I’m writing the scene between Viola and the Devil and it’s so intense I can only write a line or two before I want to jump up and scrub the floor or run around the block something. I don’t know how real writers do it. It makes me feel jumpy and itchy. When C has played music for a couple of hours he looks beatific, blessed-out, radiant. When I’ve been writing for a few hours I look like I just killed someone and came right from the scene of the crime without bothering to shower. Thank God I have to go do a big Thanksgiving shop; that will ground me.
Saturday night I went with Marci to see the last show of The Monk, a play that was adapted from a lurid novel of the same name by Matthew Lewis. The play, (and the novel) are full of captive pregnant nuns, deals with the devil, religious visions, betrayals, gloomy crypts that are full of rotting corpses, convents and castles, ravished maidens, and a corrupt priest at the center of it all. Stuart Bousel directed and as always I was amazed by his ability to get pitch perfect performances out of his actors, and to be so creative with scenery, lighting and costumes on the tiniest of budgets.
I know Stuart would like to be able to put on some lavish production someday and I wish that for him—he deserves it—but I like the simplicity and creativity that are born of necessity. The actresses were wearing taffeta bridesmaid dresses which had been expertly altered, so that each fit perfectly. Topped with nun’s veils they were provocative and charming. The pacing was quick, crisp and clean, the actors spat out their lines with conviction and the staging was stylized in some scenes, more natural in others, always making maximal use of the tiny space.
It was a pain in the butt to get into the city, especially for Marci who had to drive and park, but there’s something so exciting about going to see live theatre as opposed to curling up at home watching Netflix (even though I’m grateful for that too.) We watched the actors give performances that were as good or better than anything we might see on screen, and knew they were paid next to nothing to do this play, that they had to hold day jobs in addition to a rigorous rehearsal schedule.
The playwright/adapter, Nirmala Nataraj, was taking tickets at the door. She and Stuart told me the big sprawling epic had taken several years and many drafts to adapt. This novel has been in print continuously since it was first published in 1796 when its author was just 19 years old. Stephen King cites it as the reason he became a writer. I’d never heard of it before.
Maybe when I was younger I might have been jealous of them all for having found such vibrant creative community in each other. Certainly I wish I’d had a No Nude Men theatre company to be part of when I was thirty. I wish I’d started writing plays twenty years before I did. In many ways I am making up for lost time. And that’s okay. Thank God I’ve been given this time to retrace my steps, pick up some of the lost stitches. Matthew Lewis was dead in his early forties from a disease that would be curable today. He made good use of his short time.
These days I smile to see the great work the younger generation is creating. Then I go home to wrestle with my own project.