The middle.

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.

Empty theater

Empty theater

The Sitnik Theater, Centenary Stage Company 2020.

That’s where I’ll be performing Nine Day Wonder. In front of the Christmas Carol set. A drape will close it off, and legs will come in from the sides to close down the proscenium but still, it’s a big house to fill. The play is just me and a pile of junk. If that sounds Beckett-esque I did have Godot in mind as I began to write: my play is an opposite version; instead of five men waiting for one to arrive, my play is one man who never gets there. But it’s a sign of the times – or a condition of how we’re presently living our lives – that the studio theater, where I might more comfortably belong would have too few seats, what with social distancing, to make it possible to mount a play. So I’m in the big house, where, though not all the seats will be sold, they’ll have a chance to do some kind of business.

Knowing that I’ll have behind me the set for my adaptation of A Christmas Carol will be comforting. At least, that’s what I think know. We’ll find out if that’s true. I’m just beginning to write here, who knows if I’ll keep these posts – I sort of think I should if I’m going to do this properly I should do it and learn as I go along.

A week ago

As Will says in Nine Days Wonder, ‘Tomorrow becomes yesterday, last week, last year.’ I figured I’d have all this figured out in a matter of hours. Still, not too bad. Not a WordPress master by any means but maybe an advanced amateur.

My time, apart from site issues, has mostly been spent learning lines and thinking through scenes as I get ready to move into a rehearsal room next week to spread out a little and work on what I’m going to refer to as ‘dancing’. I’ve deliberately kept this venture as hands-on and as hand-made as possible. The mechanization of even the simplest theatrical venture today depresses me. If I can’t quite get to ‘two planks and a passion’, I can give it a shot. The play has surprised me; I had no idea when I began that it would be quite so personal, revelatory even, if you know where to look.

In the middle.

A good place to start – not that I have a choice. What’s past can be backfilled; what’s to come we can face together. Here are some teasers: I’m learning a solo play that I wrote a few years back that I will be performing myself in mid-October; work on my house is just about finished, and I can maybe settle down to enjoy it; the pugs are advancing in age, but so am I; and I think I’m very fortunate and try to keep that in mind as I go about my various days.