It’s the morning after. Well, not really, it’s the morning after the morning after, which is worse somehow. The morning after there’s an excuse. Today, I have none. What I refer to, for those of you who do not follow my writing career with breath bated, is the reading we did of my new play: Myself Is In Pieces at the Peter Jay Sharp theater earlier this week. The reading was a smash; out of the ballpark, rolling in the aisles was actually occurred. Of course I’m not at all biased.
The process is amazing; working with an amazing cast and director, creativity palpable, neurons firing, adrenaline gushing. It’s indescribable. With painting, I’m alone in the room. I often lose myself in the paint, go outside of my own consciousness, become a hand with a brush disconnected from myself, connected to the universe, tapped into a wider neural view- but absent from this place. There are no words.
With a play it’s different. We are a collective. It is necessary (delightfully so) to have others to make the art come fully alive.
Readings are the first step in that process. I’m no longer doing puppet hands, trying out my dialogue. I have real live people at my disposal. Hearing my words emerge from the mouths of others; I am Dr. Frankenstein! I lift my hands to the heavens, lightening strikes, and it lives! I am Gepetto! The strings I pull make magic. I am Rasputin! They are putty in my hands!
In truth, writing a play is like none of the above. I write the words, the actors make choices and sometimes find intentions I had not even thought of. They dig into places that were purely unconscious when putting words on the page. There are choices I made that inform the work, but have not yet bothered to inform me. And suddenly through the craft and voices of the actors- they are there. It’s utterly magical.
Then the audience shows up. Another layer added to the process. I hear actual laughter. I hear them shuffle their feet if there is a slow spot. I hear them gasp with each revelation, and best of all, guffaw at the jokes.
Afterwards there are the congratulatory hugs and handshakes, the verbal accolades that are carefully spooned into my gaping artist maw of need and the exhilaration of having pulled it off once more. I am not a poser! I am an artist! All those days of sitting alone are rewarded by the validation of others. I know I’m not supposed to need that. But I do.
And the play? It’s a little like being half naked. Top or bottom you ask? Beats me, naked is naked, top or bottom, front and center, within or without, I have no idea. There I am, half naked, much of me mired in Snow, Helen, Eliza, Comfort, and Emerson, my characters.
My OCD is one of the major character traits of the Snow character. The churning need to keep things orderly, line up utensils beside my plate, sort my tee shirts into sleeveless, short sleeved, and long all arrayed by gradation of hue and color, all me. The need for control. Snow has been given a tap of the OCD fairy wand. Her socialite sister Eliza has a smidgen of me as well. Her need to fill the emotional void as quickly as possible. Find someone. I struggle against that impulse. I know the benefits of being alone when one is healing. Eliza does not, but she’s fictional, like her beloved unicorns.
It’s not just me that is splayed out onto the stage. My daughter Scarlett took great delight in digging her pointy elbow into my ribs at moments that belonged to her. It was she who brought the information about the “knees of egrets” into our home. It was Scarlett and I who witnessed the penguin stealing rocks from his neighbor to build his nest. It was our cat Wolfie that flew from beneath the ottoman to sink his teeth into a delectable passing Achilles tendon. Scarlett delighted in seeing bits of her life translated into character experience.
I digress, this was to be a post about the day after and not creative process, but I guess the two are inevitably intertwined. Without one the other would not exist.
I’ve been living in a world of my own creation- literally- for the past week. I created those characters and that strange universe somewhere between farce and reality. A world where body parts go missing and monologues on love are spoken from uprooted beds drifting across the stage. I invented it and we’ve all been living inside it for a brief moment. But now I’m back. It’s bills on the counter, cats needing to be fed, kids wanting edits on their English papers, and Con Edison on the phone, offering to lower my rates if I talk to their robot. It’s that light fixture that refuses to switch on no matter how many new light bulbs I feed it. Hi Honey! I’m home!
The day after, the adrenaline has worn off, the caffeine has left my system and the accolades are echoes far down the canyon walls. I am alone again. With my keyboard and the daunting task of “following up”. The energy is not five hour, or even 12 hour, now I’m come thudding back to earth and I’m exhausted. The only comparable event is the day after a wedding. For a little while, you were wearing a tiara, now you’re completely alone in the room. Just plain old me once more.
The reading is almost two days past. Yesterday I was busy with the due diligence. Making the cuts I heard necessary the night before. Thanking those involved. Meeting with the dramaturge. Today, what I really want to do is climb back in bed with the end of the second season of Game Of Thrones and two very attractive men: Ben and Jerry. I want to get lost in a world created by someone else.
Not a bad thing perhaps. Allow someone else to tell me a story today, so I can get back to my keyboard and tell mine tomorrow.