Love is evil, spelled backwards and wrong.

So says Earth, neo-hippie and seeker of truth in my third play, BURNING THE OLD MAN.  It's a great line.  People quote it often, and I've seen it used by others on blogs, aritcles, etc.

I stole it.

There's a saying that I first heard from Richard Parks, one of my teachers at San Jose State University.  Richard was a mad man, a genius, and one of the most memorable people I ever met- one of those teachers who would say something in such a way as to make it funny, revelatory, and pertinent all at the same time.  He also had a wicked temper, which would show up now and then, usually during rehearsal for something he was directing and which wasn't going well.  One memorable night during dress rehearsal for Lysistrata he shouted out "Change your majors!" and marched out of the building.  At the time, it was both hilarious and embarrassing.  But he also was brilliant, and knew how to get the best out of us.    Once, I think it was during rehearsal for A Midsummer Night's Dream,  somebody mentioned how Shakespeare had taken a lot of his plot lines from other sources, and somebody else opined that that meant Shakespeare was just a copy cat.  Doctor Parks raised he eyebrows dramatically, and pronounced to us all that "great artists don't copy, they steal", meaning that if you aren't that good at what you do, then you will often imitate other peoples work- but if you're a true artist, you can take that idea and make it your own- improved, or at least different, and unique.

And that's why I feel okay about stealing Earth's line, and indeed, the character of Earth himself.

Let me explain.  Long ago, and far away, my brother Jerry and I worked for a children's theatre company in Pleasanton, California.  The money was good, and that job was fun- but we had a lot of extra time on our hands, and needed an extra outlet for ourselves.  Somehow, we convinced the local cable company to give us a cable access show- and not only that, but to provide us with cameras and editing room time- all for free.   We named the show Pleasantonland, and basically just shot hours and hours of ourselves goofing around, drinking beer, and talking with other theatre people about life, art, and whatever else came to mind.   It was self-indulgent in the extreme- and we had a blast.  During one of our shoots, we decided that the show should have a guest poet- a sort of fake, over the top, new age gone bad kind of poet- and my buddy Brian Faraone volunteered for the job.  But he didn't want to be called Brian- he wanted to be called Earth.  We thought that sounded perfect- so, while filming, I looked at the camera "And now it's time for a poem from our guest today, Earth!"  Brian walked up, wearing a beret and lots of attitude, looked at the camera and said in perfect deadpan, "Love is evil, spelled backwards, and wrong", and walked off.  It was friggin' brilliant.  We laughed our asses off.

Cut to ten years later.  I'm writing a play for Boomerang Theatre Company about two brothers on their way to the Burning Man festival who get stuck in the desert and run into, among other things, a couple of neo-hippies.  Somewhere in my brain, I remember Brian as Earth, and write him into the show- and it's a perfect fit.  

And that's how I stole Earth from Brian for my show.  Not that I feel too bad- Brian had stolen the idea of Earth from an actual neo-hippie he met in Santa Cruz who would say ridiculous things like "I don't wear shoes- they're a rule of society I find silly".  So fair's fair.

To Be Continued...

Burning the Old Man is available in print in the anthology Plays and Playwrights 2006 and will soon be featured on Indie Theater Now.


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