Thursday, May 10, 2007

i bet tony kushner doesn’t try to ditch rehearsal

I’ve been so busy lately that even fun things have become chores, from parties to writing to painting my nails. Not to mention working with the very kind Sally Shore to prepare my stories to be read aloud by actors tomorrow at the New Short Fiction series.

She called regularly to see if it was okay to tighten this sentence, skip this paragraph, etc. And each time, after giving her the go-ahead to chop, I thought, Wow, that’s really nice of her to ask. But why is she even asking? It’s her show.

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposite of diva is laaazy. And so when Sally informed me that there was a rehearsal Thursday night, I said, “That’s cool. Do I need to be there?”

I did—and here’s another thing about being tired and stretched too thin: Although it wears you out, it also makes you more vulnerable to all sorts of magic you haven’t noticed because your head was buried in your day planner. You’re just a thin, distracted wafer, and the magic cracks you in half.

I showed up at the library expecting to snack on the leftover raisins from my lunch and do a lot of doodling in my notebook. I’d read these stories a million times; how would I be anything but bored, even if the actors did a great job?

My notebook and my raisins both stayed in my backpack. As soon as the first actor started reading, I remembered one of my favorite things about writing: that moment in your workshop when two of your classmates start talking about your characters as if they’re real. “No, Roxanne wouldn’t do that.” “Of course she would—just look at the type of person her mom is.”

This was that times ten. Suddenly my characters were in the flesh in front of me, exactly like and nothing like how I’d pictured them. Suddenly these really nice people who sort of looked like Noelle and Kendall and Freddy had things to say about Noelle and Kendall and Freddy. Sally called Freddy clueless at one point, and Matt, who plays Freddy, said, “That’s what you think.”

It was like a writing class, but more collaborative. The actors added all sorts of little nuances, like free gifts with purchase. Matt gave this great deadpan look that made it seem like my story was super funny! No one would ever know it was only medium funny!

I’m an idiot,
I thought. This is the best gift an artist could ever get. Suddenly I wanted to be a playwright. If only I had even the slightest ability to physicalize dramatic action. Anything to keep this little bit of artistic Zen going.

With almost everyone’s performance, Sally instructed, “Slow it down. Really take that moment and feel it.” It’s not bad advice, you know.


jenny said...

that is so cool! i would have to think that at first it would be hard to see other people interpret your characters, but what a great experience it ended up to be - congrats!

Cheryl said...

I did have moments of, "She's reading Mary as bitchier than I intended..." but it actually made me look at my stories in new ways. I think a troupe of actors should hang around all writing workshops for just such purposes.

Kathy said...

Cheryl, what an amazing gift! I found that the reading at Skylight really gave me a kick, so this must be ten thousand insane times better. I wish I could be at the reading, but BH isn't very public transportation friendly. How do all those maids get to work? Break a leg!

Cheryl said...

It's all a conspiracy to keep the riff-raff (a.k.a writers who don't like to burn fossil fuels) out. Skylight was great, wasn't it?