Onsite Theatre Commission: Day 3 (+ ALICE + CHALK CIRCLE)

Regarding the Hostel Play, I’ve been thinking about two things: 1) sound and 2) expectation. I was casually carpooling yesterday, and the driver had on classical music (usually it’s NPR, so this is notable). Also, on my wedding to-do list is: Secure a string trio for the service. So classical music is in the back of my mind. What if we think of the two acts happening simultaneously as different segments of an orchestra? I have not yet studied the blueprint my director gave me so I don’t know how much sound will bleed between the rooms, but some would be nice. Maybe a lot. Maybe a lot out of one room, but not much out of the other. Rhythm and timing is going to be essential. I was starting to wonder just how my director is going to rehearse since he can’t be in two different rooms at the same time. Not my problem! Sorry JR. But how I can help is on the page. I am starting to think I will write this play like I wrote Vow (Vows? I can never remember what I titled that damn play!), which is basically two monologue plays woven together and stitched with three (three?) sections of dialogue. The text for each character (the bride and the groom . . . no I did not write it to deal with my anxiety about July. I wrote it two years ago, so shut it. I have no anxiety.) appears on the same page, side by side, in columns. That might work well for this play, at least as I am writing it.

Expectation: How can I create dual mysteries that can only be solved by the other? Solving a mystery with a mystery. How do I reveal information in one play that is relevant to that play (enough so that it is not out of place) but is even more essential to the play the audience will not yet seen? How can a forward also work in retrospect? I feel a little like I am writing a chicken-and-the-egg play that doesn’t make any attempt to deal with which came first. Whichever you saw first, came first . . . wait, is THAT the answer!

“What do you mean ‘writing,’ DR? You haven’t written a word!”

Well, the cast is not yet finalized, and having been asked my opinion on the final actor I realize that I am completely dependent on them to choose and dependent on who they choose. Any of the actors they told me about will work for the role I am going to write because I am going to write it for whomever they choose! (Chicken. Egg. Ahh!) So all I can do right now is muse. Well that’s not true. I should be researching hostels, and the St. Louis hostel specifically. But I haven’t because I have a few loose ends to tie up.

Namely Alice. Alice goes well. We have figured out a lot since last I wrote about it, and it is our hope to have a complete working draft of the script for Part I in place by Sunday’s rehearsal. Two more scenes to write: Alice drowning(?) in her Pool of Tears after the Garden of Talking Flowers attacks her, followed by The Caterpillar scene, in which Alice finds a friend, begins to find her own voice, and is once again faced with a choice. Having this in place by Sunday will give everyone 4 weeks with the words before their showing on April 4. So much about this project has been fun and satisfying that I will be sorry to put it on hold. It has been a joy to get to know a handful of our students better. It has been great working hand-in-hand with another creator, putting words to her story and physical/musical vision. And it has been a wonderful challenge to balance Lewis Carroll’s originals with our interpretation. But I think a break will be good. Well, a break will be necessary while I write the Hostel Play, but even after that I think I won’t return to it until May or June. Or maybe July. I do have a wedding to organize.

In other news: John Doyle’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle opened at A.C.T. last Wednesday. I love it. I have never felt prouder of our company and I’m so impressed with the three MFA students who are in it. I think Doyle’s sparse storytelling and gritty vision is captivating, and I appreciate that he has no interest in pandering to the lazy audience member. Unapologetic: a word I keep coming back to when people ask me what I look for in people. It is a production you have to say yes to; once you do, it is a gift. I waited to see it with Rachel and her aunt and uncle, and they all said yes to it and loved it as well. I agree with Charles McNulty’s glowing review in the LA Times. That said, I do not disagree with Isherwood’s intelligently balanced review in the NY Times: “impressive if problematic.” The question Doyle poses is, Whose problem is it to solve?

I saw a matinée of Chalk Circle on Sunday. Last night we were offered free tickets to Wicked. I haven’t seen it since I lived in St. Louis. It has changed NOT at ALL. Which is both a comfort and a terror: totally enjoyable, but, man, I can’t imagine doing the exact same show for years. It’s gotta be hard, especially with those demanding songs. Ken MacDonald, Morris Panych’s husband and Canadian designer extraordinaire, was in town to work on some set stuff for Vigil, and we happened to be sitting next to one another, so that was a fun reunion from our 2-hour interview over drinks last fall. I was glad he enjoyed it. I have to admit, I was worried he would be like, “This is American theater?” The Words on Plays for Vigil is so close to being done! I have to write my conclusion to the Brief History of Canadian Theater (!) and we’ll be all set. It’s a good one.

And tonight I went to the Berkeley Rep opening of Naomi Iizuka’s new play, Concerning Strange Devices form the Distant West. I am way to tired to process what I thought about it, so don’t ask me tonight.

So that’s why I haven’t written a word.

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