Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Total Lunar Eclipse'

As a playwright, there are certain plays you write that become your personal favorites. Usually, they are plays that only work for a few people, and plays that are marked by a personal experience you had in seeing them come to life, or a mystical experience that accompanied the process of writing it. Last night, I was lying in bed trying to motivate myself into staying up to watch the eclipse. Although I didn't make it before sleep engulfed me, I did fall asleep thinking about a play I had written fifteen years before which was coincidently called, 'Total Lunar Eclipse'. The play was about a film actor who is shooting a scene in a restaurant. He is sitting at a table at a window, with the moon in full view. As fate would have it, unbeknownst to the film crew and the actor, as the cameras rolled, the moon outside the window began her dance with the earth and sun through a total lunar eclipse. At the same moment the eclipse begins, a light explodes knocking the man from his chair. During the fall that renders him unconscious, he finds himself on the moon, interacting with seven strange archtypical women, part from his past, part from his future. He is confronted with each one of them, both personally and collectively for the duration of the eclipse and the play. As farfetched as the scenario sounds, there was a strange beauty that emerged from the play. As I've mentioned before, each play that somehow finds its way into a production, is always accompanied by a surrounding energy from 'real' life, and this play was no exception. Valeria, a most talented costume designer, designed the costumes as only she could, with an understanding of what I was doing unsurpassed in my theatre experience. (when this happens in a collaboration its other worldly and a bit twighlight zone unhinging). Now for the extraordinary. (If that was not enough) her boyfriend at the time was, and I'm not kidding here, a German psychiatrist named Helmut. Both of them became my most important collaborators on the play. How does one line that up? How does the moon line up behind the earth blocking out the sun's rays to create an eclipse? How did I venture to write a play about archtypes without knowing that a German psychiatrist and an avante garde costumer would appear to help us all understand the experience? As we say in the theatre, "it’s a mystery…" And this was a profound one. How many coincidences are needed to justify something else going on in the deep crevices of the spirit or psyche? I don't know, I only know that it happened, and it was miraculous in its unconventional and progressive revelation. It was one of those experiences that I sometimes have, where I am witnessing all the existing variables and can't fully explain the miraculous way they are working together. Although I believe there is, once again, a book about the experience, I will just say that I could never repeat that experience in the same way that the universe cannot exactly replicate that particular eclipse. So there is always another one.

This morning, I realized that it is also one of the 'missing plays', as I'm now realizing that there are several plays in my canon that have gone missing. I have no copy of it. If there is someone out there possessing a copy of this play, please let me know. In the strange way that the memory sometimes serves up our past experiences, this morning I am wondering how and why I ended up choosing a path to explore these strange artistic experiences. Or did it choose me? Can I have a 'do over'?

There are pages more to write about recounting this experience, but I haven't got the strength to move it forward. As always, my brain is scrambling to unmask my direction. For the last two weeks, I feel as though I've thrown a giant bowl of pasta against the wall, to see which of the noodles will stick. Its typical of the way I'm conditioned to operate, come into town, preach the gospel of a whole new artistic movement, motivated by projects and ideas, all while thinking to myself, where will the resources to do these things come from? How will I eat? How will I live? Why can I not get off this crazy train? Is there any value whatsoever in placing that which is subconscious on a stage for people to watch? How did I get here? As you can see from the writing lately, there are more questions than answers for me lately.

And then there is love. I used to believe that love motivated all things, healed all things, gave sight to all things, gave all things life. This morning, I'm stumped and wondering how it became so fickle and shallow in my life. Its as though I'm given a small bundle of it like firewood, but I must burn it to keep from freezing to death. As though I've been given the mandate to only have enough for one fire at a time. When the coals are cold, I get on my horse and look for more wood, so that I can live through another singular night. I used to believe that I could start a fire that the whole world could stand around, and the wood supply would be endless. I want to believe that the cold weather has not jaded me, that I will come across a forest that I can live within, but for now, it seems I'm riding through the desert, and the desert is either hot or cold. Although I am reassured by the notion and recent short experience of love, still it remains unrequited and distant. There are so many things that I have learned as I get older, so many experiences to call upon, so many questions answered, but as for love, she has only created more questions.

So very self absorbed this morning, so unwilling to serve, so unwilling to risk, except for art, why am I always willing to risk my life to create art? Why does my brain constantly plan to build out theatre spaces and put a creation in the middle of it? If I would have been a painter of canvases, it would have been so much easier…


10 comments:

Gerry said...

How apropos you should write on Total Lunar Eclipse" although it was invisible here in Phoenix I am afraid with so much cloud cover. I enjoyed a trip back into the past to remember that play. And those costumes. They were stunning. Just read Joyce got cast in her dream part again in "Raisin in the Sun" so joy comes to those who wait. She will be having her 75th birthday Jan. 2. You have just begun to live. Love at nearly 80 is surprisingly creative even as the passions of youth cool. I was still up in the air in my fifties. There was nothing wrong with your venture into love. It just had to be short lived because you were a bird on the wing who did not even know you were going to have to head for home. Where the past waited to join your future.

Anonymous said...

I say this with all due respect, when I say that I think you hit the nail on the head with the cause of your discontent when you mention being self absorbed and unwilling to serve. I think you may be much more fulfilled, happier and less desolate if you would think less of yourself and more about other people. Genuinely care about them without thought to what is in it for you. Be a real friend. Listen. Teach. Don't talk about yourself as much as you think about others. As a great man once said, "forget yourself and go to work."

You're a good man, Raymond.

Bohemian Cowboy said...
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Bohemian Cowboy said...
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Bohemian Cowboy said...

As you can see, I've deleted my first two tries at commenting to you, Anonymous. Not because I'm choosing to turn the other cheek, but because I have no real way of rebuttal, because you are anonymous. There has been lots of anonymous in my life, so you are not alone, only anonymous. I make no apologies in the way that I approach my blog, and on any given day, the writing can be extremely self absorbed. These are my meditations on how I observe life. These are my thoughts, this is my plight, like anyone, it changes from day to day. There are two very distinct convictions that I have in my life, however, Anonymous, the first is always be in pursuit of my purpose, and the second is to serve. If you knew my life, and my history, you would know that. There are days when service is simply not on the menu, and there are days when I make a choice to talk about my experience, void of my strength and my hope. Lastly, your last comment, Anonymous, 'Forget yourself and go to work...' sounds as if it is supposed to be profound in some way, but its not really a statement that moves me to do anything. To be honest, it sounds like one of those dogmatic statements I hear in AA from time to time... that sounds like it should mean something, but really means nothing. Oh, no... I see that I erased my last two statements because I thought them harsh, and here I go again. I apologize, Anonymous, I do, and I'm sure your life has been a struggle to, and I'm sure that from the sound of your advice that things are going swimmingly for you. I'm happy for you, thanks for your advice... I'll try to be a real friend to someone in this next year.

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

Bohemian Cowboy, I enjoyed your blog. I wanted to see the red moon, but it rained all night. So when I saw your painting, I was satisfied somewhat...I do want to see a photo of the actual red moon, if nothing else. I thought you handled Anynomous very well, so I'll not worry about he or she.
I haven't heard of this play, so I am curious. I hope someone has a copy. Did you read my response to your last visit in the park on Apathy in Mom's blog? What are we blogging for? To write about ourselves...so keep on blogging.

Bohemian Cowboy said...

Kanyonland, thank you for your comment, yes, I did read your comment about the play, 'Apathy', and I remember the experience very well. What a challenge! That play did eventually turn into another play, 'Audition Room', but I was so happy to be able to get that draft at Panguitch High School so many years ago. As for the comment by Anonymous, it did stir up some hostility about language, motive, and freedom. I've been wanting to write about it for along time. The Republicans have the language they speak in, the Democrats theirs, the evangelicals have a distinct language, the left, etc. etc... With social networking, the thing I've noticed the most is that its very easy to examine through language the group that people belong to, the same ideals, the same wants and needs, the same adherence to the same principles. I suppose it is easier to belong to a group, speak the same language, and feel that you are communicating. I get it. I know why, I just have trouble as a writer not wanting to have my own thoughts...

Gerry said...

I decided to come back and say something to Anonymous about the history of Playwrights Workshop Theater which Raymond founded with a partner C.S. McFadden, and the purpose of this theater company became to give opportunity to a number of playwrights to see produced a play that they had written about some great crisis in their lives, some important event, something they really felt they needed to express in play form for the world to see, and Raymond the director would cast this play, sometimes act in it, rehearse it, and it would run for three weeks, and even might get publicity in the newspaper and reviews. You cannot be self centered and give that kind of exposure to other writers as well as yourself! He did that for 12 years, and then taught for 10 when he again gave many young students the opportunity to write, direct and act in their own mini-plays as well as get the chance to act in a big production which might be written by Shakespeare or another playwright or Raymond. I hate to see a teacher so self sacrificing that they also do not fulfill their own needs to see their work produced as well, so I thought Raymond doing both was healthy. I am sure the many people he has given opportunities to would say that far more self centered and self serving artists types exist in the world than Raymond. He is always giving little pieces of himself to people. So to criticize him as severely and bluntly as 'Anonymous' does here is not a fair assessment of his life and work, and suggests a rather savage impulse to put down writers.
He never had time to write about his work before, he was so busy doing it, so I am for one, delighted he has started some memoir writing in his blog telling about what he was thinking when he did this work. That is what a great memoir does, my friend. I have urged Raymond to keep working on his memoir, as publishers pay money for such writing. The world wants and needs it. He is in his fifties. It is time he he also analyzed where he has been and what he was doing.

Chuckh said...

Not to defend anonymous, but I know plenty of people who think the service of others is the cure for the ills of the selfish. In some ways that may be true. What better way to feel better about yourself than to give selflessly to one in need. However self absorbed we all are from time to time, “the writer” is the most introspective beast of all. Creativity and depression go hand in hand. Looking inward may be a one way journey but for those who reading is a joy, the selfish act turns into a magnanimous gift. Moreover, I have never met a more fascinating or compelling actor or performer or writer who wasn’t extremely self absorbed and even blinded by introspection. This may be interpreted as selfishness or even vanity. I once saw Stanley Tucci in rehearsal for a play my teacher was directing and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I wasn’t even a dress rehearsal and there were only a few people in the “audience.” They weren’t even on a stage. But what was he doing was fascinating. What was it, you may ask? Nothing. He was navel gazing. And he was so self absorbed I couldn't stop looking at him doing it. Ultimately, writing is not a selfish act as much as it is an examination of the self and the human condition. A skilled writer is an illustrator. A painter with words, sharing that condition with his own special take on it's variant. Playwriting is a fascinating, and ultimately, very special gift to be shared with the world. Now come see the damn play!

Cheryl said...

Serving others can also be selfish. In this life, introspection is only about ourselves. Those who aren't self absorbed are just not interested in the why. Even while saying this, I do believe we live longer and better focusing on others but there are so many ways to do that. Interesting conversation here.