Beginning in the middle, a good place to start. Not that I have a choice.
Since July, I’ve been memorizing my solo play, Nine Day Wonder, as I get ready to perform it over a long weekend in mid-October. I haven’t acted since 2007 so it’s interesting, pleasant because I don’t have to prove anything — what’s the point? I don’t want or need to get anything from it — disquieting because there’s no one around, unless I’m talking my rehearsals are perfectly quiet. There’s no director: the man who directed all my work died three years ago, so I’m doing it myself—with help from the theater’s artistic director, but I’m not working hands-on in the way I did in the past, he’s a two hour drive away. But I promised myself as I began to plan for it, as I began to rethink this web site and consider what this blog might be and if it was worth the time, and the other projects I have going forward, as I wrench my life around from being married to going solo. Let me explain; Vivian and I lived together for forty-eight years, lived together and worked together, he directed all my plays, we emigrated from London together, lived in New York among other places before ending here — though we didn’t know that when we bought it — where I live now in the Catskills, a hundred miles north of the city. After his death I remade the house, lost a good deal of weight, got myself in shape, brought a novel I’ve labored on for seven years to a readable state, took on this solo play, and somewhere in the middle of it all celebrated my seventieth birthday. Once Nine Day Wonder is completed and performed l will be caught up with the past and can begin to look forward.
Writing the novel of Songbook, a large, tightly-focused modern saga, about how we love each other, or how we try, forced me to confront the age-old problem of fiction, a problem I’d never been able to answer before, never been able to articulate: who is the reader, who is the writer, and who and why is writing this particular story. Writing plays, you can sidestep the question, Why am I writing this and who do I think will read it? Writing a play, the characters start talking and those questions go away. And if an actor asks why their character is doing or saying some particular thing, you can always find something to say. Though often it’s a mystery.
In Souvenir, Cosme says, ‘Singing is a kind of dreaming in public’. Which is kind of true of most of the performing arts; acting certainly is. It’s not a mystery, and it’s not difficult. To do it well, in my opinion, it’s necessary to get vanity out of the way. My ambition/plan/goal for Nine Day Wonder is to act it truthfully, to use my American training to connect with the life of the play. I’ll fill in the background as I go.