyed sweeping up Norm’s sawdust before class. “He Ne Ma Tov…”
Anyway, what really counts is that Norm had a full beard in 2nd grade, and a full moustache in 3rd —as saints of old and Norm himself have often told.
Not bragging exactly…
In the first play we worked on together, a three-hander, he played a drunk criminal but who hugged boys. What a stretch.
At the end of the play, Norm’s character staggered in and died onstage. [pause]
So, here’s to you, Norm+Jean!…
Kidding. It was a daunting death scene to rehearse. During one run-thru, when we got to that scene, it was just too much… So as he said his lines, Norm began taking masking tape—and putting it on his face.
Here’s how it went:
Norm: “What happened?” *puts tape on face* “I hear women crying.” *tape* “Everyone’s tiptoeing around.” *tape*
And so my buddy Philip and I grabbed rolls (the set was built completely of masking tape) —and we began:
One of Us: “Pop, Sonny’s dead.” *tape*
Norm: [exhale] “Wh*en?”
One of Us: “This morning.” *tape* “Tataglia got him at the toll booth.”*tape*
All through the heartrending scene we were *donning* masking tape masks.
Norm: *tape* “I want you to use all your power, and all your skill…”*tape*
And by the time Norm died he had a fantastically grotesque Death Mask, so complete that he could barely talk.
Norm (with real difficulty): “I know a dead-end kid…*tape* …when I see one.” *ta…* [dead]
One of Us: “Now cracks a noble heart.” *tape* —ostensibly weeping, but only just, JUST managing not to shriek into laughter.
Which turned a run-of-the-mill-thru into a gem, to carry for as long as we have pockets, with a luminescence to navigate by.
And that’s a thing we love about Norm, his savoring of things and meals and moments—and not them only, but also the qualities of people, and their quirks, and their little excellences.
Here I speak for many of Norm’s students and friends who have found their love of songs or words or play bolstered by his own, and who found his relishing of their strengths winsome and irresistible. Many of us have taken courage from his example and his encouraging us, and have dared into careers in the poorly-paying arts.
“Savoring” is another word for “loving”—and today we all savor the fact that he’s met a love to answer and equal his own. Jean, we needn’t have traveled with you to London and Edinburgh to know that you, too, are one who pauses to appreciate a shawl on a shoulder, or a certain light on a spoon or castle spire: your paintings show us, for one.
Norm loves that about you; you are his heart’s delight, his pearl of infinite price, with a luminescence to navigate by.
-Here’s to Norm and Jean, nine years wed this month (January, 2016).