Last night was one of those nights where I think I slept, but I'm not really sure. Reading the play last night with the actors brought me home with a head full of information that I couldn't possibly process. In my twenties and thirties the process of information moved at lightning speed, and there was never enough information to satisfy me. I would move from book to book trying to fill the hungry gap of history, science, fiction, poetry, plays, and philosophy. I noticed several years ago, after I had the operation on my hip, it was much harder to move at the same speed. Reading was harder to manage, my attention to books began to falter. It was evident that either the anesthesia had something to do with it, or the onset of depression that I've fought ever since. I only know that concentrating on reading was drastically effected. Although I think I've done some of my best writing since that day, it took a concerted effort, and I found the plays began to drastically mix with the subconscious mind.
My mother has always known what books to give me, and has schooled me the whole of my life in the classics, poetry, biographies, etc., or whatever she intuitively knew what to give me. The latest batch of Christmas books are lying on the table—when I think of picking one up I seem to get suddenly tired. I don't know how many years it may take to get that fervor back. Or perhaps it never will. I read somewhere that anesthesia can have strange effects on people, and all I can say, is since that day coming out of surgery this is what I've noticed. Flesh and bone where not really made to slice open and put in replacement parts. Each time I move I can feel the steel rod moving up and down the inside of my thigh. Accepting it has been the hardest, because I've never been able to fathom not taking off up a mountain or getting on a trampoline. I've tried to explain it to people, imagine a giant stick on the inside of the strongest part of your leg, always rubbing up against the muscle. In my case, the nerve endings have never gotten used to having this foreign object invading the casing of my leg. I honestly believe that was the first real time I felt the pang of mortality, that legs could cease to function, that the brain could become older and slower.
The research I've been doing for the play I'm directing has to do with The Spanish Civil War, which is one of the hardest political puzzles I've ever had to study. I find I have to read the material over and over to understand the end result of my subject, which was the senseless death of one of our greatest poets and playwrights, Federico Lorca, being shot three times late at night in front of the headlights of a truck at thirty-eight years old. I prefaced all of this history with the rise of the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. When I watch the old film footage of these two fascists making their speeches, it's hard to make the connection of these mortals being men. I think more of drug induced mental illness with touches of some evil force inhabiting their bodies. And then, when I think of just one life of someone I love—to think of 50 million people dying because of these two men, (well three if you also consider Japan's Hirohito.) Living most of my life in a relatively safe place, (accept a penchant for self-destruction) it makes me some what ashamed that there were times I wanted to take my own life when so many did not have a choice. But I suppose suffering is relative, and the energy of life is fleeting.
After spending the time reading and researching these years in history, I decided to reach back even further, to see if I could find threads to any of this madness. So, I watched a six hour documentary of all the American presidents from Washington to Reagan, to see if there was something I could see inherently in all of us that could cause us to spin out of control and become so simply mad. I have to tell you, with some of the presidents we have endured, its amazing that we still have a country. You'll have to trust me on this one, for I'll not site examples. Suffice to say, between the corruption, the greed, the drunkenness, the war, the slavery, the multitude of infidelity, I'm still a little shocked that we are all not stark raving mad. I'm surprised we are not shooting one another in the streets...(well, not everyone).
So, this thread took me to The American Revolution, which is where I am now. I think I finally found the subject of my next play, which has been a long time coming. I've noticed that the body of work that I've amassed over the years have been very personal plays. So personal perhaps, that the rawness in the plays may be the weakness. Unless you've lived a life that has some identity to a soul of self-destruction, there may be no point to putting them on stage unless you do so at the level of craft. You can't write for twenty years and not learn something of craft, but perhaps the stories are too self absorbed and depressing. Perhaps the heroic nature of Eugene O'Neil and William Inge's stories have passed by with history. So, I'll have to find another way of moving into places where I can combine the two. I think I've found one of my subjects through reading and researching the American Revolution, Thomas Paine. When I look back through my foggy mind, I remember the name, but I didn't remember the effect he had on the genesis of the formation of our country until last night in fitful sleep as I listened to his story. This morning, I read that when he died, there where six people at his funeral, because of his aversion to Christianity. I mean here's a man we owe a great part of the evangelism of rallying the people to liberty and when he died, six people showed up to give him homage. Sorry Christians, but this does not bode well for your beliefs. I'm sure there is more to the story, but still, it seems perfectly normal to me. So, Thomas Paine, you are about to enter the modern world, and perhaps you can shed some light on the subtle difference between a monarchy, a president, and a congress…