MUSE OF FIRE

So it's almost Valentine's, 2003, and I need to submit something to the Fringe.  The deadline is the 14th.   I had a pretty good go at the New York International Fringe Festival last summer with Last Call (added performance, Excellence in Playwriting Award, Publication in Plays and Playwrights 2003, etc.), and lots of people think I should do another one.  I  agree with them.  I really like being called a playwright, and having people read my stuff, and think I've found my life's calling.  I take Errant Muses, my unfinished play from a play writing class I took at SJSU, and dust it off.  Could I make a new play out of this old thing?  Should I?


A lot of it is pretty bad- lots of obvious exposition, two dimensional characters, and cliches.  But there is the germ of a good idea in it, so I start to tinker with it a bit.  I take the idea of two muses who are stuck working with each other but have diametrically opposed ideas of what art is about and keep the first scene, scrap most of the rest.  I make one of the muses female, and change their names from Tom and Dave to Dion (after Dionysos) and Polly (after Apollo).  And the reason I do that is because of the song Hemispheres by Rush, which I listened to a lot when I was about 13.  No lie.  In that song, Dionysos is the God of Chaos, and Apollo is the God of Order.  In the play, Dion is chaotic and loves how art makes him feel alive, while Polly is angry, and wants art to have meaning and purpose and be used to make the world a better place.

I also decide to change the title.  Errant muses just sounded clunky to me.  At the top of the show, Dion is alone in the muses apartment, reciting the prologue from Shakespeare's Henry V, the one that starts with "O, for a muse of fire...".    It hits me clear as a bell- name the play "Muse of Fire".  And so I do.

One of the great satisfactions for me is taking a play and twisting it and turning it and trying to find the magic inside- the stuff that seems to have been written by someone else, or better yet, seems to have not been written at all, but dictated by...what ever it is out there in the void, the infinite waters of mysticism.

The plot of Errant Muses was as follows- the muses are given a job, namely to help a young girl named Anne become a great writer.  She is a drama major at San Jose State University.  The muses have lost the report given to them by their superiors, which has all the details, including exactly what it is they are supposed to do- but fearing retribution, they don't tell anyone they've lost the report, head down to earth, meet the girl, figure out that she needs to fall in love with Will, another drama major.  Hilarity follows, and of course it all ends happily (and yes, I named them Anne and Will after Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare).

Also, I had just read The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell.  Very cool book, and one I had wanted to read ever since I was a kid and heard that it had influenced George Lucas when he made Star Wars (or as the Philistines call it, Episode 4: A New Hope).  In the book, Cambell outlines the basic hero story found in all cultures.  First, there is the young hero.  He or she gets a call to action, sometimes from a frog who comes out of the infinite waters, then there is a series of trials, then the final battle, where the hero has to sacrifice herself/himself in order to further the greater good.

I decide to incorporate the mono-myth into Muse of Fire.  The hero will have two faces, Dion's and Polly's.  The frog becomes Carlos, a god like being who calls himself the Toad of Infinite Waters.   And I start to get into it.   Writing is funny- you write and write and write some more, and it feels like drudgery, like punishment for wanting to be creative or something.  And then, all of a sudden, and usually un-noticed, you slip into the world of the story, and lose all sense of time and place and just go to that other place- then you look up sometime later, and there's page after page of story, and it's later, and you have no idea what happened and no memory of actually typing anything.

So I'm cruising along with the play, finding new characters and situations almost daily.  My mind is in the world of the play pretty much every waking moment.  I'd be a working a lunch shift at Bryant Park Grill, and in my mind I'm thinking "yes, the director will be named Cassandra- but in reverse, because she's crazy and spouts lunacy but everyone believes her!"  I ride the subway home and watch young lovers, eavesdropping and fishing for dialogue.  I read somewhere that there were nine muses in Greek mythology- so I decide there will be nine actors in the show.   I pretty much throw anything and everything I am experiencing and have experienced into the script.   I get as much done as I can, and send off the application to the Fringe.

And wait for May and notification.

To be continued...

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