So, I wrote a play. Actually I've written several, but the one I'm referring to I started writing shortly after a breakup. That's what I do after a breakup; some get drunk, some travel to foreign and distant lands... me, I write. I started by dealing with that particular breakup by writing about a different and previous breakup. A very painful breakup. Yes I tried to deal with one breakup by recalling an even worse one. It made sense at the time.
So, in writing this play I tried to sort both failed relationships out. In sifting, shoving, feng shui-ing the shit out of my head I came to the conclusion most angry hurt people do; it wasn't my fault. Not a damn bit of it! Yep, very comforting, very warm blanket, life-affirming and several other cute things I deluded myself with. Nice. I kept on writing, amusing myself the same way a child might slap a Barbie to get back at an old sister. Take that! Yeah...
What I didn't realize was the play itself was mutating, becoming less about the old relationship and becoming about the one that had just ended. I couldn't hide from the pain, it was like water, finding the cracks in the foundation, seeping in, ruining the carpets and floating the bookcases. Oh it took awhile, it took mutations, long slow shaggy ones that feed on human blood on misty moonlight nights. Years...
I write play in sections. Usually I have an idea where I'm going; in fact I have been known to write the end of a play shortly after writing the beginning so I know about where to aim the thing. I'll write a scene as it occurs to me so I don't forget about it. This means I skip around a lot in the play. I was writing several at once, several less painful ones, and coming back to this one when I had something more to say. Now this sounds like I didn't write much on it, but not true! I filled notebooks! Reams of papers! (this was before desktop home computers, when writers roamed the streets with pens and paper and used typewriters to make it 'real'. The before times, the long ago. Rest in pieces.) The play morphed like Michael Jackson, like the T-1000. And I typed away...
And away. And hated it, and stuck it in a file and tried to forget about it. Forgetting about a play is like forgetting about a child though. Finally, after thinking about it for a few years, I took out what I had: a big stack of notebooks and typescript. Like an old man with a front porch and a pocket knife, I proceeded to make a log into a sharp stick. The only way I knew how to finish it was to force myself. How do you force yourself to write? Deadline! How to make a deadline that will stick? Hire a hall, actors and invite people to fill the empty chairs. My friend Kerry helped with casting and played the lead, I got a room to do the public reading fairly cheap, I got actors; all I needed was an actual completed draft. Now I HAD to finish it.
So I did. I had a lot of scenes, but needed to connect them into a whole, bridging scenes, justifying all my favorite bits, sharping characters and trying to make sense out of it all deciphering my caffeine-fueled notes of five years before. It was a freakin' ball, really. I finished a draft, we had a rehearsal, I re-wrote that draft into another draft. I can write fast when I have to. Did I tell about the two-act play I wrote in three weeks? Ah! Another day maybe.
So, we had the reading. It went... well. As well as hearing intimate moments of your life acted out can go anyway. I took notes. Many, many notes on the things that made me cringe the most (a sliding scale) and listened to the feedback of actors and audience. Made changes, filed it away again. Oh I submitted it around, but got no takers. One producer wanted to turn it into a screenplay (no money, but lot of promises), another wanted so many revisions I told her to take her notes and... write her own play. It sat on the hard drive (I retyped it into the Mac Classic) and gathered pixels.
Macha Monkey wanted to do a reading as part of their great 'Distillery' series last year. This meant another re-write which meant having to read the darn thing again for the first time in a while. I wrote some new scenes, cleaned up or cut others and crossed my fingers that people wouldn't hate it. The actors and company did a pretty good job. I took many, many notes. The stuff that played the best? The honest bits. Turns out you're not always honest about yourself. The most honest scenes were the ones I hadn't transcribed in my head as they happened. The ones that weren't true to reality, but true to the hurt.
Some of what I wrote was painful, I have an almost photographic memory for pain; I remember the hurt shived into me, but not always the hurt I inflicted on others. My pain was there (and jokes! It wasn't a wall-to-wall eye gouging) but it was too balanced in my favor. I wrote that down. Easy to take the note, harder to fix it.
I'm working on new pain now, and re-writing a Sherlock Holmes play for a future production, but like the tongue finding the bad tooth, I go back to the earlier hurts. Like looking at fading pictures, I wonder if that could really have been me. And I have some ideas on how to fix it. The play at least.
Here's a short scene for the show. It didn't happen, but was more honest than what did:
Why Do Fools... ; A "Romance"
IN THE BEGINNING: CONFUSION MEETS CHANCE
BOB STANDS CENTER, LOOKING OUT AS IF TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING, HE HOLDS A COUPLE BOOKS. BEAT. DEBBIE PASSES BY BEHIND. SHE STOPS AND SURVEYS THE STILL FORWARD LOOKING BOB. SHE REVERSES COURSE, PASSING WITHIN INCHES RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.
DEB: Oh, excuse me.
BOB: Uh, sure.
DEB WALKS TO THE SIDE OF THE STAGE, BOB, AFTER FOLLOWING HER WITH HIS EYES A BRIEF SECOND, LOOKS AWAY. DEBBIE HEADS BACKS PASSING BY AGAIN, BUMPING INTO HIM.
DEB: Oh, geeze, sorry!
BOB: Oops, that’s okay. Almost dropped my books.
DEB: Oh these books? (Debbie puts her hand on them)
BOB: Yeah, right.
DEBBIE KNOCKS THE BOOKS FROM HIS HANDS. HE LOOKS AT HER, SHE LOOKS BACK.
BOB: (Puts out his hand) Bob.
DEB: I know. Debbie.
BOB: I know.
DEB: You going to pick those up?
DEB: Want a ride home?
DEB: Car’s in the lot.
BOB: Orange, U of A sticker.
BOB: You going to pick these up?
DEB WALKS OFF TOWARD THE LOT
BOB: Maybe not…
BOB SCOOPS UP THE BOOKS, RUNS AFTER HER