Wednesday, June 16, 2010
My play, Bachelor's Graveyard, is in rehearsal these days under the direction of Karesa McElheney, pictured above. Of all the plays I've written over the years, this one is my personal favorite. That is not to say it is my best play; it is not. But it is my favorite.
Karesa is one of the three co-artistic directors of NoHo Arts Center Ensemble along with Victor Warren and Janet Fontaine. In addition to her fine work as a director, she's a gifted actress as well, with a number of Ovation nominations and L.A. Drama Awards, etc., to her credit. A couple of years ago she undertook direction of the massive Angels in America with NoHo. I would like to have seen that. I believe it to be some of the best writing for the stage in the American theatre of the past thirty years or so. It is Kushner's magnum opus, to be sure.
Anyway, a couple of months ago I decided I wanted to have Bachelor's Graveyard seen as a staged reading. Sort of send it up as a test balloon and see what there was to see. So I called my go-to guys in the company, Chad Coe, Rob Arbogast and J.R. Mangels and also asked Jonathan Zenz and Ryan Keiffner to take part. About that time Karesa was directing a new play called Sister Calling, or something like that, as a staged reading. Angie and I went to see it. The play itself was just awful, but Karesa's direction was really good - clear, concise and no-nonsense. I liked that. She didn't try to make the evening about her directing but rather served the play and made everything clear and understandable. As Mike Nichols once said in a seminar I took with him a thousand years ago; you know when the director has done his job when you don't notice that a play has been directed. When it is seamless. I have held that piece of advice close to me since then. A lot of the time a director thinks he must make the evening about his directing rather than the words. Always a huge mistake and nearly always one a young and inexperienced director makes.
In any event, once all of the actors had signed on, I asked Karesa if she would be interested in helming it. She read it and said yes. Which is sort of funny because the play is a huge piece of testosterone-driven writing. Karesa, I thought, would bring a nice bit of estrogen to the process.
One last thing about this seamless directing business. My favorite collaborator over the years has been Jeff Wood, who helmed a number of my plays in NYC. You could never see Jeff's directing. He completely served the play. I remember doing a piece of mine with him called DAD/SONS. Acted it with Brad Greenquist. Jeff was at the peak of his power then as a director and I don't think I've ever had a play of mine directed so seamlessly. Upon seeing it several people actually asked if we even HAD a director for it.
So the guys and Karesa got together and started working on this thing. And what started out as a staged reading quickly turned into rehearsal for a full production. That was not my intention but I'm delighted it turned out that way. The guys all fell in love with the piece and decided amongst themselves to just mount the damn thing.
I have been so absorbed with Praying Small that I haven't really had much of a chance to see how things are going with the play, but I did stop in a couple of times. And both times I found myself just sitting there and grinning. It is such an intentionally sophomoric piece of writing. I suppose that's why it's my favorite. It is the red-headed stepchild of my canon.
The play is about the last hurrah five eighteen-year-old boys have in Fulton, Missouri before they all head off into the big, hungry, angry world. There is a lot of talk of sex and fear. It is written in Aristotle's Unity of Time, my favorite way to write and some might say, the hardest way to write. There are no scenes, no transitions, no segues. The time that elapses for the audience is the exact time that elapses for the actors.
They all meet in an abandoned graveyard outside of a small town named Bachelor, Missouri. A real town that actually exists. As does the graveyard.
I can't wait to see what they eventually do with the play. I believe at this point it's slated for an August opening. It's somehow comforting to know all I have to do is show up and watch it.
Today I pick up the script for Praying Small and get the words back in my head. There are so many. It would be easy to neglect it and find myself adrift on Friday night. I don't intend to let that happen.
I think I underestimated just how exhausted I was over the past couple of days. I have been nearly comatose with fatigue. For the bulk of the strained and tension-filled rehearsal process I was not in the best of health to begin with. I was squarely in the midst of dealing with my newly-diagnosed diabetes ("the silent killer") during rehearsals and at the same time trying to protect my play from a variety of whimsical ideas to mount it. It took a lot out of me. So the past couple of days have been a sorely needed respite from all of that.
But I'm feeling better today despite some very annoying insomnia.
Angie's work situation seems to have reached a plateau of sorts. We're not really sure what's going on in that arena of our lives. But whatever it is, it doesn't appear anymore to be immediately threatening. She is facing it all like a champ everyday. She has a far greater ability than I do when it comes to that. Remaining calm when the world is going to hell in a hand basket around her. One of the many reasons I'm so nuts about her.
The puppies are being fed their breakfast. The morning is cool and crisp. The future bright. The love of my life is busy getting ready for work. And the possibilities are endless. All in all, even though it is my nature to whine and bitch about something, anything, in fact, all is unfolding exactly as it should. It seems I have spent a lifetime cultivating this moment. And now, much to my delighted surprise, I am sitting dead center in it. I recommend my life highly.
See you tomorrow.