trying to create an entire town

Yikes! It’s been almost two months since the last entry!

Of course, there are reasons; it’s summer, busy times, blah blah blah, hard at work rehearsing Food, Clothing, and Shelter, blah, blah, blah, it’s too hot to think, etc., etc., etc. And honestly, I’ve intended to do it a half dozen times in the last month, but there’s always been something that needed writing in a way that felt more pressing.

Anyway. Sincere apologies and so forth. I’ll try to be brief for both of our sakes, and when this is over, we can see how I’ve done.

The most important stuff at the moment surrounds Food, Clothing, and Shelter, which is showing very promising signs of a rewarding life. Joel and I have found a very fine cast featuring some Richmond favorites and some relative newcomers, and they’re all doing splendid work. Joel has wisely devised a rehearsal schedule that stretches across much of the summer, giving us the necessary time to experiment with different approaches to certain scenes, as well as giving me the time to revise and rewrite without driving the actors too crazy.

It’s always a real head-shaker to look back over the growth of a play. Almost thirty years ago, a dear friend gave me an idea that went into a drawer. A little less than a year ago, Joel and I sat at a picnic table in the Firehouse courtyard and he asked me if I had anything I was interested in working on; I looked into that fabled drawer and said “Actually, yeah, I do.” And now, here we are, with designers and actors and rehearsals and side-show specialists, and what began as a glimmer now has weight and breadth and the opportunity to make Richmond smile like… well, like a kid at the circus.

(Food, Clothing and Shelter is about a circus train stranded in a small Midwest farming town in 1927.)

Particularly interesting has been the contrast between the three acts (there’s Food, there’s Clothing, and there’s Shelter) and the connective tissue which unites them and weaves them into an evening. We’re trying to create an entire town, sharing an immersive memory with you, the audience, and the marriage of those two scales-- the community with the intimate, the sense of CIRCUS with the very private lives of its performers-- is a fascinating challenge. I’m especially interested to see how much of what’s currently in the script is up on stage by opening night, and how much new stuff there might be, and how the stuff that’s already there might change in unexpected ways.

Which is, of course, part of the fun.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busily drafting the second of the new plays to which I committed in that courtyard last summer. A Week at the Havens is proving a delight to create, and I’m already in love with its characters. The first act is nearly done, and the Working Group and I will be having a reading of it next Monday, and then I’ll make the notes necessary for its improvement and then (probably) plow ahead into the second act.

Every writer is different, but most of the professionals I know understand that the most important task isn’t perfection; it’s getting something on paper so that you can revise it to perfection. Hemingway is reported to have said “The first draft of anything is shit.” The fact that this offends my ego doesn’t make it less true…. but too many writers find this a source of despair. Why even try if it’s going to stink? The answer: Because you can’t make it good until you’ve put in the work for that not-good early draft. Our work is collaborative and happens over time; if I spent five years trying to make it perfect before I showed it to anyone, I’d die before I finish all the things I’m trying to do.

And of course, it’s priceless to have a theatre and a group of actors waiting for the draft so that they can help you make it better.

So I think I’ll get back to it. See you soon!

Featured Posts