Monday, December 13, 2010

On Being Coaxed Back into Harness

About that script you passed on to me Friday night ...

I know you said it would be a quick read. "It just flies by," you said. You thought - you hoped - I would like it as much as you had. You believed I'd be struck by the things the protagonist had to say about art because they sounded so much like the kind of stuff I tended to spout. You thought it had real possibilities as a production we might try to mount.

By now, you have probably checked your cell phone for text messages - hell, how many times? - and nothing has come through from me. Chances are, you're now figuring I'm sitting here trying to find a way to politely brush you off.

As a matter of fact, you'd be wrong.

I did begin to read the play on Saturday, but only after my previously-planned morning of adding to the Christmas decorations out in the courtyard. You didn't think we had finished those, did you? In fact, I'll be driving you-know-who out and about later this morning to find more lighted garlands to hang. Nevertheless, I found a moment during the afternoon to open the script and begin my reading.

It wasn't a fast read for me. Harry Potter and the - Whatever is a fast read. A Val McDermid book is generally a fast read, although I sometimes stretch those out because I like them so much I don't want to finish them off. But the play you gave me turned out to be a slow read.

And that's a good thing. Why? Because, first of all, I felt compelled to read it out loud.

Now, let me tell you a little secret about me. I read books - normal books - like anybody else. My eyes pass over the page from left to right, my brain pictures the events described, and so on. Plays, on the other hand, I lip read. If I'm lucky enough to be someplace where I am alone, I read a script out loud. Why? I don't know. I'm weird?

No, I know why.

The words of a script, by virtue of their author's intent, are meant to be heard. And if they're meant to be heard, they have to fit in an actor's mouth. It's as simple and as earthy as that. They have to fit in your mouth. They should have the kind of rhythms one falls into when speaking. They should be built light enough to float on the breath. And they need to keep moving on.

The words in the script you gave to me did all that.

In my reading Saturday afternoon, I confess I had to stop and take a moment after the first scene to research a couple of things that had jumped out at me. I was able to confirm that the protagonist was Jewish. He sounded Jewish in the words I heard myself read,and I wanted to find out if I was right. Then I wanted to look up a synopsis of a certain book by Nietzsche mentioned in the play. That turned out to be intriguing, and I can't wait to see how it will apply to the story itself.

And, yeah, what the protagonist had to say about art did sound a lot like me when I start to pontificate. Like the way I must sound here and now.

So, although it's Monday morning, and I've had your play since Friday night, I'm only at the start of Scene 2. I apologize, but one has things to do during the course of one's days, and those things sometimes have to take precedence. I will get back to the script and finish it soon.

I'll have to, I've started to work on the poster for the production.

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