Saturday, March 19, 2005

Winds of Creativity

Bon Jovi. 

A good choice anytime, but especially tonight. 

Last night, I met another English teacher and about 30 students at the Taper in downtown LA.  They were there to see Sir Peter Hall's production of As You Like It.   

I suddenly woke up about halfway through the show.  That's when I remembered Much Ado About Nothing. 

I really should have cut that sucker.  By about 2 hours.  Was it really four hours long? 

A high school show.  Did I really make my teen actors perform almost every line? 

Was I really that arrogant?  Tell me it wasn't so.

                                            *     *     * 

North Canton.  Hoover High School.  November 1999.  Intermission.  A moment of epiphany.  I'm standing near the concession stand, drinking a cup of coffee. 

Several kids stop nearby to talk.  They don't recognize me. 

I move closer to eavesdrop.  Perhaps they'll admire my edgy direction.

"Do you have any idea what's going on?" the boy with the crewcut asks. 

"No," a brunette says.  "What do you expect?  It's Shakespeare!"

Another girl leans over to suck at the straw in her Coke.  A strand of dirty blond hair falls over her face.  She brushes it back. 

"Two hours.  And we're only halfway through."

"Do we have to stay?"  It's the brunette again.

"If Kendrick wasn't in it, I'd leave."

It's a long way from last year's Shakespeare.  The one that sold out.

                                            *     *     * 

Present day.  I jerk awake.  It's still the middle of the third act of As You Like It.  I'm still in the Taper.  It's a long third act.  And I actually understand the plot. 

The dialogue rambles.  Tangents abound.  Every character gets plenty of time to say whatever he has to say.  Or whatever she has to say.  Maybe even sing about it.  With a group of men.  In the forest. 

Poor kids.  You want to direct Shakespeare for young people, learn to cut him.  Ruthlessly.

The Bard-o-philes in attendance love it all.  They roar with laughter at their favorite line, delivered perfectly by Hall, right in the ear of the arrogant but dimwitted Phoebe: 

"Sell when you can.  You are not for all markets."

                                            *     *     * 

It's half-time at the Taper.  Two girls come up to me.  Worry lines crease their foreheads. 

"I have no idea what's going on," one of them tells me.  She looks ready to cry.  Is this a test?  Will she fail?

"It's okay," I lie.  "I don't understand it either."  Then I tell the truth.

"The play's a mess."

                                            *     *     * 

I know.  Hall wanted the production to be long.  Deliberate.  

The show is directed by a man who has seen the years go by.  He's had time to think.  He wants to have a conversation with his audience.  About life.

So his actors linger lovingly over their speeches.  Jaques enjoys talking about the worth of a life that starts "mewling and puking" and ends "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

An older man is more patient in his stage direction.  I get that.

But the show still put me to sleep. 

                                            *     *     * 

The icons from the world of the Amaru Urn represent forces that cannot be tamed or collected in a museum.  The true curse that struck the museum was the failure to understand that there are powers that should not be disturbed?that some things are better left buried.

                                                                        - ?Teso dos Bichos,? The X Files

                                            *     *     * 

Spring Break.  April 2000.

I'm talking to my ex-girlfriend Laura by phone.  We're arguing again.  She startles me.

"Do you think we knew each other in a previous life?"

"You're kidding."

"No.  The difficulties we're experiencing now?"

"What about them?"

"I think they're a result of something that took place between us back then."

I hang up the phone.  I'm disturbed.

Thought rush in.  I write.  By midnight, the old story for The French Inquisitor is on paper.  It's set in France.  1387 A.D.

It's also the screenplay we're currently writing.

                                            *     *     * 

Here in Brentwood for the past week, I've been spending my evenings scoring essays for the College Board.  It's relatively easy.  Everything works through a special viewer that I downloaded onto my computer last week.

Meanwhile, Steven has been working alone on the extended treatment of The French Inquisitor at his apartment in Los Feliz.  He's been researching, writing, thinking.  Occasionally, we talk.  But not much.  

Steven works well by himself.  Unlike me, he writes out the entire sentence in his head before he writes a single word down.  Sometimes two sentences.

On Thursday, March 24, my Spring Break will begin.  Steven will send me the results of his work in the form of an extremely detailed treatment.  I will chain myself to my computer with a large pot of coffee at my side.  I will write the first draft.  

I've waited a long time for this.

If we're lucky, and if the winds of creativity blow ... I'll finish the first draft by April 5, 2005.  Exactly five years after I first got the idea.  

Small chance.  I know.

Probably too much to hope for.  Of course.

But hey.  Shoot for the moon:  you might get over the barn.

                                            *     *     * 

And in its third year, my annual Oscar party finally got some press.

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