This was not the first time that Mark Rylance quoted Louis Jenkins, much to the bafflement of his audience. And perhaps it won't be the last--he just has to keep winning those Tonys.
On Sunday night, Rylance won a Tony for best actor for his work in the Broadway play "Jerusalem." And during his acceptance speech, he said no words of his own, simply recited "Walking Through A Wall" by Jenkins, a poet who lives in Duluth. (The poem is from "Nice Fish!," published by Holy Cow! Press of Duluth.)
Rylance recited a different Jenkins poem in 2008, "The Back Country," when he won the Tony for "Boeing Boeing."
In neither instance was there any introduction, nor any preamble--he simply launched into the poem, waved his Tony, thanked the crowd, and left.
The 2008 YouTube video shows the crowd laughing, at first with confusion and uncertainty, then with increasing confidence that Rylance was simply being funny.
The 2011 crowd was even quieter.
Dave Itzkoff, live-blogging this year's show for the New York Times, did not seem immediately impressed by Jenkins' poem--nor did he seem to recognize it as a poem at all. "If you missed any portion of Mr. Rylance's speech, just say a bunch of words at random and you will have successfully recreated it," Itzkoff wrote. (The Times later rectified the mistake with a blog entry.)
Here are the poems, 2008 and 2011.