Monday, November 22, 2010

"V" To Her Friends

This past weekend I had the honour and privilege to witness a stage performance from our greatest living actress. I speak, of course, of Vanessa Redgrave, who is currently starring opposite James Earl Jones in the Broadway debut of Alfred Uhry’s ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’

I can’t say that I’m a huge admirer of the play itself. It has much to recommend it, of course, not least of which is the way in which it’s able to be quietly subversive in its social and racial politics while masquerading as something far more sentimental and homespun. That said, though, at the end of the day it isn’t the sort of play that stay’s with you for very long after you’ve seen it…at least, that’s how it is for me.

But the performances! Ah, they stay with me to this very moment. And I do say “they,” as James Earl Jones was truly wonderful in his role. But it was Vanessa Redgrave that bowled me over and had me transfixed by her every utterance and movement. I was like a little child who, after much fighting off of the urge to sleep, finally got to see Father Christmas appear in the room. I suppose, in truth, she could have been acting in just about anything and my sense of awe and admiration would’ve been the same. What is that strange something that only a very small few ever possess that make them seem almost otherworldly? She has it, but I have no idea what it is.

I read that in June of this year, she’d announced that she was taking a break from her acting career in order to spend more time with her family. It didn’t last very long…and I’m very glad.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It’s Not Me, It’s Me

I would like to take issue with myself. There may be something schizophrenic in that, but I feel I must. It was something I said in my last post about “writerly isolation.” There is a clear implication in that – and one that was in my mind, no doubt, as I wrote it – that there is something lonely about the process of writing. I frequently read interviews with writers who talk about the loneliness of the writing process. It’s almost become an accepted truth that the act of creative writing is an inherently lonely occupation that writers must endure in order to do what they do; that it comes, as they say, with the territory.

However, after pondering awhile on this piece of supposed conventional wisdom, I have come to the conclusion that I wholeheartedly disagree. When I’m working on a play, I am engrossed in a story that is unfolding before my eyes. More importantly, I am in the company of characters who are as much taking me on a journey as I am them. Hours fly by with me hardly noticing them. I emerge for a while and realize it’s late, I haven’t eaten, and there’s nothing but crap left on the telly (though that last part isn’t necessarily time specific). Was I lonely? Absolutely not. I was boating up the Amazon under constant threat from marauding tribes of headshrinkers. Or I was crouched in a trench on the Somme with bullets whistling overhead as I wrote a letter home. (Okay, I haven’t written a play with either of those scenarios, but you get my point).

Now, had I spent those hours alone in front of the telly watching the aforementioned crap, there’s every possibility that loneliness may have become a significant component of my evening. But, when trying to figure out how I can prevent my character’s head being shrunk to the size of a tennis ball, solitude was nowhere in sight.

The Meta Plays

Yesterday I finished a project I’ve been working on for some time now – ‘The Meta Plays’ – and what better feeling is there than when you’ve finished a writing project you’ve been toiling over long and hard for some considerable time, all in writerly isolation? Well, perhaps I shouldn’t say “toiling,” as these plays were all terrific fun to work on. Truthfully, I had a really great time writing them, as they allowed me to play in that absurdist fun park that occupies a certain portion of my brain. It’s essentially a collection of short plays that takes theatrical conventions on a metaphysical joyride (which is also essentially my logline for the play). One of them (’What’s the Meta?’) I’d actually written a couple of years ago, and already has a significant production history behind it and is published. However, the other seven are all new. One of them (‘The Skewed Picture’) is scheduled to go up in New York tomorrow, although the last I heard that could be postponed.

Anyway, it’s done and I’m now tasked with finding homes for them all, though preferably they’d all be produced together as a complete set. And, of course, I’m shopping it around to publishers, which is always a hard slog, but I think this collection has a lot of commercial potential, so I expect to find them all beating down my door any day now. Ahem.

Time to move on to something else now. But I do hope that somewhere within me there lies ‘The Meta Plays: Volume II.’ There might…or am I being a little…unreal?

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Delicate Balance

I finally got to see this play this past weekend. It was a production at the Yale Repertory Theatre (and what a lovely theatre that is) in New Haven, Connecticut. I’d read the play for the first time earlier in the year and had moped and moaned on here about how infrequently this play is produced (or perhaps I was just being impatient, having just read it and wanting to see it now!).

It starred Kathleen Chalfant and a host of other extremely talented Albee alums, and they did a fantastic job. The interesting thing for me was that it left me with the exact same feeling I’d had after I’d read it; namely, that I was glad I’d seen (read) it, enjoyed (?) the experience, but was left feeling more than a little unnerved by it afterwards. Unsettled may be a better word. Unsettled in a place within you that you rarely if ever visit. And there’s a good reason you don’t.

If you ever get the chance to see a production of this most hard to describe play, I highly recommend you take advantage of the opportunity. You might hate me a little bit afterwards, but I’ll take the risk if you will.