Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Creative Process.

Okay, so I'm obsessed right now with Hamlet and his father's ghost. I found the passage I want to use in the beginning of the play--

"I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
would harrow up thy soul, 
freeze thy young blood,
make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, 
thy knotted and combined locks to part
and each particular hair to stand on end, 
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be 
to ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list! 
If thou didst ever thy dear father love--"

Imagine the ghost of your father having a conversation with you, telling you the partial story of his own death. Think of what that would do to the psyche. Again, man was not formed or prepared to hear so distinctly from those who dwell just beyond the veil of death. Okay, all of this sounds a bit morbid, but I feel I have dwell a bit there to get the feeling of the ghost.  Most people have a passing curiosity about the nature of 'a ghost'. In Hamlet's meeting of him, there is no medium of religion to buffer the conversation. There isn't an angel standing guard, or Christ to lend a prayer, rather, just the spirit of a man who cannot leave the earth until his death is avenged, speaking to his son who is still amongst the living. 

As I was reading through the first two movements of the play last night, I keep returning to my own Father's demise. There is no body, relatively no clues, and he's still out there somewhere. This summer, as I spent so much time with my Aunt Renon, (my father's sister) she constantly would ask me, "What do you think happened?" Of course, my first reaction was to apply comfort to the situation, but I would also go home wondering myself. Knowing him as I did, and observing his habits when he would  "get lost", I have come to the conclusion that he walked toward a light in the hills that was probably thirty miles away. Once in Phoenix when he was lost, he somehow got on Van Buren St. and walked twelve miles before he returned to the presence of mind to call me from a pay phone. When I brought him home, his feet were blistered and bloodied. All I could do was again, apply comfort. That same year, he was watching the news. The weather predicted a snow storm in the high country. He somehow got it in his mind that he needed warmer clothes, (this is Phoenix) so he found his keys and drove nine hours towards his home in Utah. The highway patrol found his truck, (three days after he left) in the middle of the highway in Hatch, Utah, in the middle of  the snowstorm that had arrived. My brother Dan and I drove the nine hours to pick him up. Where he spent those three days I know not.  There is nothing I can do to describe the humiliation he felt when we arrived to pick him up. Once again, I learned the art of comfort. Perhaps an alzheimer condition begins to rent the veil between life and death. Don't get me wrong, its a horrible, horrible disappearance, but maybe like all things in life, it is transitional. 

This summer, I took a friend of mine's son fishing up at a beautiful lake called 'Grass Lake'. On the way back from the lake, he told me the story of his being lost in 'Horse Canyon'. As the temperature dropped into the low forties, he began to make the transition between life and death, in preparation for what he thought was inevitable. As the search team looked for him, he was making a decision to stay alive although hyper-thermia was setting in. He survived, but after hiking down into this very same place myself, I could see how this could happen, for I almost spent the night there myself. The canyons and the country is so vast, and like all the stories I've read, I lost all my landmarks. I made it back after dark, but not before Todd, (hiking with me) had to come up the trail and bring me down. I felt like Rafael's story of getting lost was a story I was meant to hear, oddly, I found myself comforted by his description of what happens with hyper-thermia--as the temperature lowers in the body, the mind becomes sleepy. Rafael constantly had to fight the temptation to lie down and sleep.  The days my Father disappeared for the last time, a cold front moved into the desert. These are the things I think about with him--hoping his last hours were not conscious. Still, I don't know. I obsess over these things because for several years before he left us, I was could always find him and was always willing to go and get him where ever he landed. And now I can't find him. 

I find comfort in the mythical elements of his disappearance, perhaps because I knew him better than most, there was poetry in him. When he sang, there was poetry. I doubted my Father really knew the poetry that existed, for some people, its just a natural manifestation of the circumstances of living a life. My Father didn't seem especially a brave man, but perhaps there was some choice there,  his end is marked with bravery. Or perhaps this was one last poetic manifestation that he had no control over. Some people are poets, some are just 'damn poetic'... Again, my father had elements of both without ever knowing it. 

The play I'm writing to perform is an attempt to cover all the elements of his essence, and how that thread effected others in my family. So,  this is the challenge, allowing myself to explore all of this one last time--and express it in a way that I know how. I'm finding truth, I'm finding myself thinking in ways I did not think before. Nostalgia has turned into an art form, a man has turned to a ghost.  I've heard people talk about feeling the presence of someone who had died, and I always listened politely. Now, I know what they are talking about, as my father is telling his story. 

Theatre has that ability to be transforming in the sense that you can be at a play and feel a transcendence,  the best theatre always gets its audience to this place--I think one reason is because we can put ghosts on stage, we can put angels on stage. We can put God, the Devil, play with time, even stopping it. One of  the most powerful plays I ever saw, 'Angels in America' (the first one) I saw in NYC in the midst of the AIDS crisis. The theme, masterfully executed, "God was speaking to the world through dying gay men." It was powerful, and always is with anyone taking the brave step of death, the spiritual factor rises to a crescendo, and at that time, it was so collective in that group of people. So, theatre allows us to put up these ideas and observe them, sometimes profoundly changing a life or lives. 

"I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, 
thy knotted and combined locks to part
and each particular hair to stand on end
like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
to ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love..."


Nelishia said...

Hi, I am a friend of your Mom's and I have been catching up here on your entries. I so enjoyed reading this one particularly.

I write here on blogger too and wrote on AOL for about four years.

I love writing and I love the theater. I'm an artist, and a singer, not that astute on the guitar but I do play. I have a sweet old Harmony, (cheap Martin) that is 61 years old and has such a rich sound to it. I know you'd love to hear it. I wrote one play but never tried to do anything with it. It was also Aids related but was indirectly very loosely based on the private life of Fred Phelps in Kansas City, Kansas. He's insane. He and his group stalked/harrassed the young man that was murdered that they did THE LARAMIE PROJECT about. It is called Positive Nation.
I've been in many plays and love it when the cast just bonds and things just click. For now, I am busy with family and raising a grandchild. I'll just write and teach.

I'm pleased to have met you and if you don't mind, I'll be back to visit.

Pamela said...

You have a lot to deal with regarding your Dad. I'm sorry about that.
I like that passage you chose. If you are using that in your play, do you have to get permission? Or is it ok just to use it? I'm just curious.

annk said...

As I came across the desert to Las Vegas and saw the turnout where his truck was found, wondered just what happened. If Tom hadn't been chasing around the country with bear dogs, and constantly amazed
at how they would pick up a scent and start barking the passage, I would have thought those dogs couldn't pick up the scent so well, but hearing about them in action...I couldn't believe they would miss a death on the desert...so where did yuur dad go??? I still wonder every day or so. And miss him stopping by. When you think of those people with missing husbands, missing children, missing...the hole is always there, always deep. I feel for you and for all those who don't know.

Larena said...

Hi Raymond, I'm in I think???