Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'm in Detroit. It's eight degrees. But hey, and hoo hoo ha ha--there's central heating here! I'm wearing long underwear, gray wool lined slacks, a long-sleeved oatmeal sweater topped by a shiny blue shirt, and the high heels I picked up for $5.00 at Community Thrift in SF--and I'm not cold! Exhausted, yes--our day began at 4:30 a.m., driving to the airport in rain and darkness--but not cold.

The play went pretty well tonight. Some glitches--some actors missed lines, and there were places where the energy or the intensity wasn't there the way it should be--but other places where it was. Laughs in unexpected moments. Other moments--and those are the ones you dread--where laughs are expected but none forthcoming.

It's a difficult play. I was trying to do what Chekhov does so well--write lines that reveal the characters, without being only about what they seem to be about. Depth and shallowness co-existing at the same moment. Chekhov pulls it off nicely, but I'm no Chekhov.

They're also advertizing it as "an outrageous comedy" but the whole play deals with death and grief. Also: tons of quick transitions between heaven and earth, reality and super-reality, and flashbacks to different time periods all make big demands on the actors and tech people. I watch too many movies--it's a play that wants the freedom of cinema while still retaining all the word-privileges of the theatre.

The director did a great job with finding evocative music--the last song is stunning, and a complete surprise--and finding creative special effects. The set and costumes were all great--Oprah really shines. Still, there are awkwardnesses and imperfections for which I take responsibility. This was the play I cut my teeth on, the play where I began to learn how to write a play.

The Artistic Director and someone else told me it perhaps needs to be re-titled. At first I was very resistant to the idea--it's been Saying Kaddish with My Sister for the last seven years--but now I'm thinking they might be right. Saying Kaddish With My Sister sounds like something by a failed playwright in a Woody Allen movie. The trouble is, I'm not sure what else to call it.

I had a wonderful talk with the actor who plays Lydia, one of the sisters, about a scene where her character performs a comedy monologue/performance art piece. I have never quite been clear about what I'm trying to accomplish in that scene--how is it moving the play forward, what needs to happen there? Tonight I realized I want a revelation there, some new way of looking at life that's not just hammering on the same themes over and over. She mentioned Eve Ensler and The Vagina Monologues, and that gave me a fresh way to look at it.

I also got an email from The Sun saying they'd like more revisions on an essay they had accepted for the April issue. I agree completely--it's just going to be a challenge getting the time and privacy to write them here. I might be able to score two hours to myself tomorrow if I'm able to be both tactful and firm with setting boundaries--kind of tricky when I'm a guest in someone else's house. I feel ever-so-slightly panicked about whether I can pull it off. Maybe I could try to find an Internet cafe...

The fields and roads here are all dusted with snow. From the plane, Michigan looks like a big wedding cake, cut into different-shaped pieces. I ate good food from home, lovingly packed by C, and read The New Yorker, which has a fabulous short story by Louise Erdrich in it, and a great profile of a painter doing gorgeous semi-pornographic images. And the latest Sun, which had essays on parenting by Sparrow, Krista Bremer and Poe Ballantine which were variously funny (Sparrow), wise, sensuous (Krista) and all all unflinchingly honest.

I know on Krista's part at least, that it's a piece she had been thinking about for a couple of years. I could read in the beauty and care with which she explored the topic of circumcision, many hours of soul-searching and revision. Damn, it takes so long to make something really good and balanced and complete.

I think of those cathedral-builders who designed structures so elaborate and complex and divine that they took generations to build. The architects knew they would never live to see the finished product. They had to content themselves with their vision of the work--and with their faith, perhaps, in an afterlife, where they could see the perfect realization of their best dreams.

1 comment:

Christy said...

"Saying Kaddish With My Sister sounds like something by a failed playwright in a Woody Allen movie." That was hilarious! Also thanks for the reminder to pick up a copy of the Sun at the book store and renew my subscription! Christy in Indiana