Mark Rylance wins Tony, leaves everyone confused

NEW YORK (AP) - Mark Rylance won his second Tony Award. And, for a second time, left people baffled.

The British-born actor won the leading actor Tony on Sunday for playing Johnny “Rooster” Byron, a charismatic leader of a band of social misfits and outcasts squatting in the English woods, in Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem.”

He strode to the podium and then began talking about walls and molecular structure. “Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot-making or driftwood lamps,” he said matter-of-factly.

It was a repeat of three years ago when Rylance similarly confused the Tony audience when he went on stage to collect the top acting prize for his work in “Boeing-Boeing.”

“If you go into the woods, the back country, someplace past all human habitation, it is a good idea to wear orange and carry a gun,” he told the crowd in 2008. “Or, depending on the season, carry a fishing pole, or a camera with a big lens.”

It turns out that both times Rylance was quoting works by Louis Jenkins, an obscure poet from Minnesota. At the 2008 Tonys, Rylance was citing “The Back Country.” On Sunday night, the Jenkins poem was “Walking Through a Wall.”

Why did he do it? “I feel kind of sad when I win things, to be honest with you,” he said backstage before being whisked away. “I always think you should prepare something to say.”

Rylance, who was the first artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London from 1995 to 2005, told The Associated Press in the days leading up to his second win that sowing confusion is part of the point of the poems.

“I bet most people understood it in many different ways, which was kind of the point of it anyway,” he said. “It was the contrast of the poetry of Louis Jenkins and that system of awards _ of winners and losers _ that intrigued me as a piece of theater, really.”

He said he had been preparing three or four things to say if he won. He had been told he had only about 90 seconds to speak, including the walk up the stage. He had definitely ruled out the traditional listing of peoples’ names, finding it unengaging.

“No one else will ever do the poems that I do because they’re my thing. So it’s tempting to give them another wonderful poem,” he said. “It won’t be a surprise but I don’t think that matters.”

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Online:

http://www.tonyawards.com

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