Huckleberry Hostel Commission: Day 53

In a word, civilization begins by singing of its dreams, then narrates its doings, and lastly, sets about describing what it thinks. It is, let us say in passing, because of this last, that the drama, combining the most opposed qualities, may be at the same time full of profundity and full of relief, philosophical and picturesque. —Victor Hugo, “Preface to Cromwell” (1827)

The Hermitage Rock, St. Helier, Jersey amidst a fantastic landscape - by Victor Hugo (1855)

You know you’re doing too much when it’s 9am and you’re walking to your dentist to get a new crown and you’re looking forward to the two-hour operation as a welcomed break.

I sent in some ending-less rewrites to the Onsite team on Tuesday, but I decided not to wait on their responses to bust out some sloppy endings tonight. Nowhere near done, but at least it has an idea of an end, and that feels pretty good. This weekend will be about seeing what I have and figuring out what I want it to be; and incorporating whatever notes get sent my way . . .

What’s odd about these plays is that, as the farces Onsite wants them to be, they’re largely plot-driven. This might be the first project I’ve written that is not character- / relationship-driven . . . I guess a number of the 10-minute plays are situation-driven . . . I guess Alice was plot-driven, but that plot was handed to me by my collaborators . . . hmmm. This might be one of the major reasons that Huckleberry Hostel , especially in the beginning, has been a challenge. A plot can be serviceable and it can be fun and it can be a number of different things: but while a structure can be elegant, a plot cannot be beautiful, and I’m not sure why you write a play if you aren’t trying to create something beautiful. Not “Hey look: a rainbow” beautiful; but Victor Hugo’s concept of beauty as a juxtaposition between the loveliness and ugliness of humanity. Of all the work I read in grad school, I think  Hugo’s theories on the grotesque were probably the most influential:

The purely epic muse of the ancients . . . studied nature in only a single aspect, casting aside without pity almost everything in art which, in the world subjected to its imitation, had not relation to a certain type of beauty. A type which was magnificent at first, but, as always happens with everything systematic, became in later times false, trivial and conventional. Christianity leads poetry to the truth. Like it, the modern muse will see things in a higher and broader light. It will realize that everything in creation is not humanly beautiful, that the ugly exists beside the beautiful, the unshapely beside the graceful, the grotesque on the reverse of the sublime, evil with good, darkness with light.

[Poetry*] will set about doing as nature does, mingling in its creations—but without confounding them—darkness and light, the grotesque and the sublime; in other words, the body and the soul, the beast and the intellect; for the starting-point of religion is always the starting-point of poetry. All things are connected.

*”Drama is complete poetry”

Gold.

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