To top off a year in which I performed in more readings than I perhaps have in my entire career to date (at least 13, by my count) what could be more apt than asking a bunch of my actor friends to participate in a private reading for me? Or perhaps it's entirely inappropriate, given some of my angst over the profusion of readings in my life of late. Either way, I've done it, and not a moment too soon. Though perhaps a moment (or two) too late: December is a nutso month for everyone everywhere, and I just sent out an email yesterday inquiring about availability/interest. I should have started this in November, but I was uncertain about my-completion-slash-the-worth of the playwriting I've been up to. Now I'm up against the far more foreboding deadline of leaving town for seven weeks come January. If I don't get this read before Christmas, much time and motivation may be lost.
The motivation may be lost anyway, if the reading were to go more poorly than I imagine. The danger for me in my writing is nearly always about losing steam or enthusiasm, particularly as it applies to the revision process. Yet this is the first time in years that I've actually completed a first draft, and I feel a strong need to honor that lil' milestone with continued effort. I won't go so far as to say that I think this script has a future, but I think this script has a future.
Wait.... Oh shoot.
Well, there it is. Hopefully said reading will not take every last gust of wind from my sails. I'm buoyed by the fact that the "play" is at this point merely a collection of largely stand-alone scenes that may be salvaged from the wreckage should our course go astray. (Had enough maritime imagery yet?) The sense of wonder and possibility with which I work on first drafts is very intoxicating for me, which is part of why it's difficult for me to complete anything, much less revise it. Perhaps part of what's kept me writing on this project was the structure of independent scenes. Each one to some degree was initially imagined as its own short play. Some are rather more bridging material between others than they ought to be perhaps, which is part of my interest in having the reading. I have, save one, all the scenes I intend to write completed, so I've written about 9.25 scenes. I'm at work on the final (or second-to-last -- see 12/2/08) scene in the sequence now, and if I can get the reading together it will be powerful motivation for me not to linger too much in the doldrums on it.
Yes; I had to do that.
So this will be a private reading, with just myself and the actors. It's for revision purposes, which is the safer way of saying that its for the purpose of reality checking my own rampant enthusiasm. It's a difficult balance, between love and objective criticism. The easy thing to do is allow oneself to be utterly bohemian, and let love rule the day. There's nothing wrong with that if you're inherently brilliant or content to live like a bohemian. I am neither. I am, however, quite addicted to attention, and so considered inviting a small boatload (Still? Yes, 'fraid so.) of friends to observe and respond to this initial reading. One might assume that the more feedback I could get, the better, but actually at this point I doubt I'll have even a discussion with the actors if-slash-when I get this reading off the ground. It's important that I have some quiet reflection on my own work while it's still this close to me. Producing shows from a writer's vantage could be seen as a gradual handing-over of creative control, a transition throughout collaboration from being the one who knows to being the one who experiences. You've got to be ready to set that kid sailing before you unmoor and haul anchor.
I'm stopping now, for reals.
Plus -- and here's the most bloggy bit of blogging for this particular entry -- the last time I put a complete play out there it was ripped to pieces in an astounding variety of ways. Don't get me wrong: It deserved it. Tangled Up In You was not especially good, I can say with some confidence now. It was more of an experiment I really wanted to conduct than a fully formed play, all 80-some pages of it, and what I should have done was just workshop it with actors I trusted and used some improvisation to develop it. Instead, I sent it to everyone I knew (which at age 23-or-so was not all that great a number) and had a reading . . . in New Jersey. I actually had people go out to New Jersey. I have no idea what I was thinking. Anyway, the feedback I got was a bit overwhelming and, subconsciously at least, deterred me from ever trying that again ever. I've written plenty since then, and even had a short piece produced, but really haven't put my cards on the table otherwise, insofar as said cards apply to writing. But here we are again, returning to . . . someplace other than the sea.
And I'm eager to be here. I hope I can pull this together -- the reading, the script itself, the whole thing -- because I don't get many opportunities to create something that goes on to have a life of its own, apart from me. Acting is total joy, and I'd never give it up as a form of expression, but its immediacy is a trade-off. If I'm not there, it's not there (or at least my part of it). Rilke wrote that the mother is the only completely fulfilled artist, because the appetite of an artist is to create something of herself and have it live in the world, independent of her. This is a very appealing idea for me, and I'd hate to live my life without at least some works of this nature. So I set my course by the stars and hope for helpful winds.
And hope to cease the flood of maritime metaphors.