I'm pretty much writing all the time. Most of it is in my head, because I have to do things like go to work, eat, sleep, clean the house, walk the dog, and do all those little things that comprise a life. But still I write. Stories whirl around in my head like ghosts trapped in a glass jar. Some are full apparitions, some are mere shadows whose shape is unclear. But regardless of size and definition, they live and breathe and demand attention- some moaning and groaning, some singing and dancing. And if I am not able to write them down, they get angry and usually louder. I often think that if I don't exorcise them via a story or script, they become a poison in my system.
What can I say? I might be a little weird, but isn't eveyone?
So, one of the ghosts that has gotten my attention and has made it to the page is a new play with the working title "Don't Get Too Comfy, Pal." It sprang out of a painting, a charcoal sketch by Liz Maugans called "Don't Get Too Comfy, Pal." (As I write this, I am debating in my mind changing the title. I don't know why, exactly, but after writing down that the title of the painting and the title of the play are the same, it struck me that I need to change the title). I found the art work via a writing contest being held by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre called Rough Writers. I have always liked the work that company does, and ever since I saw an excellent production of Leslie Bramm's one act Lovers Leapt directed by Scott RC Levy at there last year, I have wanted something of mine to be produced by this exciting company. And along comes this handy contest.
The guidelines were pretty simple- base a play of any length on one of three art works, and send it in by St. Valentine's Day. Here's the one that first sparked my imagination:
To me, it said lonely New York apartment, with something dark and strange looming in the air. It felt kind of haunted and dangerous and I just wanted to write about it. Suddenly I saw this guy called Ahab breaking into that very apartment. Not breaking in to steal something- breaking in to set something right that in his mind was wrong. Then I thought of this really horrible I had once been unfortunate enough to witness, which involved a fake marriage proposal. And the whole thing just started coming together. I saw lonely, funny, interesting people all trying to get different things, thrown together by circumstance. And I wanted, no doubt because of the paintings title, to have reality keep shifting on people- kind of like how most episodes of The Twilight Zone end, with a strange twist. Or like the ending of the first movie version of Planet of the Apes ( co-written by Rod Serling, the main creative force behind the twilight zone), where Charlton Heston, upon seeing the ruins of what was the Statue of Liberty, comes to the realization that he's been on Earth all along. You know, the part where he kneels on the sand and screams in that way that only Heston could "Damn you! Damn you all to Hell!"
So I had lonely NYC apartment, Ahab and his cohorts, and the idea that reality will shift alot- mostly at the end of each scene. Now I needed something else- some kind of supernatural character to tie it all together. And I took to the internets. I am lucky in that I have a lot of creative friends of Facebook- so I took an impromptu poll, asking what kind of supernatural being people would like to see in a play. After several excellent ideas, Bronwen Carson, a director/choreographer out of Brooklyn, suggested the Norns- who are the fates of Norse mythology. Now, I am a bit of a nut for Norse myths, and the instant I saw them, I knew they were what I wanted. But I decided to put all three Norns into one being, and have them answer to all three of their names at different moments. You know, the tired old triple-personality supernatural character we've seen so many times before. And like that, I saw all the characters of show. Ahab, a slacker actor/waiter who is in love with Moira, whose name means fate and who happens to have a stockbroker boyfriend named Kurt. Rounding out the cast is Sabrina, who is in love with Ahab and is named after a character on General Hospital (inspiration comes from anything and everything), and the Norn, who would appear both as herself, and also as whatever else is needed, which at this point includes a bar tender, a priest, and a cop.
Sound strange? Well, that's what goes on in my head, every freaking day. So, I start writing the first draft, and decided immediately that everyone has to be dressed like a clown or a jester or a fool of some type. And it makes total sense. And the play plops out of my head like Athena from the head of Zeus. It happens like that sometimes. A whole play materializes, as if from the void. Maybe it forms like a planet. A bunch of ideas slam into each other, form a larger idea, their gravity starts to attract more ideas, and presto- a new play is orbiting the sun of my soul. One of the later ideas to smash into this new planet was one of the other art works from the contest- a porcelain axe titled "Everyday Is Like Sunday" by TR Ericsson. It too had to be in the show. And not figuratively- I mean physically. So now it's there, and gets used, and ends up covered in blood. Now the first draft is done, and it's time to go back into that world, and see what new things will show up, what as yet undiscovered moments, objects, and actions. I don't know where this play will end up- I don't even know if it will be part of the Rough Writers readings. I hope it does, but won't find out for another month. I do know I like it. A lot.
Two more things I want to tell you today.
One, there is a production of my play Burning the Old Man opening March 16 in Sao Paolo, Brazil. It's been translated into Portuguese, and is called As Cinzas Do Velho. If you are in Brazil, go see it. From what I've gathered through many conversations with the cast and crew, it's going to be amazing.
Two. I met a really excellent artist last week. His name is Thomas Och, and his work is unique and beautiful. Go check his web site out by clicking here. Here is a piece of his I really like- it's a photo of a person and a painting, merged into one piece of art.
So that's it for now. Go on out and get your theatre on, get your art on, get your life on.