Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The nice thing about adapting a work of art into another form, such as a novel into a stage play, is that you never get asked, at least as regards the adaptation, where it is you get your ideas. Of the two questions notoriously posed most often to playwrights, this is the harder one, and the one for which there is no satisfactory answer, not really, for either questioner or questioned.
The other question, then, the one I got asked most often during the run of Thursday, was “How long did it take you to write it?”
John Guare’s introduction to the published copy of Six Degrees of Separation notes that when he gets asked this question, the correct answer is “51 years”–the length of time from his birth to the moment he finished the script.
I am not so droll, so I would often launch into a relatively truncated and possibly inaccurate story of how I started the play in 2005-ish, noticing parallels between Chesterton’s tale and the current state of the world as it related to war and chaos. I would explain that I worked on it, off and on, for about four years.
When I navigate in the world at large I find that I don’t often keep track of distance or the number of intersections between one checkpoint and the next. I tend to keep track of landmarks or similar. In the same way, I don’t think about my theatrical experiences in terms of the amount of time I spent getting from start to finish. I think about the hundreds of tiny moments, incidents and coincidences going exactly the way they needed to in order for everything to happen exactly as they did. I’m a fan of parallel-dimension stories. I admire the way all reality as we know it relies on a series of choices and chances.
So when I think back on the production of The Man Who Was Thursday, the production that exactly a week ago, this time, was preparing for its final show, I won’t be thinking of the years I spent writing it or the length of the rehearsal schedule.
Instead I’ll be thinking that this production would not have happened if I hadn’t decided to pick up that library copy of Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and get hooked on the work, which would later introduce me to the title of the novel.
Or if I hadn’t decided to stay all day Saturday, through a number of lousy shows, at the Abbie Hoffman Festival in 2001 and be impressed by the solid productions of a young, itinerant company named New Leaf Theatre.
Or if a young director named Jessica hadn’t been at the first read-through of Vox Pandora and hadn’t been enamored of the play, enough that she grabbed hold of the helm when the original director jumped ship, all of a sudden.
If John Kerry had won the 2004 election and I hadn’t felt a compulsion to finish Vox in the first place.
If any of the other companies to whom I’d submitted Thursday had been interested in producing the play.
If the agency of another playwright hadn’t denied New Leaf the rights to produce the play they’d initially intended to slot at the top of their season.
If I’d given up on theatre entirely like I tried to do when I first moved to the city of Chicago.
If any of us ever had met an untimely death.
If, then, also, then, unless, then.
I cannot tell you exactly how many minutes it took me to write the play. I can tell you that it took an uncountable number of improbable probabilities, of twisted Fates, to bring you what was brought.