Wednesday, February 11, 2009

'The Russian Jewish Soldiers and the Sounds of the Desert'

Today we took in sound clips designed specifically for the play. It was very exciting. Somehow, I've written a play that lends itself perfectly to the sounds of the desert. Scott's composer, (I call him Mercutio) put together some great sounds to underscore the play. I also sketched out the set design we have collaborated on, which we are very excited about. Tomorrow, we will meet with someone who will possibly build it for us, if not, we will get out our tools and build it ourselves! Don't worry, building a set is great work, (if you can get it)  and great fun to have--it is very zen in its execution, much like painting a very large painting. And, alas, we worked on the specific blocking of the second to last scene in the play. I still have about four pages of memory work, but I'm almost there! After tomorrow, the play will be completely blocked out and memorized. Then we will begin adding all the frosting, and start our run-throughs.  I will be able to run through the play twice with each rehearsal, with Kurt taking notes. This will give me approximately nine or ten run- throughs before we open. I am very excited tonight. There was a section in the last part of the play that I was worried about, very tricky in its execution, very hard to get 'off the tongue'. Today at rehearsal, however, I was able to find the rhythm of the piece, and it works! The text in a play, (especially a monologue) is much like a music score, it has to be played as notes. So, if you can imagine, we were sitting down, making cuts that stopped the piece, re-writing some of the text, and then 'standing up the finish'. It was exhilarating!

 I am so fortunate to have Kurt, who has written eleven books and also performed his one man show, 'White Meat' in NYC. This is our ninth collaboration, over the years we have a trust that works magic going down the wire with a new play. There are several of my plays that would not be what they are without his input. I have to give him credit. When we first started collaborating, we used to argue profusely about text leaving the plays. I would fight for sections that he said needed to be cut. Now, I pretty much trust him across the board, and so we get things done very quickly, and he is usually always right. We have also written two screenplays together, one of which is being shopped around here in Los Angeles. Kurt is also one of the foremost experts on physical training, so we are working out as well. I've never worked with someone with as much discipline. When Kurt agreed to do the project, (he lives in NYC) he said he would do it if he could keep the rhythm going on the novel he is writing. One of the deals we made was that I would also read and comment on it as we worked along. He is writing the second draft of his novel, which is about a writer who goes back to a 'hunter gatherer' existence in contemporary New York. Guess what, its brilliant. In fact, I would be so bold as to say I have not read a better piece of fiction in the last ten years. Kurt is fortunate in that he has a very good literary agent, and I'm sure this book will find its publication date. He also has a play, 'Friend of the Family' based on a short story by Dostoyevski, which we have given to the Artistic Director of the company, David Fofi, after he said that Russian plays do very well here in Los Angeles. 

One last Kurt story. Next to our apartment, is the clubhouse of the Russian Jews who fought the Germans in Russia during World War II. Kurt managed to propose a series of interviews with these aging Russian-Jewish soldiers. They have given him a translator, and so he has been compiling the story of these soldiers in his 'spare time'. He has even found a USC graduate student to help with the story. Its quite the scene. When we leave for rehearsals in the early afternoon, all of these eighty (some in their nineties) men come out to say 'hello' to Kurt.  They are now 'fighting' for the interviews! This is a all a play within the 'play'. There are many other stories we are living here, I'm sure there are anecdotes and happenings that we will not even realize until we are long gone. My advice to all. Don't be afraid of adventure, its the marrow of life. Life is so short, and so sweet. Good night. 


Gerry said...

I know that a lot of action comes with Kurt's appearance on the scene. He's my idea of what a sober vegan who works out can do with time that men in bad shape can never do. So I am always confident he will be very good for you in that department, because you need lots of stamina to do what you are doing. Just reading about all the action is exhilarating.

Ann said...

Did Cheryl get her dvd there? I am caught today by the 'sounds of the desert' and Keith working a crane on those high rises in L.A.
Thinking of you.

caroline said...

You're an inspiration, Raymond. What you're doing there in L.A. has ripples farther and farther out in the world. Love how you're creating magic in your life and in the world.

ariel said...

This is all so exciting! I love reading about your show coming together. That's such a beautiful thing about theater, or any art I suppose- watching a creation come to life. You're missed here at Metro but I'm so so happy that you're doing what you love!