Friday, December 26, 2008

'Building the Play, Savoring the Day'

I woke up very early this morning and started to work on the script. I rewrote the whole beginning, which is scary, because you are 'making changes'. Usually, I save a copy of the entire text, in case I don't like what I've changed, but this morning, I went ahead with the changes. Because I'm beginning with a partial monologue from Shakespeare, I felt I needed to address what it said, rather than trust that everyone will know what it means. Shakespeare is hard enough to understand as it is, let alone a partial monologue taken out of context. I decided to do exactly what Shakespeare does in 'Romeo and Juliet', and 'Richard the Third', he tells the audience exactly what is going to happen. Usually, as you learn writing, you are taught to only reveal your plot turns as a surprise. I will tell the end of the story in the beginning. Of course, in the morning, I may change my mind. I told you, once a piece of writing gets to the 'potential' stage, then you have no recourse but to painstakingly use the techniques and tools you know to get the structure working. A play has to work on several different levels, and especially has to work as language and form. You cut and paste, you just plain cut, and say the lines over and over. If you are successful, you walk away from the work feeling really good. If you are less successful in your endeavor, it stays on your mind until you get back to it again. 

The source material I'm gathering and reading is helping a lot. I'm using Ophelia as a muse right now, and she is powerful. The image I found of her in the painting I posted, is haunting and full of symbolism.  I've looked at it several times today. The flowers next to her hand suggests her penchant for the beauty of the earth, and yet she chooses to leave it. It is also suggestive of her last speech in the play, as she metaphorically pronounces each flower and the flower's meaning.  The look on her face reflects a death mask. The shallow stream, (less than a river) suggests her as a suicide and not a drowning victim. Her hands and arms slightly opened up to suggest the resolve in her decision, and her opening to the spirit world. The foliage around her makes a perfect and beautiful tomb, suggesting a beautiful place that she knew well. I love the image. A painting tells such a powerful story. Paintings and plays are similar in their evocation, as they each have their own purpose and meaning. Sleep well, Ophelia. 

I'm also using source material from photographs. While I was in St. George, (on my way here) Cheryl downloaded forty or so photographs from family archives. Most days, I look through them at least once if not more. There are old cowboy pictures of my Grandfather. There is the last picture taken of my Father. There is my mother and father when they were very young and together. From these pictures, I find the nostalgic place that exists in all of us. Nostalgia is key to a story play, because it keeps the past relevant. I love the old photography of the fifties and sixties, it has disappeared, but suggests something that can only be--the still existing moments of childhood. 

I'm using L.A. as source material. I was born here, I've lived here it seems like a dozen times. Today, the air was fresh with wind, and was exhilarating, the smells in the air, all the senses remember something even when we do not. Those senses make memories live. They join the past with the present, and the present with something eternal,  and not just my own memory of being here before. The material is in the history of the city. The history of the people, of the streets, of the trees. Silver Lake, (where I'm currently staying) is in the hills East of Hollywood. The houses come tumbling down the hills, the streets are narrow and old. A great city to be crafting this play. 

Finally, as fate would have it, a biography of Jack Kerouac that my mother gave me, I savor it. Now, I'm no Kerouac, but I certainly relate to his story. I relate to the journey, I relate to the black dog/white dog in him. I've been reading the excerpts of 'Mexico City Blues' and somehow get all of it. I don't get all the references, but I so get the emotion of it. The rhythm of it, the be-bop of it. It seems lately, whatever I'm doing outside of this room, whether I'm reading the paper, or watching a documentary, or talking with someone, there is a Kerouac reference. Yep, I'm in the right place. 

So, today has been good to me--the weekend looks good--I'll move once again on Sunday, and start finding my way from a new part of the city, a mile and a half from the theatre--rehearsals start soon, its getting closer, but its the process that gives us life, its the process that tells the story... jump off a cliff and build your wings before you hit the water, and if you don't finish them, start swimming..."


Gerry said...

That's quite a painting. So it has to be inspiring even if sad. I have been working on my blog list today and visiting blogs and writing an entry about it. I enjoy so much reading the account you have chosen to give the world of the writing process. That is some gift to those of us who have also gone down this path before but in a different way. If every day is lived to the fullest, and you work to your capacity then what will come of it will be worth our attention. This is why I wanted people to blog so we could bolster each other's writing better. Mom

Ozma said...

Hey Raymond,

Contempative tonight. Would you like to hear my thoughts on "the women in your life"? About myself, from my perspective? :) LOL! Don't worry. They are not "bad".. or "good", but both and neither. I, perhaps arrogantly, think that I fall into this catagory, but maybe you could use them whether about me, or not :) If so, you can e-mail me at

P.S. I don't know why, but I had the urge to share this with you... You may have been contempating it yourself... There is a monolouge in Richard III that I think you should look at.. She is begging the Cardinal to spare her son's life and she talks about how she still sees her son in his empty clothes.. It is so deeply sad and true to the bone in a way I have rarely read, or heard, anywhere. Shakespeare was a man, but he caught the essence so profoundly. I think- no- I know, it was because he lost his own young son. I did that monolouge at "what's her name's" party one time. You were there. I think it is the one aspect of women that you don't (couldn't possilby, completely, really) know. Motherhood. We never truly know how much our Mothers love us until we have a child. It is my absolute favorite monolouge of all time (I hope I have the right play!- Lost my Shakespeare books in my move :(
Working on getting new ones- and DO plan (meaning definitley will) to do at least one Shakespeare play in Seattle- one day.

To truly understand women, I think maybe... we must somehow understand Motherhood. It is really the base of our being. And, once a woman has a son, it changes the way we look at men... completely. To see them grow from baby, to young child, to young man....and so on. It also changes the way we look at our parents. I bet it is the same for fathers with daughters. Or, maybe, with parents in general. It is the deepest, greatest love there is. Unconditional- and we would give our lives, instantly without question, for them. Can we say that about anyone else truthfully? I honestly don't think that I would be with my dear husband now, had I not had a child. Once you experience that, it is so much easier to truly love another person. This is not all inclusive, of course. Only my experience and the experience of others I have discussed it with.. but nothing is absolute. Love is Love after all.

Keep up the great writing...

Merry Christmas,

Elaine Boothby-Ptolemy

Ozma said...

So interesting and lovely. I didn't notice before that the comment before mine, was your Mom's. :) :)